I am constructing a time machine. It’s not a complicated thing. And you may be disappointed to know I don’t have grand plans in store for it. In fact my reason for building it is quite simple. I want to see a certain home at a certain time.
I will park my time machine midway down the block and clamber out. Everything I see will be exactly as I knew it. Old homes will seem modern. Trees will be younger, shorter, thinner. Shrubs newly planted. Cars will be large, boat-like things you see in films from those days, but not gritty like in those films. They will be shiny and new. Or newish, anyway. Anyway, they won’t look like they do in films.
I will walk up the concrete driveway into the garage. There will be unpacked moving boxes on the right, a baby blue Monte Carlo on the left. That junk never gets cleared out. She will always park her car in the garage. He will always park his in the driveway.
The door into the house will open into a tiny hallway, where on the left is the laundry room. The washing machine will be filling itself with a rush of water, and a young woman in her late twenties will be loading clothes into it. She will not see me. She can’t see time travelers. But I will study her young, unlined face, her thin waist, her bell bottom pants, her feathered hair parted in the middle. She may be chewing that gum she liked, and I may catch a whiff of it. She will be younger than I am now.
In the family room is a young boy, cross-legged on the floor watching television. He has long white socks that end below the knees in two blue stripes. His shorts are comically short. His bangs touch his eyebrows. He doesn’t look up from the television. I watch him for several minutes. I am neither bored nor enthralled. I’m just watching it.
I hear the rumble of another engine in the driveway. I pop up from the floor and run to the kitchen. I use a stool to grab a glass. I fill it with ice from the refrigerator. I use the stool again to get the bottle from the cabinet above the sink. I fill the glass to the level I think he likes, then add water.
The young woman who was doing laundry enters the kitchen. She checks on the dinner cooking on the stove. One hand stirs the sauce that is simmering. Another taps a cigarette against an ashtray, then raises the cigarette to her lips. She inhales deeply. She blows smoke into the fan whirring above the stove. She bangs the ladle against the pan.
The door opens and in comes a man in a suit, his tie loose at the collar. As he enters he smells suity and fathery. He is jovial, animated, like an actor walking onto a stage. He is so much of each that it might be false. It’s just a feeling that can’t be explained. He is perhaps happy to be home to his family. He is perhaps not.
I beam as I hand him his Scotch. I aim to please.
I’m most curious to see the look on his face as he takes it. Is it thanks? Shame? Remorse? Blank?
He smells like a dad. He looks like a dad. He acts like a dad. He is not my dad. And I wish he were. And I wish he weren’t.
In time there would be screaming. Crying. Smashing. Doors slamming. Plates breaking. Tires screeching in the driveway as a gas pedal is crushed under foot. An arm in a sling.
But not tonight.
Tonight the four of us will sit at the kitchen table eating dinner. Something on the regular rotation called Burgundy Beef. Tonight I will ask Not-Dad to tell once again that funny story of the family-run restaurant he went to in Europe where the food was brought by a child shorter than the table, when the plates and a bottle of wine seemed to lift themselves up and over the table and slide halfway across before coming to a stop. And I will watch myself laugh so hard I cry. And they will watch me laugh, and they will laugh too. And be so young. And in love. Again. For a short while.
There. You see?
My time machine is complete.
Posted to the Weekly Writing Challenge: Time Machine.