What If?

I look down at you in the bed with all that hardware—tubes and wires running around you, over you, through you. The machines have assimilated you, like the Borg—an entire species that now exists as a metaphor for how we’ve turned you over to the machines as caretakers, task makers (eat this, drink this, breathe now). Resistance is futile.I want to crawl in the bed with you, to comfort you and reassure myself, but machines can be delicate. I won’t disturb the precise bend of a tube or the embedded point of a needle. Instead, I pull up a chair and reach for your hand. You open your eyes.

I wish we had known each other longer, you croak.

Shush.

You shush. We should have met sooner.

You weren’t ready for me then.

Bullshit.

Maybe you’re right. Maybe we’ve known each other our whole lives.

Tell me.

We were eight and your family moved in up the street. I was never lonely or bullied on the bus; you were there. At recess we’d huddle in the large tunnel, sequestering ourselves from the rest of the kids.

‘Cause they were big mean stupid-heads.

Exactly. And we made a fort in my basement, with sheets and blankets and pillows. No one allowed but you and I. When my mom died, we snuck away from the adults to hide in our fort. When I cried, you cried.Tears brim on your eyelashes, so I move on.

Remember when I spent the night at Sean’s house when his parents were out of town?

Sean, what a tool. You smile.

That’s not what you called him the next day, after he ignored me at school. You remember?

What did I call him?

Fucking dickwad.

You chuckle. Sounds like me. What next?

Surely you don’t think it was my idea to cover his car in shaving cream? Or syphon gas out of his tank?

No, but you were the one to suck the gas out of the tube.

Seemed only fair. It was my revenge…I spent days getting the taste out of my mouth.

The taste of gas or the taste of Sean?

I wiggle my eyebrows.

What next? What next?

We graduated high school. We went to college. You learned key lessons about tequila. I learned about men named Keith.

You were at my wedding, you whisper.

Maid of honor, baby. Your bachelorette party remains legend. We still can’t go back to the Bellagio.

I time-travel through our stories, sewing them together, knowing you before you were tied down by husband and children and family. Before you were you. I run over the seam between our tales until I reach the place where they are one, where you marched into my life all tubas and twirling flags and sparklers.Children were born, a couple divorced, and a husband got sick. These stories need no thread.

How does it end? you ask.

I don’t know.

Yes you do.

I look down and begin to cry. You squeeze my hand until I look up. With a nod, I move to the closet of your private room and grab the spare sheets from the top shelf, along with some extra blankets and pillows. I turn around to see the question on your face.We’re going to need a bigger fort.

               

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10 thoughts on “What If?

  1. Oh, this is so poignant, Megan. The way the story moves through imagined time to the present is seamless, and the bond of friendship is palpable. Loved it.

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  2. Thanks so much! I've been rolling around the idea in my head of time travel and friendship and how little we know of the lives that happened before we arrive on the scene. It's a hard concept to get across; I'm glad it translated.

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  3. “you marched into my life all tubas and twirling flags and sparklers.” Um, yes. That's the best way to make an entrance, IMHO.

    The interplay between the characters felt natural, and I loved how you conveyed the dialogue. I followed without a hitch. (Mind if I try it?)

    There's a tone struck in the first two paragraphs that I didn't feel was carried through – borgs and “resistance is futile” felt at odds to me with the tender moment the story was building to. But I enjoyed reminiscing with them, and the quilting references. Those felt like an easter egg for those of us who know you IRL.

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  4. Megan, this gave me chills.

    I love how you switched voices to unfurl this story, how one encourages the other into the telling. I especially love that you had the narrator making up some of their history together — such a clever way of reinforcing their bond.

    What a poignant, loving tale of their friendship. Thank all the gods for blanket forts and the comforts they contain.

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  5. Thanks, Asha!

    When I was a kid, my brother taught me how to transform some blankets and clothespins into a multi-room tent. A bit of a childhood memory that carried over, I guess.

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