She sees me staring at her and waves me over. My body moves towards her. I want to call out to her, to tell her that we should go somewhere else perhaps a nice little restaurant where we can drink and chat until the early hours of the morning. Then, perhaps we could go home and work on making that baby that she’d been talking about having. Her hair is the same as it was the last time I saw her. It’s always the same.
We embrace and kiss like we always do. It’s torture to know that my lips are meeting hers, but not be able to feel the touch of her skin. I have no control over what I say or do. I fix her scarf for her and lead her to the hot-dog stand. We chat about our day as the vendor prepares our rushed, yet delicious dinner. It would probably seem weird to most people that my wife and I meet every year at a hot-dog stand for our anniversary, but it’s where we met. It’s our little thing.
We stay close to the stand after the vendor gives us our hot-dogs, enjoying the warmth from the grill. We eat in a hurry, the movie will be starting soon and we don’t want to be late. She talks about her day, I’m hardly listening. I’ve heard it all before. I stare at her beautiful face, taking in her beauty and study every curve of her face, every line. God, I wish I could smell her. She checks her watch and says that we have to hurry. Then, she throws away the remaining half of her hot-dog, motions for me to follow her, and steps into the street. My mind screams out to her, yells for her to come back, begs her. She rushes past a parked car and my mind races when the bright headlights of the bus spotlight her. She freezes and stares momentarily at the instrument of her death, then steals a quick glance at me just before the end. The expression on her face isn’t one of fear or terror, but of love. Just before the bus hits her, I open my eyes. The cycle is complete.
The chamber door opens and I step out. It takes my eyes a minute to adjust to the brightness of the chamber-room, but I know that Frank is standing nearby…he always is. His concerned face comes into focus slowly.
“Do you need to sit down, Joe?” He asks.
“No Frank, thank you.” He should know better. I’m a veteran.
I pull out my wallet and hand him my Identification card. He turns to the holographic keyboard and begins typing.
“Okay, you got the entire eight minutes. You get the frequent trip discount at eighty percent…so that’s twelve-hundred and fifty dollars.” He passes my card through the holographic monitor and grimaces when the screen turns red. “Looks like you’re almost out of credits,” he says.
“I get paid tomorrow. Can you spot me?”
He considers my request for a second and then hands me back my card. “Okay,” he says, “but just this once. You really need to slow down on this thing. Perhaps trip to someone else’s past for a change.”
I’m still shaking my head no as I climb back inside the chamber.
“Well, it’s your mind”, Frank says, grabbing the outer-chamber door, “and your wallet. See you in eight minutes.” He closes the door and the lights go out. I close my eyes tight until the bright flash passes. When I open them again, I see her standing on the corner by the hot-dog stand. She sees me staring at her and waves me over.