Parallel Loves

In “Anecdotal Tales”, stories will be told. Some will be fun, some will not. Some will be great, some will be less so. Some stories are true, some are merely possible. This is one of them.

Parallel Loves

“The holes in our soul may never heal, but we would not have souls in the first place if we did not love.” –Geoff Johns

Paul looked at the park and couldn’t believe how similar things were.  There were differences, to be sure, but there were also more things that he recognized than he would have thought possible.  The swing sets were different and the logos on the baseball field’s walls were not what he thought they should be.  Still, their tree was exactly as he had left it back home.  The same branch jutted out at the same quirky angle with the strength to hold two people securely.  If there were this many similarities visible already, then surely there would be a Lynn who was like the one he had lost back home.

Rain slowly started to fall from the sky.  It wasn’t an oppressive, torrential rain; more of a light sprinkling.  Paul ignored the few drops that spattered about his head and he walked to where he thought there was a phone booth.  He couldn’t remember the last time that he had used a payphone, but now it seemed to hold the answers that he was looking for.  Sure enough, right by the fire hydrant that was red and should have been white, Paul found the phone and its directory.

With a slow precision that betrayed a degree of hesitance, Paul let the pages turn quietly in his hands.  The J’s passed by, then the L’s.  He soon came to the M’s.  He turned the pages one by one, hoping that the entry he was looking for would be there.  Finally, he found the entry right where it should be.  Paul and Lynn Monroe resided at an address not more than a mile away.

As he walked to the home, the memory of house shopping came into his brain.  Lynn had been the excited one while Paul just wanted to find a darn house.  He would be happy in any home, so long as Lynn liked it.  He would content himself with whatever choice she made, but Lynn had always been particular.  “Don’t you want to find the perfect home for us to live a life in?”  That was the mantra which she kept repeating to Paul.  Each and every time, Paul would respond, “I already found the perfect wife; the home is only a detail.”  She liked that response, but her determination was never softened by it.

In the end, she had found two houses that she liked.  In  Paul’s version, Lynn had settled for the one with the bigger fireplace because she had wanted to spend winters together, huddled around reading stories to each other and one day their kids.  Apparently this world’s Lynn had opted for the home that was closer to the park so that they could go for walks and take their kids out to fly kites and chase each other in circles.  If they were going to live near a park, Paul knew that it had to be this park.

There were other parks in the city, many of them nicer and most all of them were bigger.  However this park had their tree.  The big tree with the odd tree branch had been a touchstone for the couple.  It was on their first date that they had gone for a walk and ended up in that park.  It had been that tree branch that he watched her ascend with childlike enthusiasm.  They both had made comments about wanting to climb the tree, but Lynn in her skirt and blouse had made note of the impracticality of her scrambling up.  Somehow Paul knew that she really wanted to climb the tree, but didn’t feel like she should.  He cajoled and harangued her until she had caved.  He had helped her up, putting his hands underneath her foot and giving her a boost.  Then he had jumped for the branch and pulled himself up beside her.  That became their tree.

They didn’t go by the tree on every date, but it was certainly a place of interest for them.  If nothing else, the little hollow spot where the branch met the trunk would always be remembered fondly for the way it had held her engagement ring.  Paul had been a bit nervous not only because he wasn’t absolutely positive that Lynn would say yes, but also because he was afraid some kid or a squirrel would come across the ring and carry it away.  Yet, after the tradition of helping Lynn up had been completed, he brushed the leaves and twigs aside and the ring was still there.   Paul hadn’t been able to kneel on the narrow tree branch, but he managed to ask the question without tripping over his words.  Lynn had cried and lunged to hug him, which had almost sent the two of them falling out of the tree.  If the tree hadn’t been in that park, Paul would have seen it as a sign to go home.  Instead, he was encouraged.  Seeing that landmark there in all its perfection helped Paul to believe that it was all going to work out.

 Suddenly a thought entered into Paul’s mind.  He hated to make a detour, but he knew that it was the wisest course to take.  Walking two miles out of the way, Paul was relieved to find that the drugstore was right where it should have been.  Commerce was not one to be swayed by such trivial things as parallel earths.  He walked in and found a pair of cheap binoculars.  The cashier gave him an odd look when he tried to pay with cash.  Rather than explain that his payment was indeed valid, he offered his credit card which the man with the apron took and swiped.  Paul left as rapidly as he could, leaving his receipt and plastic bag behind.

Paul headed back towards his, or rather “their” home.  He felt like a creep holding a pair of binoculars in his hand as he came closer to the residence.  He had to keep telling himself that spying on Paul & Lynn was like looking in the mirror.  It wasn’t perverted, it was just curiosity.  The Lynn he knew always appreciated how intently he had looked at her.  Over the years, he had found more and more things on her face to be fascinated with.  Before she got sick, Paul had known there was something wrong.  Her hair had gotten thinner and her complexion had gone paler.  Paul guessed at the illness before Lynn had even gone to the doctor.

Shaking himself from his grief-filled past, Paul found himself standing in front of the home that the two of them had almost bought.  There was that pink flamingo that Lynn thought was so wonderfully gaudy planted in the front yard.  Even from his safe distance away, Paul recognized the couch that sat happily in the living room with its picture window.

Paul found a tree stump to sit on behind a group of bushes and sat down.  He put the binoculars to his face, feeling like he stood out more than he liked.  The park was empty, and his only goal was to get a quick look at this version of the two of them, so he put his thumb to the focus wheel.  That was when she appeared.

Walking into the living room, a bowl of popcorn in her hand, Lynn came into view.  There was no sign of sickness about her.  Paul felt himself gasp when he saw how young she looked.  He had forgotten how youthful she had once been.  Her complexion was tan like it used to be each summer when they would spend every weekend hiking.  Her hair was its full self, no bare or bald patches like he remembered.  Paul looked at this version of Lynn and felt an enormous lump develop in his throat.

She behaved much like he remembered.  She still sat cross legged on the couch, insisting that her bare feet were happier on a cushion than on the floor.  She still shoveled massive amounts of popcorn into her face in a comical display of messiness.  And she still called Sir Sheds-Too-Much to her and placed him on the back of the couch.  Paul put down the binoculars to wipe his eyes.  When he brought them back up, he got the first good look at himself, or rather at this version of himself.

Paul walked into the room carrying a stack of DVDs.  Paul didn’t have to read lips to realize that they were having their typical discussion.  Sometimes it took half an hour for the two to decide what they were in the mood for.  The whole ordeal seemed silly for the number of times that one of them dozed off during the movie, but it was simply how they worked.

This Paul clearly had fewer problems on his plate.  He looked healthier and was only starting to develop the first few wrinkles that the onlooker-Paul had developed years ago.  There were no gray hairs in his temples.  His laugh, the absence of slumped shoulders; the Paul that lived here was a man with no apparent worries.

Paul felt himself glaring through the binoculars.  He wanted to hate this world’s Paul.  The happy-go-lucky Paul didn’t have to suffer through what Paul had.  This younger looking Paul hadn’t spent months living in hospital rooms and years watching his wife deteriorate.  This Paul who had a view of the park didn’t have to call up Lynn’s sister and ask her to pick out his wife’s coffin because he just couldn’t bring himself to do it.  This Paul was living out the happiness that should be his.

Without even realizing it, Paul was standing up and walking towards the house.  His eyes never left the living room and the two people inside.  He wanted to scream to this other Paul that he wasn’t the one who should be happy.  Paul had already suffered.  Why should that Paul get everything when he had nothing?

Out of nowhere, it happened.  There had been no leading up to it, no grand gesture.  The two had simply smiled at each other, put the popcorn aside and sat close to one another.  The Paul in the house had leaned in, put his hand on Lynn’s thigh, and happily kissed her.  That brought Paul back to his senses and he stopped in his tracks.  He remembered why he had come here and he dropped the binoculars.

As he fished for the remote control, Paul gave the blissful couple one last look.  He captured the moment in his memory and turned away.  He had stopped himself from banging on the door and telling Paul just how lucky he was.  The truth was, Paul could see it on the man’s face.  This version of himself, this man that hadn’t tried to fight his wife’s illness and lost; he knew what he had.  Paul could tell by the way they held each other and they looked at the other that they knew how blessed they really were.

The rain had developed into a full-on downpour.  Paul fumbled with the wet remote in his hand and walked back to the wide open field in the park.  All he had wanted was to see that some version of him was happy.  He wanted to know that some parallel version of Paul and Lynn had gotten the cheery life that he had been denied.  He pressed a button which activated the portal back to his earth.  Paul went home knowing that for all the agony and pain he had gone through, there was another version of himself where his dreams had come true.  Witnessing that, finding out that things worked out even if it wasn’t for him, was enough for Paul.

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About anecdotaltales
He's a simple enough fellow. He likes movies, comics, radio shows from the 40's, and books. He likes to write and wishes his cat wouldn't shed on his laptop.

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