This time, I have the blues.
It's Friday the 13th, an unlucky day to begin with. It's also February, which means tomorrow is Valentine's Day.
You saw that Bill Murray Movie? Groundhog Day? Kinda cute. The only problem is, they got it wrong by eleven days. It's Friday the 13th. Forever.
And Murray-he had it lucky. He got a chance at redemption. He got the girl. He got to do the rewind while he was asleep.
The rewind still gets me. One minute I'll be doing something-talking, eating, walking, even fucking. Things get fuzzy. I feel like I'm going to fall. And then I'm here. Sitting at the bar, cold beer in my hand, the band breaking into another cover of a Willie Dixon tune.
A few minutes later, Randi pushes by me to order a drink. She'll spill it on me, apologize, and introduce herself for the first time. At least the first time for her. Some rewinds, I'll blow her off. Other times, we've spent a mellow evening talking. Some times she takes me back to her place-amazed at how much chemistry she has with a guy she's just met. We've fucked and sucked all over town-alleys, restaurants, even the courthouse steps. I've had her just about every way a man can. Enough that I'm bored with the sex. I mean, I can do anything with her and a few hours later, she can't remember a thing. Because for her it hasn't happened. Hell, I could rape her and the rewind would mean it never happened.
Except I could never do that. Even in my boredom and my despair, there are some things I really couldn't do. I can too easily hear a soprano voice in my head saying "Please! Please don't!" and I fall apart inside.
Like I'm doing now.
My arm's wet. Randi's spilled her drink. She's apologizing profusely and I realize this is one of the times I'm going to blow her off. I accept her apologies and tell her I'm going to rinse my sleeve off in the men's room. I slip out the side door.
It's never quite as cold as I expect. It can be pretty chilly after dark, but there's some inversion this year that's keeping it warmer.
This year. I have no idea what this year would be. I've had more than a year of Friday the 13th's. Maybe more than a decade. Is it the same year as when I started?
I trudge forward, letting my path unfold at random. It doesn't matter where I go. It doesn't matter what I do. Hell, it doesn't matter if I live or die. At midnight I'll rewind-back to seven p.m. That's another way Murray was lucky-he got a full day. I get five hours.
And I never get to see Valentine's Day.
I can still remember Valentine's Day. How long ago? Cassie and I had been happy. At least until I got scared and ran away. I'd even tried to escape into drunken oblivion when I heard of her engagement a year later. It seems I always used to end up in a bar when I was afraid. Courage, be it physical or emotional, hadn't been my strong point.
Of course, that is one thing that has changed in all these rewinds. Death isn't scary once you've died a handful of times. Neither is pain. Neither is failure.
I have tried to put my newfound spine to use, but in five hours there isn't much to do. The streets are pretty deserted and I never find anyone in a bar or a restaurant that needs help. I had gone to the hospital for a couple of rewinds, but found that the staff is exceptionally competent and tonight is always a slow night. Courage alone does not seem to bring redemption.
Lost in my thoughts, I take a turn somewhere I don't remember. I'm surrounded by some old warehouses I also don't remember. Which means it's been a long long time since I've wandered this way. Somewhere in the back of my mind, there's the memory of running. Away... when it should have been... toward... something. Something I was supposed to do. The burden of all the Friday the 13ths makes it hard to remember.
Too many Friday the 13ths. Just too many. Valentine's Day is always tomorrow.
I hear the scream. High pitched but cut off. Fuck the self pity. I start to jog towards the source of the sound.
There are three of them. One is kneeling near her head, holding a knife to her throat. He's wrapped some sort of gold cord around her neck. It seems redundant, though it glows in the darkness. The second is using his knife to cut away her dress, exposing her legs and belly. The third is standing to the side, holding a young blond boy-a gold cord looped around him as well. The boy is ashen-faced-terrified. He merely trembles in the brute's grasp, watching the other two continue to strip his mother.
She is exquisitely beautiful. Pale smooth skin with no hint of blemish. Perfectly proportioned breasts, tight belly, muscular legs. No wonder they want her.
The one cutting her clothes finishes and pushes her legs apart. He kneels between her thighs and lowers his pants.
"Please! Please don't!", she cries.
My knees buckle at the sound of her voice. I almost fall. I'm sweating suddenly and my gut churns.
I race out of the shadows. So intent on their prey, they don't hear me until I'm upon them. I tackle the kneeling one, pushing him over the woman's legs before he has a chance to use his pecker. His head slams against the pavement and he is still. The guy at her head is so surprised he actually starts to get up, as if to come at me. In doing so, he lifts the gold loop from around her neck. She takes advantage of his distraction and slams a fist into his balls. He collapses, dropping the knife, which she scoops up and holds on him.
The third man is also down, also clutching his groin. The kid, who can't be more than two or three, is holding a knife expertly against the perp's jugular. The gold loop lies cut at his feet, no longer glowing. I dismiss my confusion at the sight and pull myself up, catching my breath. It helps to steady my nerves.
"You okay?" I ask. She turns and flashes a smile at me that could launch ships.
"We're fine, Jake. Though I was beginning to worry that you were never coming back."
Back? And she knows my name?
"Let's get out of here," the boy says. Never taking an eye off the now crippled thug, she gathers her dress around her and improvises a sash from some cut fabric. She looks now as if she'd just stepped out of the bath into a silk robe. No smudges, no dirt, not even mussed hair. I look closer at the boy. He too looks angelic, his white clothes unwrinkled and clean. His eyes betray maturity well beyond his apparent age. The three of us retreat towards the better lit street.
I've regained my composure but my mind is reeling. We stop at a corner and she takes my hand.
"Thank you, Jake," she says. "I know how hard it has been for you to keep trying to come back. It took a lot of stubbornness and a lot of courage. Thank you."
Then she kisses me.
It is the most hot, incredible, passionate, thrilling kiss I have ever had. My breath wooshes out of me and my body goes limp. When she lets me go, I realize I've come in my pants. I don't care. The afterglow of the kiss is too divine to not wallow in.
"Now Jacob, if you go to the Mercury Café a few blocks from here, there will be a dark haired woman wearing a black sweater. Her name is Helen. Ask her about the book she's reading and if you can buy her a cup of coffee. Can you remember that?"
I nod, still dazed. Then thoughts form.
The boy chirps up. "Because it will be Valentine's Day tomorrow and you deserve a good one." He's found some wood somewhere and seems to be attaching a string to it, as if creating a makeshift bow. He smiles at us.
His mom just smiles in return. I close my eyes, inhaling her scent. When I open them, they are gone.
I don't know what happened this time, but tomorrow now seems close. I start to walk towards the café, whistling Willie Dixon tunes.
Part 2: The Trouble with Helen
The Mercury Café. I stare at the sign a moment longer and then check my watch.
12:02 am. Valentine's Day.
This is good. I take a deep breath and walked inside.
I spot her immediately. It is hard not to. She is beautiful.
I am vaguely aware of other patrons. A boisterous party in the corner, a couple speaking quietly with heads close together, an older woman reading at a different table, two young men arguing animatedly to one side.
But really, I only have eyes for her.
She is still immersed in her book when I arrive at her table. I clear my throat.
She looks up, intending to be annoyed, but her eyes meet mine. In that moment, her body jerks, as if she's suddenly been hit in the chest. She recovers and smiles at me.
A dazzling blinding smile. My pulse quickens.
"I'm enjoying it, but the movie was better." She tilts the cover so I can see. O Brother Where Art Thou? I smile in recognition.
"Can I buy you a cup of coffee?" I ask.
"I would be delighted," she answers, then indicates the chair to her right. My stomach flutters as I join her, motioning to the waitress for a refill.
We talk. The conversation ranges over literature, movies, philosophy, European culture and the history of the ancient world. There is much laughter and a fair amount of flirting. Hours pass before she reaches out and takes my hand.
"Jake," she says, looking deep in my eyes. "Take me somewhere else."
"Where else would you like to go?"
"Hotel Constantinople." she says. I sense that she is serious. I also sense that this suggestion is both completely out of character for her to make and also completely right.
"Hotel Constantinople it is," I reply. She stands and we are on our way.
.... There is more of this story ...