November 28, 1980
Sam checked out of the hotel a few nights ago, and has been sleeping in my bed, and I’m taking the couch. It’s amazing, I haven’t seen her in more than 25 years of her life, but she hasn’t changed much at all. I found that out, when I came home from work Tuesday at 10, and made too much noise. She was the same grumpy bear she’d always been when anyone would wake her up.
Grandma and I tried to talk her into coming for Thanksgiving, but she said she couldn’t, because she didn’t want to complicate my cover any more than necessary. I went alone, to my father’s house, so that I could follow him to the dinner. To my surprise, he suggested we just take one car. He had a Corvette, one of three he would have in his life, and I had heard a lot about them as a kid, but they had been sold and gone long before I was born, so other than a couple of photos I hadn’t ever seen them.
It wasn’t the most comfortable ride, and you could feel every bump in the road, but for the first time in a long time, I felt cool.
“Thanks for inviting me along, Scott.” Even after having spoken to him several times, I always stumbled over his name.
“Oh, well, Maria’s mother had been the one who invited you. I’m just the messenger.”
He let a man cross in front of the car, and waved back to them, his hand never leaving the wheel, just his fingers extending upward spread. I made a note of it, to tell Sam. When we were little kids, we had noticed this wave, and I knew she’d think it was funny that he was doing it at twenty-one years old, it always felt like such a ‘dad’ thing, and not a ‘man’ thing.
When we arrived in Newton, at my great-grandfather’s house, I marveled at it. I hadn’t been there since I was eleven or twelve years old, but I recognized it instantly. We had to park around the block, and I carried the pecan pie that I had purchased from work the day before.
When we walked in, the place was swarming with people. I recognized most, although there were a couple faces that I couldn’t place, and I knew must be great aunts or uncles that I hadn’t met, or at least hadn’t been around long enough for me to remember. I hung back, behind my father who entered slowly, and my mother came over and gave him a kiss, and then gave me a hug. I tried to give a casual hug, and not the usual back pat, that would probably seem even colder, that I would have given her before.
“Is this your friend?” my grandmother asked my dad while giving him a hug.
“Yeah, Carol, this is Darren.”
I smiled. “Thank you for inviting me, and it’s nice to meet you.”
She approached me for a hug, and I hugged her back. “Happy Thanksgiving,” she said at full volume into my ear.
My grandfather came over a moment later. I hadn’t even seen a picture of him in nearly a year, and it was so strange to see his face, and his distinctive grin again. I fought any emotion from showing on my face.
“Is this your brother?” he asked my father, and he and I looked at each other assessing the situation.
“No, Darren works at one of my stops, and we ran into him and his girlfriend at the Red Sox game.”
“No kiddin’, you two look like brothers,” he shook my father’s hand, and then mine in turn.
“Happy Thanksgiving, sir. It’s nice to meet you.”
As we worked our way through the crowd, which was largely gathered around the TV watching football, my mother and father took turns introducing me to my aunts and uncle, and then my mother took over and introduced both of us to her cousins, and aunts and uncles. There were at least forty people shoved into a second story apartment, and it was tight quarters when it had been just Sam, my mom and I visiting.
The strangest was Aunt Amy. She is ten years old, and she looks so much like Sam, and her youngest daughter, who looked just like Sam. She also stuck around the least, wanting to run off with the other children.
Most of the conversations that I had throughout the day consisted of telling people where I worked, and about my situation being here in Massachusetts without a single family member. I told the story about having come down from Canada in hopes of going to school, and how it was just taking me awhile to get all of my appropriate paperwork through, and that I was hoping to start in the following fall.
I told my grandfather about my interest in physics, and he asked if I had considered engineering. I told him that engineering interested me, but that I hadn’t exactly thought about where I wanted to focus my efforts.
When they asked about my childhood, I told them true stories, but kept it vague. I told my great-grandfather that I had been on the middle-school and high school track teams, and he was happy to hear that. He had been so happy when, in seventh grade, my mother and I had told him that I had joined the track team.
Nearly everyone asked about Melanie, who my mother quickly added was a “pretty doctor in Florida,” which gave her more mystique. I remained politely vague about her, until an older man whom I hadn’t met before (and had already forgotten his name and relation) mentioned that I was crazy to be up here instead of down there with her. I agreed, and told him that she was working, and that with the difference in our schedules, and the distance, we’d decided to take a break for a little while.
My great grandmother told me that I was making a real mistake in not working harder for her if I loved her, and I told her she was absolutely right. I don’t think she liked me much, it seemed everything I said came across as sarcastic or flippant, but I hadn’t intended it that way.
I was surprised by how long my father wanted to stay, and he stayed as long as my mom and her siblings did, which was nearly until eight. When it was finally time to go, I was surprised by how many hugs I received, and how many people told me I needed to make things right with Melanie.
We walked out with my mom’s immediate family, and said our goodbyes on the sidewalk before going our separate ways. The kids didn’t really care much about me, and while my grandmother gave me a very nice hug, she kept up the appearance that we were strangers. We walked away, and found my father’s car around the block.
“Maria’s got a big family huh?” he said as we pulled away from the curb.
“Yeah. Your family’s not that big?”
He laughed. “Just my two sisters and my mom.”
“I’ve got cousins too, but it’s not like that,” he added.
“I had a big family, but they’re all back home.”
“Are you gonna get to go home for Christmas at least?”
“No, I’ve got to work. I’m saving up, because I may not be able to work many hours during the school year next year.”
There was a long silence, and while he had no idea, I was transported back to every car ride to school as a teenager. During those rides, I’d be half asleep, and often trying to fully sleep, and we would ride with extended silences which he would interrupt to ask me a—
“Well, I’m glad you were there so I wasn’t the only new guy.” He didn’t smile or anything just nodded.
“I know it wasn’t your idea, but I really appreciate you bringing me along. I would probably have sat at home and had a TV dinner or something if you hadn’t let me tag along.”
We pulled up to his house, and got out. I shook his hand and told him I’d see him at work when he made his next delivery.
When I got to my house, there was a note on the refrigerator.
I’m sorry but I had to take off. It’s been great the last ten days with you, but I knew that the goodbye would be too hard for you. I’m making my jump to the May 10th 1985, at 2 am, and will be in the Shopper’s World parking lot. Please be there to pick me up.
I’m sorry again that I had to go.
I was so mad when I went to bed last night. I couldn’t even believe she would do that. When I woke up and walked out of the bedroom, she was sleeping on the couch.
“WAKE UP!” I yelled, I was glad she was there, but I was still mostly pissed off.
She pulled the pillow over her head and gave me the finger.
“You said you were gone!”
“Yeah, I was just messing around. I wrote that note on the back of a greasy Burger King napkin.” She laughed. “I thought with all of the mixed feelings about seeing everyone, and then me ‘leaving’ you might call Melanie and tell her the truth already.”
“I get why everyone else is telling me to go after her, but you know the truth. Don’t you think it’s a little selfish to not just let her move on with her life?”
“I think, that I know what happens, and eventually you are going to tell her, so I figure why not just push you into it now. That’s the only ‘spoiler’ you’re going to get by the way.” She said ‘spoilers’ in a British accent everytime she said it to be goofy.
I called Melanie, and told her everything. Her reaction was a different type of pissed off than Judy’s had been. She didn’t seem upset at hearing about John Lennon, but pissed that whatever was really going on with me was apparently so bad I would rather tell her “some bullshit time-travel story.”
After she hung up on me, I yelled at Sam.
“In two weeks, the first bit of your ‘predictions’ will come true, and she’ll believe you. You’ve already spent two weeks not talking to her, what’s two more?”
I have to go now, Sam convinced me that we need to go into Boston, and check out the city. With everyone else starting their shopping, she thought it would be nice for us to go see if the Commons are decorated yet, and wonder around. I’ve never been much of a Christmas person before, but all this time alone, as someone else, it is nice to be Mike again even if only for a little while, and be with Sam. So, I’m going to do a bunch of stuff that sounds cold and miserable, but fun.