This story is by Karen Hoskins and was part of our 2020 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Amanda’s first kiss with Jason replayed over and over. Unlike most people who replayed interactions in their mind, Amanda could actually replay the event. She got to feel every facet of it. She felt the soft touch of his hand on her face as he brushed her jawline with his fingers and the weight of his body pressing against hers as she backed up against the cold brick wall in the alley outside of the pub they were drinking at with friends. His warm, soft lips touched hers for the first time. Her skin got goosebumps as she relived the look in his deep brown eyes as he got closer to her face and she looked up at him. All the feelings and emotions happened again. She loved the way the kiss made her stomach drop.
Amanda replayed events over and over until the specialness wore off. She must have replayed the kiss with Jason twenty times until it became boring. She no longer had that stomach dropping feeling. She did this all the time. She knew she should stop overplaying meaningful events because she took the specialness away. To make matters worse, she would have to give up knowing what happened in the present for what went on in the past. Time went on regardless if she paid attention to it or not.
At twelve years old, Amanda realized she could rewind her life to replay the events that happened and make them better. During the fall school play, Amanda stepped onto the stage to see the audience of what seemed like thousands of faces staring at her. She forgot her lines and stood like a statue in shock. She saw a couple of the eighth grade boys, including Ethan the cutest guy in her homeroom, pointing and laughing. Her face reddened with embarrassment and she tried to run off the stage to escape the humiliation. In doing so, she tripped and fell flat on her face. She wanted to drop out of school never to return. How could she possibly go back the next day and have everyone laugh at her again?
That night, as she lay in bed, she shut her eyes as tight as she could and wished over and over that she could have another chance at the play. She knew she’d remember her lines if she could just have another shot at it. Suddenly, her surroundings felt strange and she opened her eyes. She stood in the bathroom stall at school and the play had not yet begun. She’d gotten her wish! She got to act out her part again. She did a great job and remembered all of the lines. She felt so good about it that she wished she could live through it again. Before she knew it, she stood in the bathroom stall and readied herself for her big scene.
Knowing she could go back in time changed Amanda’s life. She figured out she could also pause and fast forward time. If she decided to pause a situation to manipulate it, time still marched on and events happened as normal. Similar to watching a live TV show, when she hit pause or replayed a segment of it, she missed out on the real-time events. To get caught up she needed to press the Live button.
Amanda has lived a lot of her life without knowing much of what has happened. To her, she lived similar to a blackout drunk. Conversations happened, she interacted with people and went places and didn’t remember any of it. The other people involved didn’t know the difference. Lucky for her, if an important interaction happened that she definitely needed to know she could rewind her life to the time it occurred and make changes if necessary. Of course, this would distort time on the other end but at least she knew why the person acted mad, sad or happy.
Amanda knew that she lived too much of her life in the past. She couldn’t help it though. She constantly wanted to fix the times when she felt like she looked stupid or embarrased herself. In her early twenties, Amanda spent so much time working on her relationship with Jason and trying to make herself seem perfect so that he’d find her irresistible that she replayed events over and over until she got them just right. In fact, if he’d mention an author that he liked or a book he read she’d pause time and read the book or find out as much about the person as possible so she would seem smart. She wanted to portray having the same interests as him. He obviously had no idea that she did this. They went on their first date so many times that Amanda tried everything on the restaurant menu over three times each. She obsessed over the smallest details because she really wanted to be with Jason. She thought that she could make him fall in love with her. The first couple of months of their relationship would have taken three years in normal time. In the end, she gave up on the relationship. She finally realized that he wouldn’t ask her to marry him no matter how she manipulated the situation.
She’d continued on a similar path for most of her twenties and early thirties. She’d meet a perfect guy and she’d do whatever she could to make him love her. Then, he’d eventually disappoint her and become a jerk and she’d go back in time and basically reverse him out of her life.
Amanda’s frustration continued to grow. Even though she’d gone through all the manipulations of events she still didn’t have the relationship she desired. She hadn’t met her true love. She hadn’t even had what she’d consider a real relationship. What did she need to do? She felt like she deserved love like everyone else. She saw it all over the place. Couples came into her coffee shop all the time holding hands and spending relaxed Saturday mornings drinking coffee together. She longed for that.
The last straw came when Amanda saw Mr. Johnson, one of her daily customers at Fifth St. Buzz, come in alone.
“That’s strange,” she thought, “where’s Margie?”
Al and Margie Johnson came to the coffee shop every morning without fail for over two years. They lived a couple blocks away and they would walk down together rain or shine. Every day they would each get a black coffee and share a blueberry muffin.They’d drink their coffee, eat the muffin and read the paper. The same thing happened every morning. Like clockwork, the Johnsons came to the coffee shop. If the blueberry muffin supply got too low before 8:30 Amanda would set aside one to make sure they got it.
Al came up to the counter and ordered a black coffee and a bran muffin to go.
“Bran?” Amanda asked.
“Margie’s not feeling well and not up to eating. I like the bran better,” he said.
“I see,” Amanda said, not knowing what else to say.
“She needs to get better,” he said. “I just don’t know what I’ll do without her. We’ve been together for 63 years.”
Amanda smiled as she handed Al the muffin but tears welled in her eyes.
“I’m sure she’ll recover quickly,” she said. “Here’s a blueberry muffin too in case she feels like eating.”
Al smiled back at Amanda and she could see his eyes glistening before he turned to leave.
Amanda went to the small office at the back of the storeroom, closed the door quietly, sat down and cried. At first she didn’t know why this mattered so much. She hardly knew the Johnsons. Sure, they were regular customers but she didn’t have a real relationship with them. Then, it dawned on her. They had 63 years of marriage. They really knew each other. They lived together through easy and hard times. They didn’t try to be perfect. He loved her and she loved him. That’s all Amanda ever wanted.
At that moment, she realized trying to control everything would never amount to her having true love. She needed to really live. Giving up control made her extremely nervous because for basically her whole life she determined every situation’s outcome. But, she knew she had to give up the ultimate control she’d wielded for so long.
“This must be the reverse of a person with memory loss,” she thought. “My life has happened to me and I don’t know so much of it. Let’s see how it goes. Let’s see how my life plays out.”