Episode 2 --Dare Not Ask the Dead

Episode 2 —
Dare Not Ask the Dead

 

Episode 2:
Dare Not Ask the Dead

 


I am alone in my Ford Explorer in 1991. I feel physically and emotionally exhausted. And why wouldn’t I be? I died in a fiery crash of this Ford Explorer. But, now it looks new again. I remember the entire death experience and I also remember awakening—apparently resurrected—by Doctor Oswald. How odd that he rushed me to get back to work. I feel as though I am merely a reflection of someone else. And you sit there, thinking you’re reading science fiction. You don’t know what you’ve got right in front of you.

After dark, as seen from Arizona state highway 68 that gently slopes down into the Colorado River Valley, the area around Bullhead looks surreal. Arizona holds a special significance to me. I was born and raised here. I died here, too. But, I am alive again.

Thick, fast-moving thunderclouds overhead release sharply jagged bolts of lightning that pierce the ground from the skies. Between the lightning strikes, the bright, multicolored neon lights of the Laughlin, Nevada casinos joyously illuminate the otherwise pitch-dark desert skies. The dozen or so casinos that are all situated along the Colorado River playfully reflect the neon lights into the sky at night while providing the dividing line between the states of Arizona and Nevada.

I decide to check into one of the Laughlin casino hotels. I pass out on the large bed while still fully clothed. When I awaken, I discover that I am not alone in the Laughlin casino hotel room. The Native American Indian whom I saw executed by suspension hanging is now naked and with me in bed. He certainly is not dead as he lies there next to me.

How did I get to be naked in that hotel bed with him? Who removed my clothing? We both are covered by a soft cotton sheet upon the large bed as the first light of day slips in through the outer edges of the blackout curtains. His muscular left arm is draped across my chest as he remains deeply asleep. I try to slip out from under his arm without waking him, but I am not successful. Soft yellow light of the rising sun illuminates our bodies together in that hotel room.

I can tell by the outline of his body beneath the soft cotton sheet that he is fully erect lying so close to me while deep in slumber. I am having difficulty accepting that what I seem to be experiencing is real and not merely some hallucination from which all time travelers suffer!

His dark eyes open slowly and he smiles when he sees me out of his peripheral vision. He rolls over onto his side in the bed and faces me while keeping his left arm on top of me as if to prevent me from leaving. He is so near to me in the bed that his thick, erect dick presses against me.

I say to him, “How did I wake up naked in bed with a ghost?”

He throws back the bedding and repositions himself in a dominant position on top of me. He straddles me with his knees pressing down on the bed at my thighs. I look up at his exceptional cock and balls.

He may not be real. This may be only my dream. But, he feels real.

He slides off me and helps me lift my legs into the air. He fingers me and applies a thick lubricant into my anus.

When he is inside of me as I lie on my back on that hotel bed, he plunges into me with confidence and impressive skill. He feels so thick and solid. This is no dream. I’m completely sure of that.

I’m sure that my intense physical and emotional responses to him fucking me so memorably in that hotel bed will prevent me from estimating how much time we were together there. He is well beyond thrilling in bed. I felt especially stunned because he demonstrates how he cares more about my pleasure than his own. He never says one word to me at all during sex, but I will always remember the expression on his face as he shouts when he shoots into me.

“Shower with me,” are the first words I hear this man say to me.

He and I are inside a large, glass-enclosed triangular shower stall together completely naked. The water splashes down upon us from an overhead shower head, invigorating us with positive ions.

“They will not hear what we say in this shower. I figured it out. The rushing water sound masks our voices,” he says softly without touching me at all.

“Who won’t hear us? We’re alone in here. Are you paranoid?” I whisper back.

“Cautious,” he whispers in response. “You think you are dreaming. Hallucinating. You are wrong.”

“Yeah, sure,” I whisper back. “Anything is possible in a sex dream.”

He chuckles and then turns the knobs on the shower wall to increase the water pressure falling down upon us. The sound of the rushing water is much louder now—just what he was trying to accomplish.

“Stop thinking so much,” he says to me softly. “Just feel what you feel. This is not a dream.”

I chuckle at his arrogance and self-confidence as I scan his impressive body in that shower with me.

“I need to tell you something important,” he whispers. “I was waiting for you to show up in the Arizona desert where I was being hanged.”

Instinctively, I push him away from me forcefully in that shower with all my strength. I realize that I have surprised him by reacting so quickly and aggressively. He wasn’t expecting that.

He falls backwards with a very surprised look on his face and the back of his head slams against the shower glass. His body slumps quickly downward against the glass. He lies unconscious on the floor of the shower.

Could I have killed him?

As if by instinct, I stare at his body and I feel greatly victorious. I have conquered this highly masculine man who just fucked me hard. Now, he is slumped down, naked and completely still.

I reach the knobs and shut off the water. I place my right hand on his neck to check if I can find his pulse. He is alive. His heartbeat is very rapid right now.

I quickly get out of the shower once I have convinced myself that he will not die there. I feel relieved that I only knocked him out in self-defense because he was threatening me. That’s what I will say to anyone from the hotel or from law enforcement who may ask me about what happened. Somebody will notice the small cracks in the shower glass.

While I am putting on my clothes in that Laughlin hotel room, he walks from the bathroom with a bright white towel wrapped around his waist.
“Vincent Wauneka,” he says to me. “That is my name. Born near here in the Navajo Nation.”

I cannot manage to reply, even to just give this man my name.

He smiles as though he understands. “I know you think I am a ghost,” he assures me. “I am not. I need to go, but meet me later, will you?”
“Meet you?” I ask him. “Where?”

“Cross the Colorado River into Arizona. Piece of paper there on the nightstand. While you were asleep, I wrote down the directions and the street address for you,” he says forcefully. I watch him get dressed, which turns out to be unusually satisfying for me. Then, he turns and raises his right hand at me in an apparent gesture of friendship before he walks out of that hotel room.

– – – – – – – – – – – – –

I pull my For Explorer into the very crowded parking lot at the address the Vincent provided. I am at a place named with three big letters: “TBG”. I presume that the letters stand for The Bullhead Gym.

The parking lot is surprisingly empty. My guess is that very few people in Bullhead use this gym. A battered red VW bus from the 1980s with Nevada license plates is parked next to a black-and-white police cruiser with “Bullhead Valley Police” printed prominently on it.

The dozen or so customers using the generous selection of free weights and weight machines inside the gym are mostly male and all under the age of forty. I presume that most of them either arrived here on foot or by public transportation since there are so few vehicles parked outside. The one-room facility is eerily and unnaturally bright from many rows of white-hot fluorescent lights on the ceiling.

I walk down one narrow aisle of the gym surrounded on both sides by overweight and sweaty gym customers to a reclined bench where I see Vincent Wauneka lying on his back with both arms pushing upward on a bar holding a very large set of weights. I feel clearly as though he ordered me to come to this gym. As if I had no choice. He must have powers from the spirit world.

But, why does a ghost need to work out in a gym?

While reclined on his back, the Navajo’s bright white string tee shirt and black gym shorts allow me to see the impressive body that I got to know in that Laughlin hotel room earlier that same morning.

Carefully watching over Vincent Wauneka is a guy who is assisting him with his bench presses. Must be a personal trainer. He looks like he is in his late twenties. He is tall, muscular, and is barefooted with large, perfectly shaped feet. He wears a deep green muscle tee shirt bearing the orange black letters “TBG” and bright blue gym shorts—both of which seemed a size too small for him. Maybe he made those wardrobe choices deliberately.

This personal trainer easily is the best-looking man in the entire room. He is exceptionally handsome with a well-toned physicality, deep blue eyes and thick, wavy dark blond hair.

I conclude that this young man with perfect body proportions is the exact kind of man that the ancient Romans immortalized in their marble statues. With the help of the personal trainer, Vincent sets the bar of weights down carefully and deliberately onto its rack. When Vincent sees me, in an inappropriately loud voice he says, “Theodore Avila! I want you to meet my personal trainer, Carlo Zee.”

As I approach, I reach out my right hand to the Roman statue standing next to Vincent. I don’t remember telling Vincent my name! How could he pronounce my surname correctly?

While speaking in German, the personal trainer shakes my hand and just keeps talking like I’m supposed to be able to understand him. “Whoa. No comprende, dude,” I say to the trainer noting how weak is his handshake for a man who is so masculine. “You’re from Germany?”

Vincent laughs boisterously at me. “No,” the trainer says, “New York City. Just fuckin’ with you, man. My mother’s a native of Germany. My father’s Italian. From Brooklyn.”

Vincent continues to talk way too loudly and says, “Great genetic combo, Teddy, right? Works so well. Isn’t this guy hot? Carlo has a solid, and, I would add, unusually thick cock. I think any guy here in this gym would want to suck that big boy.”

Suddenly, the entire gym falls into an impossible silence. While literally everyone has stopped what he or she was doing to listen to Vincent, not one single person in the gym even so much as cracks a smile. I can even hear the stretching sound of the leather as Vincent shifts his weight in his red and white gym shoes. In a couple of seconds, everyone returns to working out.

The Roman statue does not look the least bit embarrassed after what Vincent has said and the personal trainer smiles proudly, revealing sexy white teeth. He leans his face closer to me as if he is going to whisper something. Instead of whispering, however, the personal trainer’s voice is louder than I was expecting. I’m sure everyone in that gym hears him say to me in a richly masculine voice, “Welcome to Planet Bullhead. Not like any other planet you’ve ever been to, spaceman.”

Why did he call me that? I panic at that thought that this man somehow knows I am a time travel agent. I take one step backwards to get away from the sudden invasion of my personal space. I do not see that I am backing directly into a fully stocked steel weight tree, knocking all of the weights over with a very loud metallic crash. My backwards motion sends all of the dozen or so perfectly circular weights each into perfectly unpredictable trajectories across the floor of the gym. Vincent and his personal trainer both are laughing in complete enjoyment as most of the round weights roll away harmlessly.

One of the round weights travels threateningly towards the glass front door of the gym. And the rolling motion looks oddly surreal. You wouldn’t think that a rolling weight that was awkwardly knocked off a steel weight tree would gather sufficient velocity to affect much impact. But, somehow, the laws of physics must be different here on Planet Bullhead. The rolling weight strikes the glass front door of the gym with sufficient momentum to cause a loud crash, sending shards of jagged glass cascading to the floor of the gym.

I am horrified. I spin around to see what the personal trainer’s reaction is going to be. He and Vincent are still standing by the fallen weight tree. The trainer grits those perfectly white teeth in dismay. He shakes his head in disbelief and looks suddenly quite threatening.

I can hear Vincent laughing uncontrollably as his personal trainer takes a few short steps to stand very near me. This man gives off an aura of classic masculinity and authority as he stands so close to me that I can detect the cool, intoxicating scent of his body heat blended with his spicy deodorant.

I say to the personal trainer, “I have money. I will pay you for this.” I cannot believe what I have done. Did I really just break the front door of that gym?

Vincent walks up behind his personal trainer, and with his right hand reaches around to playfully grab the man’s crotch and squeezes tightly. As expected, Carlo Zee doubles over. My mouth opens in surprise, just what Vincent expected would happen. The trainer’s sexy blue eyes are dancing as he quickly recovers from having his package manhandled.

He responds by caressing Vincent’s face with his right hand and gently squeezes Vincent’s lips to make them pucker. “Here’s what I’m gonna do,” Carlo announces to me while he continues to hold onto Vincent’s face and kisses him on his puckered lips.

Vincent tries to free himself and mumbles to Carlo, “Fucking let go of me!”

“You don’t owe me anything,” Carlo says to me as he releases Vincent. “As long as you sign up to hire me to be your personal trainer.”

I watch Vincent rub his face and squint angrily at Carlo. “But, I don’t live here,” I say to Carlo, who apparently is not listening to me. He quickly asks, “Why the name Theodore?”

As I prepare to reply with my standard answer that I was named after Theodore Roosevelt, the first cowboy president, Carlo slips his gym shorts down to his thighs. He grabs his impressively thick cock and large balls right there in front of me. My eyes are held captive by this man’s masculinity. I notice that he has shaved his public region completely smooth so he can accentuate his genitals.

I check into an extended-stay motel just down the street from the gym. I really need sleep. Staying for a short while in Bullhead will allow me the opportunity to discover more about the ritual hangings story for my day job at the television station in Phoenix. My boss will support my proposal to live temporarily in Northern Arizona. Staying in Bullhead temporarily also justifies my signing up with Carlo as my personal trainer on a short-term contract so that I will be able to repay him for the glass door that I shattered.

I wake up wearing only my boxer shorts after reclining on one of the two queen-size beds in a room inside that motel in Bullhead. I look at the clock radio by my bed and see that it says “1:30 AM.” I get dressed and walk out to the sidewalk from my motel room and head down Colorado River Drive. I feel as though I have been awake deprived of sleep for several days. I need to concentrate on walking because of how sluggish I feel.

My mind tells me to relax and accept the strange reality that I work as a time traveler. In my head I can heard the soothing words from my medical doctor with an authoritative English accent. He’s given me the approval to go back to work on secret missions to the past even though my body tells me that I should be resting in bed alone somewhere quiet for at least a full week.

My foggy memories include the experiences of going through an intense psychological screening when I first began my career as a time traveler. I made personal admissions at that time to the medical staff. I told them: Dating back to when I entered puberty, I consistently dreamed of masculine men. Throughout my life, my dreams have been populated by imaginary Wild West cowboys, who always wear the familiar costumes of Hollywood Westerns that were popular during the 20th century.

I also admitted how I dreamed of cowboys being hung by the neck until they were dead. Even during my youth, I realized that such dreams are not what one should expect from a heterosexual male. So, I was convinced that I was not at all typical compared to other guys I knew growing up in Northern Arizona.

The agency selected me to be a time travel agent who works within the moon even though I expected that such dreams would disqualify me. As I stumble down the Bullhead sidewalk, I begin to realize that perhaps those dreams of mine were not seen by the agency as a reason to disqualify me from being hired. Quite the opposite seems to be true. I was selected for time travel missions since my often having violent dreams about highly masculine men made me highly desirable to MMDI.

The bright blue and yellow neon lights on the exterior of a pancake house just down the street from my motel attract my attention. I feel happy as I think about the possibilities of fresh, hot coffee, so I pick up my pace toward the restaurant. Because the Bullhead Pancake House is not very busy, I sit down alone at the nearest opportunity to get off my feet before I collapse from emotional and physical exhaustion.

I find a round table for three with a bright red tablecloth. The murals in this restaurant communicate a 1960s American Southwest motif, complete with the obligatory Joshua Trees. You almost expect to see Roy Rogers and Dale Evans reincarnated here and singing Happy Trails together in full costumes as they waltz down the aisles between the tables and booths. Instead, I hear tinny instrumental music pretending to be cowboy songs playing softly through cheap speakers recessed into the greasy restaurant ceiling tiles.

A waitress approaches my table carrying a pot of coffee. She is around forty, heavy-set, with blonde hair and blue eyes. She is wearing a bright red and white uniform. When the waitress smiles at me, I see by her nametag that her name is Margo. She says, “You really look like you need this coffee.”

“I’ll have to trust you about that. Thanks,” I reply to her as she fills my empty coffee cup. I close my eyes so I can focus entirely on the glorious scent of the coffee as I take my first sip.

When I reopen my eyes, I see that seated directly across from me in the second of the three chairs at my table is Nicholas Cruz. This cannot be happening. My exhaustion has obviously led to me seeing what’s not really in front of me. Perhaps if I act naturally, my hallucination will not recognize the panic on my face.

He is wearing a black tee shirt with large red letters spanning his chest that spell out only two words: “Hang Gang.” He smiles at me and softly says something to me in Spanish. Of course, since I was entirely selfish, I never invested the time or the energy to learn his language. I cannot begin to guess at what he is saying, but the familiar sound of his voice elevates my mood.

The waitress returns to the table as though she is ready to take my order, but it’s clear to me that the waitress does not see Nick seated across from me. I look at Nick. I look at the waitress. She is now carrying a single plate of scrambled eggs with bacon on the side. I already ordered? She places the food in front of me and smiles. I look into her eyes as if I will find any answers there. She walks away.

The table where I am sitting with Nick suddenly is covered with a red and white-checkered tablecloth. I am shocked to discover that Nick and I seem to no longer be in a Northern Arizona pancake house with stereotypical cowboy imagery. Instead, we are at an identical round table for three with a red-and-white-checkered table cloth. I recognize this location. It’s an Italian bistro located in Phoenix that I know quite well. I hear familiar Italian opera playing in the background and start to tap my fingers in response to the music.

So it is that I accept the reality of my declining mental health. I feel like I am experiencing overlapping dreams that I cannot control. This is very frightening, but also kind of funny. I want to laugh almost as much as I want to cry.

I can remember how I lied to Nick about working in the news department of a local television station in Phoenix. That was my cover story provided by MMDI. I need such a cover story to prevent anyone from know I’m an agent who travels back in time to the past to fix timelines. But, this whole dual restaurants experience forces me to question how it is I can be considered qualified by the agency to fix other people’s timelines when I obviously cannot even control my own?

“This look that you see on my face is because I’m having a hallucination,” I confide in Nick.

He does not reply. We are together in what looks like an Italian bistro in Phoenix with the opera music playing in the background. I take Nick there to dinner at least once a week. The red and white tablecloth is a cliché, but the food at the bistro is authentic and the restaurant is great for private, quiet conversations between two gay men.

Nick sips his red wine and glances at me with frustration. I hate to upset him, but I seem to be quite good at doing so. “Sometimes I wonder if you are satisfied with me,” he says.

“I know you have sex with other men when I’m not around,” I reply.

“Just for blow jobs. I only let you fuck me,” Nick says to me.

When I drop my eyes in embarrassment at Nick’s confirmation about other men, I watch the tablecloth changing colors as if someone pour deep red paint over the red and white checkerboard print. I touch the tablecloth to make certain that I am still in the physical world.

I realize that Nick and I are now seated at the table for three with the bright red tablecloth. We are inside the Bullhead Pancake House. Instead of chicken parmesan, I see that my plate has scrambled eggs and sausage on it instead. “Nick, something is wrong here,” I say to him.

“You try so hard to please me,” he responds. “I just want you to relax and be real with me.”

I feel stunned that he expressed he feelings so succinctly. “OK,” I reply as if I’m on autopilot. “You’re right. Totally real instead. Here we go: I know that I’m from the future. I go on missions using a blue time machine. I arrive here in the past and get sexually involved with men. That’s what I did with you. I discover what men want sexually. What they never admit to anyone else that they really crave. I discovered those secrets that you hold. I push men sexually beyond their expectations and wildest fantasies. I bring them outside of their self-defined sexual identity and give them what they must have as a man. As it turns out, I’m very good at sexual manipulation of men. I go after pivotal men in how timelines turn out. Manipulating them is the mission. Sexually, that is. All of us agents do that. Are you listening to me, Nick?”

Nick is looking around the restaurant and apparently is ignoring everything I’m saying to him. He asks, “Is that waitress anywhere around? Wonder why she didn’t bring me my pepperoni pizza. Should be done by now.”

“I really must have fucked up the space/time continuum somehow.” That’s the best that I can manage to say to Nick. When I reach for my glass of red wine, it morphs into a coffee cup instead—just like I would expect to happen in an alternate universe.

The entire restaurant fades quickly from the Italian bistro back to the pancake house in Bullhead. I’m not going to worry about any of this. I will have to find a way to make all of this work out. I just need to go with it for a while.

Nick continues to be seated across the table from me at our table for three. He drinks from the glass of red wine in his hand. I watch as his face rapidly becomes the same color as his wine. “I’m not sure we will last as a couple,” Nick suddenly says without any warning.

I admit to him, “Right again. You die. Hung by the neck. I watch you die. Now, we’re together here. Either it’s an Italian bistro in Phoenix, or, a pancake house in Bullhead. Or I am with you in the afterlife. This feels like one big nightmare.”

“Stunned, Teddy,” he replies. “You’re trying to change the subject? Bullhead? You’re making this shit up because you refuse to talk about us. Creative. I’ll give you that, man.”

My coffee cup is a glass a red wine, which I gulp down quickly before it changes again. “Bullhead is a horrid little place in Arizona,” I tell Nick. “But it is real. On the border of California and Nevada. Few redeeming qualities. I thought we were eating breakfast in a pancake house there.”

“I know you don’t do drugs,” Nick says. “But, you’re freaking me out, Teddy. What’s wrong with you? You know damn well that we are having dinner here in Phoenix like we always do. Have you considered the possibility that you are losing your mind?”

I nod in agreement with what Nick has said as I look past him and notice Vincent Wauneka walk in through the front doors of the pancake house in Bullhead. His stunning long hair floats in the air. Are men allowed to walk into Arizona restaurants without wearing a shirt? I believe that I must be imagining him, too. He cannot be real. Vincent Wauneka wears a cowboy hat and boots like he was born to do so.

He moves closer to our little table for three with the confidence and grace of a ghost. He waves and smiles at me as soon as he recognizes me sitting in the pancake house. His package shifts from left to right and back again in those tight blue jeans.

Vincent Wauneka quickly arrives next to the waitress. He puts his right arm around her waist gently in a gesture of friendship. I can feel that I beginning to get an erection merely watching him. Does Vincent have anything to do with my mission here?

“Hey, Margo,” Vincent says to the waitress as if he knows her well. “Theodore Joseph Avila,” he says to me. “Mind if I join you?” Why did he use my full name? Before I can reply to him, I watch Vincent sit down in the third of three chairs at the table. The only two men I have ever seen hanged by the neck until dead are both seated together with me while the waitress stands at the edge of our table.

“There’s not enough coffee in this restaurant to clear my mind this morning,” I admit to the waitress.

Nick says something in Spanish. Vincent looks at Nick and responds by saying something in his native language. Simultaneously, I hear the waitress say to me, “I just brewed a fresh pot. Help you to feel better.”

Nick stares directly at Vincent and asks me, “Where did you meet this achichincle?”

“Wow, he thinks I am a nobody. A servant,” Vincent says to me while he smiles tauntingly at Nick.

“Guys, you’re both making me crazy here,” I say quickly. “Gotta get away.”

“Hold on,” Vincent says. “You just arrived here in Bullhead. I can help you. With my connections. Meet people so you can get a job locally.”

“You said we were having dinner at our favorite spot in Phoenix,” Nick says to me.

I shake my head “no” to answer both Nick and Vincent nonverbally.

Vincent speaks with increased intensity: “Stay here. Forget Phoenix. Besides, you need to sign up with Carlo. You owe him for that destruction you caused at the gym today.”

“Destruction,” I repeat back to Vincent in disbelief at his choice of that word.

“You would never have been at the gym yesterday had I not written down the address for you,” Vincent replies. I silently study Vincent’s intense eyes and the bulges of muscle that comprise his shoulders. I am helpless. His intense masculinity is overpowering me. I know that I will not be able to resist him and will soon want to be back in bed with him.

“You absolutely deserve credit. Or blame,” I hear myself saying to him. “But, the problem is: I know I saw you dead.”

“If it matters at all, he said that he saw me dead, too,” Nick says as he looks at Vincent.

“A nightmare,” I say aloud. “Two dead guys sitting down with me in the afterlife.”

Vincent says quietly, “You should have more caffeine.”

“No, I really need to go to bed and sleep for a long, long time,” I reply.

“You really want to take this stud back to bed. I can see that,” Nick concludes. “He is very hot, I must admit.”

Vincent says to me, “Sometimes, you have to do the exact opposite of what you think you should do. It always works out better that way.”

Nick looks at Vincent again and says to me, “This thug. Or whatever he may be. I certainly wouldn’t kick him out of my bed.”

I just nod to Nick and Vincent. Margo arrives and pours me some fresh coffee. She asks, “Caffeine not kicking in yet?”

“My friend here is having a complete breakdown,” Vincent explains to Margo. She shrugs as though she does not want to be part of this conversation. Then, she walks away from our table.

“Real mature,” I say to Vincent.

“We must go back to your motel room,” he says, “Come on. I will do whatever you ask. Do what you need me to do. You want me. I can tell. Nothing wrong with that. I want you, too.”

I can only stare at him in wide-eyed disbelief.

Nick laughs at how sexually aggressive Vincent is behaving.

“I have a job in Phoenix. Television news,” I explain to Vincent. “Need to go back there today before they declare me as missing and call law enforcement.”

“Let me share an old Navajo saying,” Vincent tells me slowly and deliberately. I study his lips form the words as he tells me, “A lost man. With no direction. Dare not ask the dead.”

I should feel comforted that Vincent has begun to persuade me that I am, indeed, connected to the spirit world. Instead, I feel sick to my stomach. I get up quickly from the table for three and go to the men’s restroom so I can vomit in private.

You need to know that I also hold these alternate memories in my brain about what happened to me:

I wake up wearing only my boxer shorts after reclining on one of the two queen-size beds in a room inside that motel in Bullhead. I look at the clock radio by my bed and see that it says “1:30 AM.” I get dressed and walk out to the sidewalk from my motel room and head down Colorado River Drive. I feel as though I have been awake deprived of sleep for several days. I need to concentrate on walking because of the depleted emotional condition that I’m in.

My mind tells me to relax and accept the strange reality that I work as a time traveler. In my head I can heard the soothing words from my medical doctor with an authoritative English accent. He’s given me the approval to go back to work on secret missions to the past even though my body tells me that I should be resting in bed somewhere quiet for at least a full week.

My foggy memories include the experiences of going through an intense psychological screening when I first began my career as a time traveler. I made personal admissions at that time to the medical staff. I told them: Dating back to when I entered puberty, I consistently dreamed of masculine men. Throughout my life, my dreams have been populated by imaginary Wild West cowboys, who always wear the familiar costumes of Hollywood Westerns that were popular during the 20th century. I also admitted how I dreamed of cowboys being sexually tortured before being hung by the neck until dead.

The agency selected me to be a time travel agent who works within the moon even though I expected that such dreams would disqualify me. As I stumble down the Bullhead sidewalk, I begin to realize that perhaps those persistent dreams of mine were not seen by the agency as a reason to disqualify me from being hired.

Quite the opposite seems to be true. I was selected for time travel missions since my having had violent dreams about highly masculine men made me highly desirable to MMDI. I had to conclude that what I dreamed about so frequently must be part of who I am.

The bright blue and yellow neon lights on the exterior of a pancake house just down the street from my motel attract my attention. I feel happy as I think about the possibilities of fresh, hot coffee, so I pick up my pace toward the restaurant. Because the Bullhead Pancake House is not very busy, I sit down alone at the nearest opportunity to get off my feet before I collapse from emotional and physical exhaustion.

I find a round table for three with a bright red tablecloth. The murals in this restaurant communicate a 1960s American Southwest motif, complete with the obligatory Joshua Trees. You almost expect to see Roy Rogers and Dale Evans reincarnated here and singing Happy Trails together in full costumes as they waltz down the aisles between the tables and booths. Instead, I hear tinny instrumental music pretending to be cowboy songs playing softly through cheap speakers recessed into the greasy restaurant ceiling tiles.

A waitress approaches my table carrying a pot of coffee. She is around forty, heavy-set, with blonde hair and blue eyes. She could be the age forty twin of my ex-wife Katherine Snowe.

Of course, there is no way that Katherine Snowe would ever wear lower herself to be a waitress. Nor would Katherine Snowe ever wear a bright red and white uniform. Katherine Snowe avoided wearing bright, contrasting colors because she believed do so would make her look thinner. When the waitress smiles at me, I see by her nametag that her name is Margo. She says, “You look like you need this coffee.”

“I’ll have to trust you about that. Thanks,” I reply to her as she fills my empty coffee cup. I close my eyes so I can focus entirely on the glorious scent of the coffee as I take my first sip. When I reopen my eyes, I see that seated directly across from me in the second of the three chairs at my table is the dreaded Katherine Snowe. I mistakenly thought I had left her back in Massachusetts.

Katherine says to me, “You didn’t think you could get away from me, did you, Teddy?”

“You’re merely a hallucination,” I tell Katherine. “The byproduct of my lack of sleep. I spent many sleepless night driving cross country after I left you back east.”

Katherine asks, “What kind of chicken-shit place is this with all the stereotypical cowboy imagery? That music sucks. Where are we? Do you think I could order a drink in this horrid place? A real drink. With lots of rum in it?”

I can only say, “This all seems so unreal.”

“Teddy, how do you, of all people, distinguish between what’s real and what’s not?” Katherine asks me. “You’re someone who claims to work on television for fuck sake. Not that I believe your cover story.”

The table is suddenly covered with a red and white-checkered tablecloth. She and I are not in the chicken-shit pancake house with all the stereotypical cowboy imagery. Instead, we are at the same exact round table for three, but we are now in an Italian bistro back east.

I have gone insane! I know that now for certain. I am in an awakened state, and yet I feel like I am experiencing overlapping dreams that I cannot control. This is very frightening. I can remember how I lied to Katherine about working in a news department of a local television station in Rhode Island.

It was my cover story furnished by MMDI. There was just no way that I could tell her the truth about secretly being a time travel agent who had been granted the right to live with her in the 20th century. Saying that to her would only convince her that I am a lunatic. I’m supposed to be an agent who travels back to the past to fix timelines. But, I wonder how it is I can be considered qualified by the agency to fix other people’s timelines when I can’t even control my own?

“We’ve been coming here to this bistro for years,” Katherine says to me. “All we have left in our relationship is eating and drinking together, do you realize that?” she asks. “At least the Italian food here is delicious.”

“I’m having déjà vu,” I tell her. You have said that to me before. I know it.”

As always, Katherine is oblivious to what I have just said to her. “You’re behaving like you’re somewhere else. Far away from me and everyone else in this restaurant.”

“Exactly. Told you already. I’m in Arizona. Another sleepless night,” I explain. “I’m a time travel agent from the future. My missions specifically require me to get sexually involved with other men to manipulate them. I lied to you about working in television. I lied to you about being heterosexual.”

“Is that waitress anywhere around?” she asks me, ignoring what I said.

“I really must have fucked up the space/time continuum somehow.” That’s the best that I can manage to say in response. When I reach for my glass of red wine, it morphs into a coffee cup instead—just like I would expect to happen in an alternate universe. The entire restaurant fades quickly from the Italian bistro back to the pancake house in Bullhead. I’m not going to worry about any of this. I’ll have to find a way to make all of this work out.

Katherine remains there across the table from me at our table for three. She continues to have her glass of red wine in her hand. Her face rapidly is becoming the same color as the wine.

“I’m tired, Teddy. Really tired,” Katherine says as she examines my face. “You always manage to look so young. Especially compared to me. I look like I’m an old woman now. You must be a vampire.”

I’ve heard all this before. She and I had this exact conversation back when we lived in Massachusetts. I remember now. This is a replay of a previous experience that I have had. It seems so vivid.

Katherine says, “I’m tired of acting. I’m tired of pretending to be some other person.”

The waitress, Margo, carrying a plate with food, comes out to where I am seated with my ex-wife, who apparently does not see her twin. “Here you go, sir. Three scrambled eggs and wheat toast,” Margo says to me.

“Thank you very much,” I say to Margo.

Katherine attempts an Elvis Presley voice and says the famous phrase in the iconic way he always said it: “Thank you very much!” Then she adds, “Don’t thank me, you sarcastic prick. I’m pouring my heart out to you and all you want to do is make jokes.”

The waitress asks me, “You need more coffee?”

“Yes,” I reply to her question about more coffee. “Okay, I’ll come back,” says the waitress. At the exact same time, my ex-wife says, “Okay, I’ll go away. That is what you want, isn’t it?”

The waitress walks away from our table for three. I expect that the pancake house will once again fades back into the bistro. But that does not happen. Nor does my ex-wife go away. Instead of leaving me alone at that table for three, she says, “You know what, Teddy. You’re cruel to mess with me like you’re doing here tonight. I’m trying to tell you that I want to be myself and not pretend to be someone else. I am only one person. I can only be one person.”

The waitress returns to our table. “This coffee is very hot,” Margo says. “Watch out.” I hold up my wine glass to Margo even though the glass is half full of red wine. “Watch out,” my ex-wife says to me, echoing what her twin just said.

“I will not let you ignore me,” Katherine adds. Margo pours hot coffee into my wine glass. I grimace, expecting the glass to crack because of the heat of the coffee and then spill hot liquid all over my arm. But, strangely, the coffee floats on top of the red wine and the two liquids do not interact whatsoever—just as I probably should expect to happen in someone else’s universe.

“Oh sure, show me your famous grimacing face, Ted,” Katherine says. “You’re so predictable.”

“Thank you again,” I say Margo, who smiles, and walks away. Meanwhile, my ex-wife is livid.

“You think that you can always use humor to save yourself. Well, not tonight. There’s no humor left for us. I’m telling you this because I am going to change who I am. Whether you like or not. I have made my decision,” she says.

I’ve heard her say this to me before. Many times.

I devote my attention to my wine glass. The coffee is a dark brown and it continues to float on top of the red wine, moving in a circular motion like galaxies. I know that the weird separation of liquids in my glass violates the laws of physics. As I have come to suspect, the rules where I am right now must be very different compared to being back in the lunar base.

“And staring at your wine glass is not going to provide you with an answer,” my ex-wife says. “What’s wrong with you? You haven’t even touched your chicken Parmesan.”

I can see that the plate in front of me contains an order of breaded chicken that has been topped with Parmesan cheese and then smothered in deep red marinara sauce. I use my fork to touch the chicken to see if it is actually there on his plate. Margo returns and notices that I am prodding my food. “Are your eggs cooked the way you wanted?” she asks me.

“Everything’s okay,” I reply. Margo seems pleased with my response and she walks away. But, my ex-wife is not pleased with what she heard me say. She is growing more agitated.

“You can’t even be honest with me about food,” Katherine says. “You say everything’s okay. And yet, you seem surprised that I haven’t been honest with you about our relationship. I chose to deceive you. Deliberately. Because it was part of my act. I have believed for many years—since we first met—that you could not handle the truth about me. So, instead, I pretended to be happy. For you. For the sake of what I thought you wanted in our marriage.”

I must go along with this and stop fighting it or trying to understand it. Perhaps if I cooperate and just flow with it, I can make it end quickly. So, I ask Katherine, “Why do you feel that you cannot be yourself?”

She replies, “You’ve never done too well with me being depressed all the time. It’s a disorder. You know that. My shrink prescribed Prozac for me. You haven’t done well with me being on Prozac all the time, either. You’ve told me several times that Prozac makes me drink more and you think it makes me suicidal. But, you’re wrong about all this, Teddy.”

“What do you want me to say?” I ask her. “You know what? I hope that in the future, people will stop calling this ‘a disorder’ like you do.”
She sticks out the middle finger of her right hand very near my face. She says to me, “I want our marriage to be a safe haven for me. Yes, a safe haven. That’s what I said. A place where I can be myself, where I can be depressed without criticism or disapproval from you. I want you, as my husband, to accept me because you are my husband. You must take care of me. Our vows said so.”

“Yeah,” I reply to her, “well, maybe there’s an escape clause in there that we weren’t told about at the altar on that fateful day. Or, you know what? Remember how that priest who presided over our marriage was drunk? Maybe his impaired condition means that our marriage isn’t legitimate? I think I’ve read about a Roman Catholic Church law about mental intent that has been compromised by bad faith or Satan or chemicals. Something like that.”

At that precise moment I see Vincent Wauneka walking in through the front door of the pancake house. His stunning long hair floats in the air. I see him naked and fully erect, but I’m not sure I see what really is there right in front of my eyes.

He is wearing blue jeans, cowboy boots, a tight tank top, and his cowboy hat when arrives next to the waitress. He puts his right arm around her waist gently in a gesture of friendship. I can feel that I beginning to get an erection merely watching this man walk.

“Hey, Margo,” Vincent says to the waitress as if he knows her well. “Theodore Joseph Avila,” he says to me. “Mind if I join you?” Why did he use my full name? Before I can reply to him, I watch Vincent sit down in the third of three chairs at the table. I’m sure that I have experienced that exact moment before. But, how is that possible?

I realize that my ex-wife does not see Vincent even though he can see her. The waitress can see him. I can see him. Why can’t my ex-wife see him? Katherine announces to me in a formal tone, “We should pronounce this relationship of ours dead.”

Vincent leans over and says to me quietly, “First sane thing she has ever said to you, dude. Am I right? Or, am I right?”

My mouth drops open in surprise. I am helpless. I answer both my ex-wife and Vincent by saying, “You’re right.”

My ex-wife pushes her chair back from the table in frustration. “Take me home, Teddy,” she demands. “Or, I swear to you I’ll drive your car. You know I always keep a spare car key with me. Even though I’m drunk, I’m gonna get behind the wheel of your car!”

Vincent quietly says to me, “Dump her. You got me now. Someone you actually are attracted to sexually.”

The sound of many plates crashing to the floor of near the front door of the pancake house suddenly makes me and everyone else in the place turn quickly to look at what happened. When I look back at the sexy man seated across from me at our table for three, I can no longer see my ex-wife. Nor do I find it possible to care that she may kill herself behind the wheel tonight as she threatened to do.

I turn my attention to Vincent. I am conscious of my erection as I say to him, “I’m totally exhausted. I don’t know what just happened. You saw her. I saw her. But, she didn’t see you!”

Vincent leans forward towards me and says quietly, “Not important.”

“How do explain that you could see her?” I ask him.

“How do you explain that you met me at my hanging?” he asks. “How do you explain what I did to you before we crashed and died in your 4×4? We also were in Laughlin in a hotel room where I think you very much enjoyed having sex with me. At least I thought so before you knocked me out in the shower. None of this will make sense to you if you try to apply logic. Just do your job. Everything will work out as it should.”

“You are someone from the spirit world who’s here to torment me!” I explain.

“No, I am real,” he assures me. “Just like you. Just go with it. So, you got a motel room down the street from this pancake house. You were having trouble sleeping.”

“How do you know this?”

Vincent ignores my question and instead says, “I worked out late at the gym training with Carlo. Was just down the street here. Past your motel. As I walked by, I saw you sitting in here, so I stopped in. You look a little strung out. When was the last time you had a decent night’s sleep?”

“Probably before I got married,” I tell him. “I couldn’t sleep. Yeah. In my motel room right down the street. Just like you said. I come in here to this pancake house and the waitress looks exactly like my ex-wife.”

“You think you started hallucinating that you were here with your ex-wife,” Vincent says, taunting me.

“Just listen,” I tell him. “It was not a hallucination. Or a dream. The conversation that I had with her was from the past. She and I had dinner at a bistro in Rhode Island. We said certain things to each other. Hurtful things. This all seems like it was replaying here from my memories while I’m in this fucking pancake house.”

“You think your mind can replay your memories like you are watching a video?” he says with a big smile on his face.

“Yeah, spirit man, what other explanation is there?” I ask him.

“Amnesia,” he announces. “Memories all screwed up somehow. Think about your ex-wife. Think about what you remember. Talk to me.”

“I can remember certain things. That much I can tell you. I had my wife committed to a psych ward. Years ago back in 1989. Then I immediately left her and filed for divorce. Now I’m here in some strange pancake house with in the Mojave Desert with a weird ghost of a dead Indian that I knocked out naked in a casino hotel shower.”

“You think you left your wife a long time ago?” Vincent asks.

“I did,” I answer quickly. “I just told you. In 1989.”

“What year do you think it is, man? How long have you been driving cross country?”

I can find no answers to give him. So, I say nothing.

“Men like us should never marry females,” he declares confidently.

“I wanted to fit in. Society, I mean. Like I was expected to. Married Katherine Snowe because on our very first date, she gave me a blow job,” I tell Vincent. “She looks exactly like our waitress here. Not just a resemblance. They could be twins who were separated at birth.” This is the exact moment that the waitress returns to the table for three carrying Vincent’s order—scrambled eggs and wheat toast—exactly the same as my order.

She winks at Vincent when she sets down the plate in front of him. “You two boys sure have the same tastes, don’t you?” The waitress who is the twin of my ex-wife walks away without waiting for a reply. Vincent smiles, obviously amused at what the waitress said.

I reach for what I expect to be my coffee cup only to discover that it is actually a glass of orange juice. I drink it down quickly, savoring the sweet, cool taste in my mouth and throat. Maybe if I concentrate on the orange juice, my erection will go away.

“While you are here in Bullhead, I should be able to help you out. With my connections. Meet people so you can get a job locally,” Vincent says to me.
“I don’t belong here,” I assure him.

“You do not even know what the correct year is,” he scolds me. “Stay off the road for a while. You are in no condition to keep driving anywhere. Too dangerous. You will end up hurting or killing someone. You are not thinking clearly. Besides, you need to sign up with Carlo. You owe him for that destruction you caused at the gym today. You are attracted to Carlo. I can tell.”

“I would never have even been at the gym if you had not written down the address for me,” I say to him as I study Vincent’s intense eyes and the bulges of muscle that comprise his shoulders. I am helpless. His intense masculinity is overpowering me. I will not be able to resist him. “You are a mystery to me,” I hear myself saying to him. “Maybe it’s true that I don’t know what year this is. But, I do know I saw you dead. Not once. Two times. I feel as if you have some odd cosmic influence over me. Now you’re here. You walk in here to this pancake house in the middle of the night like all this was supposed to happen. I was attracted to Carlo, yes. But, you are here now.”

He says quietly, “I think you should have more caffeine.”

“No, I need sleep,” I say to him.

Vincent says in response, “Sometimes, you have to do the exact opposite of what you think you should do. It always works out better that way.”

I just nod to him, not certain if I think he is brilliant or foolish. Margo arrives and pours me some fresh coffee. “You guys haven’t eaten a thing. What’s wrong?”

“My friend here is having a complete breakdown,” Vincent says to Margo. She shrugs as though she does not want to be part of this conversation. Then, she walks away from our table.

“Well, that was real mature,” I say to Vincent.

“Take me back to your motel room,” he says, “Come on. I will do whatever you ask. Do what you need me to do. You want me. I want you. Nothing wrong with that.”

I can only stare at him in wide-eyed disbelief.

“A man’s orgasm is a healthy thing. Helps him sleep,” Vincent assures me.

“Why are you doing this?” I ask him.

“You analyze things way too much,” Vincent declares.

I tell him, “That’s what my ex always said to me.”

“And did you listen to her?” Vincent asks.

“Fuck no, I did not listen. She was depressed,” I explain. “Constantly. Drank too much as she self-medicated. One famous night after I drove us home from dinner together at the Italian bistro in Rhode Island near where we lived, she started throwing up from all the booze. She slipped in her own vomit. She smashed her fucking face into the side of the toilet bowl. That’s why I had her committed.”

Vincent just looks at me. He obviously cannot think of how to respond.

I just keep talking as I realize that my erection is diminishing because I am remembering my marriage to Katherine Snowe: “I was like a little kid trying to fight back against something overwhelming that I could not fully understand. I took all the liquor that we had in our condo that night. Went into our laundry room and opened up each of the liquor bottles. Then, I poured every one of them down into the drain of the washer. Didn’t use our kitchen sink for that. So she would not be able later to smell the liquor in the drain in our kitchen and yell at me for what I had done.

After a dozen years with her. I finally just left her that night. I decided to divorce her, so I got a lawyer in Boston. I got fired from my job at the TV station at this same time. They gave me a huge severance check. That’s when I decided to pack up my belongings and just started driving back here to Arizona, where I grew up.”

“After all you have been through,” he says. “You do realize that you deserve to be happy. I can help you. We need to go back down the street to your room. Come on.”

I know that Vincent is correct. I wish I could tell him that I am a time travel agent from the future. Something tells me that talking to civilians in the past about time travel will only get me into trouble. I am fairly certain that Vincent bought my whole TV career cover story. “I really was born here in Arizona. Sedona, to be exact,” I say to him.

“I believe you,” he says. “Even if you persist in thinking that I am a dead man or a ghost from the underworld.”

“This all proves one thing: I am lost,” I say to him.

“Hey, let me share an old Navajo saying,” Vincent tells me slowly and deliberately. I turn to study his lips form the words as he tells me, “A lost man. With no direction. Dare not ask the dead.”

I look into his eyes, trying to figure out how it can possibly be that I remember him sharing that proverb with me at some other time.

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