This time, I climbed inside.
You know that space ship I saw on New Year’s Eve? The one on the beach, bedazzled with crushed beer cans? It’s been calling my name — yeah, my name was painted on its side like so much inspirational graffiti. It wanted me to come back.
While my Beloved waited on the shore in the Escalade, I explored this strange shuttle and hiked inside. Cluttered and sandy, the thing was cramped but all sound of the ocean fell away as soon as I sat down.
Suddenly, the wind came up and obscured my view of the shore but no sand came inside. Then it was calm and sunny as quick as it had been a sandstorm.
I climbed out and landed on the dune in a splash of sand. My Beloved was nowhere to be seen.
“OK, funny joke, Tyler, where are you?”
Never one to pass up the opportunity for a run, I jogged down the beach — he would catch up to me eventually — and ran out breath in a quarter-mile.
“OK, that’s weird,” I thought. “I ran 2 and half miles this morning without a problem.”
I meandered down the beach for another hour getting increasingly irked then increasingly worried about My Beloved. My cell phone was dead, so it was no help. Finally, a couple in a 1982 Ford pick-up truck pulled up beside me.
“Need a ride?” the woman asked.
“Um, I’m not sure. I somehow lost my husband on the beach,” I said.
The woman shook her head with a look of pity on her face. “Hop in. We’ll take you back to town.”
Tired of walking and figuring I’d have cell coverage further south on the beach, I squeezed in next to the couple and made small talk while the guy driving weaved his way around the waves. George Michael’s “Faith” and Tiffany’s “I Think We’re Alone Now” played on the radio, a quaint thing with turn dials and a tape deck.
I learned their names: Gabe and Mary from, of all places, St. Paul, Minn. They were getting away from winter, too, but they planned to head home the next day.
“Just taking one last ride on the beach before we leave,” May said wistfully.
My phone was still dead when we got into town, and when they pulled up in front of the condo, I realized I didn’t have the keys to get in.
“Can I borrow your cell phone?” I asked Mary.
“You mean mobile phone? We don’t have one of those,” she said apologetically. I sat in the cab of the truck wondering what to do.
“Sweetheart, here’s our phone number back at our hotel,” she said as she tucked a slip of paper into my hand. “I’m sure your husband will come back, but if you need anything, give us a call.”
I sat on the bench outside the condo for more than an hour. I was starving by now so I finally decided to walk to the grocery store for a cold pop and a barbecue sandwich.
On my way inside, I absent-mindedly pulled a newspaper out of the bin marked “Free — Take One.”
It wasn’t a headline that caught my eye, but the date: Jan. 11, 1988.
I couldn’t believe my eyes.
“Why do you have such old papers out there?” I demanded of the youthful cashier who was picking at her fingernails waiting for some action at her register.
“It’s a weekly,” she said. “The paper comes out once a week, on Fridays.”
“I’m not talking about the day!” I said, alarmed. “I’m talking about the year! What is today’s date?”
Her eyes opened wide, as if she was responding to someone whose brain was the froth-filled center of a Twinkie in the package behind her. “Um, it’s January 17.”
“No! What year?!”
“It’s 1988.” She didn’t say, “you idiot,” but I could see the words on her face. She shook her head, turned around and began scanning a TV dinner of Salisbury steak for a woman who just appeared at her register.
I stood dumbfounded during the entire transaction. When the woman finally carried out her groceries, I confronted the cashier again.
“I need a telephone. Where is a telephone?” I asked.
“There’s a booth a couple of blocks that way,” she said, pointing.
I turned and followed her direction. As I walked, a whirl of thoughts filled my brain. “Where was I in 1988? Twenty-five years ago, I was two years from graduating from college. I was dating the man who ultimately became my ex-husband. I was dreaming of being a writer. I was 20 years from taking up running.”
Suddenly, I realized I knew every potential date to turn down, every supervisor to avoid, every investment folly, every moment of indecision and lack of confidence I had experienced in 25 years. I could start my life over. I could do things differently this time.
“No regrets,” I said out loud.
I smiled when I realized something else. “My brother is alive.”
I had 11 years to be a much better older sister to my brother than I had been before he died. He loved movies, I knew, and the first thing I was going to do was stop at Blockbuster and rent a tape of “Back to the Future” to watch with him.
When I arrived at the phone booth, I half expected Superman to exit. Instead, I inserted a dime and called Mary and Gabe, whom I now considered my guardian angels. “Mary, any chance I can hitch a ride back to Minnesota with you and Gabe?”