Sometimes I think I hear someone say my name. Usually when I'm at work, when I'm putting my headphones on or taking them off, or maybe in between songs. It's always like a shout from across the room, and I pull my headphones down around my neck, turn around and look for someone who's looking for me. No one ever is.
That's when the idea hits me, and it's only there for a second before it drifts away again, and I wonder if I'm dreaming and someone is trying to wake me up. I wonder if I'm 8 and my brother wants me to wake up so he can drive us to the comic shop, or because I have to pull weeds in the driveway and if I don't Dad will yell at him before he yells at me.
I think about waking up and realizing in one sinking moment that the past almost-20 years have really only been one night and that now I have to do it all over again.
Everything that's happened in the world and all the decisions I made that were so right and so logical and made so much sense before would suddenly seem laughable. They would seem possible only through dream-logic because, after all, that's what it was.
But those memories don't stay with me long. I try to hold them tight in my brain but they squish like jelly and drip away even as I sit up in bed. It's not like a second chance at life, it's more like a prank.
It could be any time and anyone could be trying to wake me up. I could be 20 and about to drop out of school, and Jenny wants to know if I'll hang out with her friends tonight. Or I'm 15 and I drifted off for just a second on Adrian's futon while he was telling a story. Or I'm 23 in New York and Sharon wants to give me a subway map before she leaves for school.
(Later that day we'll see Tracy Morgan in front of Rockefeller Center, and I'll momentarily forget about the kid who brought us a pizza in Cave City, Kentucky. He twirled it around in a circle before setting it on the table and saying, "Go wild." I think she was mad when I forgot, and a little hurt, and I couldn't help but think, a month later when I was back in Chicago and she broke up with me over the phone, that it had something to do with that.)
But the feeling, the dream-fear, always passes. I go back to work and I don't think about it again until the next time I put my headphones on too fast or turn my head just as someone begins to speak.