He was walking past the Louvre when he ran into the door that waited in an archway beside the sidewalk. Usually, Eddy ignored things as commonplace as doors (or buildings, or the ground), yet this mass towering over the shadow it cast was past description because it stood unattached to any building. That it loitered free, unencumbered like a sculpture, seemingly the entrance to nowhere was the least remarkable aspect of this very remarkable portal.
What made this door unique was that, more than personality, it had a personality. The door was a proud door that bore its scratches like war wounds received in battles justly chosen and bravely fought. The door guarded its secrets preciously, kept them locked up jealously and would not open up to anyone except Eddy.
The door opened up to the past. By crossing its threshold, the visitor could enter certain rooms of history and remodel them.
Eddy may have been a newcomer to this type of situation but had seen movies and read books before. While he had certainly made many mistakes before today, he also knew that changing one thing in the past could have horrible repercussions in the present. Demons could be lovers, hurts could be uncovered, and favorite songs might be left undiscovered.
He decided on an experiment where he would open the gateway and make one single, insignificant alteration as a way to measure the suitability of tailoring his past.
A cartoon frog sat perched on his shoulder since the evening he turned eighteen. That summer’s night, reason not so much dictated as slurred that the tattoo would be a good way for him to remember his youth as he clumsily stumbled into adulthood. He was also drawn to the drunken poetry in the badass act of getting a tat of a child’s Saturday-morning-cereal-in-pajamas-on-the-floor memory.
Obviously, the morning after the birth of the tattoo, the symbolism he’d seen the night before had evaporated into the pain of his hangover and sore shoulder, so all that really remained of his decision was a painful stain that would not go away yet remind him daily never to drink that much ever again.
Standing at the threshold, Eddy knew without trying that this mistake would be a good one to erase. The frog (he couldn’t even be bothered to name the damn thing) was an indiscretion he regretted, yet any repercussions in erasing it would undoubtedly be limited to little ripples that would serve to ward him off making any weightier changes.
The door opened as easily as thin fabric ripping, not with the sound of a creak but a tear. Eddy, as someone familiar with the story of the sword in the stone and the stubborn determination of destiny, suspected this gesture was easier for him than any other.
On the opposite side of the door lay a playground, and when Eddy passed through the door he stepped into the exact same playground, except that the colors were brighter, like an overexposed photograph developed cheaply and in a hurry. The sun, now in summer, shone younger, hotter and smelled like it had been left on too long.
He was in his past, but kept the memories of the man he’d been before stepping through, which was why he checked his tattoo. Rather checked the skin on the back of his shoulder where a tattoo frog had once refused to budge, but now had vacated.
Along with the lifting pressure, Eddy also felt the joy of being eighteen and on his birthday. The feeling was such a high that he hoped he could come back through the door specifically to this day over and over again, like alcoholics reliving that one drink that tricks them into thinking all drinks felt this good.
But not all drinks were the same, and Eddy remembered that drinking with River and Ben, his two best friends, was the first step towards the indelible error that would be his tattoo.
Eddy nearly cried, and then he did because this is what you do when you hear the voice of your best friend while he’s still your best friend, before the wedge of time creates a distance no memory can span.
He turned and quickly pulled Ben into a hug to hide his emotion as best he could.
“Are you drunk?” Ben asked.
“Just happy to see you, man.”
“Careful, once you hit the bottle…”
“…the bottle hits back,” Eddy finished, recalling the running joke they had borrowed from a film and shared throughout the years.
Then, over Ben’s shoulder, Eddy noticed River.
She took his breath away. Not because she was impossibly younger than he could ever remember her being, though this was true. Neither did the sight of her amaze him because she was so much more beautiful than the picture he kept in his mind’s eye. Because this was not true.
The years he had not seen River had been kind to her memory, and now that he was looking at the real her he didn’t recognize how plain she was.
Her face seemed rounder, her smile fatter, her hair messier and Eddy realized River was not the most exquisite girl he’d ever known, as he would later come to suspect. But as soon as she spoke…
“Hey guys, room for one more?”
… he understood he’d remembered her as movie star gorgeous because she was beautiful all the way through. She joined them in their hug and before breaking off, she wished Eddy a happy birthday.
“They party’s at my house,” Ben said. “There’s a case of beer there with our name on it…if our name is Heineken.”
“Wait, let’s go hang out at the park first,” Eddy said. He knew from his experience that the three of them would finish that case before finding some of Ben’s parents’ wine which would lead to the slippery slide that ended in the tattoo frog.
“You’re the birthday boy,” Ben said, so instead they spent the afternoon drawing out the sunset at the Parc Monceau. They laughed light in the face of the shadows on the faux Roman columns, they tainted the austerity of the Egyptian pyramid with their frivolity, and they taunted the solemn monuments to deceased relics with the force of their life. When the sun finally gave up and set, the trio still had not yet left and the alcohol was abandoned in a different past.
“You guys ready to get the party started?” John asked.
“Yeah”, Eddy said. “You guys go ahead. I’m going to stop by my place and I’ll meet you there.”
The hugs were a little longer before Eddy left because he didn’t know which Eddy would show up at John’s door later, but he knew Old Eddy was going back to the door and the future to which it would lead him.
He hesitated at the handle, wondering if it might not be better just to stay, but he’d already lived those years and he wanted something new. He’d had an unbelievable afternoon with his friends, but he also knew that each day he spent with them would dilute the buzz he now felt and he wanted to keep that fresh. Unadulterated.
After passing through the door into the future present, there were many things he remembered. He remembered the door before him led to the past and he remembered he’d just returned from reliving a great time with his childhood friends. He remembered every minute of that as if it had really happened because it had.
He also remembered he’d gone back into the past, but did not recall what he had changed because it had no longer happened.
But he felt light. He felt young. He felt reborn and he decided he was going to hit a café and celebrate with a pint or three and then maybe get a tattoo to commemorate this spectacular day. Maybe something that would remind him of his youth.
© Paul Prescott 2013
All photos © Paris Paul Prescott 2013
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