How did I get here? I got home last night in a drunken haze from whatever party came after the party I actually got invited to. At least I thought I was home, but this bed feels strange, hard and lumpy like old oatmeal, and my eyes are slow to open. When they finally do I can see a ceiling fan blurry above my head. It’s whirling around so fast I wouldn’t be able to make out the individual blades even if my vision were normal.
My back hurts, too. Not a shooting ache but a dull one that usually comes from having slept on it wrong for too long. When I passed out I must have landed awkwardly on this strange bed, or perhaps it’s a futon. I slowly sit up in bed and force my eyes open more than just the slits they were. I stretch my arms above my head and notice they seem to have lost some definition. Instead of my firm biceps I see some give to them, as if gravity is fighting to drag them down, and is doing a good job of getting it done. It doesn’t compute.
The old, threadbare slippers I’ve had for years that don’t fit me anymore are gone from the foot of the bed, not that I thought they’d be there anyway, but I have to find out where I am. And suddenly I hear a noise behind my back, like a muffled thump, and I turn to see what’s over there. To my shock the thump I heard is identified as a small, mousy woman with stringy brown hair who is on the floor on the other side of the bed. I find my glasses on the side table and slip them on. When did I start wearing glasses?
Everything comes into focus then — the woman, who has obviously just been woken up by her fall from the bed, the ceiling fan above my head, and the sounds of running feet in the hallway outside of the closed door.
“What the…” says the woman in a gruff voice, obviously startled by the fall.
“Who are you?” I respond, still out of it myself.
She looks at me as if I’ve grown a second head.
“Don’t get started this morning, Murray, not until I’ve had my cup of coffee,” she says, dragging herself up from the floor. I notice she is naked, and I quickly look away, first because I don’t know her, and second because she is older. Quite a bit. By at least ten years. And those ten years have not been kind.
A knock sounds on the door, followed quickly by a second and a third, the sounds of little hands trying to force their way in. At first I think it’s the Lilliputians and I’m the giant Gulliver cowering in a cellar. But seconds later they gain admission to the room right after the strange woman who knew my name has gotten back under the covers. There are three of them, a towheaded boy and two red-haired girls who look like they might be twins. They dive onto the bed like bombs, landing on the bump that is the woman and hitting me in the back in the process.
“Daddy! Mommy!” they say in unison, a cacophony to my ears, though, because I don’t know why they’re looking at me like that. Little arms grab me from behind and squeeze tightly, and I’m so stunned that I can’t make a single sound even though I want to scream. The strange woman’s head comes up from under the covers again and she’s laughing. She hugs the little scamps one by one, and then in one big embrace, kissing them on their foreheads.
“Thank god it’s the weekend!” she says, looking at me with an affection I thought was only possible in the movies.
I have to get up. I can’t take it anymore, the sense of disorientation that has come over me. I feel sick as I rise to my feet, realizing that I too am naked after I’ve already crossed half the room. Not turning around, I leave the bedroom quickly searching for a bathroom where my clothes are most likely to be. One appears at the end of the hallway, on the right hand side, I slip inside, and close the door with a bang behind me. There is a full-length mirror across from the tub. I look into it and stare with my jaw wide open.
I’m old. Well, at least as old as the woman whose bed I just left. As I look back at my reflection I am amazed by what I see. There are more gray hairs than a little in my small beard and mixed into my chest hair. The hair on my head has thinned out noticeably, as if I am going bald, and my stomach is a bit larger than I recall. I look like one of those guys I routinely make fun of on the subway, the ones who I feel have given up on themselves and on their possibilities. I am them.
And I have absolutely no clue how it happened. Before I can process any of it, I hear the sounds like little hammers pounding against the bathroom door. They’re out there, and I don’t know how I’m going to ever escape.