by Chris Rostenberg
When I was in high school, I used to accidentally slide sideways through time without knowing it. All my peers knew it, but I did not. These three strange things happened with my locker, a search for gasoline, and my bike.
My friend Vinny and I used to race our bikes and he always won. I had this blue Peugeot 12-speed bike that I loved, but the gears were screwed; I’d be stuck in impulse power and Vinny would race away at warp speed. I loved that bike, but one day it disappeared.
Vinny and I played Dungeons and Dragons with this guy, Steve, and Steve and I would always be fighting over my character, Thugger Guillmartin, who was a half-orc fighter/assassin. I always had Thugger say, “Acheemeegrasnon doyfastrah,” which, translated from the Orc, meant, “Where is the toilet?” “No toilet; shit in the bush.”
I was a corrupt Dungeon Master and Thugger kept stealing the party’s treasure and all the players were getting really mad at me, especially Steve, who was always bothering me about something. Steve once said to me that his teacher had said that a raindrop is the most aerodynamic shape there is. I disagreed. He said, “Chris, I trust my teacher before you.” I was always getting this shit. I said, “Look, man, don’t trust me. Don’t trust your teacher. Trust your own mind. What if you have a liquid less viscous than water? In a higher air-pressure? In a higher gravity field?” And Steve said, “Chris, we were talking about Earth.” And I said, “We were?”
I spent the night at Steve’s house, but in the morning, the lace on my sneaker broke so I couldn’t wear it. Steve could have given me a pair of his own shoes, but he would only give me his brother’s old Army boots to wear to school the next day. At school, the gym teacher wouldn’t let me participate because I was wearing these Army boots. So I decided to go home, and I went to my locker, put in the combination and opened it. All my stuff was gone. Somebody else’s stuff was in there. I had used my own combination! Sitting there in my locker was this stranger’s pair of sneakers. I was certain something magical had just happened, so I put the sneakers on, went back to gym class and played volleyball. I might have prevented a nuclear war.
There was this other time when I was sure I shifted to a parallel universe. I used to hang out with this girl, Phoebe, who was from the South and could turn her accent on and off. She had gone to rallies for the Ku Klux Klan and thought the criminal justice system should be different for blacks and whites, but man, was she a hot, sexy mama. Phoebe and I got this job at MCI up near the Westchester County Airport. MCI was a new phone company trying to compete with AT&T. Phoebe and I had to make cold calls and annoy people into leaving Ma Bell.
We needed gas, so we pulled up to this guy mowing the lawn and I asked him where the nearest gas station was. He responded to me in some foreign language, but he was not saying, “I don’t speak English,” or “The gas station is just down there.” He was just chatting away in some foreign language as if I understood him. I responded with, “Acheemeegrassnon doyfastrah.” Then the crazy bastard responded to me in his foreign language, just filling me in on the latest gossip. Phoebe, not comprehending, asked me what I had said to the guy. I said, “I don’t know, but he does.”
When I got home, I went down to wash my clothes. I was in my mom’s laundry room when I got this funny feeling that I was not alone. Just before I had entered, had there been a woman being threatened by some man? Had he silenced her and forced her away? I was scared, but how could I back out? I crept down the hall, turned the corner, and there was nobody there. False alarm. But what if they were hiding behind the staircase? I was scared, but I crept up, looked behind the staircase …
And sitting there was my old blue twelve-speed bike.