I was leaning on my old, wooden chest of drawers, with my left arm resting on its top, talking to a collection of my co-workers who were about to go out for a night of drinking.
“C’mon, boss, join us for once,” one of them said. “We’d love to have you with us,” he said, and the others nodded. They truly seemed like they wanted me to come, and I smiled a small smile.
“No, thank you. I have a little more that I want to get done. But have a great time. Here,” I said, pulling some money from my wallet, “the first drink is on me.”
“Woo-hoo,” they shouted as they turned and rambled out the door. I paused for a few moments as I watched them leave. “Crazy,” I muttered to myself.
As I turned to face my chest of drawers I heard them cry out again and looked out the door to my right to see what they were doing. I smiled again. I couldn’t be like them, but I was happy for them.
Looking back at the chest, I admired its craftsmanship. It was a dark, rich wood, perhaps cherry, I thought. It was old, but with few scratches, and well-polished. The curves of its edges were elegant and spacious. A designer would praise its extravagant use of negative space. “If only they knew,” I thought, chuckling to myself.
I placed my right hand on the special spot on the top right side of the chest, then spread my fingers out slightly. After the usual pause of a few moments, its hidden lock detached and the entire facade gently slid forward. After it slid towards me about a foot, maybe more, its hidden drawer rose up from underneath the top, back part of the chest. When the drawer quit moving I gazed at my treasures for a few moments. Some were personal keepsakes from my own past, but others were items from the future. In a weird way looking at them gave me some sort of peace of mind.
“Whoa,” I heard someone behind me say.
I turned to my left and saw two women staring at the drawer’s contents. “I’m sorry,” I said, “I didn’t know you were here.” I was about to close the drawer and think of something to say to these women, but then I heard the party people again and turned to my right, and looked that way for a few moments to see if they were coming back in. Their noise faded away again. When I turned back to the drawer I saw that a few items were missing.
I walked to my left, where the first woman was seated at a small desk, with three items spread out in front of her. Instinctively I stood behind her, gently put my hands on the tops of her shoulders, just beneath her neck, and said, “Now that you’ve had a little glimpse of the future, would you like to continue working here?” She slowly and almost imperceptibly nodded her head up and down, and slid the items to her right.
“Thank you,” I said, as I picked them up, and then put them back in the drawer. I looked back at the woman, and she sat there, frozen.
I walked over to the second woman and stood behind her. She reminded me of a combination of Natalie Portman and a girl I knew in high school. She was standing with her back to me, holding a personal artifact of mine in her hands. I first thought about taking a heavy-handed approach with her, but I really didn’t want to do that. Indeed, some part of me enjoyed watching her cradle it in her hands. After a few moments I asked, “May I have it back, please?”
“It’s beautiful,” she replied.
“Yes, I know. May I have it back?”
“And if I don’t give it back?” she asked, without looking back at me. She kept staring at the object, touching it gently with one hand as she held it in the other.
“I would have to fire you, at the least.”
“Well, maybe you’ll just have to fire me,” she said, as she turned to face me, holding the piece in her hands in front of me. She looked at the artifact, and then into my eyes. “Your choice,” she said.
I paused, and then gently took it from her hands. “I’d hate to fire you,” I said. “You’d miss working here.”
“Would I?” she asked.
“I hope so,” I said, turning and walking back to my secret compartment. I glanced at the first woman, who was still sitting there in a state of shock. I put the item back in my previously-secret cabinet drawer, placed my hands on the front of the chest, and closed the entire facade. “I know I’d miss you if you were gone,” I said, walking away as I spoke.
I took a few steps down a hallway and then turned a corner to my left. This area was a little cubbyhole that I had carved out in the office, a special spot where I shared other less-personal artifacts with anyone that wanted to see them. A beautiful painting hung on the left wall. It consisted of nine miniature portraits of famous people throughout time, including Einstein, Gandhi, and others.
On the wall to its right was a roll top desk, with various trinkets on its shelves and in its nooks and crannies. I picked one up and looked at it, and noticed a tear coming out of my right eye. Yes, I would miss her. And now I needed to think of what to do with both of these women who had seen something they never should have seen. But it was my fault, not theirs.
As I stood there, the girl who I felt like I knew from high school slipped by my left side, turned around, then sat on the roll top desk, looking at me. “So, you’d miss me?” she asked. “Does that mean there’s a heart in there?”, she said, poking me in the chest, smiling.
I wanted to reply, “Yes, with all my heart,” but then I felt that familiar feeling. “Damn,” I thought. There wasn’t much time. “I have to go now. Please, wait for me,” I was able blurt out before I was pulled away. I tried to grasp her hands with mine, but my hands faded away and moved right through hers.
I woke up back in my own bed. “Fuck,” I muttered.
I spent a few minutes trying to get back there, but I knew I couldn’t, I was awake now. I took a deep breath and then sighed a long exhale before pushing myself up to start the day.