Some Things Change, Some Stay The Same – TLWM 2C

Gary was leaning forward in his chair, hand lying limp on the desk in front of him. He looked as confused as a man being told for the first time that he had a twin separated at birth. The smile on his broad face seemed contrived. “I — don’t understand.”

Jane brought her arms down swiftly, resumed pacing. “Neither do I. All I know that after I saw this –” she pointed the device in her hand at Gary — “thing you’re calling a telephone, and I left my apartment, saw all these cars on the road — after that, didn’t surprise me that I couldn’t find the Unirail station.”

“Unirail?” Arjie spoke the word with the same amount of disbelief as if he had said unicorn.

“Yeah, Unirail.” Without looking, Jane pointed out the window behind her. “You know, the electrified transportation grid under the city streets? Construction started fifteen years ago, city’s 90% complete now?” Jane was not surprised, but still disappointed, to see both Gary and Arjie shaking their heads with blank stares. 

“That’s why I got here so late this morning.” Jane Summers walked over to her chair, placed the backpack on the floor, lowered herself swiftly into the seat. She exhaled, shoulder-lenth brown hair drooping over her shoulders as she leaned forward, as if a weight were bearing down on her neck. “Couldn’t find my Unirail pass — ” she shrugged — “couldn’t find Unirail — all I saw were dozens of cars on the street, and buses, goddam buses, billowing diesel exhaust, for Chrissakes.” She swore, shook her head. “Haven’t seen one of those damn things since they were phased out five years ago.”

“Lemme guess.” Jane looked up at Arjie’s smirking face. “This ‘Unrail’ thing made buses obsolete?” Jane nodded. “OK, what planet did — ”

“I think we need to change the focus here.” Gary spoke with authority, making it clear he expected both Jane and Arjie’s attention. He leaned across his desk in Jane’s direction. “You say you don’t recognize your phone, didn’t know you had a car, and you think there’s some kind of mass transit system that’s suddenly gone away. But — ” he quickly flicked his right index finger, pointing it between Arjie and himself — “you remember us.”

Jane stood up abruptly, raised her hands in the air like a football referee. “Exactly! You’re the same, the other people I saw in the office are the same — this office is in the same location, the houses, most of the businesses I saw when I walked here this morning, they’re the same — ”

“Most businesses?” The tone of Gary’s question seemed genuine.

Jane frowned. “Gas stations. Most went out of business a decade ago.”

Gary blinked, shook his head dismissively as he leaned over his desk. “Gas stations, whatever. But my point is, there’s only a few things you say look different.”

Jane Summers brushed a strand of hair from her face with her hand, and sighed heavily. “Think so. Most everything’s the same as I remember. I mean — ”

Her eyes darted quickly, catching Gary’s gaze and holding it. Her voice became urgent. “I still — I mean, my mother, younger sister . . . ” She relaxed as she saw Gary nod reassuringly. Jane swallowed. “That picture of us in Disneyland, it was on the fridge, like before.” She swallowed. “And I’m guesing that means my father . . . ”

A darkness came over Gary’s face, as if an eletrical circuit had been switched off. Out of the corner of her vision, Jane saw Arjie look away. Gary’s voice was soft. “Yes, Jane.”

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