A mother and a son, separately regretting the way they’ve treated each other in the past, wish to make things right
March 20, 2020: “When I talk about the most drastic action we can take, this is it. New York is locked down; New Yorkers will only be allowed to leave their homes for essential business.”
Diana sighed and switched off the radio just before—
“Mooom? Can you come in here for a second?”
Will’s mother sighed as she rose from the worn wooden chair in their kitchen, leaving a pile of bills scattered on the table. She walked down their apartment’s short hallway, stretching stiff limbs long overdue for movement, and stopped outside Will’s door. She closed her tired eyes, swept back her unbrushed hair, and smiled.
“What do you need, sweetie?”
“Uhh, we’re supposed to be analyzing this book we read . . .” Will clenched and unclenched his fists nervously, “and the essay’s due tomorrow . . .”
Will’s mom inhaled sharply and rubbed her forehead, “Will, what did I tell you about your homework?” She pushed her hair back in distress. “Look, I just don’t have time right now, hon . . .”
“Alright, fine. Fine, I get it,” Will interrupted and muttered, “I don’t need you anyway.”
Will’s mom glanced up in surprise. “You know I don’t mean it that way . . .”
“I don’t need you, Mom! Just”—he sighed—“just get out!”
Will’s mom stood frozen, hurt. She sighed and shook her head as she backed out of his room.
She plopped back into the creaky wooden chair in their kitchen and let her head fall into her hands. A tingling sensation moved down her right arm and she looked at her copper bracelet. She smiled, fondly but sadly, remembering her mom who had given her the bracelet decades ago. She could barely believe a woman of such strength and happiness had been taken by the virus. No matter what, her mom had always been there for her, and she aspired to be that for Will. Will!
Quiet terror swept across her face as Diana remembered all the times she had put Will’s needs on the backburner. I wish . . . I could just go back and redo everything . . . Diana sighed. I just want to go back to when he was born and be there for him.
Suddenly, she felt the copper bracelet on her arm slowly beginning to turn counterclockwise. It was barely moving at first, but it spun faster and faster. From the window of her fifth-story apartment, she watched in shock as the days began to pass in more and more rapid succession. No. The days . . . they were rewinding!
* * *
Will shifted in his chair and smiled smugly. Ha. I finished my essay, and I didn’t even need her, he thought defiantly.
“Mooom,” he called as he finally rose from his chair and wandered into the kitchen.
He was met with silence and an empty room.
“Mom?!” he called out louder.
Will jogged back down the hallway and swung into his mom’s bedroom. Hmm. She’s not here either, he thought nonchalantly. He walked across her room and found the bathroom dark and empty. Weird, he thought. She must be around here somewhere. I didn’t hear her leave . . .
“Mom?” he called out again.
Will’s face began to contort with worry, and then frustration. I didn’t really mean what I said before about not needing her, he thought. She knows that, right?
Will pushed his hands through his hair, lifted his right foot, and stamped it down with all his weight. Suddenly he caught sight of the kitchen phone. How could I be so stupid?
He snatched the phone from the wall and punched in his mom’s phone number. The flip phone amidst a scattering of bills rang abruptly. His hope vanished, and a tear splashed quietly onto the tile floor. He solemnly made his way to his mom’s bedroom and opened the top drawer of her dresser, pulling out a small jewelry box. Inside was a thin bracelet of tiny copper chains. It was one of two matching bracelets Will’s grandma had handed down to his mom. His mom had tried to offer it to him, but like always, he had met her question with an unnecessary amount of aggression and opposition. Now he gently lifted the bracelet out and clasped it around his wrist.
“I wish this would just be over already,” he whispered in a subdued sob.
The copper bracelet began to rotate around his wrist clockwise. It circled faster, faster. The view outside the bedroom window blurred into a confusing mixture of night and day, until the sun stopped and hung bright and still in the sky.
Will stepped out of his apartment building and looked around at the streets in frantic confusion. He jogged along the sidewalk and called out, “Mom?!” The people around him glared judgmentally before hurrying on their way. Will was still apprehensive to move about without a mask on and in such proximity to other people. But no one else seemed to share his concerns.
“Ma’am? Isn’t New York City on lockdown to prevent the spread of COVID-19?”
“Two years ago, we were,” she replied, bemused.
Will furrowed his brow. “Two years ago?” he repeated quietly to himself.
Will furrowed his brow. “Two years ago?” he repeated quietly to himself.
He wandered into the Apple Store across from his apartment building, still pondering the reply. Buried in thought, Will felt himself hit the hard, cold frame of a metal shelf. Startled, he looked up and muttered angrily at the shelf. Then his eye caught the large display on the nearest wall showing an ad for the iPhone 14: scheduled release—September 2022.
Will quickly walked over to the nearest employee. “Excuse me. Are you sure that release date’s right?”
“Yep, it’s right. Just a month away!”
Will rushed over to the phones and tablets on display. They all read August 12, 2022. He ran outside, panicking. The employee watched him and shrugged as he turned to another customer.
Will needed to get to back to 2020, back to his apartment, and most importantly, back to his mom. But he had no idea how.
* * *
Diana stumbled back in confusion, reaching for the flip phone that was usually safely stowed in her back pocket. She winced, remembering her flip phone still lying on her kitchen table. Dust caught in her throat, and she coughed. To her surprise, no one backed away in worry from the short, black-haired woman who had just coughed. She took a deep breath and let the confusion melt from her face. Gathering herself, she stopped a young man walking toward her.
“Hi, sorry. Do you happen to know what today’s date is?”
“November 2,” he answered.
“Wait, what?” Diana whispered under her breath; it had just been March . . .
“Yeah, November 21, 2003.” The young man held out his Blackberry displaying the same date.
Diana suddenly realized something particularly odd about the date, besides the fact that it was nearly two decades in her past: it was Will’s birthday!
“Is it a coincidence? Why am I suddenly here on Will’s birthday . . .?” She slowed to a stop and let the crowd flow around her. Tentatively, she inspected the copper bracelet on her wrist. “Is it possible? My wish . . . came true?”
Diana was quickly snapped out of her thoughts as she came to the harsh realization that she wasn’t pregnant. “But then who’s having my baby today?” she whispered.
Jogging to the edge of the street, she held out her arm. “Taxi!”
She threw open the yellow door and hurried inside.
“Where to today, ma’am?”
“Lenox Hill Hospital . . .” Diana searched for the words: “My sister is having a baby today.”
The taxi driver nodded as the car’s clock ticked over: 4:23. Fifteen minutes to go.
“Thank you, thank you,” Diana muttered distractedly as she rushed out of the taxi.
“Hey, that’s twelve dollars!” the taxi driver called after her as she swung open the hospital door.
She laughed bitterly to herself, whispering, “I could never have changed anything, could I?”
Diana paused and winced, closing her eyes. She turned around and ran back to the taxi, slapping a few bills into the passenger seat before dashing back to the hospital doors.
“Hi, uhh, my sister, Diana Hung, is having her baby in—,” Diana glanced up at the analog clock above the receptionist’s desk, “three minutes—I mean um, h-her husband called and told me she was in labor.” Diana winced. “Could you tell me her room number?” Diana finished, recovering.
“Sure, no problem.” The receptionist smiled and began clicking around on her computer. “Looks like she’s in room 213, just down that hallway.”
Diana let out a sigh of relief. “Thank you,” she breathed as she grabbed her visitor’s pass.
She walked briskly down the familiar hallway and stopped abruptly. 213. Diana pressed her ear against the door, recognizing her own cries of pain. She thought she could hear the quiet, comforting voice of her husband, still supporting her even as she squeezed his hand for dear life. Leaning against the door, Diana closed her eyes wistfully, allowing a tear to run down her cheek.
Suddenly, she pushed away from the door and backed into the center of the hallway.
“What am I doing?” she whispered, “What did I think I was going to do? Steal Will?”
She slid her hand down her face. A cool sensation ran down her right forearm. Her gaze jerked down to the copper bracelet; she yanked it off and threw it to the floor. Diana leaned against the wall across from room 213, contemplating. She sighed, scooped up the chain lying on the tile, and held it firmly in both hands.
She laughed bitterly to herself, whispering, “I could never have changed anything, could I? Maybe I can still go back—or forward I should say—and try harder. For Will.”
The bracelet remained static in Diana’s hands as she delicately reclasped it around her wrist. “I wish to go back to the present.” The bracelet and the sky turned clockwise. Day and night blurred again, until it settled on day and gravity regained control of the bracelet.
* * *
Will paced in circles around the park bench, wondering how he would get back to where he was supposed to be. He stopped. If the bracelet had taken him here, it could take him back. He racked his brain trying to think of what activated the bracelet. But hunger interrupted his thoughts.
Will’s stomach rumbled. He hadn’t eaten in several hours since starting his essay—or should he say in two years? Will collected himself and took in his surroundings, recognizing he was just a few blocks away from his favorite pizza place.
As he walked along the still-crowded sidewalks, he solidified his plan to get back to where—or when— he was supposed to be. He replayed his sudden time jump over and over again in his mind. The question consumed him: what had activated the bracelet? A pang of hunger snapped him out of it as the aroma of the pizzeria greeted him.
Moving toward the counter, he rustled through his jean pockets for loose cash. He came up empty handed. “Dang it,” he muttered. He started to walk away when someone oddly familiar caught his eye. The guy ordered two slices of pepperoni pizza. Will spotted a copper glimmer on his wrist. Huh. That’s what I always order, and that looks just like my copper bracelet, Will thought to himself. Funny coincidence.
He started to walk away from the pizzeria, but before he could, the pepperoni pizza guy (who Will had affectionately named his doppelgänger) laughed at something the shop owner told him. Huh. I know that laugh too. Don’t know where from, though . . . The gears turned in his brain as he tried to place the laugh. Suddenly he stopped, turned, and stared at the pepperoni pizza guy. Wait . . . that’s my laugh.
Instinctively, he hid behind the decorative trees outside the shop to avoid being seen by future him. Carefully, he peeked out from behind the tree and watched future him trip over the leg of a stray chair, causing his pizza to fall to the floor. Will winced and closed his eyes, bracing himself for what he knew would happen. But the yelling and cursing never came.
His clone’s friends were bent over laughing, but future Will just smiled. Will watched in a combination of confusion and amazement as future him calmly walked up to the counter and paid for another couple slices of pizza. He sat down with his friends, musing. “You don’t even want to know how I would’ve reacted a couple years back. Let’s just say that chair’s feelings might’ve been hurt.” Future Will took a bite of pizza. “But I guess I learned getting frustrated over everything’s not worth it. There were a lot of things to get frustrated over a couple years back. It just would’ve been constant frustration if I kept tuning in to every little thing.”
“Two years back,” Will whispered, retreating back behind the tree. “2020 . . . the pandemic?”
He walked onto the crowded sidewalks and fidgeted with his bracelet. “I have to go back to my present,” he whispered. Suddenly, something clicked in his brain: A wish! he thought. That’s how I got here. He leapt up in excitement. Drawing in a deep breath, he whispered, “I wish to go back to my present.” The bracelet spun around his wrist, clockwise this time. Faster and faster the days and nights rewound until they blurred into one and finally stopped.
* * *
Standing on the tiled floors of his kitchen, Will glanced up. Meeting his gaze, Diana stood by the old wooden chair pulled out from the kitchen table, as if she were waiting for him. Smiles of relief, acceptance, and joy spread across their faces, and they stumbled forward to embrace each other. No time like the present.