“Hey I’m getting a little light-headed from doing this,” Toni says to Maude.
“Yeah, but you’ll get used to it.”
Toni really didn’t like how nonchalant Maude is about all this. What is all this time…is this time traveling?… doing to her body. Toni shook her head, she probably didn’t want to know.
“What now?” she said instead, “This looks vaguely familiar.”
Toni looks around at a small, dingy apartment—she doesn’t want to touch anything even though she is aware that she probably won’t feel the grime anyway. The T.V. stand has a thick layer of dust on it and a Himalayan cat is languishing across the nearby window sill. The cat she recognizes, but not the room. Although bits and pieces of the room seem to stir memories from deep in her subconscious, she is unsure of the exact location. She takes a step towards the cat and he glances up at her, as if aware of her presence. His back arches, he hisses and then leaps to the floor.
“Axel!” she yells, reaching out for him. It’s too late—he has scurried off to hide under the bed. Well, at least where she thinks the bedroom is.
As she is contemplating how the cat was able to see her, she glances up and sees herself walk out of an adjoining kitchen.
“Wow. That’s weird,” she says turning to Maude.
“Yep. That I never get used to,” Maude agrees.
Just then a young man bursts through the kitchen close on Toni’s heels.
“Hey! Don’t just walk away!” he yells.
“Watch me!” young Toni yells back.
“Listen to me!” he says, grabbing her elbow and swinging her around to face him.
Young Toni is obviously not happy by this. She gives him a glare that could freeze a glass of water on a hot day. He wisely lets go of her arm, putting his hands up, palms out in surrender stance. He takes a step back.
“Hey… just listen to me okay?” his tone is now softer.
He slowly lowers his hands to his sides and then shoves the hands in his jeans pockets. He glances down at the floor, mostly to avoid young Toni’s icy stare. He shuffles back and forth a bit before speaking again.
“Toni, I really love you. Don’t let this come between us—I really didn’t mean to forget, but I got so caught up at work. Please forgive me.”
He stares up at her with puppy dog eyes. Her stance also softens a bit and she heaves a sigh. She crosses her arms over her chest.
“I remember this,” Toni says to Maude, “She’s about to give him a lecture like my mother used to give me. He had forgotten to clean his house and I hated the way it looked. He was so lazy. He never did anything, except go to his job.”
“Maybe his job was hard,” Maude replies.
“Yeah… I guess it took a lot out of him, but I just couldn’t be with someone who couldn’t keep up with their house. I mean, what does it say about him in the long run?”
“You really have a high bar set don’t you?” Maude asks.
Toni turns to gape at her, surprised.
“No! Having a clean house is not a high standard!”
“But he was exhausted from his job. Look at the circles under his eyes.”
Toni turns back to gaze at him. He does, indeed, look exhausted. She had never noticed that when they were together. She remembers always being mad at him instead. That’s why she ended the relationship. Now she can see that perhaps she had been too demanding of his cleaning habits and not caring enough about the person before her. He was a kind man though and often bought her flowers and candies, but he wasn’t around much, which had also put a strain on their relationship. He worked two jobs just to make ends meet and he was always too tired to go out when they did have time together. Toni suddenly realizes that she had only cared about her own needs at the time, not his. It was obvious to her now that he just needed someone to understand and to be there for him when he did have down time.
And she hadn’t.
Instead she had reprimanded him and nagged him about his “bad” habits.
She watches as her younger self now hugs the man. His shoulders sag, relieved that the fight is over. Toni sees the exhaustion in the lines on his otherwise young face. He must have just gotten home from work when young Toni attacked.
“Why am I such a bitch?” she asks Maude.
“Oh honey,” Maude comes up behind her and grabs her hand, “You were raised this way. You’re not a bitch per se… You just didn’t know any different. You still don’t.”
Toni looks back at Maude with tears in her eyes.
“Help me,” she whispers.
“That’s what I’m doing dear.”