“Frank.” Frank looks down the hall after hearing his name. “Frank,” the voice calls again.
He walks from his kitchen to the hallway. “Frank. Where you going?”
“Hello? Luis? When did you get here?
“A few minutes ago.”
“Where are you?”
“Where is over here?”
“From what I can tell, this looks like your den.”
“I’m over here⎯by the fireplace. Or in the fireplace.”
“In the fireplace.”
“In the fireplace.”
“Yeah. Come closer.”
Frank peers in the fireplace. The cream-colored sand looms bright. The clear blue water shimmies in the sunlight. The palm trees like sentinels stand guard over the paradise.
“Ok, Luis where is there?”
“You’ve never been to Bahrain.”
“Yes, I have twenty years ago.”
“When did you⎯? I forgot. The military. When did you get a passport? When did you buy a ticket to Bahrain?”
“I didn’t. After I finished cleaning out my fireplace I came back to place a couple pieces of that oak we picked up at Blue Ridge in the fireplace. I went to set the log holder back in the fireplace and there it was a picture of the beach. When I went to touch it the closer my hand came to it I could feel the heat, as well as, the breeze. I heard the water splash against the shore. The birds, at first, I didn’t see, but it was like they were protesting my presence. The closer I came to the gateway the louder they chirped and squawked⎯intruder alert, intruder alert. Or so it seemed.”
“Luis...it’s you, but you look young.”
“I told you. I went to Bahrain twenty years ago. And when I walked through the gateway, I came back to that time. My cellphone disappeared when I came through. But my watch remained. Or should I say a watch remained on my arm, but not the same one I had on before I came through. And time has stood still. It’s been 11:00 a.m. from the moment I got here.
“Eleven a.m? And it is a beautiful place. I can feel the warmth. I hear more of what sounds like insects than hawks and owls. Why 11:00?”
“I can’t remember exactly what I was doing back then but I do remember I needed to clear my head and be by myself for a while and so I decided to take a long walk and I found myself here. Why the long walk? What was going on in my life? I don’t know. I do know that whatever it was the increasing mix of medication and alcohol wasn’t going to fix it. I was fading Frank.”
“Yeah, man. Something heavy was weighing down on me.”
“No. Then again I don’t know. I wasn’t missing family. I was recently promoted. I was traveling the world. Here I was in paradise then this weight enveloped me and something needed to change. Thirty minutes later I had come to the calming waves of the water. The birds back then seemed to be waiting for me as if they knew there was no better place to meditate.”
“What called you back there some twenty years later to the exact time. Is everything good? Is the marriage okay? The kids? Experiencing any more numbness in your feet?”
“No, no. I’m fine, Frank. Autumn’s fine, the kids, it’s all good. I came back from checking the mail and I was making a bowl of cereal when I hear birds. Okay, I think. There are plenty of birds in the trees around the house. But then the sound becomes louder along with the sound of the ocean. I go in the den and the TV’s not on so I follow what sounds like an island retreat. I walk through the den to the deck looking to the trees for the birds. I know they’re outside in the trees. I hear them in the distance. But I hear nothing that sounds like the ocean until I come back in the house.”
“How long did it take you to figure out it wasn’t the Alexa?”
“About ten minutes,” replies Luis laughing. “I stood in that den thinking I’ve lost it. Alexa’s not on. The television’s not on. Where is that sound coming from? Autumn, Alyssa, and Barry won’t be back for another two days. I had to close my eyes, focus and pinpoint the sounds to the fireplace.”
The dark brown brick’s of Frank’s fireplace enveloped the picture of paradise that Luis lounged. Frank didn’t want to believe what he was seeing⎯a passageway to paradise, but here it was, not an oasis he was imagining but he knew it to be the real thing the closer with his arm stretched out he crept closer to where he was being summoned. He could hear Luis’s voice clearer over the fading din of insects and birdsong. The scent of jasmine drifts through the air.
“Why did the universe call you back to this place? Is there something wrong⎯something you need to tell us before you tell mom and dad.”
Luis goes quiet. “No...everything’s good I told you. Step through come and enjoy my paradise. It’s nice here, right? What do you think?”
Frank nods, “okay, just the right temperature. The breeze coming off the water makes it perfect.”
“We can’t stay here forever, Frank.”
“Wow,” Frank protests, “give me a chance to shift some sand through my toes before tossing me out⎯and are those flamingoes?”
“Cranes...well, both. And a silhouette of hawks gliding on the breeze in the distance.”
“So, Luis, why would the universe open this gateway to draw you here? What weight are you carrying that’s endangering your life?”
Luis doesn’t answer simply keeps walking. Frank stops and watches Luis for five more steps. “The seizures have come back haven’t they?”
Luis turns. In profile, he looks out across the water and nods.
“Doctor Sheridan increase the milligrams in your meds?”
“Yes. Better still she says she has created a nutrition plan that will help decrease seizures.”
“You good with that?”
“And the cannabis oil?
“She said for some it slowed the seizures. For others, the results were not good. She said she would recommend some brands that worked for some and the place to pick them up. In the meantime."