I don’t know what urge sent me there that evening, but I’m glad I went. They were tearing down Shady Maple Apartments - my first apartment. I pulled over to the side just to see the old building one more time and reminisce.
The property was sealed off by a chain-link fence where construction - or rather demolition - workers, along with their bulldozers and backhoes, were all about the building complex. Already the car port was collapsed and the parking lot was being torn apart.
Dust drifted into the air along with sounds of the ongoing demolition. It was a surreal sight and I found myself wondering what had become of the tenants. Like old Mr. Furgas... that man would talk to you for hours if you didn’t get away in time. Or the lady with all the cats that lived right below me.
I had moved out years ago when I got a better job, and now I lived in a townhouse. But I found myself thinking back to the days when I was still struggling to make ends meet and of all the memories I had made. I was so proud of my first apartment: It wasn’t my parent’s home or a dorm room...
...It was my own apartment.
I rested my head on my arm against my car window and smiled. The feeling of freedom, of not having to worry about room inspections or crazy roommates who started fires. I could leave my dirty laundry on the floor and no one would say a word to me about it. I could put my own weird paintings on the wall and no one would give a care.
I heard a crashing sound as something was demolished. I cringed inwardly as I wondered what had become of the recroom. I had spent many a evening playing pool there, or playing the old ‘Police Trainer’ arcade cabinet. I wondered what happened to the other means of entertainment there. Had they been smashed up? Sold off? Damn - if only I had space and money, I’d have bought them. What of the DVD library in the leasing office? Then there was the pool, when it wasn’t filled with screaming children... I would swim laps or lay on my back and just relax.
Not all the memories were good. I remember a couple a few doors down having a domestic dispute so bad that police were called. There were the loud antics of my neighbors before they moved away. The time I backed into someone’s car.
But probably the worst incident - the one that was talked about for years to come - was the kid falling off the balcony on the streetside. Just a two story fall, but he hit at just the right angle. His mother never recovered from that.
It was like a part of my life was being erased from history. Sure, I knew the buildings were outdated. Built in the seventies. And it was a worn-down building. But it still felt like losing a friend.
I shook my head at the sad site and wondered what they would put in its place. A new apartment complex? Houses? A strip mall? I pondered things and drowned myself in nostalgia the whole drive back to my house.
I sat on my new couch and thought about what I was going to do for the rest of the day. It was then I remembered I needed to call my mother. I scrolled through my phone’s contacts and accidentally dialed the number to my old apartment: Yeah I still had the number saved after all this time. I’m really bad at remembering to delete things.
To my surprise I actually heard a ringing signal. Had someone else already taken that phone number? There were two more rings before someone answered the phone.
“Shady Maples Apartments, Lisa speaking. May I help you?”
I was taken aback, but I figured maybe the company owned another apartment complex with the same name that I didn’t know about. I was intrigued, so I replied.
“Uh, yes hi. I might have the wrong place. What’s your address there?”
“21 Book St.”
I knew that address by heart, that was the address of my first apartment alright. Once again my rational side took over.
“Oh, so you’re still taking calls?”
“Excuse me?” Lisa replied.
“The place is being torn down isn’t it?”
“No sir, I think you might be getting us confused with some other place.”
“21 Book Street, Shady Maples Apartments, yes?”
“Yes,” she replied, “but we are most certainly not being torn down. Are you wishing to rent from us? We do have one bedroom and two bedroom apartments available.”
I still can’t say what prompted my next question, but I asked anyway.
“What’s the date?”
Lisa sighed, she probably thought I was pranking her or that I was drunk.
“*Ahem* of what year?”
There was merely a sigh as the phone clicked off leaving me with the steady tone. There was a tingle of mystery up my spine. Now I had to go see for myself, even if I had just been there. I found my car the same car I’ve been driving for over a decade now. I really should get a new one but cars are expensive.
Starting the engine up I drove back to my old apartment complex. The fence was gone. The work trucks were gone. The sound of work and the smell of dust were gone. The building stood just as I remembered it.
“No freaking way,” I said, smacking the steering wheel. “No freaking way! I was just here!”
I rolled into an empty spot in the parking lot, I should be alright so long as I didn’t stay too long, there was no assigned parking. It was sunset by now and I could see tenants milling around. There was splashing from the pool area.
Knowing my way by heart I walked around all of my old haunts: the poolside, the vending machines, and finally the rec area. When I got to the rec area, I noticed something: a teenaged girl sprawled on a couch texting on her phone lackadaisical. It was a flip phone.
“Still using a flip phone?” I asked.
She huffed and eyed me disdainfully. “Like I’d use a brick phone.”
I pointed at her phone. “I’m down with hipsters. Isn’t that a bit old?”
Another scornful look. “This is brand new, weirdo.”
I stepped away from her. My eyes fell on the arcade cabinet I so cherished. Absentmindedly I fumbled for quarters but found I had none. I was definitely not going to ask her majesty with the flip phone for a quarter so I stepped out as ran down the walkway.
“This doesn’t make sense. None of this makes sense!” I muttered to myself.
“What doesn’t make sense youngster?”
I turned. He was a white-haired man with a bald spot on top. He smiled with a familiarity I recognized immediately. “Mr. Furgas?”
“Yeah! I think I’ve seen you around here before. Are you new?”
“You could say that,” I replied.
“Well this is a good apartment to be in, only have to pay electricity unless you want satellite or cable. Me, I’m content with the local stations. So long as I can watch CSI. You watch it?”
“Eh, yeah it’s great. Ooh, uh, I have a roast in the oven.”
As much as I had missed his yammering I didn’t have the time or patience for his long-winded monologues. I was still trying to wrap my head around everything when there was a startled cry from the balcony above me.
I looked up to see a kid hanging off a balcony ledge. I was at the right place at the right time and he fell right into my arms. I groaned in pain from the impact but I kept my footing and a shocked kid was staring up at me.
“You okay?” I asked him.
The kid nodded as I set him on his feet.
“Cory!” A woman shouted.
I looked up to see a woman - who seemed somewhat familiar - with relief was in her eyes.
“Oh thank God! I was so scared! I was so scared!” She called down to me. “You! You’re a hero!”
She was ecstatic as she ran down the stairs and threw herself around my neck, sobbing ‘thank yous’ into my shirt.
“It’s nothing ma’am, I was just at the right place at the right... time.”
I stepped away from the mother and child as residents started stepping out of their homes, curious at the sounds. I was numb to the bone at the realization that I had saved a life.
I had gone back to 2002 and stopped a tragedy. But.. how?
Not knowing what to do now, I got in my car and looked down the parking lot where I spotted a very familiar car. One thing was for sure, I didn’t want to meet myself.
I started up the ignition.