Bill Bunker’s bank account had grown unusually large. No less than four back-to-back direct deposit infusions had swelled his savings account from $897 dollars to over $49 million dollars in a matter of less than 10 minutes. Bill’s phone had chimed a notification of a direct deposit which he assumed was his biweekly Friday paycheck. However, instead of the $1,836 amount he had become accustomed to seeing for the last 14 months he had been working for Leland and Lesley Law Firm as a paralegal, the figure on his phone was astronomically larger. He chalked it up to a banking glitch. The second, equally large installment, convinced him he was obviously subject to some kind of prank. Upon the third installment, effectively turning Bill into a multi-millionaire, he decided he needed to speak to his bank post-haste.
After being on hold for over 15 minutes Bill decided he might as well take a short walk and speak to a bank teller in person. The law office was only two blocks away from the Copley Square Library and Bill’s local bank was only two blocks farther past the Boston Commons. Bill tried to clear his head and observed the beauty of the Commons and the swan boats across Boylston Street. A beautiful family with three lovely children in fresh spring outfits were making their way onto the famous little boats. He remembered the first time he had taken a swan boat ride with Sally last year. He had splashed water on her playfully and she had laughed so hard he thought his heart would break with happiness. This happy memory was halted when he brushed shoulders with a man walking in the opposite direction. Bill thought nothing of it at first and continued on his way to the bank, which was only three or four minutes up the street. But something made him pause. Something in his gut, a sliver of recognition maybe, inclined him to turn his head and glance back at the man he had just casually bumped. The man was no longer walking away from Bill; instead, he had stopped completely and was facing Bill squarely, only 10 paces away. The man stared at him so directly the effect was altogether disconcerting. Bill ran the tape in his mind the words he should say, “Pardon me sir, I didn’t see you there,” or some such utterance. But as he looked into the man’s eyes he felt his mind becoming very light. So light, he imagined it could float away up into the clouds, leaving all responsibilities to be dealt with another time, or perhaps not at all.
Bill’s thoughts wandered to Sally Sherman. Alas, the one that got away. This very evening he was going to see Sally again. She had not returned his calls for months until finally three days ago she had called him and told him she wanted to see him again. She wouldn’t elaborate why or what she was thinking. All he knew was that he would see her again. Sally with the golden hair, the heart-shaped locket always perfectly positioned just below the hollow of her neckline. The smile that never failed to make him melt. They were to meet after work at their old favorite diner.
His mind felt very far away. He wondered if perhaps he had died. He remembered passing Sally on this very same street while Bill was on his lunch break. Both heads were bent down observing their phones to the exclusion of all else, when their shoulders brushed against one another. Even though he knew nothing at all about this woman, the slight touch of her shoulder caused the pit of his stomach to fill with warmth. His arms prickled with gooseflesh and he became lightheaded. With only a touch Sally had elicited so many odd and compelling sensations in Bill. Even months after that first brush, Sally still had that effect on Bill. When they bumped into each other, Sally grabbed his wrist with her perfectly manicured hand with the bright green nail polish. She grasped his arm just below the elbow, and his eyes were forced to look deeply into those painfully sky-blue eyes. He felt the wind rush out of him. He felt fear, but a fear more akin to a strange kind of abasement. He was swimming in those eyes, a slave to wherever they would lead him, whatever they would ask of him. She no doubt said something rude to him, but Bill barely registered what she said. Without thinking, he responded with a snappy rejoinder that he had bumped into her because love had compelled him to stop her and take her out to lunch immediately. Thrown off balance by his unexpected confidence, she yielded. Thirty minutes later they were laughing at their ridiculous, yet serendipitous, meeting. The first date blossomed into love. Not long after, Bill asked Sally to move into his apartment.
Bill grabbed the sides of his head and shook vigorously. He had fallen under some bizarre spell. He could not say how much time had passed. The man had not moved. He was still staring fiercely at Bill. His large, gnarled hands straddled his massive waist. He wore a checked flannel shirt that was several sizes too small, barely holding in pectorals that stretched the cotton fabric so taut, one sudden movement had the potential to rip the shirt to shreds. There was a glint of darkness emanating from his slanted almond eyes. His lips were drawn tight, and Bill suddenly feared the explosion their opening might ignite.
Bill blinked. When his eyes reopened it was evident he had lost a period of time. The man was now directly in front of him. All the pedestrians who had practically filled up the sidewalk along Boylston Street were gone. The sounds of the city, loud and vibrant only moments before, had fizzled to a low ominous hum. He felt the man’s hands encircling his neck. His eyes closed and he felt himself giving in to the power that had so quickly and unexpectedly overtaken him. There was a strong pressure, a darkening, and then total blackness.
Bill’s mind was bending and refracting. Part of Bill was standing in the batter’s box at the old little league baseball field in his hometown in Franklin, Tennessee. He felt his arms swinging his brand new TPX gold aluminum bat and connecting with the baseball hurtling toward him at 60 miles per hour. He was circling the bases with a joy so great he couldn’t stop himself from laughing. A grand slam homerun. His greatest childhood achievement.
Another part of Bill was experiencing his sweet Sally caressing his face while he lay down on a couch after experiencing a most debilitating panic attack. Sally always knew exactly what to say to soothe him back to a calm state. He was so ashamed. He was afraid Sally would find him weak. He regressed to a little boy and found himself weeping against her breast. Sally caressed his head tenderly. She told him to never be ashamed of himself. She would always love him.
Bill was simultaneously sitting at his desk at Leland and Lesley with his face resting peacefully in the crook of his arm. He knew he was dreaming and yet he could see and experience the dream taking place as well as the office room he was physically sleeping in. The dream Bill was becoming surprised by his bank account increasing exponentially. The dream Bill was taking him to the man who had brought upon the blackness, which was now Bill’s fragmented mind piecing together bits and pieces of his life.
Now Sally was sitting next to him on a porch swing overlooking multiple acres of country land. They were holding hands and smiling quietly to themselves. Bill was softly humming. They were older, much older. He could feel her arthritis curling in her fingers. He felt aches in his bones he had never known, but intuitively knew belonged to a Bill from the future, possibly an imagined future he longed to exist.
Just as he felt the pressure of Sally’s hand from the porch overlooking the countryside, he also experienced the mugging from that terrible December evening following their trip to the movies. He felt his heart hammering in his chest when the man revealed the silver barrel from the gun under his jacket. He felt himself drop to his knees, clutching his chest, the force of the man’s boot kicking his groin. The ambulance and the emergency room. The doctor explaining that he had not experienced a heart attack, that panic attacks often masqueraded as heart attacks. He keenly felt – again – that terrible pain and understanding that Sally’s love for him was quietly diminishing. Bill always blamed his panic attack for the deterioration of their relationship.
Even as he understood this, he also acutely felt the abandonment and loss when she left that Sunday morning in November and never came back. Bill called her for months, leaving countless messages, pleading for her to come back to him. In the midst of Bill’s neural firings, a single thought perhaps desperately clinging to isolate itself from the mind splitting apart, wondered if Sally was still going to see him that night. If all of this was just a strange passing moment. Maybe a dream. Maybe a hallucination.
Bill’s eyelids fluttered several times. The bright fluorescent lights of Leland and Lesley stung his eyes until his location became fixed and steady. Bill raised his head from the crook of his arm. He opened his bank account on his phone. $897 dollars. He looked at his calendar. 6:00 pm meeting with Sally. Bill sighed deeply. The fragments of his dream settled into the recesses of his mind like dust and slowly but surely disappeared into nothing.