“Why are we here,” Tyler asked.
“It’s therapeutic, honey.”
Tyler looked around the abandoned school grounds. The wear had shown and time wasn’t kind to the decrepit building of learning. Tyler stood holding himself together, hoping not to scrape against something sharp, deadly and would cost him a very expensive trip to the emergency room.
“Would you relax,” Toni asked, breaking Tyler’s concentration.
“This is as relaxed as you’re gonna get.”
Tyler watched as Toni tiptoed with grace through the halls of his old stomping grounds. She reminded him of a doe entering an ominous and mystical forest. She spun around with a bright smile.
“How does this make you feel?”
Tyler looked at some of the mildew covered desks that toppled over in the adjacent classroom.
“Uncomfortable,” he said flatly.
Toni held his elbows and centered her attention on him. “What is it that you are focusing on?”
“Don’t do that,” Tyler said breaking up the space between them and waving his arms to get away. “Don’t therapy me, please.”
Toni pursed her lips together. “This isn’t therapy, Tyler. This is communication, if you’ll let it. I want to understand what you understand. When I walk in here I see a cathedral; an old cathedral. A place of healing. A place of salvation!”
Tyler fought the urge to scoff. He considered her thoughts and re-examined the space around him. “Yeah,” he answered slowly. “An old broken cathedral. And here I stand. The broken results.”
“You were not broken when we met.”
“Yeah, well when you take present day shards and apply it to old healed up wounds, it hurts.”
Toni drew closer to him, trying to see into his eyes. “What do you see, Tyler?”
Tyler closed his eyes and was instantly brought to the past. “Pain,” he exclaimed sharply. He looked at his clothes and they were tiny on him; his old school uniform as if they shrank in the dryer. Before him, young students appeared in similar uniforms, staring, judging, laughing… pointing.
“Pain,” Tyler coughed out. He ran down the hallway and hooked around the corner. Toni barely had a chance to register what happened, let alone where he went.
Toni called out to him, but she received no response. She knew she had to tread carefully. They were trespassing and she didn’t want to make the situation worse than it had escalated to.
She closed her eyes and listened to hear anything out of the ordinary. She heard a small scraping that was barely audible. Any other time, she would have figured it was a mouse scurrying. This was different.
She opened the old wooden and glass janitorial closet and listened to the fine pieces of glass scrape across the surface of the floor. The room was filled with cobwebs and spider webs. No Tyler.
She stepped inside and looked at the broken, moldy shelves and looked at the ground and corners and saw a vent in the center of the wall. She smiled a bit and crouched down.
“Yes,” she heard a whisper back.
“Are you okay?”
“No,” she heard behind some sniffles.
“I didn’t mean to hurt you. I was only trying to help.”
“I know,” she barely heard.
“Come on out. Let me hold you.”
Silence filled the space between her and the grate.
“Okay,” Toni pressed. “Let me at least open this thing, so you can breathe and maybe you can come out.”
Toni reached carefully to place her finger tips between the metal slits to pull it out and revealed a shadow hunched inside.
“There you are,” Toni said softly, rubbing his head. She felt a wet spot and retracted her hand to see her fingertips were covered in blood.
“Honey, you hurt yourself?”
“Yeah,” she heard him whisper.
“Well, come on out so we can take care of it.” She saw the shadow nodded and Toni extended her hand to help him up.
The two stood up, but Toni realized something was wrong. Tyler who was always a head taller than her, stood someone she didn’t recognize who was a head shorter than her.
She studied the boy in confusion.
“You’re not Tyler.”
“Yes, I am,” the boy said.
“Tyler?” Toni studied the young face before her. He was round in the cheeks, but his face was the same, but younger.
“Toni,” he mocked repeated her. “Where’d you get the heels,” he pointed roughly at her feet, but noticed she was wearing flats.
“Tyler,” she exclaimed.
“You’re a boy!”
“The boy looked confused as he patted his chest and legs. Toni whipped out her cell phone and threw on the selfie camera and pushed it to the boy.”
The boy looked at his reflection and his face transformed from shock to confusion to anger. Then he screamed. Very loudly.
“Tyler,” Toni cried as she grabbed his young, round face.
“Yes, it’s Tyler,” he growled, swatting her hands away from himself. “Will you look at me? I am! How could I not? I’m twelve!”
“Hey,” a stranger’s voice barked and echoed through the desolate hallway. A flashlight beam grew in the darkness and fished its way towards the two. Suddenly, a circle honed in on them and the stranger’s voice become clearer. “What are you doing here?”
Toni and Tyler raised the hands and squinted to block the light.
“You’re trespassing,” the security guard declared.
“Yes, we know,” Toni said softly and apologetically. “I just was visiting my old classes.”
“Uh huh,” the security guard said, looking her up and down. His light scanned Toni’s legs. Tyler’s eyes flashed with rage.
“Well, if you’re lost, I can be your guide,” the guard said slyly, pushing his light higher body. The two could feel his smirk growing across his face.
“Can you not do that,” Tyler yelled.
“It’s dark in here, little man,” the man said jokingly, almost snapping out of a trance.
“I’m not little,” Tyler snapped.
“Well, got to shine my light on what’s bright,” the guard said, licking his teeth, entranced by Toni once more.
“Hey,” Tyler exclaimed. “That’s my wife!
Toni covered Tyler’s mouth and the guard advanced with a frown. “What did you just say?”
“Please forgive my nephew,” Toni said, gushing over Tyler’s outbursts. Tyler spun on his heels, glaring at Toni.
“He’s extremely protective of me and plus I’m married,” she said emphasizing her last word to assuage Tyler.
“Oh… well that’s too bad. I’m always here if you want to go for a midnight stroll down memory lane.
Tyler balled up his fists.
“Thanks for the offer,” Toni said in a hurry, carrying Tyler. “We’ll be leaving now.”
The two left, their hands, pushing into each other, until they reached the cool, fresh, open air.
“Toni,” Tyler started, with his eyes closed, as if he were trying to still a pulsing migraine, “you have been responsible for some splendid ideas. I have also seen some really bad ones. This may have been the worst one I’ve seen!”
“How is this my fault,” Toni cried.
“I didn’t want to go here. Suddenly, I have a panic attack and then I go down this rabbit hole…”
“And then I come out twelve!”
“How do I turn back?! Creep star just kicked us out!”
“They’re going to demolish the building in two weeks. Toni, I can’t live life again as a twelve year old. I can’t! I can’t…”
Tyler collapsed onto the ground and was rushed to the hospital. Dehydration was cited as the cause as well as minor blood loss.
Toni was now tasked with the responsibility of discovering how to get her husband back to the way he was.
But did she want him back or was his attitude suitable to how he now looked?
Photo credit: Echo Grid: @echogrid from Unsplash