Journal Buddies #13 : Where Would I Go In a Time Machine?

Scene from a busy restaurant in Russia in 1975. Whatever works. Image: Wikipedia.



This is the 13th installment in a series of 51 posts inspired by a list of writing prompts from the website Journal Buddies. If you’d like to know more, here’s where I explain what this is and why I’m doing it.


It’s Saturday night. The weather is perfect and you’re getting ready to go out to dinner.

There have been and will be nights in your life when you’d give anything to stay home and eat leftovers, but tonight is not one of those nights. No way. You’ve been looking forward to tonight all week. Maybe you’re meeting friends you haven’t seen in ages. Maybe your favorite cousin is in town. Maybe you’ve got a hot date — but like, a really hot one. Whoever it is you’ll be with at the restaurant about an hour from now, picturing their face(s) make you smile.

You get to choose who you’re meeting; this is as much your time machine as it is mine.

You feel gorgeous. You just do. When you look in the mirror, you like what you see. “Not bad,” you say to yourself, and you make a mental note to continue to drink more water because man, your skin looks good. You lean over the sink and do your eye makeup. Or maybe eye makeup isn’t your jam and you’re just rubbing out crusties. (Remember, these details are totally up to you.)

In the middle of doing whatever it is you’re doing there at the mirror, you remember the funny video someone sent you today, or that really good — omg so bad!! — joke your friend told you, or maybe you’re just caught up in how good you feel, but you laugh enough that you have to stop poking around your eye area for a moment. You eventually recover. All right, all right, you say; enough. No time for dilly-dallying. As you finish your maquillage, you think how for a second there you were like a kid giggling in class and also the teacher who told that kid to get back to work. This observation amuses you, and because it does, subconsciously your heart feels tender toward yourself, and this is how we ought to feel toward ourselves all the time but rarely do.

Before you leave the bathroom, you pause to appreciate your sink. It is sparkling clean. In fact, the whole house is clean. You’re clean, too, because you took a nice long shower. God, you love your soaps right now. The body wash and the shampoo and the conditioner, finally. One last check in the mirror confirms it: You are having a great hair day. Maybe the best hair day. Your hair looks amazing.

It isn’t until after you slip into your clothes that you realize you have just slipped into your clothes. Who does that, you think, but you do not question what has just occurred.

You walk to the closet to get your shoes. They are  right where they should be. Let me be clear: You do not have to dig for your shoes. You do not yet know that you will have the best filet mignon/lobster bisque/mushroom risotto/crispy duck/endive salad/chocolate soufflé/raspberry panna cotta/warm bowl of tiny cookies of your entire life tonight, so, between getting to lean back in your chair at the restaurant later to clasp your hand to your breast and groan with pleasure at what is happening in your mouth and not having to dig for your shoes, should nothing else go right tonight, the evening would stand as an unqualified success.

Your phone buzzes: Your Uber will be here in five minutes. Perfect.

Ladies, you have a new purse. It has all the right pockets in all the right places. This perfect purse is about to become your favorite purse. You will fully wear out this purse over the next year or two because it is perfect. When it finally dies, you will spend as long you had the purse lamenting that you cannot find a purse as good as the purse you had that one time. “That one time” is now, and you and your purse have only just begun life together. This purse is not scuffed or marred; there is no open tube of lipstick currently bouncing around in the bottom of it. There are no straw wrappers, either. You grab your jacket/wrap/topcoat/shawl and you go out the door. You get into your Uber and your driver is kindly fellow, so when he says that you look nice, it’s not creepy. It’s great.

The kindly driver drops you off at the restaurant and you go inside.

The place is packed. There’s a throng of people in the vestibule; everyone’s chatting and working their way up to the hostess station to check in or ask if there are tables available. No tables right now, the hostess says, and she apologizes that the wait is over an hour. This is no problem because you have a reservation and wasn’t that smart! You are smart. You notice that the people who don’t have a reservation seem strangely okay with this because they are having a great night, too. The mood is convivial; the mood is good. The lights are low and everyone looks great.

Everyone looks healthy.

Behind the bar, the bartenders are barely keeping up but they are keeping up; later, they’ll high five each other and whistle as they count their tips. They raked it in tonight, boy, so they all do a shot and they say it really is a great gig and everyone gets home safe after the manager finally locks up for the night. One waiter and one bartender finally admit they’re falling in love.

In a few minutes, your friends/cousin/hot date will arrive and the hostess will take you to your table. You’ll maneuver through the dining room as waiters whisk past with trays and busboys pour water from green glass bottles. You’ll see a sommelier presenting a wine list and a maitre’d putting a napkin in a lady’s lap. You and your dinner companion(s) are seated. The conversation, the food, the tone, the spark, the learning, the surprise, the pleasantness, the force, the humanity — you’ll all have it all within minutes.

But right now, you’re one in that throng of healthy people waiting for tables. There are dozens of different conversations and you hear bits of this one and that one. People are smiling and laughing. There are pats on the back; in a corner, a couple steals a kiss. Someone comes in from the bar, sees his friend and when they greet each other, they hug. There are light touches on shoulders as people lean in to hear each other better. No one notices this physical symphony; it’s no more and no less than life itself. It’s life on a Saturday night.

Months later, a plague comes and steals these kinds of nights. They are gone for a long time.

As you sit in your home now, there’s no need to find your shoes. There are no reservations. You are not so far from people, but everyone is separated. You can’t touch anyone and you can’t see anyone. You’d give anything to see them. If you could go anywhere in a time machine, you’d go back and get ready, just like you did, to go to that restaurant and be jostled among the dinner crowd, waiting for your table on a Saturday night.

16 Responses

  1. Sue Norton
    | Reply

    The reality of this all just makes me sob big horrible tears. Be well Mary.

    • Elizabeth Andrews
      | Reply

      In this time of troubles, when you get upset with everything, you need to do something special. What I do is cook my great pasta sauce, have a shower, get all dressed up, as if going to a really nice restaurant, put the pasta to cook, while we enjoy a glass of wine, eat at the kitchen table that my husband has set with the good silver, china and cloth napkins and enjoy each other and the soft music that is playing.

  2. Val
    | Reply

    In reading this post, I felt like I was in all of those situations, the purse, the good hair day, the giggling kid, the self-compassion, the social high. For a few minutes I was in my own time machine in my mind…thank you and be well.

  3. Pam Williams
    | Reply

    Well said. I don’t feel sad. I am looking into the future with great joy when I will go out to eat at my favorite restaurant.

  4. Claudia W
    | Reply

    This too shall pass and we won’t have to step into a time machine…we will be able to hug those we care about and have dinners and game nights and movies in the theater again. Hope springs forth!

  5. San Juanita Lopez
    | Reply

    Shelter in place. The sooner everyone does this, the sooner this will be behind us. In my humble opinion.

  6. J. Michael Voiles
    | Reply

    I miss yoga. I have tears left. Every time i see the president i start welling up. Sorry for the politics, sincerely..

  7. Karen
    | Reply

    Reading this was SO much fun! I transported myself to my own happy place (with my kids and grandkids), just as you suggested. How nice to be able to drown out all the scary, horrible, hopeless news of the day, even for just a few minutes. You’ve lightened my mood and made me believe that this too shall pass. Thanks so much!

  8. Cheryl Thompson
    | Reply

    Awesome article as always. I love the photo you posted. What were you and your Mom doing in Russia? Interesting.

  9. Paula
    | Reply

    This is heartbreaking and made me cry for those good times. You say it so eloquently, and I appreciate your perspective. Thank you. Please stay safe and healthy. My world needs you.

  10. Terri Turner
    | Reply

    The word plague punched me in the stomach. Somehow your article doesn’t make me sad, it makes me look forward to the future.

  11. Helen Marie
    | Reply

    I cannot go there. My loves are in Colorado, Virginia, New York, Washington, and five are here in Pennsylvania. Some days I wonder if I will ever see them all together again. This is so hard. I’m making masks for us and for the folks who deliver Meals on Wheels and for nurses and visitors at Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania and Pennsylvania Hospital and wherever else they are needed. Happy to have a stash!

  12. Chris Chambers
    | Reply

    Thanks for the trip down memory lane. Someday…….

  13. Susan Perry
    | Reply

    Thank you, Mary. I’m resetting my priorities, every day. Writing like yours makes the world feel smaller, every day. Thank you.

  14. Lynette Walters
    | Reply

    Thank you. Beautifully said. I am in Japan recently leaving the comfort of my home in America of over 50 years. We are at home too waiting it out.

  15. Chris Bowyer
    | Reply

    I am taking the time to dive into a quilt pattern and fabric that I have wanted to try for a long time. It is String of Pearls by Pam Bono and is about as intricate a pattern that I have ever tried! My husband and I are trying new recipes (one a week) and enjoying the cooking process without being on a tight late night schedule to eat before bedtime! Keep your head up and hopes high. This too will pass.

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