He turned to face the evening sky, uncertain of how much time had passed since his departure from the present. Rae stood. Dylan continued.
“The day I was about to jump...I told you I could see my grandmother’s ranch in the distance. And when I stared upon the fields knowing how sad my life ending would make her...I saw something. The same thing I see when I close my eyes, but I can never see it clearly...always so fuzzy, but now I know it’s you and it was you standing out on the front lawn staring out into the distance. Staring at me. You were the reason I didn’t jump.”
“No, Dylan. You chose not to go through it, because something within told you it wasn’t the right choice…something made you feel a yearning for a better life and you didn’t want to go out on the losing end. You wanted to fight.”
Dylan sat. “Not much of a fight, huh?”
“You couldn’t forgive yourself. Therefore, you shut down… neglecting any and all opportunity for growth. Even when it came to her.”
“Why didn’t you spend more time with her just now…when you were back there?
Dylan gave a slight stutter, “I..I didn’t know I was supposed to. I wasn’t aware of the rules. It’s not every…”
“It’s not every day what, Mr. Dylan? Are you seriously going to make such an excuse?” Rae was terse. “Because if you were about to tell me, just now, that it’s not every day you get to go back in time and confront not just a person, but a moment I’d have to wonder what would you know about every day, Dylan Trout, brilliantly minded, but socially…afraid accountant.”
Dylan was caught off-guard with Rae’s rant, but at the same time saw where she was going and accepted and understood her challenging words. Knowing what she was going to say next, he bowed his head and let her complete her thought.
“You show up for work the same way you show up for life. Physically you’re present…even mentally. But spiritually? You’re a drowning man in a mire so thick you think giving up is the only option. You didn’t jump, Dylan! But no one- and I mean no one- knows any differently.”
Dylan was silent. Rae stared at him waiting for a reaction, a sign that signified life even of the smallest increment.
In a split second, he was being dragged across the stony rooftop, his shoes making parallel lines that headed towards the side of the building. Traffic, thirty-some stories below all of the sudden became deafening.
“Stand here! Look out across there. Focus on something!”
Dylan remained silent. Rae had just drugged him twenty feet without so much of a grunt of effort. Focusing while shocked was going to be difficult.
“Do you see something?”
Rae didn’t ask what Dylan was focused on, but knew the memory of him standing looking out in the distance, preparing to jump had once again ransacked his mind. Then she pushed him.
Dylan didn’t even get a full gasp out of his mouth before Rae’s hand grabbed his wrist. The emotionally, barren accountant was now completely terrified with his eyes wide open and sweat beading on his brow.
“Tell. You. What.” Dylan panted.
“What you thought of. Just now! Because whatever it is that’s going through your mind won’t matter if you choose to fall.”
“What do you mean if I choose?!”
“It’s all about the choices we make, Dylan. Choices and grabbing hold of opportunity when it arises. Not about the rules when it arises, but about what are you going to do in that particular moment. Right then, right there.” Then Rae and Dylan shared a moment of silence.
Dylan finally spoke. “I thought of her.”
In an instant, Dylan was no longer dangling and gasping off the side of the building, but rather back to a familiar place.
“May I help you, sir?” came an overly friendly voice from behind an over-sized counter.
“I’m…I’m…uh…Dylan Trout,” he told the young lady.
And there she was. Again.
Dylan was led back to where his interview was to take place. He knew if he turned around and left he would either feel the wrath of Rae again or even worse - never get this opportunity again. Dylan stayed in the moment, letting it play out.
The interview went very well. Dylan was friendly and even humorous leaving a solid impression. After three attempts, he began to realize what answers they are looking for.
When the interview ended, he was ushered out (not by Jill) politely where he found his way back to the receptionist’s desk. If it wasn’t for the long line of men and women waiting to be interviewed, he would have waited for Jill. Realizing he had no other option, he waited anyway.
Dylan Trout was used to sitting. He was used to being silent. And he was used to being still. For two hours, often questioning himself and fearing this was an elaborate joke, the accountant sat continuing the moment…whatever moment this was.
After two hours the line of hopeful interviewees dwindled and Dylan noticed the receptionist was doing her end-of-the-day routine. Looking at his watch, Dylan continued to question himself again why he was doing this. Why he was waiting.
The sound of a door opening and murmuring of conversation could be heard down the hall. Dylan stood. Every panelist, his potential bosses, walked by him without any acknowledgement. Then the sound of high-heels clicking on the floor. Dylan’s eyes widened, his stance straightened.
“Shoot!” Jill was heading right towards Dylan with her head bent down as she searched for something in her purse.
She stopped abruptly. “Oh, Mr. Trout…you startled me. What are you still doing here?”
“I was actually waiting for you.”
Jill was flattered. She smiled and looked at Dylan. “Would you like to walk me to my car?”
The walk to her car led to a stop at a quaint coffee shop that displayed an array of black and white photographs framed on its brick walls. Thirty minutes into their conversation the idea of taking a stroll through the city by the river was mentioned, but never happened.
The hours that followed were filled with something absent from Dylan Trout’s life for a very long time. Laughter. Joy. A one-two punch powerful enough to rejuvenate one life and end another.
They shared about their upbringings. He talked about his numerous vacations across the country and how every Friday night was ice cream night at Achenbachers. Jill shared of her family’s struggles to put food on the table where a special dessert, let alone ice cream, would happen maybe once a year, but only when her grandparents visited.
Dylan told her about the mysterious cookie that was on his desk that morning, but held off, for the moment, about the mysterious circumstances that unraveled after that. The rooftop, the dangling from the side of the building seemed further off than it really was. Dylan also realized that what was unfolding in front of him, the deep conversations, the beautiful woman were temporary. This moment that never happened was temporary and then it would all go back to it never happening. He tried pushing the thought away.
“How about some dessert now?” Dylan asked. He couldn’t imagine growing up without the Friday excursions. It did however, make him appreciate that period in his life.
“I would love some!” Jill replied smiling wide.
“I heard about this bakery. Maybe they have my favorite kind.”
“What kind is that?”
Jill laughed, never hearing such a thing.
Dylan smiled back. “I think you need to try a snickerdoodle.”
Upon leaving, Dylan held the door open for Jill. When the door closed behind him, he was back in the dark hallway facing the elevator.
After spending the longest day at work in his entire career, Dylan finally headed home. Hailing a cab, he sat in the back quiet, reflecting on the day. Then, right before the cab driver stopped in front of Dylan’s apartment building, Dylan’s posture straightened. He was never more excited…well, he was never excited before period, but he was never more excited to go to work the next day.
In bed, staring at his ceiling, Dylan hoped.
The next morning, Dylan, the brilliant-minded, somewhat-improving- conversationalist hopped off his train, entered his workplace, skipped the elevator altogether and ran twenty-four flights of stairs. Opening the door to his office, what he had hoped for the night before was there, on his desk, once again. A cookie.
Not hesitating another moment, Dylan grabbed it, dropped his briefcase somewhere between the door and his desk and headed back out of his office ready to seize the opportunity.