A local pharmacy I work at has cute gift ideas for the upcoming holidays. I call it the “hey you forgot someone on your list,” holiday shopping store.
A couple of weeks ago we were getting ready for The Black Friday rush and I saw a few bigger gifts I wasn’t expecting. A bread-making machine, icecream making machine. Gifts I guess that make the hustle and bustle of the holidays easier or will give you products to do as a family – I am not sure. Either? Both? A tabletop Air Hockey Machine captures my attention. David pops into my head and a small part of my brain wants me to tap out a text “I found your perfect gift.” but I don’t.
It does bring back memories though: mall arcades and cinnamon sugar baby donuts. Conversations. Food court dinners. Movie after movie. Soft-serve ice cream and bubble tea.
Conversations of our present and future as the flat neon green puck glides and floats over the streams of air.
We walk through Fantasy Fair at Woodbine Center in Etobicoke and talk of all the memories we had with our families.
Both of our moms used to bring us every Saturday and “imagine if we were standing in line behind each other at the bumper cars? and didn’t know it until years later?” I can so perfectly see an image of David in my head with his big brown eyes, mischievous grin and a Slurpy. I can see him pulling his mom Fay through the crowds to stand in line behind a little me. Possible? Of course. Probable maybe. But it was fun to think about, about lives being intertwined before we even knew each other. Fates being written with cinnamon sugar and being woven by those weird gnomes up in the rafters.
Talks of the future changed every time we would play air hockey together. But they always existed on some level: the perfect house, ranch? Bungalow? A library? An air hockey table in the basement “So I can finally beat you!” he will groan out in laughter and in aggravation as I beat him again. His goal in finally beating me at an air hockey game eventually switched to us having kids and him teaching them to beat their mommy. “Do you usually think about us having kids?” “Of course! You’re too cute not to have more of running around.” Our first kiss happened after we played a game of air hockey after we saw a movie. Even as we got older it was hard to picture our date nights that didn’t involve giggles and laughter of victory over an air-hockey table.
I live in Halifax now, some 2,000 KM away (give or take). The other day I walked past a cinema as a friend and I was doing errands. It was one of those cinemas with an arcade inside and David popped into my head, of course, he did. That is nothing new.
I wondered if I could dig around for change for a token to put in the air hockey table slot. Would I feel the glide of cool air and the thuk sound of the neon green or orange flat puck? The weight of the paddles in my hand. Would he be there with me even if for a minute? I can see him nod an “okay Elliott, I see you,” with his crooked grin as I edge in a goal.
I wonder what conversation we’ll strike up during the game: present adulting us? The one where he is still alive and we talk of Video games we want to play, bills we need to pay, shifts we need to take.
Past us? The one before we existed as us. The little boy who spent years in and out of Sick Kids. The little girl who would make up stories of the mall closing and the magic merry-go-round from 1911.
Future us? Adventurous us who is doing…whatever future us would be doing? Or would we talk of a future of me without him?
Would we talk of the in-between? David’s fascination with the multi-verse. “Somewhere there is a Donna who went to school for journalism. A David who moved to L.A, an US in Niagara Falls with a little book store…With kids…Grandkids, What do you think they’ll be doing?”
In 1000s of universes, he could never see one of us not together in some way shape or form. Even in ones where we aren’t married we are still there “I am the journalist that interviews you at E3…” Et cetera.
I wonder if I slip the token into the air-hockey table if he’d be wearing that T-shirt. Would he talk about the Batman movie coming out? Would we share a kiss? Would he let steal his popcorn? Will our fingers slip into the spaces of our hands? Is there another universe where he finally beat me in a game? Two little kids passing each other at Fantasy Fair? Another one where we are 80 and we still sneak into an arcade?
I don’t put the coin in the air hockey machine at the cinema. Instead, I walk away and continue the conversation about the cold weather with the person I am with.
I don’t pick up the tabletop Air Hockey set at the pharmacy but I do remember him and that, today, is enough.