Gateways: Just Once More by

TRANSCRIPT: This story is written by Mike Danovitch. Mike’s other works have been seen at Chicago Theatre Marathon, Ghostlight Ensemble Theatre, and Gorilla Tango Theater. As an actor, he has performed around Chicago with Otherworld Theatre Company, Brown Paper Box Co, Apollo Theater, First Folio Theater, Theatre at the Center, and Kokandy Productions. He is a proud graduate of Columbia College Chicago. This is “Just Once More”.

I lean over her sleeping body. Perfect; how does she always look so perfect? I’m sure if she ever watched me while I slept, I would have had hair sticking out of my mouth, tank top
dangling off one shoulder, with seventeen pillows between my legs. But her, she’s always been perfect. She stirs. “Good morning, love,” I say. Mumbling something incoherent, I’ve never understood it, she kisses my cheek and heads down the hallway – her usual routine. The smell of caffeine wafts back into the bedroom. I want to lay down and sleep forever, but I can’t. Not Today.
She yells from the kitchen. “Karen, would you like some breakfast?” Dragging myself off the bed, I stumble down the hall. A large mug is waiting for me; I don’t even hear the sizzling of
the bacon in the pan, I’m too busy sucking down coffee. Pop! She quickly recoils her hand away from the stovetop. Rolling my eyes, “I tell you to wear gloves but—” She smiles. “I never
listen…I know.” Her smile wins me over every single time. The bacon has burned, but it smells amazing. She was never a great cook, but between the two of us, she was Bobby Flay. She steals
a piece directly from the pan and places it gently between her teeth. I take a bite when she offers me some, but I’m not hungry. The coffee will do for now.
Victoria grabs my mug and begins to clean up after breakfast. I try to tell her that it can wait until tomorrow, but she never listens. Once she has made up her mind, there’s no convincing her otherwise. Might as well let her do it; it’ll be faster that way. I swear, she never sat still. Still, I could watch her for hours. She’s got the television on. She always has the television on. “For background noise,” she always says, but I know it’s because she never liked to be alone with her thoughts. To her, silence was the worst. There’s a commercial playing that I can barely hear. “Small enough to fit in your pocket. Take it on the go and see the world.” I don’t think I’ve ever caught that before. Ugh, she’s using the disgusting sponge that’s been in the sink for weeks. I should have changed it.
“Karen, are you listening?” Of course not, I never am. I’m always thinking about her standing there, washing those damn dishes. “Of course, I was.” I lie. “Well? Any ideas?” Even when I’m being rude, she never leans into it. She’s so pure; I never deserved her. “No, that all sounds good, Vickie. I’m good for doing whatever you like.” Stupid, stupid me. I never call her Vickie; she doesn’t like that. I see it in her face: the pain. The struggle. Trying not to correct me, but she knows better. Her mother caused this, always calling her Vickie never Victoria. It slipped out, but the damage has already been done. I’ll remember to not do that again. “Karen, I love you, but I can tell when you’re not listening.” I gently take her soapy hands into mine and gaze into those beautiful, brown eyes. “I’m sorry. I spaced out for a moment, but I promise that I’m entirely focused on you. Whatever you would like to do today; I am yours.” She smiles and she’s won me over again. “Good; you’re driving.” She’s already rushed to the bedroom to change before I can respond.
Top down, radio drowning out the sounds of the Corvette’s engine, we drive toward the coast. I meant to take the car in to get it looked at, but never took the time. It always ran well enough, so it wasn’t a problem, even if the engine shook like a baby’s rattle on amphetamines. I glance over at Victoria, singing along to the radio. Some classic from the 80’s I don’t know the lyrics to. I was never able to hold a pitch, but hers is the voice of an angel. I can barely hear her voice over the engine, but I know she’s singing every word. She begs me to join in, but I never do. I’d rather watch. Hanging her head outside the car like a dog, belting as loud as she can, I think about the times we talked about getting a pet. She begged and pleaded, but I was adamant. Even picked out the most adorable puppy she found on some rescue’s website: this giant, fuzzball German Shepherd mix named Mary Puppins. Stupid cute dog. It’s one of the few times I was ever able to say no to her. Maybe if I had only given in and allowed her to adopt one.
We’ve reached our destination: the beach. Our favorite parking spot is open; I know this route so well by now. Shift the gear into Park, put the top back up, leave the windows cracked a bit (don’t want it to get too warm in there), grab the bag from the trunk, actions so routine that I don’t even think about them; I still watch her as she practically skips down the walkway leading toward the sea. She’s in her element. Pisces. Loves the water. If mermaids were real, she would have left me a long time ago and spent her life searching for Atlantis. By the time I get down to the shore, she’s already in the water, neck deep. I’m not one for taking a dip, but today isn’t about me. I drop our stuff down, take of my shirt, and wade into the water. Cold. So cold. It’s nearly one hundred degrees out; how is it always this cold? I only get up to my thighs before I start to head back to the comfort of warm, dry land. Give me a soft towel, some sunscreen, and a good book and I’ll lay on the beach all day; she can have the water if I can have the earth. Finally done swimming, she starts to head back in my direction and I swear it’s just like ascene from that one James Bond film. She’s Ursula Andress looking like a sea goddess with water flowing off her body. I’m Sean Connery: broad-shouldered, wearing my baby blue swimsuit, mouth agape at a loss for words. I weakly hand her a towel so that she can dry off. In a few moments, a man selling lemonade will walk by and I can quench my thirst. I order two and we sit on the sand, staring out into the ocean. A plane whizzes by overhead dragging an advertisement behind it: “ChronoMax: Only the best!” I always found those ads kind of tacky, attempting to catch people at the beach, but now…
It’s getting later in the day and we need to keep moving. I pack our stuff in the car and coerce her to leave the beach. She’s adamant about wanting to stay, but I promise that we can come back tomorrow. I don’t mean to lie to her. Technically, I’m not, but she doesn’t have to know that. I drive away. Immediately she can tell that we’re not going home. We’re taking a detour to her favorite restaurant. When someone mentions their favorite restaurant, what do you imagine? Five-star cuisine? The finest cuisine known to man that costs as much as the mortgage on your house?
That was never Victoria’s style. We turn the corner and I see her shift in her seat. She’s ecstatic.
The neon sign illuminates the entire street: Minnie’s Diner. Before I can park the car in the tiny parking lot out front, she’s scrambling to get out. Imagine the gaudiest 50’s era diner, complete
with servers that do not want to be there and greasy food that will clog your body up for days – that’s Minnie’s Diner. I’m convinced the Health Department gave up years ago on making sure this place was edible, but Victoria doesn’t care. For her, it’s paradise. We grab a booth by one of the front windows and she doesn’t even have to grab a menu; she always orders the same thing: two eggs over-easy, sausage, three pancakes (heavy on the syrup), milk, and orange juice. I’ve never understood wanting breakfast for dinner, always seemed weird to me. I also never knew how she could fit so much food into her body. I can barely finish the cheeseburger I ordered; then again, I’m still not hungry. I check my watch and see that it’s nearly 9:15. It’s almost time. I turn my gaze toward the lights on the street. This is the hardest part. I’m not ready.
We’re in the parking lot heading back to the car when it hits. Victoria clutches her chest, falling to the ground. Time slows to a crawl. I can’t move. Someone inside the Diner rushes out to check on her. They yell something at me, but I don’t hear it. I’m focusing on the sirens echoing in the background. I’ve watched this scene play out countless times. The ambulance arriving. Taking her away. Speeding to the hospital. Holding her hand the entire time. Watching as they cannot save her. Hearing that monitor and its deafening tone. It’s her heart, they tell me. It simply puttered out. Something else her mother gave her. I hate that woman with every fiber in my being, but right now, it doesn’t matter. She never makes it past 9:30. The ambulance takes her away to the hospital again, but this time I’m not with her. I stand in the parking lot alone. I can’t stomach watching her die over and over, knowing I can’t change a thing.
I collect myself and take out the small, silver tablet from my pocket. Etched on the back in weird, block lettering is a name: ChronoMax. I laughed the first time I saw one. I couldn’t imagine wanting to revisit the past twenty-four hours, but now I could never imagine being without her. There was a rumor once that the technology would get better, but I guess I’ll never find out. I revisit this day over and over, spending the best and worst day of our lives together. It’s better than the alternative. I power on the tablet, take a deep breath, and hit the button.
I’m back in our bedroom, sitting over her sleeping body. Perfect; how does she always look perfect? She stirs. I whisper, “Good morning, love.” Mumbling something incoherent, she kisses my cheek and heads down the hall. I watch her leave and my heart is full. Someone a long time ago once said: “Time heals all wounds.” But I just don’t have the time. I’d much rather spend an eternity here.

Kim Fukawa has been seen all around Chicago. Most recently she has worked with The House Theatre, Lifeline Theatre, and Babes With Blades Theatre Company. She is an artistic affiliate and occasional fight choreographer with Babes With Blades.

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