I felt hopeful when we saw the ad for a roommate in North Hollywood. My unemployment check did not begin to cover the rent on my Beverly Hills studio and what little I made from audience work and blogging just barely made ends meet.
I’d only met Tom, my new roommate briefly. Tom’s last roommate had run off without paying the rent and he was desperate to find someone new. I noticed that he was kind of nice looking, tall with dark hair and around thirty five. I’d felt a bit inferior being short, a little plump and pimply with hair that refused to do what I told it to. He told me he was in the business of selling travel packages and I told him I was unemployed . I decided not to mention my former career until I got to know him better.
I drove the rental car that was loaded with all my worldly possessions to the small two bedroom on Van Nuys Blvd. A few days after I moved in Tom went to Arizona on business and I had some time to set up my room, unpack my things and snoop though Tom’s room.
At first, I was a bit disappointed. There was a plain storage bed with a non-descript blue bedspread flanked by two night stands. I snooped through the draws and found tee-shirts and blue jeans, a few Playboy’s, condoms and a copy of On the Road. There were pictures of family and a movie poster or two on the walls. In the drawer there was a picture of Tom shaking hands with a young Andy Kaufman and a poster from a Dali exhibit in San Francisco.
I entered the closet only to find, a couple of nice suits and many button up shirts and Dockers. I moved an empty suitcase out of my way and that’s when I saw a door with a golden nob. I opened it and found myself in a small booth. On the wall of the booth were three dials one said day month and year, another said time of day and another still said location.
I quickly shut the door and replaced the suitcase. I went back to my room and thought about what I just saw. It couldn’t be. It had to be some sort of joke. Maybe the apartment had been used in a movie.
The next day I went to a French fry tasting focus group. I got back, with $75.00 in my pocket, feeling very full and wanting a nap. I realized Tom would be home in the morning, so I snuck into the room for one more look.
I opened the closet door and went towards the booth. I heard the apartment door open and shut outside. I started for the door of Tom’s room, but it was too late. He opened the closet door and saw me.
“Tracy,” he said confused.
“Hi, I just…I um …I … I mean um…I want you.” I said.
“I want you…I was just I was going to you know sleep in here be here when you came back.”
“It’s one o’clock in the afternoon and I wasn’t coming home til tomorrow morning; you were going to stay in here the whole time?” He eyed me suspiciously as he came towards me.
“What were you really doing in here, looking for money,”
“No, I swear,” I said.
“You want me? Okay, fine…Let’s go.”
“Well, I . I mean um. Okay um…let me just jump in the shower I guess.”
“Oh relax, he said. You obviously know about it.”
“What is it? I mean it looks like a replica of a movie time machine.”
“It is a time machine…a real one.”
“Oh come on.”
“No, really. I found It here when I moved in.”
“How does it work? I mean if you have to be in the booth to use it, how do you get back?”
“That’s the frustrating part. You see it has limited abilities. I can travel back in time but the place lever is stuck in Los Angeles and not only Los Angeles, but this particular apartment which was built in 1976 .
“You can’t go back further than 76,” I said disappointed that I would never meet my uncle Marty.
I can’t travel anywhere on a plane or rent a car because my driver’s license was issued in 2014. I’m afraid to spend too much money for fear of calling attention to myself.”
“Cant you just go back a couple of days. I mean you could win the lottery. In fact today is Friday, the lottery is on tonight. I said hopefully.
“Look, Tracy I know it probably sounds a little silly, but I don’t want to mess with fate.”
“What makes you believe in fate?”
“The same thing that makes me believe in time machines.”
“You can try it if you’d like. I would just ask that you tell no one and that you don’t do anything that could affect history too much.”
I went into the kitchen and made myself a cup of tea. I could go back to any time in my life after the age of one. The possibilities seemed endless. I decided to go back five years when I had made a terrible decision to buy a used car that was a total lemon and that I had totaled in an accident.
Tom set the dials while I watched. He exited the tiny room and closed the door. I pushed the start button and the room started to vibrate. There was a loud screeching noise and then, nothing.
“Tom, I think it stopped,” I said.
There was no response. I stepped out of the tiny room into the closet. This time it was packed full of women’s clothing. I crept to the door and opened it to find a very pink bedroom decorated with elaborate pillows and a Johnny Depp poster.
I walked out the door and started towards the living room. I was stopped when I felt a pair of eyes on me. I turned to see a red-headed woman wrapped in a towel staring at me in horror.
“ I….I said I’m sorry.”
I ran out the door and into the street toward the train station.