The large iPad appeared from nowhere, as did the picture of a Canadian living room and two children playing. I touched the screen and immediately one of the children collapsed on the floor. An irate mother rushed out from the kitchen and stared accusingly, as though, somehow, she could see me. I put the screen to one side and sent B out on a panic shopping spree: Parsley, ham, eggs – wine.
“We will still be able to see Battleship Potemkin.”
It was a statement not a question, and I lied accordingly. “Of course. They’ll all be gone by nine.”
“It starts at eight.”
“They’ll be gone by eight.”
“It’s seven o’clock now.”
“No, half six.”
Jane nodded reassuringly from the far corner, a large glass of wine in her hand. Wine bends the truth.
“You must be fast readers,” says B as the door slams behind her. I return to the cooking. Fast reading is one thing fast eating another. Then there was the Canadian contingent including the vengeful mother, whose child I’d knocked over. How had she recognised me? I knew that she had. And that we wouldn’t be finished by nine.
Pans bubbled on hobs; in the oven something was burning. It was then I remembered I’d forgotten the rice.
A text message to B – We need rice.
That was more unreal than knocking a child over via a virtual screen.
A knock on the door.
I looked at the clock.
Two minutes before the alarm
But I’d already re-entered time, the problem fading as I stretched.
Angry mothers, Potemkin, reading clubs and burnt food – gone, forgotten – escaped. It’s the beauty of dreams. Do what you want. No price to be paid. No consequences. You can escape them in a breath, which is akin to death, in a way.