Just Once More

By Ira Zadikow

I walked outside, it was a chilly night, about 9:15 pm. I’d just seen my mother, and I was upset as I walked up East 79th Street, towards the subway. And that’s when it happened.

I passed a restaurant called Angels, big band music was playing inside. Although I was in a hurry, the music caught my attention, and I stopped and I looked in the window. However, something was extremely strange. The place, and everyone inside it, was of a different time period, everything and everyone was literally of the same time period of the music, of seventy years ago. The clothes, the hairstyles, the place was full of cigarette smoke, there was an extremely large old-time radio in the corner, I could see some people dancing in the distance. I thought maybe it was a TV or film shoot or something, there’d be no other explanation for what I was seeing. Until I noticed a couple at a table by the window. They were both very young, in their 20’s, and they looked very happy.

I realized who they were, even though that would be impossible. But it was obviously them. And they looked just like all the old photographs of them that I have. It was my parents. They weren’t yet married, they didn’t have wedding rings on.

I stood there watching for I don’t know how long. But, they didn’t seem to see me. Whenever they looked out the window, they seemed to look straight through me, as if I weren’t even there. I didn’t know what to do, and I had no idea why this was happening. And, why would this be happening now? With what had happened recently, maybe that had something to do with it, but nonetheless, this couldn’t be happening, this was just not possible. Was I that upset that I was imagining all of this, just wishing for things to be different, to be back to a much earlier, and happier time? Or was I just losing my mind?

I wanted to go inside. Of course, that made no sense, what would I do? Would I go up to my parents and try to talk to them, or to just try and say hello? And, would that even be possible? I mean, in their world, at that time, I hadn’t even been born yet. But, I had to, I just had to, I couldn’t let this bizarre opportunity pass me by. Maybe I could try to warn them of some things in their future, maybe I could try to fix some things that would end up happening. Or maybe, maybe I could just have the opportunity to say hello to my father, who’s been gone for three decades now, and my mother.

I went up to the front door, and I opened it. But, as I started walking in, in an instant, everything changed, everything was different, everything snapped back to the present. The people, the music, there were flat-panel TV monitor screens everywhere. My parents were gone. I stood there for a moment, extremely upset, and upset at myself for ruining the opportunity to look at my parents, happy and young again.

I walked out of the place, holding back tears, and headed towards the subway. I took the train to my apartment, but I had trouble sleeping. And I couldn’t figure out if what had happened had been real or not, or just some sort of strange daydream-like fantasy that I had.

Every time I was on that block I made it a point to walk by that restaurant. I walked by several times after that, and I’d linger for awhile, but, it didn’t happen again.

Until a couple months later. I’d come back from seeing my mom, and I was on my way to my apartment. I was walking on East 18 Street, not paying much attention to my surroundings, when I heard the sound of big band music, and I stopped dead in my tracks. I looked up, I was at this old joint, Redemption, a place I’d probably passed a dozen times before, and had never paid attention to. I hesitated before I looked inside, I felt a wave of trepidation come over me, I literally started shaking and was extremely anxious. After a minute or two I got the nerve to look inside. It was happening again. And this time I specifically looked for my parents, and I spotted them. This time they had their wedding rings on. They had gotten married! I just stood outside watching them, wishing that I could go inside, but knowing that I couldn’t. So I just stood there and watched. And I desperately wished that my parents could really go back to those days, that they could be starting all over again. Although I knew that was impossible. But then again, if I could be seeing a vision of them, or if it was really them, from seventy years ago, then why couldn’t anything be possible? I didn’t know if I was hallucinating, or delusional, or in some sort of altered state, or had gone back in time, I had no idea what was happening to me. But, for all I could tell, and feel, was that what I was seeing was as real as the ground I was standing on.

I stood there for several minutes, just watching them. And wishing for things to be different, and being upset, and yet being glad for my parents and the happiness that they had. So I just stood and watched them. Until I was jolted out of my “vision” by some fool that walked into me while he was texting on his cell phone. And they were gone. And I stood there feeling empty, although I was grateful for these brief glimpses I was getting of my parents enjoying happier times.

In the same pattern as before, a couple months went by without this recurring. And then, one day, it happened again. I was in Brooklyn, in Bensonhurst, at a place called Hope. And this time, I could see that my mom was pregnant. There was no way of me telling with whom, it could’ve been with any one of the three of us. I doubted if it was me though, my parents still seemed very young, so it was probably with one of my two brothers. And again, as all the other times, I just stood and watched, wishing I could go inside, but knowing that I couldn’t. And I was again jolted out of my vision by someone bumping into me, and I again stood there, wishing things were different.

One day, I had the thought that maybe I could somehow increase the number of my visions, my sightings, or whatever these things were. My mother only has two relatives her age that are still alive, everyone else is gone. Her brother Gil is 91, but he moved out of the city a long time ago. But my mother’s cousin Helen, who’s also 91, was a good friend of my mother’s when they were growing up, they remained friends as they aged, and Helen lives in Brooklyn, not far from my mother. So I called Helen, and started inundating her with questions about my parents. Where did my parents like to go, where would they go out to eat, what were they like when they were younger, etc. Helen told me about one particular restaurant in Bensonhurst that they used to go to a lot, not that far from where they used to live, and I decided to go there as soon as I could.

A couple days later I got there, but, it was long gone, all that remained was an empty lot. It was late, I’d seen my mom earlier, it was raining hard out, it was cold. When I got there and saw the lot, my heart just sank, I was totally drained. I sat down on the ground, just staring at the spot where the place had been, upset that my trip had been in vain. I fell asleep, and I started dreaming. A dream that I’d been having a lot, a dream that my mom was younger, and healthy. Until I was suddenly awoken by big band music. I was startled, I opened my eyes, and there it was. The restaurant was open, and it was crowded. I spotted my parents, and this time they had two small children with them, my two brothers. And I smiled as I watched them all, as I stood there in the cold rain, just watching. This time I was awoken out of my vision by a cop, who wanted to know what the hell I was doing in an empty lot, late at night, like a fool in the rain. I made some feeble excuse, and I left.

At this point I was becoming increasingly more obsessed with these visions. I started going to the apartment building in Bensonhurst, where I’d grown up, and until recently where my mom had lived. Hoping not only to see my parents, but also to maybe even see myself, much younger as a child. We’d lived on the first floor, on the corner, with an entrance to the street, so it was easy for me to keep an eye on the apartment. But, there was also a problem with me doing this. My mom had lived there until recently, and the circumstances of her not being there anymore were not pleasant. And my timing was not good. I decided to stake out the apartment while it was being worked on, being cleaned up for a new family to move in. After the super was finished cleaning out the apartment, and gutting and fixing it up, I saw a new family move in. It was a lovely young couple, with a newborn baby, actually probably very reminiscent of my own parents when they had moved in to that apartment, but it was way too upsetting for me to observe. And I never did get that glimpse of my family that I had wanted so badly.

And, I kept wondering, what was causing these visions, was there a purpose or reason to what I was seeing, or experiencing? Was any of it even real, was I just imagining everything? Or, was I just slowly losing my mind, retreating into some sort of bizarre mental state? My so-called normal life was not yet suffering, or, at least not yet seriously so. I was still holding down my job, and my girlfriend was basically OK with what was becoming my increasingly erratic hours. I hadn’t told her the truth of what was happening to me, I couldn’t, it was just too outlandish. So, I had to keep making up more ridiculous excuses and stories to account for my increasingly odd behavior. I wanted to tell her the truth, but I couldn’t bring myself to. Who would believe me, I would sound like an absolute madman. And maybe I was.

I also started to go back to that restaurant in the empty lot, its name was Just Once. I figured a place in Bensonhurst, close to where my parents had lived, they probably had gone there often, so I figured that maybe I’d have a good chance of having more of my visions. Although there was a problem hanging out at an empty lot, I began generating some undue attention. It started becoming almost comical. I had to avoid the street kids, and meanwhile make excuses to the cops, who figured I was dealing drugs or something. What was I going to tell the police, that I was having visions of my parents from seventy years ago, and that I was hoping to have more? But most people just left me alone, they must’ve just figured I was some sort of strange, homeless guy.

And things started getting even stranger, as if that was even possible, when one night at Just Once I had another vision. Things were going along alright, until a fight broke out inside, right near my parents. I got really upset, I was scared that something might happen to them. I started becoming protective of them, and I started trying to figure out ways to keep them safe. Which of course, didn’t make any sense at all. Not that any of it did, because, obviously, it didn’t.

I had one more vision at Just Once, and this time, there I was, very young, with both my brothers. And there we were, my entire family, I had finally seen all of us together.

The reason that I was on East 79 Street so much was because my mom had been in a hospital, and was then moved into a nursing and rehabilitation facility, both on that block, and I would visit her as much as I could. At first, she was in really rough shape, she almost died. She could barely communicate, she couldn’t really speak. And that was when the visions started. It was the very first day that she was in the hospital, when I left that evening, that was when I had the first one. Maybe it was her thoughts, her fever dreams, that were channeling through to me. It sounds bizarre, but who knows, it could be. I had no other explanations for what was actually happening to me, and to this day, I still have no idea what happened to me. I finally told my girlfriend about those times, but I’ve never told anyone else. It’s all just like a dream, or like an extremely distant memory that you think about, and you’re almost not entirely sure if it actually happened or not.

Luckily, after a very lengthy time period, my mom ended up making a relatively good recovery. She’s doing pretty well right now, and living at an assisted living facility. And I actually have a much better relationship with her now than previously, which I’m extremely thankful for. And, I think that a major reason for the improvement was because of the visions. Well, that, and the fact that she had almost died knocked me to my senses. Before her recent illness we weren’t very close, it was a very strained relationship. After all these years, it took her almost dying to bring us together. And, maybe that’s the reason why I had had those visions, maybe that’s the real reason why. For some reason I now saw things in an entirely different light. Each vision had been extremely emotional to me, and losing each one had been heartbreaking. Somehow these visions had broken through an emotional wall deep inside of me that I’d never been able to penetrate before. It’s extremely unfortunate that it literally took my mother almost dying for me to have achieved this. However, at least the good news for me is that I finally did.

After my mom’s recovery, the visions stopped. I miss them, though. And, I actually still occasionally stop by my family’s old apartment. I don’t have any of my visions anymore, but, I’ll just hang around for a little while and try to remember, or imagine, how things used to be when we were all there. And, to kind of check up on that new family, and see how they’re doing.

Ira is a native New Yorker, originally from Brooklyn (long before it was cool), and now lives in Manhattan. Nine years ago he started writing business oriented documents, and for the past several years he’s also been doing some creative writing. He’s lived several lives as far as work, and is a total music junkie. He can be reached at zadikow@hotmail.com.

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