She is dressed in Donna’s clothes, but the girl standing there is not Donna. Another name drifts into my mind – a name that brings with it a rush of memories. “Melissa?” As soon as I’ve uttered the name, I clamp my teeth together. Donna, she’s Donna, I tell myself. People can’t transform into other people.
But they can, says that other voice. This time, the voice is familiar. It is Al’s voice. No, my voice, I correct myself as once again, Raymond’s memories are muted, and my own thoughts take over. They are foggy, though. I wonder how much time I’ll get before I lose myself again. Maybe the longer I inhabit someone else’s body, the more I become suppressed inside them.
Donna-Melissa is nodding. “Yes, it’s me.” Her eyes sparkle in the light of the streetlamp. “Are you Al or Richard?”
“Al, of course.” I frown. How could she possibly get me mixed up with Richard? Even though I have never shown her a picture of Teenage Me, surely my appearance doesn’t even resemble Teenage Richard’s.
She laughs. “I’m kidding. So, how do you like this trip?” She waves a hand around in the air. “Isn’t it a hoot?”
I snort. “Easy for you to say. I mean, look at me!” I point down at my leather jacket and rolled-up jeans. “I look like Pony Boy, for crying out loud!”
“I think you look adorable,” she says. “And you play a mean guitar.”
“Yeah?” I grab her around the waist and pull her toward me. “That’s not the only trick I’ve got up my sleeve.” Before she can respond, I kiss her. Greaser-style.
“Well,” she says as we pull apart. “I hope you don’t forget how to kiss like that when we finally get back home again.”
Oh yeah. Home. “Any idea of who Richard could be?” I mean, I would happily jump back into the phone booth and leave Richard stranded. But I have the feeling it doesn’t work without the three of us together.
She grins. “What if he’s Principal O’Reilly?”
“Oh, I know!” I say, laughing. “Maybe he’s my mom!”
“Or your girlfriend.”
“Ugh!” I’m so repulsed by the thought, I forget to remind her that Helen is not my girlfriend.
The mystery doesn’t remain unsolved for long. Melissa invites me over her house to “tutor” her the next day. We’re actually planning to sneak off to her room and make out for awhile, and maybe more (I mean hey, technically, we’re both consenting adults). But 1957 rears its ugly head.
“Donna, you know that boys are not allowed in your room,” her mother tells her in a loud whisper after she intercepts us in the hall. Then she turns to me, smiling. “Raymond, dear. I’m sure that Dean is available if you boys would like to go outside and toss around the football.”
“Want to?” asks Dean, jumping up from the sofa with the enthusiasm of a dog who’s been offered a game of fetch with a tennis ball.
“Football?” I try to paste a polite smile on my face. I don’t play football as 1957 Raymond or present day me. “Sure. That’d be…swell.”
With a horrified look toward Donna, I follow Dean out to the lawn, where there’s already a football waiting for us in the grass. I pick it up with a grimace, then cross the lawn. Dean is waiting for the throw, hands poised to catch it. I try to remember how to hold the ball, then rear back one arm and throw it.
The ball does not sail through the air in a perfect spiral. Instead, it flops across the yard in a lazy arc, landing easily in Dean’s hands.
“Wow,” he says, laughing, “you really stink at this.” All of a sudden, he shifts. Now Teenage Richard is standing there in Dean’s letterman jacket, still laughing at me. I guess some things never change.
“Richard!” Melissa runs over and throws her arms around his neck. For a sickening moment, I think she’s going to kiss him. But maybe she remembers that in this reality, he’s her brother, because she steps away.
Richard looks stunned. “Melissa?” He looks over at me. “Alan?”
I let out an exasperated huff. “My name is Al,” I say. “Not Alan.”
The Wonder Triplets were together again. So, I’ll just fast-forward a couple of days, to when we manage to find our magic phone booth. At least, we assume it’s our magic phone booth, since it’s parked in the middle of a grassy field and all.
“Maybe we need to try something different to control this thing,” I suggest. “Like think futuristic thoughts. Visualize Apple Heights or something.”
The others agree. “Just try not to get us transported back to the Jurassic era,” says Richard, smirking. “I’m not in the mood to get eaten by a dinosaur.”
“I’ll try my best,” I say, then climb into the phone booth. As it starts its whirling, dizzying spin cycle, I try to think of present-day thoughts. My grandkids. Melissa’s art. The mediocre food at Sleepy Meadows Retirement Home. Then everything goes still.