I wake up with a jolt.
My eyes are still shut but I have an awareness of light in the room.
An abundance of it.
Brilliant, almost blinding light.
For a moment I’m not sure where I am, what time it is, or even what day it is.
I can’t really remember what I did last night.
I’m guessing alcohol was involved.
Still working on that.
I half open one eye and reluctantly peek out of my nocturnal fortress.
Sunlight is streaming through the window.
I think God has turned up the volume.
Or should that be brightness?
I wish I had a gigantic dimmer switch so I could turn down the intensity a bit.
I shut my eye.
Am I dreaming?
I pull the hairs on my arm.
Nope, definitely awake.
I feel weird.
I sneak a peek at my surroundings.
Yep, it’s my room alright… but it seems different.
Something’s not right, but I don’t know what.
I’m slightly uneasy.
I pull my arm hairs again.
Yep, still awake.
Not a dream.
I look at the clock and it says midnight.
I open both eyes wide.
It can’t be, there’s sun streaming through the window.
Did someone relocate me to Antarctica while I slept?
I shut my eyes and lie there for a few minutes knowing that things will be different when I open them again.
Cautiously, I open my eyes.
So much for my theory.
I’m weirded out.
I sneak another peak at the clock.
Still says midnight.
My heart rate increases a little.
I check that the clock is plugged in.
I glance at the floor and see a newspaper.
I often read the day’s news as I drift off into la-la land.
The sight of the paper makes me feel a little more relaxed.
But wait, the front page doesn’t look familiar.
I don’t remember that headline.
Hey, I’ve never seen this paper before.
I feel slightly anxious.
This is stupid.
Is someone playing a prank on me?
This time I pull my leg hairs.
Pain is the result.
I swing my legs over the side of the bed and heave my tired self into an almost upright position.
It seems much harder than normal.
I feel so heavy and old.
I pick up the paper in an attempt to find something familiar in all this weirdness.
I try and read the front page but it makes no sense; just a lot of meaningless words.
It’s in English, but it’s mumbo-jumbo to me.
I look at the date, it says November.
Well at least I got that right; I know it’s Christmas next month.
I continue to read.
It says November… 2012!!!
My slight anxiety has now escalated to full-blown panic.
“This is not funny”, I yell to nobody in particular.
“Cut this shit out, I know it’s 2007 – I’m not that stupid” I share with… the furniture in my room.
There is no reply.
I am alone in my panic.
I feel fear like never before.
An overwhelming a sense of helplessness.
I don’t like the feeling at all.
A person can’t just lose five years.
It can’t be 2007 one day and then 2012 the next.
I try and convince myself that I’m hallucinating.
I pride myself on my logic, my problem solving skills.
“I’m imagining this”, I tell myself with very little certainty.
It doesn’t work; I can feel the very real heat of the sun coming through the window.
The midnight sun!
All of a sudden I have an awareness of my body.
I feel different.
I look down at my stomach and I get a shock. It’s huge.
Yesterday I was simply chubby, now I’m massive.
I stand up and I can feel the weight.
My back hurts.
So do my knees.
I can hear myself wheezing. I’ve never heard that before.
I walk tentatively to the mirror.
I am too scared to look.
My heart is racing and I’m getting short of breath.
I cover my face with my hand and peek at an unfamiliar reflection through my fingers.
My fat fingers.
I start with the ankles and work my way up slowly.
I don’t recognise what I see; it’s like my body but much fatter.
As I move from the fat stomach, to the chest and shoulder region, I slow down.
I have man-boobs.
I am ugly.
I am scared to look at my face.
I pause and I feel a single tear roll down my cheek.
Normally I wouldn’t let myself cry but right now, I don’t care.
I shut both eyes, take a big breath and remove my hand from my face.
I count silently to three and open my eyes.
What I see is shocking.
This can’t be. I’m not in a movie.
I’m staring at a fat, old version of me.
My face looks like it’s been inflated with a bicycle pump, my neck is huge and I have wrinkles around my eyes.
So many wrinkles.
I look at my teeth, they are a shade of yellow.
“Still smoking then”, I say out loud.
I am repulsed by my own image.
My heart sinks, I feel sadness like never before and the tears flow freely.
I stand there in silence, staring at my enormous self and wonder what I’ve done.
Or perhaps, not done.
If the newspaper is right, I’m only five years older but it looks more like twenty.
I stand there for what seems like an eternity, wondering where my life, my body, my potential and my future have gone.
My friend always tells me that procrastination is the thief of time.
I hate how practical and honest she is.
And how right she is.
Sure, I put things off a bit and make a few excuses, but could this have really happened?
Could my inability to make a decision and get off my ass really cost me a big slab of my life?
In desperation, I slap myself in the face. Hard.
I’m definitely awake. Awake and now, in pain.
Definitely no dream.
I am overwhelmed with a range of emotions but one dominates; shame.
I feel ashamed of what I’ve become.
I don’t know how I got here, but I’m here.
What a waste.
I amble back to my bed.
I sit there and stare out the window.
The sun seems less intense. Maybe my eyes have adjusted.
I am floating aimlessly in my own self-pity when I am jolted back into reality by a noise.
A real noise; the phone is ringing.
Any hope of this being some kind of out of body-mind experience disappears completely.
I’m excited.. yet scared to pick it up.
What if it confirms what I don’t want to know?
I put my hand on the receiver and hesitate.
I have no idea who might be on the other end or why they might be calling.
Maybe this will provide some answers.
I pick up the receiver and pause before I put it to my ear.
“Where are you?”
The unhappy voice sounds familiar but I’m confused.
“Who is this?”
“Stop being a dickhead and get down here, we’ve got two trucks to unload and you’re late”.
I think it’s my boss from five years ago on the other end but he sounds different.
“I know this sounds stupid, but can you please tell me what year this is”, I ask politely.
I look at the clock… 12.00am
Wait a minute, if that was my old boss and this really is 2012, then that means….
My heart sinks.
Surely I’m not still working in that horrible warehouse, that was only supposed to be for three months.
I was meant to go back to college and get that degree.
I’ve filled out the forms and everything.
I was meant to open my own business.
I was meant to do so much.
I walk to the window to see if my car is in the driveway.
It’s old too.
It’s faded, rusted and has flat tyres.
Looks like it hasn’t run in years.
It’s a mechanical version of me.
As I stand there in my fat body, looking at my broken car, with the words of my angry boss ringing in my ear, I wonder what became of the young enthusiastic man with the dreams, the plans and the talent.
I wonder where the years have gone.
I walk back to the mirror.
I stare some more.
Humiliated. Devastated. Broken.
This wasn’t my plan.
If only I could have those years back.
*The saddest thing about this story is that for many people, it (or a story just like it) will become their reality over the next five years. Not a fable, but a biography. Every day that we don’t use what we’ve been given is another day wasted.
And by the way, don’t ask me about the time on the clock… figure it out for yourself.
Enjoy your next five years.