I awoke last month in an alternate reality, but one so nearly like my own that it took most of the first morning here before I realized I was not where I should have been.
Just about everything was as I remembered it. You expect that when you wake up — that the same comforter is on the bed as when you turned out the lights last night, that the shade of paint on the walls hasn’t changed in the last eight hours, that the clock radio snooze button still waits for your blind reach where it always waits.
All this was unchanged, and as such it went unnoticed. I mean, you don’t wake up anticipating that things are different. You take for granted that nothing has altered in the night. It’s only when things are all wrong that you immediately notice.
You don’t wake up and think, “Oh look. No one broke in last night and changed the carpet out for tile while I was asleep.”
As it was on this particular morning, I got up, found my clothes, made coffee, shaved. I kissed my wife as she tried to stay asleep, and went out to my car.
That’s when I noticed that something was different about my shoes.
I could blame it on the fact that I generally dress in half-light, trying not to disturb my wife. Or maybe the fact that I’m slow to wake up, even shaving or brushing my teeth on autopilot, without being fully aware. I slipped on my shoes in the dark and walked around the house in them that morning without noticing a difference — they fit the same as my sense-memory recalled, after all. They were broken in and fit my feet. That’s another thing you don’t think about after a while. New shoes feel odd on your feet, but shoes you’ve had for a while don’t. You know how they’re supposed to feel. You don’t think about them.
But then you’re walking to the car in the morning sun and see the color and design of them and you know.
You know these are not your shoes, even if they fit your feet. You look around then, and recognize everything surrounding you. That is definitely your house, your car, your yard. That was your wife you kissed, the smell of her and taste of her skin was right. You look down at the ID card on the lanyard around your neck and know that it’s exactly as you recall.
But the shoes are wrong. You never in your life owned a pair of shoes this particular shade of brown or with that odd swirl of shaped leather on the outer sides of the heel and toe.
This is not your world.
And you begin to wonder what else has changed. When the other shoe will drop, so to speak. And that’s where I’ve been for a month now: observing and cataloging my surroundings, checking the details against my memory. So far, however, nothing else seems out of whack. This world is not so very different from the one I recall.
Life’s the same, except for my shoes.
(c) 2009 by Tony Simmons
from the '366 Days' project
(With apologies to The Cars, and thanks to Lou, who put this song on a mix CD.)