“Rose!” I scream, sitting up in my hospital bed where Mary tries to calm me and push me back down.
“Rest, Baxter.” She says.
“I have been resting. For twenty days. Let me get up. Where’s Rose?”
“She’s right here Baxter. Calm down. What’s wrong?” Mary asks.
“I cheated on her. We aren’t together. Dafina. She said we haven’t spoken in twenty years. So I called her. And she hung up on me.” I’m panting and sweating and frustrated.
“Who’s Dafina?” Mary asks.
“My digital secretary.” I roll my eyes.
“Impressive. What does she look like?” Mr Spoon has come to my bed. He hoists himself up onto a stool to see me better.
“She can look any way I want her to look. I get to choose her face.” I say.
“The Proxy Baxter. Did you get the Proxy?” Mr Spoon asks me.
“I did Mr Spoon. I read it on my screen in my house. Dafina’s screen. The TV. Whatever it is.” I breathe. Mary hands me a glass of water.
“Could you write it down?” Mr Spoon asks.
“I could write down some of the ingredients but I don’t remember them all. The words are very complex and long. Some of them have numbers in them. Some of the ingredients are code-like. Some are letters and numbers combined.”
“Not to worry. Organza will work her magic and she’ll be able to get the whole formula from your subconscious easily.” Mr Spoon is sure.
“Do we do it right now?” I ask, not sure I want to spend any more time unconscious or subconscious or whatever it is I was bloody doing.
“Tomorrow boy. Tomorrow. You’ve exhausted yourself. You need to go home and rest. And spend some time in 2026 doing so.” Mr Spoon says.
“Would you like to see Rosie?” Mary asks.
“Yes.” I say. Mary pulls back the curtain and Rosie lies on her hospital bed asleep, wires attached to her, a catheter trailing down the side of her bed and her food bag with tubes pushing the contents of her bowels and bladder into a large square metal container. Thank goodness the tubes are black. I don’t want to see her stuff.
“When will she wake up?” I ask.
“Whenever she thinks she should. What woke you? How’s my Lobadantriosis?” Mr Spoon asks me hurriedly.
“You gave me a glass of Gyliptin. You don’t have Lobadantriosis anymore.” I say.
“I’m still alive at ninety? That’s wonderful! Just wonderful. How do I look? The same? Older? Younger? That wasn’t Gyliptin boy. That was Reflactin. Gyliptin allows you to go forward and Reflactin brings you back to the present time.” Mr Spoon looks chuffed with himself.
“Oh ok. Rosie didn’t know anything about this. Or she didn’t come across as though she did. When I called her she was quite angry and pissed off. She said we hadn’t spoken in twenty years. I cheated on her. Then she swore and hung up on me.” I say.
“She lives in her time then. She was her future self.” Mary says.
“If she is her future self, then she won’t feel the need to come back to 2026.” I say.
“You were your future self, Baxter, and you came back to us.” Mr Spoon says.
“Yes, I was. But I only came back because you gave me Gyliptin. Reflactin.” I correct myself.
“What prompted you to find me, and ask me to help you to come back?” Mr Spoon asks.
“Nothing. I didn’t have to find you. We live together.” I’m grinning.
“We live together? Do we? That’s a bit odd. So you and Rosie are estranged, and I live with you and your girlfriend. Hmm… that’s very odd.” Mr Spoon is stroking the stubble on his chin.
“Yeah. I didn’t get used to it. You walked in, kissed my forehead and called me son. I don’t have a girlfriend.” I say.
“You don’t?” Mr Spoon queries.
“No. Dafina reckons I’m a womaniser. And I’m a bachelor because of it.” I am not impressed. Mr Spoon isn’t either.
“So what else did you find out?” Mary asks.
“I live in Melbourne. I have my own lab in town, I like shopping. Rosie hates my guts and Mr Spoon – you are hot and gay!” I laugh.
“Hot and gay? What do you mean boy?” Mr Spoon asks.
“You are like six feet tall, your bald patch is gone, and you look younger than you do now.” I grin, hoping he overlooks the cheek in it.
“Six feet tall? I have hair? Don’t be absurd.” Mr Spoon disbelieves me.
“I swear on Rosie’s life that’s what I saw. You walked in the door, with a one million-watt smile. You play golf. And you drink short macchiatos. And you like men.” I say.
“This is news to me. I never saw that when I went into the future, no I did not. How does all of this transpire Baxter?” Mr Spoon asks.
“I own my own lab. I am working with your team on the longevity theorem and formula. It exists. It does. And I also patent a drug that gives dwarves a chance to grow in the way they never did. In fact, I think you are my guinea pig, now that I think about it. And it works on you. First time.” I’m grinning.
“Excellent. Well this is marvellous. So I am rather handsome you think?” Mr Spoon raises a brow.
“You are yes.” I say. “You like Rodd & Gunn shirts and trousers.” I add.
“Rodd & Gunn? The clothing? Do I?” Mr Spoon hmms.
“I think I’ll wake Rosie up. Give her some Reflactin. There’s no need for her to continue sleeping if Baxter has the formula for Proxy.” Mary says, leaving us and going over to Rosie’s bedside.
Rosie wakes up a short time later and looks about the room. I have changed back into my own clothes by this stage having been relieved of the feeding tube and the draining tube already. I’m wearing a navy blue hoodie, jeans and a tshirt underneath with some black and white converse chucks. My hair is pulled back into my signature ponytail with one of Rosie’s black hairties.
“Baxter?” Rosie breathes, after she has opened her eyes.
“Rose…” I whisper, smiling at her.
“We broke up. You cheated on me! You called me and I didn’t even care. I didn’t even want to talk to you. I was angry.” Rosie starts crying.
“Rosie, it’s ok. You are here now. Do not cry darling. It’s ok.” Mary says, rubbing Rosie’s back as she sits up in her hospital bed.
“I know Rose. I’m sorry. It was a shock to me too. Forget all of it. I’m never going to cheat on you babe. It’s never gonna happen. I swear.” I say, pushing my two front teeth down into her hand as I hold it.
“I didn’t remember any of this. I was living my life. I’m married with two kids. I’m a painter. I’m not in science. I live in the country.” Rosie is crying.
“So you didn’t remember you were eighteen or that Mr Spoon had asked you to do this?” Mary questions her.
“No, I didn’t. I didn’t know any of it.” Rosie says.
“It would appear the person responsible for Proxy was mentally able to split themselves into two, being eighteen and thirty-eight simultaneously for the purpose of this exercise. And that person was Baxter. You Rosie, I believe, were one person with one idea of yourself, that person being the older you, simply because you had nothing to do with Proxy.” Mr Spoon theorises.
“If Rosie and I were married in the future would she have been two minds in one body like I was?” I ask.
“I think she might have been. Though the fact that you two were estranged means that she was physically far removed from Proxy, thus dissolving the need for her to remember her younger self or remember any of this.” Mr Spoon explains. It’s all fascinating and Rosie and I are enthralled with what we are hearing.
“When can we go home?” Rosie asks.
“Right now, if you like.” Mary says, giving Rosie her clothes.
“That’s it?” Rosie asks.
“That’s it. Organza will see you tomorrow for your hypnosis Baxter. Be here at nine.” Mary says.
“I will be.” I say and smile.
“Do we get paid?” Rosie asks.
“Of course. You have been an immense help to me over these past twenty days team. I have given you extra for your time.” Mr Spoon says, handing Rosie and I an envelope each. We say our thanks, and shake Mr Spoon’s small, short, chubby hand.
“I guess we’ll hear from you in a year or two.” I tell Mr Spoon.
“Yes. You will. I’ll email you about your scholarship.” Mr Spoon smiles.
“Ok. I’ll be waiting for it.” I grin.
We say goodbye to Mary, Rosie gives her a kiss on the cheek, tells her she loves her coloured hair, and then we leave.
The cold night air outside hits us in the face, while we cross the road with our fake suitcases and because it’s so refreshing we decide to walk to Carlton. It isn’t far from where we are.
“You won’t cheat on me, will you babe?” Rosie asks me, worried.
“No, I won’t. I swear I won’t. That was the last thing I was expecting.” I say.
“Me too. I had no idea that we wouldn’t know eachother. Going into it I just assumed that we would always be together.” Rosie says.
“Me too. I lived with Mr Spoon. What the fuck? Out of all people. I thought we’d be married, have a couple of kids, be scientists together.” I say.
“A lot happens in twenty years doesn’t it? I remember all of it.” Rosie says.
“Do you? What else happens?” I ask.
“Well a short while from now you cheat on me with some girl called Chloe. I dump you and leave the whole Proxy thing to you because I figure if we’re not together Mr Spoon can count me out of it. I keep painting, meet a guy called Alexander. He’s a muso. We have two children. Zelle and Joel. You’re a big hot shot in the science world. I keep tabs on you by reading about you in the paper. You make huge steps in medicine. People live to like one hundred and twenty because of you. And euthanasia is legal in Australia because of you. When you graduate that’s one of the first things Government is swayed on.” Rosie finishes.
“Wow. I sound like superman.” I say.
“You kinda are.” Rosie laughs.
“But you hate my guts.” I say, looking down at her and then kissing her hair.
“I do. But I still love you. Deep down. I will always love you.” She smiles.
“Let’s see how much we got paid.” I say. I open my envelope to find a cheque for three thousand dollars inside.
“Good idea.” She says.
“Three grand. What’s yours?” I ask her.
“Three grand too.” She says, closing her envelope and stuffing it back into her bra. And I notice the company who has given me the cheque goes by the fabricated name of The Australian Painter’s Society. They bought my painting apparently.
“Wonder if Mum and Dad are home. Hope they don’t ask us too many questions.” I jam my door key into the door and open it to let us inside.
“I know. What the hell are we going to tell them about a trip we haven’t actually been on?”
Dad is nowhere to be seen and when we get down the hall, Mum’s in the kitchen cooking dinner. Fuck.
“Baxter. My darling. You’re back. Come here. I have missed you.” Mum says hugging me so tightly it’s stifling.
“Mum.” I nod.
“Jetlagged? I bet you’re jetlagged. Rosie, sweetheart, how are you? Sit down. Both of you. I’ll pour us all some tea.” Mum says, flicking the kettle on. Rosie and I station our cases against the side of the couch and sit down on it waiting for Mum’s barrage of questions we already know we won’t be able to answer. Mum hands us our tea and sits opposite us in her soft chair after moving the paper off it.
“How was it?” Mum’s in a very jovial mood. And I’ve just been asleep for twenty days and discovered I’m a womanising cheater in my older age.
“It was awesome. I liked Paris much more than Amsterdam. Amsterdam is a bit of a dive if you ask me. I mean the buildings and rivers are nice. We went on a boat cruise in Amsterdam. We had champagne and some little local baked biscuit things. We rode around the city on bikes during the day. Took heaps of photos. I tried to make sure we were back in our hotel by five. The nightlife is scary. There are lots of stoners on the streets begging for money. I think we must have stayed in a poor area. Paris was better. The shopping was amazing. I got you something actually.” Rosie says, looking for her case. When she rolls it around in front of her she pushes it onto its back and unzips it open. I hold her tea for her in my left hand while I watch her. She pulls out something wrapped in brown tissue paper and hands it to Mum who puts her teacup down onto the glass coffee table in between us. Mum pulls the ends of the yarn and opens the package. Inside is a genuine French felted red beret.
“When did you buy that? I didn’t see you buy that.” I say, because I really did not see her buy that. Like ever!
“Yes, you did. You were with me. When we went into Madam Vaselle’s.” Rosie is smiling. She wants me to play along.
“I don’t remember at all.” I say. This is me playing along.
“Typical Baxter. Never notices anything.” Mum says, getting up and standing in front of the full length mirror next to the dining table where she admires her new beret on her head. Coincidentally she is already wearing a red woollen scarf and they go well together.
“You are a darling Rosie. Come here you. I want to give you a big hug. You know my taste so well.” Mum squishes Rosie in a bear hug and Dad comes in, and walks down the hallway, planting his brief case on top of the benchtop.
“Baxter! Buddy! Come here. I missed you son.” Dad says, kissing my head and ruffling my hair.
“Dad.” I smile. I have missed my dad. I have. But I feel like I saw him just yesterday.
“How was the big trip? Got any money left?”
“Yeah. I’ve got three grand left over. I was good with the spending. It was Rosie who wasn’t.” I laugh and Rosie goes ruffling through her case again. I have no idea what she is looking for. She evidently does. Cognac and cigars.
Rosie gives these to Dad, kisses him on the cheek and then walks over to the sink to put her teacup and saucer down into it.
“Staying for dinner love?” Mum asks her.
“Yeah I’ll stay.” Rosie smiles, returning to her spot on the sofa.
“New red beret Viv. I like it.” Dad says, pulling Mum into him, and kissing her cheek. Mum’s name is Vivien. Dad’s name is Henry.
“Hi darling. How was work?” Mum says, taking her beret off, and re-wrapping it in its tissue paper and then into the brown paper. She and Rosie go about putting cutlery on the table.
“Good. It was good. Very busy. Productive. Made that deadline. By the skin of my teeth.”
“How did your presentation go?” Mum asks him, and I have no idea what presentation she’s referring to, but it isn’t hard to guess, knowing he works in advertising.
“They loved it. They’ll use it.” Dad touches her back then opens the fridge and breaks off a piece of chocolate before closing the fridge door again.
“When will we see it on TV?” I ask.
“Next Tuesday.” Dad is proud.
“What product?” Rosie asks.
“I won’t tell you. I’ll see if you can guess.” Dad smiles.
“Game on.” I say.
“Bring it on.” Rosie says.
“Dinner’s ready now.” Mum says.
We all sit at the table devouring the roast chicken and roast vegetables. It’s the first proper meal Rosie and I have had in three weeks. Not joking.
Later on in my room I ask Rosie how she knew those things about Paris and how those gifts ended up in her case. She tells me that whilst she was Gyliptin-asleep she had as an eighteen year old travelled to Paris for real, buying the very same gifts for her husband’s parents. Though he was her boyfriend then. They don’t marry until she is 23. I still don’t know how they ended up in her case. She doesn’t either. She just remembers buying them and packing them in there in her Gyliptin Sleep, when she was eighteen years old.