I hear birds. Their chirping slides up the scale of my consciousness slowly, like the sunlight creeping across the room. It is cold but bright. I know this because I can see red behind my closed eyelids, not black. Is it already time to wake up? My alarm hasn’t gone off yet. I remember it is winter, and my resolution to make the most of the low morning temperatures to get a short walk in. I open my eyes, and wait for the pain from my back to hit, like it does every day.
…and it does not. The surprise prevents me from noticing little things, like the curtains or the painting on the wall, and I suddenly realise that Angel is next to me, cuddled up against me for warmth against the cold. The shock then comes; this is a scene from a few years ago. How did I get here? Am I dreaming? I pinch myself, and the pain startles me. I guess I am not dreaming, after all. I pet Angel, and she wakes up lazily, with a giant yawn exposing her tiny teeth. She is a cocker spaniel, a giant heart wrapped up in a tiny body. I suddenly know what I want to do with… this. Whatever this is, it is a gift. I do not intend to waste it.
I get out of the bed – no pain. No pain! – and check on my mother. She is sleeping soundly. She is younger, too. I make her some tea and wake her. She wakes up, accepts the cup gratefully, and I tell her that we’re going to the beach. We all get ready in a jiffy, and walk out to my car. My old car is there as well, and we all jump in and head to the beach. As always, Angel hangs half her body out of the window, with her ears flapping in the breeze. I look over and try my best to memorise that scene that I took for granted all those years.
The beach is deserted, the water clean. I see dolphins leaping about between the small fishing vessels in the distance. I sit under a tree with my mother and watch Angel run about, unsuccessfully chasing crabs, then digging holes to get at them. She tires quickly. We share the food and water we picked up on the way to the beach – vada pav, and water. Everyone gets an equal share, despite Angel weighing an eighth of my weight. It gets warmer, and we leave the beach. Mother wants a nap, so I get back into my bed (the house still is cool, despite the sunlight) and I open up the latest Jack Reacher thriller. I’ve been waiting for the new one for a year now! Two hours later, I lie back, book finished. It was everything I was hoping it would be, and then some. Reacher rules.
It is lunchtime, and I order schnitzel for us. What a time, where German restaurants deliver to my house! Time to take a lesson from Angel and nap.
My alarm goes off. It is four o’clock – time for some basketball! I find my old college jersey, and it fits me once again. I decide against it, and pull out my Tim Duncan jersey instead. It fits me so much better. I lace up my shoes, and head out and find my old gang of dogs waiting for me. They’re all there: Patches, Dobby, Wolfie, George, Gina, Lizard Boy, Poppy… Even the two cats I knew are here, and they are friends with the dogs. I know this should surprise me, but this day has been full of pleasant surprises so far, so I roll with it and spend some time playing with all of them. Basketball calls, though, and I head to the court.
My school court has been renewed, and its blacktop has a wonderful mural on it. The massive old trees are back, and we run around, playing in their shade. I run fast, tirelessly. My legs obey my every command. I revel in the feeling of no pain in my knees. I even manage a couple of blocks and a few three-point shots, which are something I would have never even attempted in a game otherwise. We cut, pass, shoot, and rebound like a well-oiled machine. Our opponents are worthy, and they put up a tough but fair fight. It is a close game, and at the end of two hours, we win by the slimmest of margins – a single basket that goes in as the game clock winds down to zero.
Physically spent, I walk home with a wide grin on my face, to find a couple of messages from Neville. “Do you want to jam? Preethesh and Craig are free and coming over. We’re setting up the drum kit this evening.” I whoop with joy, shower quickly, take my amp, pedalboard and guitar, and drive off to Neville’s. Everyone has set up and is waiting for me. We then proceed to deafen ourselves with music (or noise, as Neville’s neighbours usually call it) for the next two hours. However, today, nobody complains. It must be because we’re so in sync that there isn’t a single wrong note. I rip off multiple solos that would make Guthrie Govan proud. “Where did I suddenly get such chops from?”, I wonder for a split second before I remind myself to go with the flow. We wrap up with a slow blues jam in A minor. I remember all the hurt I have been through, and somehow manage to channel it through my fingers. The music suddenly stops, everyone staring at me with tears in their eyes. I apologise, but Neville says “No, man. That was beautiful. Thank you.” To get such high praise from my childhood friend that I’ve looked up to as a musician for decades is really something. We pack up, I leave for home.
Angel greets me with her unbridled enthusiasm once again. I order Chicken Bombay Fried Rice, a speciality available only near home, and treat myself to a Coke with it. Angel begs me for some of my chicken. I can’t resist her puppy eyes, so she wins. Dinner done, there is nothing left to do but fall asleep. I give my mother a hug, and ask Angel if she’d like to sleep in the bed with me. She says yes. We cuddle under the blanket. As I drift off, I know this day has been too perfect to be true. Tomorrow, Angel will be gone and my aches and pains will be back.
But today… today has been perfect. And I am okay with it.