I had a curious feeling when I walked into Stephon’s a couple of days later. This wasn’t surprising, since Stephon’s was a curious place, but that wasn’t the source of the strangeness I sensed. Instead, it was the incongruous fact that I had a response to Stephon’s even more incongruous request: to return with my greatest fantasy for Melissa. If I could remake the laws of physics, if I could wrinkle the fabric of time, I knew exactly what I would do with such power.
Of course, there were no customers in the store. Stephon always dressed well, if casually, and he had a fortune of jewelry in this small space. He had to get his money from somewhere. Was the store a front for some illegal operation? Did he think it was funny that I actually came here to shop?
Stephon offered me a friendly nod when I came in. “Good to see you again, Mr. Timian.”
“Thank you, Stephon. As promised.”
“Do you have something fabulous for me?”
He smiled as broadly as his narrow face allowed. “I very well might.”
I smiled as well, getting a little excited about what was to come. “That’s great. Let me see what you were able to find.”
Stephon turned and walked toward the back room. Just before he entered the doorway, though, he stopped and faced me again. “I had a request of you, didn’t I?”
In some ways, I had hoped that he had forgotten. I wasn’t sure I could say what I was thinking out loud. “You did, yes.”
“A fantasy for you and your fiancée.”
“That was what you requested.”
“And did you think of one?”
I suddenly felt very uncomfortable. This seemed like such an intimate thing to share with someone I barely knew. “Is this really necessary?”
Stephon’s shoulders relaxed and he tilted his head to the side. He walked back toward the counter. “Of course it isn’t. If you haven’t come up with something or if you’d rather not tell me about it, I understand. It’s just a little question I ask from time to time when I see things in certain people. I thought it might enhance this whole transaction for you.”
Why that didn’t sound incredibly creepy to me, I don’t know. The entire experience had become fairly surreal. Just to make things a little more Dali-esque, I suddenly found myself wanting to share this with my jeweler. My eyes landed on a silver phoenix brooch where a golden elephant had been two days before. I shook my head briskly and then looked up at Stephon.
“This is probably going to sound ridiculous to you,” I said.
“I think that’s very unlikely.”
“It’s pretty outlandish.”
“My fantasy is to be able to go back to the beginning of Melissa’s life and watch her become the person she is today.”
“You mean travel back in time?”
“I guess, but not really that. I don’t want to be an orderly in the nursery or her third grade teacher or anything like that. I’d just like to be able to see her. Like in a home movie, but in three dimensions and with all five senses.”
Stephon nodded more broadly now.
“It’s pretty silly, huh?” I said.
“Oh no, I don’t think so at all. Why do you want this?”
I looked up at the ceiling and then around the room.
“I don’t know. I just feel like I missed out, you know? I mean I have never even come close to feeling about another person what I feel about Melissa, and when I looked at her baby pictures the other night, I just got the strongest sense that I’ve been, I don’t know, diminished by not being with her for her first thirty years. I really want to hear the first words she spoke as a baby. I want to see her having a tea party with her dolls. You asked me to come up with a fantasy and then only a few hours later, this popped into my head. Now that it has, I can’t get it out.”
“That’s a very good fantasy, Mr. Timian.”
“Not that I can do anything about it.” Stephon shrugged.
“What was that?” I said.
“What was what?”
“That little gesture. Why’d you do that?”
Stephon held my gaze firmly. I truly don’t think I could have looked away. “Sometimes,” he said, “the impossible isn’t entirely impossible.”