He arrived at the back of taxi cab during rush hour, car horns blasting off in a symphony of impatience. The driver honked his own horn at the stalling minivan ahead of him and threw his hands up, cursing.
Hanzo looked around and stared at the woman seated next to him. It was Meisa. Dressed in a sunflower dress, sunglasses and a large brimmed beige hat, she gazed at the long line of cars outside her window, bored.
Realizing that no one was paying any attention to him, Hanzo shook his head, convinced that he was dreaming. Checking a cheap watch on his hand, he saw that it was just past noon. There were fingerprint marks on the passenger side window. He could count the number of springs he saw from the damaged upholstery on the back of the front passenger’s seat.
As a wave of confusion washed over him, Hanzo doubled over in his seat and grabbed his head. Memories he never had flooded his mind. Meisa was alive. Her father hadn’t died yet, which meant she hadn’t yet inherited his money. Which meant, by extension, that they weren’t rich. But they used to be. He remembered that.
“Are you…?” she began, concern on her face.
Once the confusion was over, Hanzo sat up and found himself to be alive in another life. A life he had never lived before. He stared again at Meisa, who was looking at him somewhat worriedly.
“Are you alright?” she asked.
He didn’t know what to say. Reaching up, he gingerly cupped her face with his hands and watched her recoil some. There was some residual anger there from something recent.
Of course, he thought. I forgot where we were going.
Hanzo and Meisa were on their way to their ward office to see a judge and mediator. Today they were going to file for a mutual consent divorce.
“Am I dreaming?” he asked her.
She said nothing, at first, then turned to stare out the window again. “You are if you think you’re going to get anything from me.”
“This is all wrong,” he said, his heart sinking. “You’re supposed to be dead.”
She turned and looked at him sharply, saying nothing.
Hearing snippets of the conversation amidst the honking, the cab driver glanced in his rear view at them and pulled around a string of cars, exiting the highway.
“The freeway’s backed up for miles,” he explained. “I’m going to cut through downtown. Faster this way.”
“You’re unbelievable, you know that?” she said, shaking her head. “Maybe my father was right. Maybe you did marry me for our wealth.”
Hanzo looked at his wrinkled hands and then out his window. If this was real, he felt, then he had woken up to a living nightmare.
“Hey Hanz,” the man’s voice came from the front of the cab.
Looking up from his hands, Hanzo saw the man from his dream sitting in the passenger seat. He was dressed the same way as before and was wearing sunglasses like the ones the taxi driver wore.
“Sorry you had to die back there,” he said. “Sucks how you went bonkers after Meisa’s death. Been there before and I wish I could tell you that it gets easier, because it doesn’t.”
Hanzo glanced between the man in the front seat, Meisa and the taxi driver. No one acknowledged the fact that he was there.
“I think I’ve lost my mind,” Hanzo said.
“Finally,” Meisa said, her gaze never leaving her window. “We can agree on something.”
“No, man,” the stranger said. “You were crazy before. Now you’re just miserable. If it’s any consolation, I’ve been around that block a few times. And trust me–my ex-wife is much scarier than yours.”
“I don’t want a divorce,” Hanzo said. “I love her.”
Both the taxi driver and Meisa looked at one another in the rear view, both unsure as to who Hanzo was speaking to. The driver decided to ignore getting involved in a couple’s spat and focused on getting to the ward office.
Meisa decided that he was speaking out loud and eyed him suspiciously. “It’s too late for that. You’ve made your bed and now you’re going to sleep in it.”
“I know, man,” the stranger said. “Love hurts, what can I say? But listen, we get another shot at things. You and a couple other people. I can help you with that, but first you gotta do me a solid.”
Hanzo wasn’t waking up from this nightmare, he realized. He closed his eyes and sighed. “Who are you and what do you want?”
The driver kept looking worriedly at Hanzo. Meisa glanced over, frowned and shook her head.
“Who I am isn’t important,” stranger said, extending a hand to Hanzo. “What is important is that you let me in and do what I tell you to do. Do you think you can do that?”
“You speak very good Japanese for an American,” Hanzo said, halfheartedly taking the stranger’s hand. “What do you mean let me in?”
“Your mind,” stranger said. “Well I’m already there, but I think need you to accept me. If it worked for the little girl, it should work for you too. Don’t worry, we’re just going to take a little trip.”
The stranger held on to Hanzo’s hand and wouldn’t let go.
Hanzo’s brows furrowed. “I don’t understand. Where are we going?”
The taxi driver looked somewhat uncertain. “The ward office…?”
“Pay no attention to him,” Meisa said. “He’s clearly lost his mind.”
The stranger smiled, eyeing the other two people in the cab. “We’re going to the Nowhere to meet up with the others. But first, I need you to die. Again.”