"Where are we?" I asked.
"I think...what are they called--" said Bud.
"There's a woman over there eating a sandwich while wearing white gloves," I said. The headache was beginning to fade. "Who wears gloves to eat? Who wears gloves for that matter?"
"Automat! That's where we are." said Bud triumphantly. I looked over at him. He was wearing a clean set of blue pajamas, thank goodness. I looked down. I was wearing my zebra-striped pajamas and a fuzzy pink microfiber robe. We were both barefoot.
"Yes, but why?" I asked.
"Maybe it's some sort of shared dream?" he asked. I punched him in the arm. "Ow!"
"No, I don't think so." I said. We were standing in the door way. The room was brightly lit with fluorescent lights. The walls were painted a pale bluish sea green. There was one full wall at the end that was covered in little lighted windows that housed various food items. Each of the windows had a coin slot next to it. Several people in crisp white uniforms could be seen working behind the windows, filling in blank windows. I turned and looked behind us. Outside it was dark and raining. People were bustling by on a city sidewalk with brightly colored umbrellas extended. It was a far cry from our farmhouse bedroom that we found ourselves in not two minutes ago.
"I think we should sid down," said Bud. "People are beginning to look at us."
They were. The automat was filled with patrons sitting at booths with green vinyl seats. There was also a counter with round high stools. Everyone looked like a well-dressed refugee from the fifties. Men wore suits and overcoats and had hats resting next to them on their tables. The women all wore pouffy dresses with crinolines peaking out from the hem. They wore thick boiled wool coats. And they all had gloves. There was but one child in the whole establishment, a rather sour-faced girl with a yellow balloon on a string that bobbed dangerously near one of the overhead lights. And everyone was turning to look at us. All the conversations that were in progress during our arrival dulled down.
"Yes, I think so," I said. We found an empty booth and slid in, slumping down in an effort to be visually concealed, but that didn't work very well.
"Maybe I should get something," said Bud.
"It's coin operated. I don't know about you, but I don't usually take coins with me to bed."
"Yeah," said Bud thoughtfully. The moment before we arrived he was sleeping in bed and I was still up reading a novel. His hair was tousled and he looked sort of dazed.
"This is all very strange," I said.
"Yeah," he agreed.
"Do you remember what happened?" I asked.
"I was dreaming," he said. "It's fading now." He rubbed his face vigorously, then looked at me.
"What did you dream about?" I asked, leaning towards him.
"I think I was working on this organic farm," he chuckled. "It's an odd thing to be doing in a dream isn't it?"
"You know, to be dreaming about dirt under your fingernails and the like," he looked at his hands appraisingly. There was no dirt under his fingernails, but he was also a very clean individual.
"But you are," I said.
"I am what?" he said.
"You're a farmer. So am I. We live on a farm. We supply nearby restaurants in Napa Valley with organic greens."
"What?" Bud smiled tentatively, and leaned back against the green vinyl.
"You really are a farmer," I said.
"No," he said, drawing out the vowel. "That can't be."
"Okay then, what do you do?"
"Well I..." he looked off into space. "I...I don't know." He looked perplexed.
"Believe me, you're a farmer. You're just disoriented."
"No, I'm not. This is all very real," he gestured towards the room, "but the dream, I knew it was a dream. It could not be real."
"Why did you say then that this was a shared dream when we first got here?"
"I was just joking."
"But you agree that it was strange?"
"Well, yes." He scratched his head. "Boy I could use some coffee. Do you think anyone is going to come round?"
"We can't pay for it," I said. "I don't even know where we are or how to get home, or what to do next." In truth I was feeling a little panicky. Bud took my hands in his and smiled.
"I think we just have to figure out which one is the dream and which one is real," he said.
"I don't think either is a dream," I said.
"Well, one has to be," he said.
"Why?" I asked.
"Well, because, I guess," he said.
"That's a lame argument," I said.
Just then a middle-aged woman in a white uniform, hairnet, and a white cap came over with two coffee mugs on their own dishes and placed them in front of us. They were filled with steaming black coffee.
"Uh, thanks," said Bud and I together.
"Cream or sugar?" asked the woman.
"Both," said Bud enthusiastically. The woman reached into a pocket and brought out creamer containers and packets of sugar, then bustled away.
"You can't drink that?"
"Why not?" said Bud, tearing into a sugar packet.
"We can't pay for it? Haven't you been paying attention?"
"Yes, but I think it's complementary. The must make all their money on the coin-op stuff." He poured in a creamer.
"That's been in her pocket all day," I said.
"I don't care," said Bud. He sipped the coffee with pleasure.
"Great," I said.
"That's a nice dress by the way," said Bud. "Did I buy that for you?"
"What?" I asked.
"Your dress," said Bud with a touch of irritation.
"What are you talking about?"
"Your dress, the one you're wearing."
"I'm wearing my zebra--" I said as I looked down. "Ooh." I was wearing a floral sundress with a long red open coat. My skin went goose-pimply. I looked up at Bud. He was smiling at me, and wearing a gray flannel suit. "What on Earth!" I exclaimed a little too loudly.
"Keep it down please ma'am," said a man in the booth behind Bud.
"I'm sorry," I said.
"What's gotten into you?" asked Bud.
"We were both just wearing pajamas, and now we're all dressed up on this weird old-fashioned stuff."
"Old fashioned? How can you say that? And besides, why would we ever wear our pajamas out of the house? That's ridiculous."
"I'm really confused," I said. "What year do you think it is?"
"1954 of course," said Bud.
"What were we doing before we came into the automat?"
"We were out at the theater," said Bud.
"Really? You didn't just dream you were a farmer?"
"What?" Bud laughed. "Why would I be dreaming?"
"You just said earlier, while were were sitting here, that you were just dreaming you were a farmer."
"No, of course not," said Bud. "We were discussing the show. I'm not sure how we even got started on the subject."
I folded my arms and pressed my back into the seat.
"It's like somehow the past is replacing itself. Being erased and written over."
"What are you talking about darling?" asked Bud chuckling.
"Maybe I'm the one dreaming," I said. "Maybe it's up to me to get out."
"Of this reality, if that's what it is."
"You seem to be awfully philosophical this evening," said Bud.
"Mmmmn," I said. I wasn't sure anymore whether discussing this with him any longer would be productive.
"Would you like anything to eat?" asked Bud. "I'm going to get a sandwich."
"No, I'm not hungry," I said.
Bud got up and walked toward the wall with the little windows. He hemmed and hawed over the choices, stooping to look at the lower ones, then standing up to make mental calculations about what would be best. He stood aside politely as other people came up and made their choices much more quickly. The behavior was so Bud-like but somehow out of place. I don't think I'd ever seen him in a suit before, not even at our own wedding.
He finally came back with two sandwiches and a bowl of green Jell-O cubes.
"I wasn't sure what to get," he said. "And I thought you might be hungry so you might want one of these anyway. I think this one is cucumber," he pointed to a crustless white bread sandwich with a layer of light green peeking out from between the slices, "and this one is ham and cheese." It had a crust, but was still almost flourescently white. It was surprising because Bud wouldn't normally be caught dead eating something that processed.
"I'm really not hungry," I said.
"I'm glad it's Saturday tomorrow," said Bud.
"Why is that?" I asked, watching him munching on one half of the cucumber sandwich.
"We can sleep in for one," said Bud, "but my boss has been riding me pretty hard lately. The weekend is such a relief."
"And what is your job?" I asked. Bud looked at me quizzically.
"Honey, dear, I hope you're joking."
"Just...humor me Bud."
"I'm an assistant to an architect," he said.
"Of course you are," I said, a little smugly. Bud put down the sandwhich.
"What's gotten into you?" asked Bud.
"So it's 1954, right?" I asked.
"Yes, of course," said Bud.
"So, that's before the women's rights movement, and before, actually, the civil rights movement. It's before computers and the internet."
"And who knows what else. At least there's indoor plumbing."
"Of course there's indoor plumbing," said Bud.
"TV is still in black and white, though, at least the channels aren't cluttered up with reality programming. So there's that."
"I don't understand--"
"We're from the future," I said.
"You've just seemed to have forgotten about it," I said.
"No it's not. I don't intend to remain here. I liked our life on the farm."
"Yes, the farm. We were our own bosses. We worked on Saturdays, but we were our own bosses." I looked out the window at the dark dreary night. Then I closed my eyes tight. Maybe it was a dream and all I had to do was fall asleep in order to wake up.
"Have some Jell-O," said Bud, pushing the bowl towards me. He slid a spoon under my fingers. I opened my eyes.
"No thanks," I said, feeling defeated.
"Come on, I know how much you like Jell-O." He jostled the dish to make it wiggle.
"It's make from boiled hooves and tendons," I said. Bud laughed.
"You can't think of it that way," he said. I picked up the spoon and scooped up a cube. It was cold in my mouth and started to melt. Somehow it made me feel better.
"What shall we do tomorrow?" asked Bud.
"I don't know," I said.
"Should we go out for breakfast or eat in?"
"I don't know," I said. "What were we talking about earlier?"
"The film of course," said Bud.
"Yes," I said. I picked up second cube.
"You were remarking on how Van Johnson's character was just a way for Gene Kelly's character to express his inner thoughts. You thought it was a cheap device."
"Yes," I said. "What an odd film that was. A town being lost to time."
"Yes, it was," said Bud.