Part II

Rise to Power

Chapter 1

Spring break ended Thursday morning, but Andy’s eyes lacked the spark of zeal that was normally present in every first lecture. He fit perfectly among his students, and not unlike most of them, he looked like someone who had just returned from an incomplete adventure in a faraway land.

He rolled down the map of World War II Europe from the top end of the blackboard and began his lecture with the hope that a quick shift in gears would jumpstart the stalled morning. But no matter how hard he tried, his shift stick remained stuck in neutral. The minutes continued to crawl, making his day seem like it was stretching indefinitely.

There was still more than an hour left for the lecture when he checked his wristwatch. He could hear the sound of his own dull voice reciting Germany’s reasons for invading the Soviet Union, like he was having an out-of-body experience. He could have been one of the students in the auditorium listening to the words that came out of his own mouth, he thought, but it also made him aware of the enormous data bank stored in his head. Data that could be used to track down Sarah and her family.

His loss of focus during class returned to haunt him before bedtime, raising concerns that those random episodes were now becoming a trend. He tried to find comfort in the notion that the dream was over and that he could finally let it go, but deep in his heart, a part of him pushed reality aside and made him wish that last night’s dreamless sleep was a stray from the norm. Thoughts of Sarah kept him from falling asleep long after he let his head sink into the soft pillow. His mind kept spinning possible scenarios, until he was convinced there was still a chance he could find himself back in Europe. It prompted him to put on the same outfit he wore for bed the previous night, just in case.

At half past midnight, he lay flat on the firm mattress like a space shuttle pilot assuming position for takeoff, waiting for the countdown to commence. He glanced at the old clock and switched off the alarm mode with clear conscience before he closed his eyes.

When he opened his eyes, he was staring at the ceiling in his bedroom. I must have dozed off, he thought, unwilling to accept the morning light that penetrated through the blinds and brightened his room with warm redness as an indication that he had slept through yet another night. He reluctantly turned to the radio on the nightstand. It was 6:31, the exact time his internal body clock was set to wake him up before the dreams had started.

“Just another morning,” he muttered with the acknowledgment that his old reality regained full control over his life. He kept staring at the ceiling, unable to push his feet over the edge of the bed. He couldn’t go back to sleep either, which made him feel like he was caught in limbo between two worlds so far apart, yet so closely tied together.

With no sign of a power utility truck and a mob of angry neighbors on his way out of the parking lot, Andy felt a sting of disappointment, as if the whole power shortage mystery was the last tangible remnant of the dream he could cling to. Now that the street was practically empty, he couldn’t even get his foot to step on the gas pedal and move on.

Having a half day did not keep that Friday from crawling along like the Thursday before it. At half past noon, Andy found himself sitting by the desk in his office, gazing at the air and thinking about what he could have done differently back in Warsaw. “Snap out of it!” he said out loud, realizing he was going down a steep dark path. On the drive home, he was determined to fight the melancholy that crept from within the only way he knew how. He had to get busy. As soon as he got to his apartment, he tackled the first task on his agenda—a well overdue spring cleaning. He began by dusting the bookshelves, furniture, and the upright piano in the living room. He then thoroughly swept and washed the floor and scrubbed every tile in the bathroom and kitchen. Cleaning the nearly empty fridge and kitchen cabinets did not take long, and as soon as he was done, he went grocery shopping and filled up all the vacant spaces. He topped the evening off with a home-cooked hearty dinner accompanied by a glass of red wine that turned into a second and then a third glass. It set the course for a much-needed good night’s sleep, but before heading to bed, Andy sat by the piano and began playing the tune he thought he had heard while waiting blindfolded in the Costa Rica jungle villa. He slowly shook his head. It felt like a century had passed since then.

He spent the rest of the weekend methodically tackling everything that was swept under the rug during the past week. By Sunday evening, he was caught up on all work-related and personal matters, and yet he still felt a trace of the emotional burden from his last visit. It compelled him to call his parents. He had a brief cordial chat with his dad but ended up spending nearly two hours talking with his mother. Without disclosing any details pertaining to his mysterious experiences, Andy spoke about the stressful few days he had undergone and how emotionally and physically drained he was. Before signing off, he repeatedly told his mother how much he loved and missed her and how glad he was to hear her voice, which was very untypical and raised some concerns on her end, but Andy assured his mom that the trouble was all behind him and that there was nothing to worry about. When he hung up, he let out a long sigh. He felt like a heavy burden was lifted off his shoulders and that he could breathe again. He slept well that night, and when he woke up, he felt refreshed and ready for the new day and new week to begin. It was a good feeling, like he had gotten his old self back.