The Best Imitation of Myself
I tend to be at the office late. I get googly eyed from staring at a computer screen all day. I should probably start wearing glasses again.
I think I had an hallucination the other night. I’d closed the door for a little privacy while I called home. When I was done, I looked up and standing in front of my desk was me, at 21.
“Dude.” Me said.
“Dude.” I replied in kind.
I looked at his — my — head, sitting atop this tree stump neck with lumps of trapezius muscles behind. “No you’re not,” I said.
“Yes I . . . I mean you’re fat.”
“No I’m not!” I thought about it for a moment; to him I must have looked like a fun house mirror inverted. “I guess I am.”
“I quit working out?”
“Well, not as much as I used to. You used to. I used to. I burned out. Five times a day since I was 12? Forget about it. Who has that kind of time anymore.”
I looked a little nervous. I was.
“What are you doing here?” I asked.
“Uh, I don’t know. I was . . . I skipped Soc 81 and fell asleep on the couch in the lounge watching ‘Star Trek.'”
“Hmm,” I said. “Must be some kind of temporal anomaly.”
“Whatever,” me said. “Dude, where am I?”
“Fuck, dude, I’m still in Tennessee?”
“I never got out, huh?” Me was utterly disappointed in me.
“No, you did, for awhile. You came back to work. DC didn’t work out like you thought it would.”
“DC?” He looked at me, and then the ground. “What happened to med school?”
“You backed out.”
“Really?” He looked relieved. “That’s okay, I guess.” Then he noticed the LCD computer monitor. “What is that?”
that, dickhead. I mean . . . that’s your monitor, right? What are you doing?”
“It’s a web page.”
I wondered how much of that stuff I should be telling him. There was so much I was dying to tell him.
“You remember what happened to Kirk when they went back to 1967.”
“Yeah. They couldn’t reveal what they knew about the future to that Air Force pilot.”
“So . . .”
“So you can’t tell me anything about my future.”
“Isn’t this some kind of paradox? I mean, we’re existing in the same space. Is that possible?”
“You’re here. So it is. Then again I suppose you’re always here.”
“That sounds like something a middle-aged psuedo-philosphical gas bag might say.”
I laughed . . . a little. “Smart ass.”
“Hope I still am,” Me said.
“So says your wife.”
“Who is she?”
“You don’t know her.”
“I am still a smart ass. Of course I don’t. I mean, you know.”
Quickly I moved the photos out of sight.
“What’s she like? She fine?”
I just looked at him.
“Okay, okay.” He searched the room. I know he was looking to see if I’d missed something, forgotten a memento in another part of the room.
“I like your hair,” Me said. “Am I a Rasta?”
“Oh. Well, it’s cool, man.”
“Took me . . . us . . . years to get the guts.”
“So I guess I’m not a rock star.”
“What would a rock star be doing sitting in an office at 6 PM?”
“Counting his money.”
“Touche,” I said. “I’m not a rock star, nor a movie star.”
“And you aren’t going to tell me what I am.”
“You know too much already.”
Me picked up my bottle of water and stared at it, looking quite puzzled. “You bought this?” Me asked.
“I’m sure the concept makes no sense to you.”
“People have grown stupid in the future. Oh, wait, is the water that bad? We have to buy the shit now?”
“No, we just buy it. I’m not sure why. I end up refilling it with water from the fountain anyway.”
Me was getting ancy, he was tapping his foot on the carpet. I remembered the shirt he was wearing, a white, navy and gold Le Coq Sportif rugby. I found it in a box a few weeks ago when I was helping my parents clean out their flooded basement. I tried it on, however, the years of beatings it took in the dorm laundry machine had rendered it a size too small.
“You going to ask about Mom and Dad?” I asked.
Though he hadn’t yet developed the cynical suspicion of the motives of others I’m saddled with today, he grew more nervous. “Why?” me asked.
“They’re fine.” I said.
“Oh. They still in Knoxville?”
“It’s not like I don’t want to know about them, it’s like, I want to know what’s going to happen to me! Did any of my dreams come true?”
“Yes and no. You begin to dream differently over time. The dreams you had while falling asleep on the couch in Lewis are different from the ones I had five years ago.”
“No it doesn’t. You’re going to dream things in a couple of years that you didn’t even consider before. And . . . they will come true, in a way.”
“Only fools and kings make real their wildest dreams.”
“Ha,” I said. “Wendy and Lisa. I still listen to that record sometimes.”
“They never got back together with Prince?”
I considered the gravity of releasing that bit of information and sending him back with it. “No. They do soundtracks for popular TV shows now.”
“Hey,” Me said. “I’m gonna just ask you about some people and you can chose to answer or not, okay?”
I was relentless.
“Okay,” Me said, What about _______?”
“You mean like, move on forget about her, or move on next question?”
I didn’t respond either way.
“Still best friends.”
Me smiled for the first time.
He kept tossing out names and places and things and I kept biting my lip. I thought, Yeah. No. Lesbian. She was an idiot. Don’t take that class. He owes you money from when you lent him your library card. That car is a piece of crap. Study harder. Go to film school instead. You were right about buying that Nike stock. Don’t listen to him, his motives are totally selfish. Call your brother more, he needs you, even though he feels he can’t tell you.
“Well,” Me said, sitting back in the guest’s chair. “This is a great use of my time. NOT!”
“That ‘NOT’ thing stopped being funny about 15 years ago.”
He flipped me the middle finger and turned away from me, looking at the wall instead. Me was really pissed.
“Does it really matter,” Me said, still looking away, “what you tell me? Dude, you have all the answers now. I could do everything I . . . we always wanted, knowing what you know.”
And he could. He’s as smart as I am, but hopeful, with the energy of youth. He could change me . . . he could change the world, perhaps. It damned sure could use it. Still, did I want things changed? What if through some miracle I narrowly avoided becoming the asshole of all assholes, or worse yet, a Republican. I could print out a script of The Matrix and a few months of stock reports, he makes millions, buys a Porsche, and drives drunk with some video models partying in the back seat and runs off a cliff.
“Man, you’re lame. I’m out. See ya hate ta be ya.” He got up, opened the door and walked into the empty hallway.
“Where are you going?”
“Just gonna walk.”
“Like you did after that night with _______? You need a Walkman?”
Me didn’t say a word, just kept going.
“Dude!” I said.
“She’s from Japan.”
“Geeeeettttt tha fuck outta heah.” He looked at me, squinting as I do to let you know I’m in cynic’s mode. “How did that happen?” Still squinting. “Nevermind.”
“You have a son,” I said.
“I figured. You dress like somebody’s dad.”
“So, where are you going, really?”
“I’d like to get back to Chapel Hill.”
“I was going to offer you a ride, but . . .”
“Forget it, man. I can’t hang with you. First of all, you’re old. And ‘B,’ we might cause a rift in the space-time continuum or something. So, guess I’ll see you around. NOT.”
So he walked, and I let him go.
One more thing.
“You’re a writer,” I shouted, my voice echoing in the empty hallway.
“You write. And you get paid. It’s nothing like you wanted, yet, I mean . . . you did it.”
He walked past the groggy security guard and through the glass doors into the parking lot. I checked myself to see if I was beginning to disappear, considering all the potential damage done to my time line. I seemed intact. Perhaps his future didn’t seem all that disgusting to him. Or maybe all that “Star Trek” stuff is simply bullshit psuedo-science. I ran back to the entrance to the building, but he was gone. I wasn’t.