The past week has been a bit nuts, with the start of the semester, which explains the delay!
This time, tumbling toward a point earlier in my life, I feel as if I’m going with eyes open, staring not at my own worldline but at the liminal spaces just on the edge of it. Shapes flash into and out of my view as I roll past—a face much like mine, looking back at me; an infant staring wide-eyed into some moment in my early adulthood; a glum-faced college boy barely paying attention to the life unfolding before him.
They’re… me. They’re all me. What does this mean? I realize I’m holding my breath, staring in disbelief. Is this… episode not the the first time this has happened to me? Have I done this before, and just not… remembered?
Something catches my eye on the worldline itself—a strange tendril snaking out toward me—and then, when I touch it, that elastic sensation of snapping back into time surges through me again.
The transition is almost seamless, now: no sense of disjunction, no feeling of confusion at all. I know where and when I am, how old I was. I know I’m where that boy I saw, in my Montreal apartment, came from, where he’ll return to when… no, he’s already returned. The trip is instantaneous. He’s already back. That’s him, out in the other room, staring at the television. Is he distracted? Does he remember? Or has it all slipped away already?
A jingle plays in the background: “Who wears short shorts… we wear short shorts… if you dare wear short shorts, Nair for short shorts…”
I laugh, now used to the bizarre sense of humor—the universe’s? mine?—that seems to determine when and where I appear in my own past. I can guess why I’m here.
I cross the room and, quietly, lift the mattress up to look underneath it. I’m right: there’s a piece of paper under there, an image of bare skin printed on thin glossy paper, crisscrossed with harsh white creases from being folded and unfolded multiple times, pored over by confused kids, after a friend discovered it in a field outside his house. A souvenir of shock, bafflement, and excitement. What can I say…
I grab a foolscap notebook and begin to write:
Everyone looks like this
beneathunder theirclothing. Things aren’t what they seem right now.
Someday this uncertainty will seem quaint, nostalgic. You’ll have advice for yourself. “Relax! Respect yourself! Take risks!” (Smart ones.)
But your younger self will have to muddle through.
(I can’t help you much… but you’re not alone.)
I fold the note into the page, and as the rubber-band feeling builds up within me, I consider trying to move the papers to some safer place, somewhere my mom won’t find them. But then I remember what she said when she did find them—something useful, in fact: “That’s not real life, that’s fantasy. Don’t be confused by it.” Terse, but there was a useful truth in it, even if I had to dig it out later on.
I decide against moving the papers, and tuck them back under my mattress, grinning and shaking my head as I do with the silent thought, “Who do you think makes your bed, dumbass.” In the next room, I can hear a voice on the TV: I’d recognize it anywhere, it’s Suzanne Somers’ voice, and my curiosity takes over.
I take few steps to peer out into the basement lounge, but before I reach the door, I’m catapulted back out time. I linger for a moment, getting a good look at the child seated before the TV, laughing whatever ditzy thing Chrissy had just said. I’m not alone, here on the threshold of this moment. There’s an infant here, hovering in the void, laughing and pointing at the kid in front of the TV; an older man, vague and insubstantial somehow, looking straight at me and smiling; a morose looking college boy, looking at the old man…
Were they always here? I open my mouth to speak, but an incredible force yanks me away through time, with only a strange image caught in my mind: the older men winked as I tumbled away. I’m so confused I don’t even registere where I’m headed next.