After grabbing a beer, I walked back into the living room and found a man sitting on my couch. “Who are you?” I demanded.
“I’m me,” he answered with a grin. “I also happen to be you, plus about twenty-five years.”
I stared at him for several seconds before saying, “I don’t know who you are, but if you don’t leave now, I’ll call the police.”
He chuckled and then pointed above his right eye. “See this scar? When I was six I was trying to fly and hit my head on a coffee table. You have a similar scar, don’t you?”
I rubbed my right brow, “I hit a coffee table when I was six …who are you?”
“When you were in the eighth grade you had a crush on your English teacher, Mrs. Oyler.”
“You used to steal cigarettes from your dad. You ran over the McGregor’s cat. Sometimes you would cheat during your weekly poker games in college. Even though you act nice and friendly towards her, you fantasize about cramming your boss in a crate and mailing her to Togo. Why Togo? Because it sounds exotic.”
I stared at him for a long time. “I never told anyone about Mrs. Oyler, or any of those other things. Who are you?”
He stood up, put his hand on my shoulder, and walked me into the bathroom. We both looked in the mirror. “Notice a resemblance?”
His hair was thinner and grayer, and he had a few wrinkles, but he was me.
We walked back into the living room. “What happens to me, um us, in the future?”
With a grin he answered, “Well, you got older.”
When he did not continue, I asked, “That’s it?”
“Do you want me to spoil the surprises?”
“OK, how did you get here?”
Slowly I asked, “Where did you get a time machine?”
“From a door-to-door time machine salesperson.” When I did not reply, he punched my shoulder. “Come on. I remember having a sense of humor.” When I still did not answer, he smiled to himself and explained, “When you think of a time machine, you picture a device, something you stand in and hit a button, and you’re in 1492. What I used was far less tangible.”
“What does that mean?”
He put his hand back on my shoulder and asked, “Let me ask you a question. Do you think you could explain an airplane to Napoleon?”
I shrugged. “It would take time, but I’m sure he could get the general idea.”
He laughed. “‘It would take time.’ I can’t explain time travel in the time I have, but you will learn all eventually.”
“OK, you must have come back for a reason, so why did you come back?”
“That’s not an answer.”
“Yes it is.”
“If you don’t knock it off, I’m going to hit you.”
“To fully explain why I came back would take longer than explaining how I came back.”
“Can you at least give me a clue?”
With a shrug he replied, “I needed to use my frequent traveler years.”
People had always told me that my sense of humor was annoying. I was beginning to understand why. Getting nowhere by asking about myself, I tried a different approach. “Are you changing the past by being here?”
“No. The past is the past.”
“But your past is my future.”
“That is correct.”
“Does that mean I have no control over my future?”
He smiled, “Your concept of time is so … quaint.”
“Do I ever answer a question in the future?”
“Sometimes.” He laughed at my sour expression. “Listen,” he said, “when humanity realized how simple it is to time travel, we collectively smacked our foreheads. You will understand it all, in time.” He looked at his watch, “Well, I have to leave soon.”
“What? You came back just to annoy me?”
His smile disappeared. “I came to ask you a favor.” His sudden seriousness made me suspicious. “I want you to tell Tracy how you feel.”
I started to protest, but I stopped. “Why? What happens?”
“I loved her for years, but never told her.”
Fearing the worst I asked, “She isn’t hit by a bus tomorrow, or something, is she?”
Patting my shoulder he answered, “No. She is alive and well in my time.”
“But you would tell me if… ”
“Probably not.” With a flash of light I was alone in my apartment.
I sat on the couch and drank my beer. When I went to get another, I decided to grab the bourbon instead.
Tracy was one of my best friends. In college we had each been in bad relationships, and had helped each other through the rough spots. From very early on I had feelings for her, but never showed them, even after our respective relationships had failed, for fear of ruining our friendship. I thought we would be good together, but she had never shown any interest in being more than friends.
Should I continue to love her from afar, or risk our friendship? After half a bottle, I had made my decision.
* * *
Just before noon the next day I raced home. I slammed my door shut and began yelling. “Where are you? I told her how I felt. You knew what she would say. Come back here so I can thank you. I poured my heart out to her, and all I got was her friendship and a hug.”
My future self was not there, but on the kitchen table I found an envelope addressed, ‘To you, from me.’ Inside was the following note.
I know that had to be painful, and you’re wishing I was there so you could beat the hell out of me, but trust me, it was for the best. Hopefully, you will be able to heal and get on with you life. That’s something I never got to do.
‘Heal and get on with my life?’ He has to be kidding. I grabbed the half-full bottle of bourbon, and wondered if I will need my liver in the future.
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