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Exercise Wednesday: Talking to yourself, thirty years later

February 15, 2012

Last night, as I decompressed, I wound up on YouTube and I watched a clip from one of the Back to the Future movies–the one where Marty is challenged by Needles to race. In the unaltered future–which is the past by now–Marty accepts the challenge and hits a Rolls Royce, making his life spiral out of control into what might have been.

Marty’s girlfriend Jennifer has already seen the future and has actually met herself 30 years into the future. There’s not much talking that goes on, as both the current and future Jennifers pass out on seeing each other.

But what if the you of 30 years ago could suddenly spring forward in time and meet the current you? Or, what if the 30-years-younger version of a character could spring forward and meet the current version? Once the technology shock wore off, what would they talk about? How would they feel? Would the younger version be inspired by what he or she saw or depressed? Would the current version long for that youth, or be glad it was gone?

Have at it.

Time limit: 20 minutes

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4 Comments
  1. Chris Hamilton permalink
    February 15, 2012 5:38 am

    I recognized him immediately. I should have been shocked or surprised, but I wasn’t. Not really. Somehow I knew this would happen.

    “How’s it hangin’?” he said.

    How’s it hangin’?

    “You know, what’s shakin?”

    “Holy crap,” I said. “I really talked like that.”

    “What?”

    I smiled at him, which made him take a babystep backward. He didn’t know me, after all. He couldn’t. He was from 1982 and he was halfway through his first year at community college. I knew these things because he was me. Thirty years ago. With blonde hair and an unmarked face and a little more of a roll around the middle than I remembered. Good Lord, I looked young.

    “I’m you,” I said. The current me. The me with the mortgage and two kids and a job that’s not quite what I expected.

    The me who thought he was doing vital important things at a 10-watt radio station in the foothills of the Adirondacks stared at the current me. Then something clicked and his body relaxed. His hair was lighter than mine–except where the gray is. He didn’t have any of that.

    “You’re old.”

    I shrugged. “Beats the alternative.”

    “What’s the alternative?” the young me asked.

    “Being dead.”

    “What year is it?”

    “2012. Thirty years later.”

    “So you’re…I’m 48.”

    “Your math is as good as I remember.”

    My cell rang–the theme from Magnum PI is my ring tone. He jumped to hear it play in my pocket. I smiled at him, pressed the right button and talked.

    “Yeah.”

    “I need you to get milk,” my wife said. I…both of me…were standing outside Publix about half a mile from my house.

    “Sure. Anything else?”

    “Nope.” And the call ended.

    “What’s that?” the younger me asked.

    “It’s a phone.”

    “Where’s the cord?”

    I smiled at him. Silly lad. “It doesn’t have a cord. It’s what’s called a cell phone. It doesn’t need a cord.”

    He looked at it the way a dog might look at a turtle if he’s never seen one before.

    “It plays music, too,” I said.

    “Music? Like a radio.”

    I remembered that this person didn’t even know what a personal computer was. Or the Internet. Or Facebook. For him, a word processor was a pen and and a spiral notebook. Best to go slow. And to not reveal too much. “It’s like your record player, all in one place. I have 600 songs on here.”

    “On where?”

    How the hell was I going to explain this? “The music is converted into a digital format. Like a file on a computer. Then it’s stored on this chip. And the chip is in the phone.”

    “You buy a chip instead of a 45?”

    This wasn’t going well. “Something like that,” I said.

    “What’s it like?”

    I opened my hands to show I didn’t know what he meant.

    “My…our life. I mean, am I on the radio? Am I rich? I’m really successful, right?”

    I thought for a few seconds. I’m not really successful. Or rich. Or on the radio. I sold out of radio, decided not to follow my dream because I didn’t want to work for minimum wage at a radio station, the first in a long line of tactical decisions when strategic decisions were called for. Most of my adult life isn’t what you’d consider happy. At least not until the last five years or so.

    I could tell him. I could tell him not to give up, to follow his dream. The words were in my mouth and I was ready to say them. And I stopped.

    “I can’t tell you that.”

    “What?”

    I shook my head. “I can’t tell you. You have to find out for yourself.”

    He shook his head back. “Jerk.”

    I went into the store and got my milk. It’s lonely in my house now. My daughter is away at college. She’s loving every second of it–a reward she’d earned for the late nights she’s been putting in since sixth grade. She got to have lunch with the President of Spain the other day.

    My son’s at his stuff, too. He’s in eighth grade, so he’s not quite as advanced yet, but he’s a born leader. He does it second nature, the same way I write. He’s different than my daughter. She works like hell and he makes it look easy. And they both accomplish things. Amazing things.

    I watched the young man in the jeans and the plaid shirt–the one whose reasonable questions were rejected–walk across the parking lot, then vanish.

    “I can’t tell you because you can’t have your dream if I want my kids. My kids are more important than your dreams.”

    • February 15, 2012 10:21 am

      That’s pretty funny, but the ending is so true. When the kids come, it’s a whole new ball game! 🙂

  2. February 15, 2012 4:36 pm

    Took longer than 20 minutes, but here’s mine. I’m posting to my blog later, so I hope you don’t mind my linking back to your blog! 🙂

    “This is trash, look at this.”

    The girl places the garment to her chest and spans the sleeve across the length of her arm.

    “It’s not you,” her friend takes the fringed, waist-length blouse.

    “I know!”

    “Here, try this one on with the black chic jeans. It’s cute.” Her friend hands her a suede vest with laced sleeves.

    “Excuse me,” I say.

    The girl looks at me and her friend fades into the background.

    “Do I know you?” The girl looks at me and immediately gasps.

    “I know, I know,” I laugh at her because I know what she’s thinking.

    “Wow, how old are you?”

    “I’m forty five,” I say.

    “Well, you don’t have any gray hairs.”

    “That’s because I get it colored every six to eight weeks.”

    “Oh, well I guess you’re allowed to do that since you’re all grown up.” She makes air quotes at that. “I’m not even allowed to get highlights.”

    “Well, when you can afford to cover up the roots every six weeks so you don’t get that skunk streak down the middle, do it then.”

    “Whatever. It’s like ten bucks.”

    “Try a hundred and seven five with tip and all.”

    Her jaw drops.

    “You must be rich,” she says.

    “No, just vain.” We laugh together.

    Her hair is almost jet black and feathered back away from her face and plastered down with hairspray. I can’t remember when I stopped using hairspray and just let my long strands drip dry out of pure laziness.

    We stand for a moment and she notices my smile. “What happened to my teeth?”

    I touch my mouth, “Oh, the canine?” I knew which tooth she meant. I always hated that tooth, but mom and dad insisted it was cute, way too cute to fix. I look at her smile and decide they were right.

    “It’s not as cute when you get older, so I had it fixed.”

    “Cool, I bet that was expensive, huh?”

    “Thirty years ago, maybe.”

    “So what do you do as in a job and all?”

    “I’m a Systems Analyst. I make software that runs on computers.” I blush and realize the closest thing she has experienced with software so far is Pong, the game where two vertical bars are maneuvered up and down on opposite sides of the screen and a small digital ball is passed back and forth between them.

    She’s not impressed. Well, she has this blank look on her face, so I assume she’s not impressed.

    “So, you’re a nerd?”

    I blink back my surprise. “What? No, I’m not a nerd.”

    She laughs, “Yes you are!”

    I look at her friend, now several feet away, browsing the racks. “Okay,” I say. “Miss Honor Society. Miss J.E.T.S. Club. Miss Student Council.”

    She looks back at her friend. They are both similarly dressed in the latest fashion trends. A bit cartoonish for today’s standards.

    She studies me for a moment, then says, “Yea, well, I thought I would out-grow it.”

    • Chris Hamilton permalink
      February 15, 2012 7:33 pm

      Very good.

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