i work in a building amidst many other buildings. i guess it’s an office park thing. and one of these buildings has a cafe that i walk to once in a while. i was sitting at the counter the other day, waiting for my sandwich, when sunday bloody sunday came on the radio. this song always reminds me of my turbulent teens, particularly my 14th year, when i listened to u2’s war at least once a day. and i wondered what 14 year old me would think of 27 year old me. so i decided to have a little talk with her. assume that there’s nothing unusual about this, or it could turn into a novel.
then: hey, ira has that shirt.
now: he’ll give it to you in about a year. you’ll be wearing it when mum dies.
then: what? when does that happen?
now: when you’re 25. try not to get too mad when everyone forgets your birthday that year. and cut mum a little slack in the meantime.
then: wow. okay. how does she die?
now: i’m not going to tell you. but i will tell you to go see her right away instead of waiting until that thursday.
then: were you too late?
now: almost. and the days we waited were absolute hell, so don’t worry about school.
then: since when do i care about school? and what am i doing in school at 25?
now: you will care. and that’s a long story.
then: well what are you doing now?
now: i work in a cubicle building websites and dealing with cranky idiots. and i’m in a graduate program for library science. here’s another bit of advice: don’t go to usf for library school.
then (disgusted): i went corporate? i’m not a novelist? i don’t live in germany?
then: well i’ve at least had something published by now, right?
then: have i ever been to germany at all?
then (looking panicky): out of the country?
then: okay. so i get really fat, i never travel, and i don’t write anymore?
now: um, that’s pretty much it.
then: how did i gain so much weight anyway?
now: i quit smoking when i was 22 or so and gained 20-30 pounds. the other 50 came from the yoyo dieting i did to lose the first 20. don’t diet. just live with the 20 extra pounds.
then: i don’t really like dieting anyway.
now: and you never will. so don’t bother.
then: so am i going to smoke more than i do now? do i really need to quit?
now: yeah, you’ll have a nearly two pack a day habit by the time you’re 20.
then: how the hell did that happen?
now: never thought you’d get hooked, eh? well you will. you’re going to meet a guy next year that you end up marrying, and he smokes. so you end up smoking, too. by the time you move in with him at 18, you’re officially a smoker.
then: huh. so i’m going to get married? to who? what changes my mind?
now: i’m not going to tell you who. you’ll never believe it anyway. and you change your mind about marriage when you’re 22 and you need health insurance.
then: great. it sounds like i have a wonderful future ahead. so i move out when i’m 18?
now: yup. and i’m not going to give you any advice on that, because if i tell you about it, you probably won’t do it, but you really need to.
then: was it really that bad?
now: i’m not telling. but when it happens, no one would be able to talk you out of it anyway.
then: okay… well should i marry the guy, though? are you happy?
now: i’m not touching that one, either. there will be one particular point in your life where the road splits into two distinct paths. my only advice is that the safest way is not always the best.
then: will i know when i get to that fork?
now: possibly, but you may not believe it at the time.
then (pauses): so i don’t end up with ira?
now (guffaws): not up to this point, no. he’s in china for some reason. you should really try to stay in touch with him, though. you’ll never have a better friend.
then: what about tom and helen?
now: they’ll move and you’ll lose touch with them. but you’re going to have a great trip to visit them next year.
then: wow. i’ll be honest, me, i’m kind of disappointed with how things turned out.
now: well now that we’ve had this talk, i am, too. but hopefully i won’t die anytime soon, and maybe you can do things differently.
or you’ll be just the same, imagining having a conversation with yourself at the lunch counter of a cafe. before returning to work at the cube farm and wishing that novelist thing had worked out.
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