A Calendar of Tales: December

(Prompt: Who would you want to see again?)
“My 18 yo-runaway-self so I can show her that I find someone to love & own a home of my own – it did get better.”

This side of town is darker than I remembered, grungier. I remembered it as an artistic, safe-ish place, full of fun and interesting people; seeing it now, I wonder how this ever seemed appealing. I don’t go to areas like this, not at night.

But it’s December 1987, and I know I have a hard year behind and ahead of me. I’ve thought about it for a long time—these visits don’t come cheap—and this seems like the best time for me to come, to offer myself another chance. I’ll have another tough year after this, but I remember how terrible this winter was for me. I hope that coming now will mean I’m happier.

I pull my coat closer and step through the portal onto the street, remembering to close it behind me as I go. My younger self will be within 6 blocks of here; I never did travel far, those days.

I checked the store room of the Indian restaurant on 9th first; it’s warm there, and the owners sometimes gave me some rice at the end of the night. But the servers are still bustling, so I move down the block, in the sheltered alcove next to the Dumpster overlooking the park.

I see my boots first, two sizes too big and unlaced most of the way. How did I ever walk in those, anyway? I shake my head and make a noise in my throat, “ahem,” and stare down at my 18-year-old self.

Gawd was I a scrawny thing.

“I don’t know what you heard”—it’s shocking how pale I look—“but I don’t do that no more,” my young twin says diffidently.

“I’m not interested in anything you have to offer, Sam. I’m here to offer you something,” I say, extending a hand.

Young Sam glares up at me from under that beat-up old hat. I thought I looked killer in that hat; I still have it. “Who are you?” I sneer.

“I’m you, in the future. You’re me, in my past. I know, it’s hard to explain, but trust me on this. Time travel is invented in 2047, and it’s 2056 in my time now. I’ve—we’ve—led a good life, and I wanted to come tell you it’s going to be okay,” I say. I offer my hand again, hoping my younger self will take it and walk with me.

He disappoints me, mistrustful, but I understand. “Gawd I don’t age well,” he grimaces, disgusted.

“I thought I might show you how things are going to turn out,” I offer. “If you’ll come with me just here…”

I gesture toward the open wall. Young Sam stays out of arm’s reach, but gets up and follows me. Good enough for me. Fumbling with the switch, I activate the portal.

“That’s going to be your home, Sam. See? It’s beautiful, isn’t it? It’s got 5 bedrooms—five! I think sometimes I should sleep in all of them, just because I can…” I turn and look at my younger self, practically feeling the desperation in him. “You have a family; better than you’ve ever dreamed. You even get a respectable job, and it pays for two top-of-the-line hovercars, and vacations in Bermuda and Taipei and all over the world.”

He’s leaning in, as if he wants to grab the house right out of the portal. I can feel his longing; I remember its echoes in my own heart. “That’s my future, huh?” Young Sam says.

“Yes, Sam,” I say. “It’s all going to be alright.”

“So you’re telling me you came all the way from the future to show off all the cool stuff you’ve got?” He opens his arms, angry. “You came here to goddamn brag, old man?!”

“What? No,” I say, flabbergasted. “I remember how bad this year was, how bad the next was, and I thought if you saw that things were going to work out, you’d feel better and it wouldn’t be so hard.”

My younger self snorted. I don’t remember being so rude. “Man, I get stupid when I’m dumb. You think I want some crazy asshole to come up, tell me he’s from the future and show me a bunch of shit I can’t have? Well, no thanks. I’m not waitin’ around for no punk-ass future.” Out of nowhere, young Sam slams his open palm on my hat, pulling it down over my eyes. While I’m blinded, he yanks the portal fob from my hand and knocks me to the ground.

I look up just in time to see those stupid unlaced boots disappearing into the portal.

“Well, that didn’t go exactly as planned,” I say to the Dumpster, dusting off my hat and sighing. “Thank goodness I bought the time travel insurance.” I walked back to the sidewalk to wait for the time governors to pick me up and dump my stupid younger self back in 1987.

Kids in these days; no respect for their future elders.

Read more of the calendar tales.

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