(Continued from part eleven)
There was something irresistible about his presence. When I saw him during my last insertion he was a boy, not quite seven years old. The person I saw through the Corwins’ window was a young man, and he was staring at me with a profoundly adult intensity.
By all rights I should have turned away and avoided him. This was a parallel and temporary world and I couldn’t reasonably explain that to him. More than that, I had a small number of days in this world and I didn’t know what I was going to be doing. I wasn’t remotely ready to take on the development of a 19 year-old boy, even if he was a younger version of myself.
But all of that became irrelevant upon seeing him. My focus was drawn – nay, pulled – from a wide view to a narrow focus on his face. I was absolutely certain that if our eyes locked the two of us would be locked together, and for the duration of this world. Pulling away from him after that would carry the same instinctive aversion as would, I suppose, trying to cut off my own arm.
But just before the moment of inevitability, a large man, one of the Corwin’s grandchildren, passed directly between the two of us. He blocked our view for only a second or so, but in that moment my mind raced to an understanding of what was happening.
Not that I could do anything about it, a second wasn’t enough, but it allowed me to clarify what was happening.
And then I was staring at him again, trying to keep myself from narrowing my focus, which was still being pulled to his eyes.
Again I was reprieved by the large man, and this time he was talking to Walter and remaining in place, between myself and myself.
* * * * *
“Excuse me,” I said, grabbing Walter in a wrestler’s clench, then turning him so my back was to the young man and Walter was facing him.
“Do you see the young man across the street, Walter? Wearing a rust colored jacket?”
Walter was fairly calm, considering. “Yes, I do,” he answered.
“Okay, I said, loosening my grip and stepping slightly to the side. “Hold up your hands and gesture to him to wait a minute, please.”
I was keeping my head lowered and my eyes closed as a triple safety measure, but I could feel Walter moving.
“All right,” Walter said, “he nodded his understanding. He’ll wait.”
Then I grabbed him again, pulled him to the nearby hallway and released him.
“I’m sorry about this, Walter, but this is hyper-intense for me. Please go outside, greet the young man warmly, and tell him that the man he was looking at will send him a note in a few minutes, and would he please wait for it.”
“I will do that, Paul, but are you well?”
I half-smiled and half-laughed. “I will be a little later, Walter. And thank you for this. Please go now. Be warm, but be brief. I won’t move from this spot till you get back.”
Walter agreed, turned and went out. I felt frozen as I stood there. I spoke to no one and looked at no one, even though people passed by.
A few minutes later Walter was back, trying to get my attention rather than to help me return to normal, as I would have expected.
“Paul, that young man…”
“Is he waiting?”
“Yes, he says he’ll wait.”
“Good, then help me back to some paper and a pen, please.”
He guided me to the guest room (no one was in it and the door was open), but once there he waited for me to raise my head and look up at him.
I looked up to find that he was frightened.
“Paul, that young man… he looks a little like you and he speaks with your voice!”
“Walter,” I said very seriously, “help me through this and then we’ll talk about it, okay?”
He nodded, then I sat him on the bed. At this point he looked like he needed calming more than I did.
I remembered that a pad of paper and pen were in the second drawer. I pulled them out and wrote a note. It read like this:
“Paul, I’m sorry I can’t talk with you now, but I will at some point in the future. You were very perceptive to find me, but this isn’t the right time for us to be together. So, please go home and let this encounter fade from your mind. I will find you – I know where you’re going to be – and we will spend time together. I will explain things to you. But not yet. This isn’t the right time.”
I was happy to be able to write cogently, and I couldn’t help promising to see him again, the connection between us was too intense for me to turn away from that. I had absolutely no plan, but even if it came on my last day or two, I would see him.
* * * * *
Now I had to get Walter ready and send him back outside. I sat next to him and held his arm.
“Walter, I need you to take five minutes out of your regular life… your regular consciousness… and to play James Bond.”
His head twisted quickly toward me, telling me that I had hit the right strategy.
“I need you to be James Bond for five minutes. I need you for a mission. Take the note to the young man, smile, then say, ‘Please go home and read this.’ That done, just turn around and come back in. After that your mission is over.”
He was as ready as he was going to be. I walked him down the hall and as far as I could without the front windows coming into my field of view.
“Go now Walter. Smile, hand him the note, tell him to go home and read it, then come back. I’ll wait right here.”
I physically turned him and gave him a bit of a push. I watched him go out the apartment door standing straight and walking strongly. Then I froze again and waited.