(Continued from part seventeen)
The young man had no way of understanding the effect his statement, “If it’s the truth I want to know” had upon me. And I don’t mean the effect it had on me in that park-bench moment. I mean the effect that it had on me over the following forty years. This boy’s demand for the truth made me who I am. He was the root of my development, the seed of what I became. So young, so ignorant in many ways, and about to make so many mistakes… this boy was the inception of all that was good within me, and he didn’t remotely realize it. I owed him everything.
Finally I normalized myself and asked, “Come walk with me, Paul? I need to reset myself.”
“Sure,” was all he said, and followed me as we headed back to Wilson Avenue, east past his apartment and then to Kimball Avenue two blocks beyond.
At first I very much needed the walk, but by the time we reached his apartment building on Central Park Avenue, I needed to talk.
“I don’t think I should go in,” I told him. “I suspect Roy’s there and I think I’d freak him out.” (Roy was my roommate back then.)
“He is probably there,” he responded slowly. And then he added, “Are you able to read my mind?”
“No,” I said… “I just know almost everything about you. Ask me some questions, it’ll give us both a chance to loosen up a bit.”
“Okay,” he spat out quickly, “where was I born?”
I laughed a little. “That’s way too easy, Paul. You were born at Michael Reese hospital and your mom’s OB-GYN was Dr. Cooperman.”
I could see him scrambling for something I simply could not know.
“What was I thinking about as I drove home this afternoon?”
“That I don’t know, Paul, but I can tell you what you thought on your 10th birthday.”
“Okay,” he said to me, “what did I think?”
“Well, you were carrying out the garbage for your mom. Then, because someone else had mentioned it… an adult I’m pretty certain… you thought that your age is now measured in double digits. Then you realized that you’d be alive in the year 2000. Then you ran the numbers and realized that you’d be 42 that year, but only about 41-1/2 on New Year’s day.”
The young man not only stood still, he looked at me with wonder and said, “Somehow you’re me, aren’t you?”
I said nothing but guided him another 20 or 30 paces to the stairs in front of Roosevelt High School, where we sat. “Yeah, I am,” was all I said, and we stayed there for a long time.
* * * * *
Sitting on those steps, my mind started accelerating again, and not as smoothly as with Lara and Jens. And if I was inching toward overload, what was the young me feeling?
“Look, Paul,” I said, more in the style of speech I used when I was his age, “I need to tell you things. Are you up to it?”
He said he was, but I knew him too well… he was feeling the overload as well.
“First I want you to understand that this is going to affect you.”
He looked at me quizzically.
“You don’t think of yourself as a sensitive guy, but you are. You can do hard things, but at heart you’re also sensitive. We can talk about that later, but you need to understand that you’re the first person in the history of the world to be in this situation. No one has done this before. I have some very advanced friends, and they’ve never heard of such a thing… and they’re in positions to know.
“By rights I should have ignored you, hid from you and escaped you when I saw you outside that window, but ignoring you would have been a violence to myself, and so all I could do – and just barely – was to delay this.
“You and I are in unknown territory, Paul, and it’s going to affect us. It’s affecting us already.”
The young man nodded his head. “I think I’m feeling it,” was all he said.
“Now, I’ve done this jump back in time thing once before, so let me tell you what I think, then you can tell me what you think, and we’ll come to some sort of agreement. Deal?”
“That makes sense,” he said.
“Okay…” I said, and tried to assemble some useful words.
“You came from exactly when?” he asked.
“March of 2018.”
I laughed. “Yeah, definitely wow. Now, let’s figure things out.”
“Okay, the first thing you should know is that this experience for you and me will end in a few days… either Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday. And when it does, everything will go back to the way it was and you won’t remember any of this.”
The fact that his memory would be wiped offended him, deeply. And I knew precisely what he was feeling.
“I know that feels evil to you, Paul, but there’s nothing I can do about it. I could have turned down an experience like this, but then you and I would have nothing at all together… and I will remember it.”
“And that means that someday I will too?”
“Yes,” I said, “some day you’ll be me, and you’ll come out of this remembering it very well.”
“Then I guess it’s okay.”
“If I could could do any better for you, Paul, I assure you, I would.”
He was pacified.
“You’re still working for Esko and Young, right?”
“Okay, then I think you should give them a call and tell them you can’t work for the next week. If you need an excuse, tell them you have to spend some time with an old friend from the gym. That’s essentially the truth anyway.”
At that he finally gave me a small smile, and so I suggested that he come stay with me for the few days we had together. He agreed and walked back to his apartment to change clothes, tell Roy he’d be away, then find me again. I said I’d wait for him at the DeMars restaurant across from the train station.