The Way It Was, Pt. 3

“How did you get here?” I ask, trying to change the subject and to draw out a less dickish side to my future self.

“Time Machine. Rift in the universe. Or maybe I just closed my eyes and said, ‘There’s no place like Donaghan’s’. Does it really matter?”

Ok, so there is no less dickish side.

“The important thing,” he says, pausing to take another sip of his drink, “is how will you get here?” He points to himself. “Or maybe, will you get here at all? Maybe you’ll go a different way. Drink all that untapped potential up and then flush it down a stained urinal.”

“Or, you know, I could just find a job that doesn’t turn me into a jerk. I mean, seriously, what happened to you – me…us?”

He grimaces and gives me a tight nod. “You’re right. I did come off a bit too harsh – ”

“A bit?”

“Fair enough. But you need a slap in the face if you’re going to get out of this funk, man. That’s pretty much what happened to me. I had a troubling realization about where my life was headed and changed course.”

“What exactly did happen?”

“Hey, no spoilers.”

I laugh, in spite of myself. At least he has some of my humor in him.

“Sorry,” he says, the cheap leather of the both seat squeaking in protest against him. “I can’t go into specifics of the future. Tossing pebbles into the timestream and that kinda thing. But I can tell you this. You need to shake things up. Change your whole lifestyle. And in no time at all, you’ll be headed for big things, my friend.” He adjusts the lapels of his very expensive-looking coat. “Big things.”

He sits up suddenly and I spring back. It’s unnerving when your own face comes swooping towards you.

“I can give you one tiny spoiler,” he says, a conspiratorial grin on his face. “Dani Hawkins.”

“Dani Hawkins? Wait, wasn’t she – ”

“The one that got away? She got hooked in again.”

“Wow, that’s amazing, Dani and you…Dani and me…” My own loneliness hits me like a slap in the face. Dani and I had dated for a few months, but it didn’t last. She didn’t like the direction my life was heading in. I guess she was wrong. Or will be wrong. I could potentially get back together with her, live in a big house and have a great job. It all sounds so perfect.

He motions to the bar, where his two companions are deep in conversation.

“Didn’t recognize her, did you? I’m not even sure if she’ll recognize you. She never got to see that beard, lucky her.”

Whoa. That’s her. She’s dyed her hair since the last time we’d seen each other but now I’m surprised I didn’t see it sooner.

“That’s…insane. You’ve really got it all together, huh?”

He shrugs. “Hey, nothing’s perfect, right? But I can’t complain, man. Life’s been pretty good to me. And it’ll be pretty good to you, if you let it.” He downs the rest of his drink in one gulp, the remnants of ice cube clinking against the glass. “Look, it’s been good catching up, but I better get going. If I hang around here too long, that won’t be good for the timestream. Plus, don’t wanna keep Dani waiting, y’know?”

We nod at each other and he slides out of the booth. I watch him walk back to the bar and join the conversation there, wrapping an arm around Dani. It’s as if I’ve become invisible again, retreated into the past that he didn’t want to completely relive.

I’ve just been wasting my time here, wallowing in self-pity and hopelessness, thinking that I’m being denied some magical life I deserve by an uncaring world. But, I realize, that life is mine to take. All I have to do is reach out for it and pull it towards me. Big things. That’s what he said. There are big things in store for me if I just walk out of here and try to make something of my life.

The again, it’s Saturday night at Donaghan’s and I’ve still got a tall glass of beer with my name on it. I reach for the glass, take a long sip and let the bitterness coat my tongue.

I look to the bar. My future self is still there with Dani, but he’s looking back at me now. Even from a distance, I can see the panic building in his eyes. I smile, raise my glass, and chug the rest of my beer. He’s nowhere to be found among the usual drunks that frequent this place.

Good. That guy was a dick anyway.

 

Check out Part 1 here and Part 2 here. For more unusual tales, head to The Reading Room.

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