Timely Persuasion - Online Edition - Chapter 18


18 And Life

Thinking it through further, I came to the conclusion that I probably wouldn’t be stuck here forever.  The fact that I could remember all of the time traveling done so far seemed to indicate that it would still happen.  Thus I was likely to take the path of my older self, who would obtain the ability to time travel at some point in his life and subsequently go on the mission to inject me and set the chain of events I’ve been detailing here into motion.

    I had no idea how or when this would happen.  And in cases such as this, it always seemed that the harder you looked for something the harder it was to find.  Step up to bat trying to hit the game winning home run and ground out.  Go out to the club looking to take a girl home and get slapped.  Sit down to write the great American novel and end up with some pompous trash.  Instruct your father on how to conceive you and lose your identity.  Try to save your sister from an untimely demise, and...

    You get the picture.  Things just need to happen without being forced.  Under those conditions, I changed my mind again.  I had to prepare myself for the possibility that I would be here forever.

    Over the next several weeks I fell into the routine of my new life.  I had never moved out west, which made sense since I didn’t have a dead sister to trigger the migration.  I was a lifestyle reporter for the local newspaper, writing articles covering small town events that weren’t nearly as much fun as my past music magazine experiences.  I never took that path in this life for some reason.  Living at home with my mother was a possible cause, as I had my hands full trying to help her maintain her sanity after the separation.  She never really recovered from it emotionally.  Never remarried, hardly dated for as much as I could remember or figure out.  Her interactions with Dad were limited to custodial formalities, though I hoped that the existence of the Local Boy artifacts in the basement were a sign she still cared.  Why I allowed them to be in my bedroom was a mystery, especially since this me never really acquired a taste for music.  Maybe the lack of interest stemmed from resenting Dad for leaving and blaming his past career as the underlying reason.  I sounded like a parent scolding their teen for listening to heavy metal.  “If it wasn’t for that damn music you listen to...”

    Speaking of music, Dad not knowing “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” wasn’t just early senility.  The song was never written.  Nor were any of Billy Joel’s other hits.  But he still existed.  I found a copy of his Cold Spring Harbor debut album at a record store.  It was a flop, and the only record he ever released.  He was still the piano man though.  I tracked him down selling baby grands at a shop in Poughkeepsie.

    The strangest part was that all I had borrowed was “Captain Jack,” a song that was never a single and more of a cult favorite (and a funny song to hear my father sing) than anything else. But for some reason it erased Piano Man and everything else that would follow.  Though I wasn’t a huge Billy Joel fan to begin with, I wondered if never being exposed to the magic of The Stranger contributed to my musical apathy in this life.

    Now and again I would still try to blink back to another time, but it was becoming more and more clear that I had lost the touch.  I now know that it was the missing injection that prevented controlled time travel, but it was almost as if the part of my brain that knew how to harness the memories had been closed off, forgotten, or otherwise detained.

    My memory was weird in general, as bits and pieces from this life overlapped or combined with things from my “real” life.  It was sort of a cross between an alcohol blackout and trying to remember a dream.  Some parts are so vividly clear that you swore they actually happened, but the whole sequence of events is out of context with major lapses in continuity at certain moments.  Sometimes the gaps fall during unimportant junctures such as how you got from one room to another or one building to another.  Other times they are more major issues.  Why am I writing this article?  What is my relationship with this person?  Which bedroom is mine?  Who was in my room last night?  Do you remember the first time?  Where is my mind?

    To top it off, I was plagued by nightmares of that creepy hospital, presumably suppressed memories from the other reality where I was committed.  Electrodes, gowns, doctors, shots, shocks, syringes, injections, blood, defibrillators, heart monitors, clocks, puddles, clouds, shadows, and lots and lots of questions.  I’m often getting injected in these dreams, and wake up just after seeing the face of the person administering the shot.  Sometimes it’s the doctor, sometimes older me, sometimes former me, sometimes Dad, and most often Nelson.  Wide-awake, I shake in a panic until the illusion dissipates and my new life takes center stage.  I had to make a concerted effort to keep my original existence from getting completely suppressed for fear I’ll do some damage one fine day that causes it to fade away altogether.

    My new brother was a lot like my old sister, making me think that maybe she was still in there somewhere.  To clarify, he was a lot like the later, post-Nelson version of my sister.  We didn’t speak much after the kitchen confrontation (a sad little bit of history repeating), but would have dinner together with one or both of our parents from time to time despite the protests from his other half.  There was still a spark of life in his eyes that came out on occasion, but for the most part it was completely smothered by Nelson’s domineering persona.

    That was the root of the problem I hadn’t been able to outright identify before.  Nelson was a huge control freak.  Since he didn’t have control over many things in his life, he latched on to my sibling as his pet.  He may have meant well, but this overprotectiveness was to such a high degree that it bordered on the ridiculous.  It was so heavy-handed that my younger self’s alleged overprotecting of our sister in his youth was nothing in comparison.  Nelson’s strategy also followed no real logic.  If you’re so insecure that you think you might lose your lover when he has dinner with his Mom, imagine how you’d be when he was out among the general population with a very legitimate shot at finding somebody better.  Don’t start me up again.

    I was actually beginning to doubt if Nelson was really a homosexual at all, but instead just adapted into it when the opportunity to be a dominant player in any relationship presented itself to him.  Dad seemed to feel guilty and partially to blame for this aspect of the turn of events.  This was further complicated by a paternal soft spot he seemed to have for Nelson.  I hadn’t filled him in on any of the old Nelson situation, especially not the suicide.  But he clearly knew that I didn’t like the guy and was sharp enough to see that the hatred was strong enough to have transcended both of my lifetimes.

    He was having regrets over his relationship with Nelson’s mother for the same reasons.  Though that topic was off limits as well, he had to know that I was setting them up for more of a reason than I let on, and that my disgust in the result reflected on him to some degree.

    There was also a part of him that may have blamed me for his woes.  How did I get him into this?  And why?  And at what cost?  But he was doing his fatherly duty and taking most of the rap on behalf of his son, with few questions and no complaints.

    My new life wasn’t all doom and gloom.  My relationship woes were finally on the upswing.  Just when I thought our chance had passed, it turned out that this tall redheaded version of me was still dating the cute redheaded girl.  That seemed to give credence to my theory that the death of my sister was what broke us up, meaning that I’ve been correctly blaming Nelson for that all along.

    To say I was shocked when I discovered this would be an understatement.  I was absolutely thunderstruck.  One day I returned home from work to find her in my bed.  She attributed my confused excitement to a bad day and took good care of me for a few hours before cooking a late dinner for us when Mom got home.  It seemed that this version of me didn’t believe in Mom’s curse, though I had a feeling that might be a mistake.  Some things never change.

    It was about six weeks into this new life when I found the advertisement.  Daily tasks were becoming routine instead of new, and the deception of pretending to know about my own past was steadily replaced with solid knowledge of the standard things one should remember.  There was even more boredom than normal at the newspaper, allowing me the necessary time to get my act together and start having a normal afternoon life that included out of the office lunches.  En route to my car before meeting the cute redheaded girl (now my cute redheaded girlfriend; how I loved the sound of that), I found a note under my windscreen wiper blade: