Timely Persuasion - Online Edition - Chapter 9


Drivin’ On 9

I woke up in the morning and felt a pang.  Actually I didn’t sleep well and woke up quite a bit during the night, but this was the first waking period that could be considered “morning” rather than “in the middle of the night.”  I absentmindedly stared at the row of identical clocks on the wall, one for each time zone in a bizarre attempt at postmodern decor.  Trying to fall back asleep, I wondered if the constant ticking contributed to my inability to sleep solidly.  Now the clocks seemed almost silent, but in the still of the night the second hands echoed in a series of sonic booms.  Not the best environment for an insomniac with a headache.

    The couch in the basement wasn’t particularly comfortable, causing my sleep to come in short bursts rather than a single continuous block of rest.  My body usually needs a few days to acclimate itself to a new bedtime resting place, after which I’ll pass out and sleep with no problem.  I can nap anywhere, but always have a problem with real nighttime slumber.  The desire is there, but I reach a point where I’m so tired I can’t sleep whenever a scenery change is involved.  Of course, upon returning to my own bed I’ll have to be reacclimated to it as well and the cycle starts anew.

    I’m sure my overworked brain had something to do with the will to drive myself sleepless.  During the restless hours I replayed my previous blink.  It was nobody’s fault but my own.  I’d have to be more careful going forward.  But what about Dad?  Had he really been able to see me?  Was I starting to fade in for real?  At some point would everyone be able to see me as I originally theorized?  Old me hadn’t said anything about that, but then again I never asked. 

    Maybe Dad was just putting on a show so younger me wouldn’t look foolish in claiming to see things.  Defending the honor of his only son, that sort of thing.  He did have a tendency to do that from time to time.  Hell, maybe he knew I was stoned and was quietly giving me the business about not keeping my shit together.

    There was another major question at hand:  Did I (real, here and now me) remember seeing myself in the window?  I didn’t think I did, but of course I should since now I know I was there.  You would think I’d remember the day a peeping tom spied on us and the whole family chased after him.  That’s not something you forget.  Maybe my memory was clouded since I was now on both ends of the exchange, causing my recollections to fuse together as one memory to conserve brain space.  If a brain worked like a computer hard drive, how many gigabytes could it hold?  Just thinking about it gave me another headache.

    A strategy adjustment was in order for the next time I met my younger self.  I decided it might work to my advantage if I jumped right in his face and gave him the ghosts of Christmas style “I’m from the future” speech.  Walk through some walls for extra effect, provide vague answers to direct questions, rattle my metaphorical chains and we’d be ready to save the day.  There wouldn’t be any need to tell him the real purpose of the mission, just to stick to our sister like glue for a couple of days and the bad bits would all be history.

    My sister’s life ended on September 11, 2001.  Nine eleven.  The biggest tragedy in American history, and I’ll always remember it for one unrelated death a few hundred miles away from ground zero.  It’s ironic, as her passing had nothing to do with the infamous events of that day.  It was just a coincidence of the calendar.  She was probably gone before any of that happened.

    People tend to remember quite readily where they were when certain landmark events occur, most often events of a tragic variety.  Where were you when JFK was shot?  When John Lennon was murdered?  When Kurt Cobain died?  When the space shuttle blew up?  Etc, etc.  Nothing like a generational sea change to anchor a memory and make it familiar to millions.

    Then there are the not so universal “where were you when” memories; mostly happier recollections that are more personal in nature.  Where were you when you first heard your favorite song?  When you learned to drive a stick shift?  When you met your best friend?  When you had your first beer or your first joint or your first kiss?  When you learned to travel in time?  When your sister died?  (Maybe they aren’t all happy memories.)

    Of all the defining moments above, nine eleven was the biggest of my generation.  Probably of any generation for that matter.  Strangely enough, my mind works in such a way that I can usually recall the day before and after such major events just as well as each D-day itself.  The day before 9/11 I had been out late partying with some friends and really tied one on until the wee hours of the morning.  My boss was on a business trip, so I figured it wouldn’t be noticed if I waltzed in a few hours late.  But you know how that story goes.  I nearly got caught.

    The telephone rang at what felt like an ungodly hour, although it was really after 10am.  Dragging my hungover body out of bed to answer, I was surprised to hear the voice of my boss.  He said he figured I had stayed home because of what was going on, which was odd since he normally made an overly big deal about attendance.  He apologized for calling me at home and asked me if I could change his travel plans and get back to him.  I had no idea what he was talking about and confused by being “asked” rather than “told” to do something, but played along with a somewhat believable happy jolly voice that was met by an awkward sense of bafflement.  My best guess from the context clues was a freak storm of some sort, but as I faked my way through the conversation I turned on the TV just in time to see the second tower collapse while Dan Rather deadpanned that this was all in fact really happening.

    Much of the next thirty-six hours were spent glued to CNN, save for another, more typical call from my boss ordering me to contact the airline and demand that he be put on a plane.  I told him that all air traffic had been grounded, but he just didn’t get it.  He wanted me to tell them who he was so they’d HAVE to act.  I told him I meant no offense but rather doubted he had that much clout.  The next time the phone rang I was about ready to tell him to buy a pogo stick at a toy store so he’d fire me and we’d be done with it, but the call wasn’t from him.  Instead it was my father.  I couldn’t really understand him over his sobs, which was striking as I’d never heard him cry before.

    No need to get sidetracked by this now.  That part of the story is all in the past, which is exactly where I was headed to fix things before getting lost in this tangent.

    I borrowed my mother’s car under the pretext of running an errand before the mass for my sister (not technically a lie) and drove over to my former apartment on the fringe of the city.  Parked outside, I stepped out of the car and habitually rubbed the neck bruise, which wasn’t exactly a bruise anymore now that it had a few days of real time and even more cumulative time to heal.  The blink back to September 10 was quite easy based on the barhopping memory.  All that was left was to walk through the wall of my street level apartment and wait for myself to return from work.

    It was funny how when I really lived in this place I had wished it was on an upper floor, figuring it was safer from potential crimes if a robber had to lug everything down a set of stairs, giving witnesses a better view of his activities.  Had I succeeded in moving upstairs, today’s trip would have been more difficult.  Like the imaginary thieves I feared, I needed access to the lower level in order to be discreet about meeting myself.

    My apartment was just as I remembered it:  a total dump.  Being the first real world residence of my own, it was essentially a dorm room projected into a medium sized studio in the corner of an inexpensive double-decker building.  Several mismatched blankets covered a newly inherited (and perpetually unmade) bed in the corner, a card table served as a desk when poker wasn’t being played on it, and a varied smattering of chairs rounded out the furnishings.  I had sold my computer once I admitted to myself that I was no longer a writer, and the stereo would have been next if I could ever bear to part with it.  To be honest, my current west coast residence was also a nice bit of frugal living, but at this place discarded dumpster discoveries made up the bulk of the furnishings.  One man’s trash is another man’s couch, coffee table, TV stand, desk, and settee.

    The office I worked in as a bitch (or more officially, “administrative assistant”) was just around the corner, and I would be due home for lunch any moment as it was now nearing noon.  Dining out wasn’t much of an option on my salary (as I used to joke in those days, “Call me Edgar Allan, ‘cause I’m so Po’”) and I’d prefer to walk home to eat rather than pack something and eat it alone in my cubicle.  I also preferred to answer the calls of nature in the privacy of my own home.  Aside from a fancy hotel, nothing beats home field advantage in the bathroom.

    I couldn’t remember if I had come home to eat today or not, but the blue flashing light on my answering machine provided a clue that I would be stopping in at some point to find out where my friends were meeting.  (This version of us wouldn’t own a cellphone for another year or so.)  I would typically play the messages at lunch, go back to work, and then proceed straight to the bar at quitting time.  At least that was how it went when I lived it.  If I could get my point across, I wouldn’t be going to the bar this time around.

    I tried to play the messages to confirm, but was quickly reminded that I couldn’t when my hand passed through the machine.  Feeling stupid, I sat on the floor and awaited my return.