It was about 7:30 or so on a Saturday night when I realized I left my phone in the car. I went out into the twilight to retrieve it, then stopped on the porch for a moment or two to watch the late birds dart through the branches. That's when I saw the car moving slowly down the street.

It was a Pinto, strangely enough, and though it was difficult to tell by the streetlight, it looked brown, but new. The dome light was on, so I could see two people inside, arguing quietly, a strangely familiar woman and a thin guy with long hair. I saw her point at me, and the guy opened the door and got out, walking up the sidewalk.

He was thin, painfully so, with long light brown hair, and a pair of aviator glasses sliding down his nose. He had almost made it all the way to the porch steps — nearly tripping once over a small branch in his path — before I recognized him. It was me.

"Hi, uh, sorry to bother you, but, uh, have you heard of the, uh, Gusman Theater? I think it's around here somewhere."

Oh, crap, I thought. I remember this, it's the Chuck Mangione concert, back in '78, and I went with... oh, no...

I glanced at the car, and saw Diane staring back at me, fingers drumming impatiently on the dashboard. When I looked away the kid had an odd, puzzled look on his face.

"Yeah, I know where the Gusman is, but it isn't nearby. Why don't you come inside and I'll write down some directions." I opened the door and motioned for him to come in.

Once he was inside I shut the door quickly. I wasn't sure what was going on, and certainly didn't remember any of this, but that was a lot of years and anxiety ago. I needed to take advantage of this opportunity to fix some things from my youth.

I grabbed a pad off the table and turned toward him. He was looking around the living room with wide eyes, saying nothing. Then he noticed me staring, and a small shudder passed through him. "Do I, uh, do I know you...?"

"Look, I know you aren't stupid, and I know you have an open enough mind to accept what's going on without understanding it. Yes, I'm you, and yes, I'm older, and no, I don't know what the fuck's going on, either. But I know some things that you need to know..."

"So are you — uh, am I a musician? Of course I am, I don't know how to be anything else! Where do you play, in a jazz club? Well, yeah, what else? What else...?"

"Whoa, stop! Look, I need to give you some advice, it is really, really important. That woman out there, in the car...?"

"Diane? Yeah, isn't she great! She really understands me. But hey, what I am saying? You know that, by now we're married to her!"

He looked at me with a huge smile on his face. This was all wrong. What was I going to say to him, that the woman in the car would tear out his living heart, that she was going to dump him, go crazy, and start mailing him pages torn from Bibles with verses circled in red Flair pen? That he was destined for a life unlike anything he expected, not full of music, but filled with heartbreak and pain and weirdness and strange adventures?

"Yeah, look, Kevin, let me just write down how to get the Gusman. You don't want to be late, we both know how Diane gets if she's late somewhere."

I scribbled down some directions, and he said, "Weren't you were going to tell me something?"

Handing him the paper, I said, "Yeah. Buy her a t-shirt. It'll mean a lot to her. Buy one for yourself, too. And enjoy the show."

I walked him out and grimaced as he tripped over the same damned branch on his way back to the Pinto. He turned and waved at me as they drove away toward the interstate, and I walked back into the silent house.

I was pouring my second drink when there was a knock at the door. A shiver went through me as I wondered if they had gotten lost and come back again. I wasn't sure I could deal with seeing him again, let alone Diane.

When I opened the door for a moment I thought it was my father dropping by, and then I understood. He was a little heavier than me, a few more wrinkles, but more muscular, with solid white mustache and goatee. Muscular? Had I been working out?

"Don't stand there with the door open, idiot, the cats'll get out!" He turned sideways and slipped in past me.

"I only have time for two drinks. Get the Green Chartreuse out, I haven't had that in years." I stumbled numbly to the liquor shelf and got a cordial glass and the bottle. He took both and poured himself a healthy shot, drained it, poured another, then looked at me with glee. I realized to my horror that his eyes were almost twinkling, like he was fucking Santa Claus or something.

"Okay, look, here's the deal. Tomorrow you're going to start thinking about tonight, and agonizing over whether or not you should have warned young Kevin about Diane and the other heart breakers in his future. Then you'd start thinking about career choices, and investments, and next thing you've gotten yourself into a self-indulgent, self-referential frenzy of recrimination. Well, I'm here to tell you to knock it right the fuck off."

I took a slug of rum and regained a bit of composure. "And I'm to believe you because...?"

"Because I'm you, dim bulb! You think I'd go to this trouble if I didn't have a reason? C'mon, you know how lazy we are!" He wasn't wrong in that.

"Look, I know we hate that 'Everything happens for a reason' crap, so I'm not going to insult our intelligence by spouting it. But who you are is a result of the choices and events that came before. You wouldn't be who you are if Diane hadn't broken your heart and driven you halfway insane, and I wouldn't be who I am if you weren't who you are in...". He looked at the wall for a moment. "Wow, I had forgotten about that Alan Moore portrait. That is cool! Anyway, where was I?"

"Something about being who I am so you can be who you are...?" I ventured.

"Right! Look, it's simple, things are going to work out. They always do, just as surely as we could never see it at the time. It's the curse of feeling too much, you never believe the pain can end. But you know, our emotions and sensitivity has it's upside, too."

As I saw my reflection in the glass curio cabinet it occurred to me that I looked a lot healthier as an older man than I did today. I opened my mouth to ask about it when he interrupted me.

"Look, I know you have trust issues, but you need to believe me on this. You are going to like where you are going. Trust me."

He raised his glass in a toast and I instinctively followed suit. As he lowered his glass I saw the glint of silver on his finger. He noticed, and laughed. I opened my mouth and —

"Ah ah, no questions! I'm not going to let you fuck this up." He put the glass down on the counter. "Now you are going to go to the computer and write this down so I can read it and remember what I said, and I'm going to take off so I can get home before she notices I am late." He winked at me. "Ah, who am I kidding! She knows I'm always late!"

We walked out onto the porch, and he stepped into the fading twilight. "Remember what I said, and relax a little. It's all going to work out. Oh, and just for the record?"

He paused, somewhat melodramatically.

"I have it on good — no, the best! — authority that you might just turn out to be a pretty good father. So like I said, relax."

With that he turned to walk away, stumbling gracelessly over something on the sidewalk, then slipped into the night while I went back into the house to wait for my future.

April 23, 2008