you don’t like walking out there any more in the evenings, though the temperatures are now lovely. your walks were once dream-laden excursions, full of promise and hope of things to come. each lady running by without a ring on her finger could be the one. those hearty, all-american males busy bonding over baseball could be your buddies next week, your colleagues up at the computer factory.
walks became heavy with shards of memories rich and full. you can’t write like you used to, because memories are all like that, now. you catch a whiff of something from the past, and you can smell the mildew on the windowsill of the old college library and trace your finger in dust, feeling the ice chill from the poorly weatherproofed vanes reach you and make you want to sleep.
you can catch a lung full of potent, cheap cigarette smoke from the one you’ve bummed off of andrea or karen or dennis, and feel the stab of a grand glass of bourbon swirling around with the nicotene that promises profound thoughts and discussions that will take you places like new york city.
if you concentrate hard enough, you can feel the missouri chill cut deeper into than austin ever did and smell rotting leaves in abundance in the air while boys and girls scream over football, and you pretend you’ll one day toss back an errant ball with a coach declaring you’ve got the best arm of anyone he’s ever seen. you can feel the polyester of your band pants chafing your thighs, and catch a sideways, hateful glance of gillian stendall who seemed more repulsed by your acne than even the mean kids on the bus.
you don’t like to walk outside in autumn, because autumn is the season your life is fast approaching. you might be on the threshold of a grand, extended indian summer, but you don’t know.
you don’t like to walk outside in autumn for the same reason you avoid mirrors as much as you can these days, and don’t spend a lot of time looking down at yourself and wondering what you’ve become. you like the thought of being other people in other places, in times far removed from this one.
people of your time and place seem to have no selves bigger than their fleshy representations. they don’t reel in vast seas of pleasant and disturbing memories and dreams, and possess simple, realistic goals–goals you, too are learning to set, because nobody can really achieve the immortal goals of being and knowing almost everything.
who are you? you ask a man or woman when you meet them. you ask it again and again, and you let their words and words between words tell you what you need to know. a scant few have eyes that say they see so much more than what is before them, but these are very few. who are you? you’ve asked your own self too many times to count, and gotten back nothing more or less than a quiet boy saying goodbye to his neighborhood cat friend one late summer day back in 1982 in colorado. a quiet youth happy to feed, water and exercise horses and clean their stables. a sad young man trying to find a way out of his grief through endless nights of bars and liquor stores, hating the dark, but hating the light for no longer letting his little brother live in it.
who are you? a face that nobody responds well to. a voice that cracks and mutters. a pair of red eyes thick with burning from staring too intently at a world they once saw.
when will time travel be possible? are you disobeying God’s own will by craving to reach back with your entire being and insert yourself into a much younger you in a much different world, and change things around? of course, you’d change millions of lives. the butterfly effect, perhaps, but then maybe you’d warn the world of 9/11. radically altered lives. babies born from the courses of millions of lives set by world patterns, and then babies who would never exist, were you to change these patterns.
you might inadvertently take the life of someone you love, causing them to be on the road ten minutes sooner or later than they should have been. who knows?
it’s a pretty selfish thing to want to go back in time and try to change yourself, to make yourself more wonderful and successful, and avoid so much of the awful friendships and relationships that dragged you into mucky pits of self hatred.
you might try to date susan parker. what if she rejects you utterly and completely, and you find your life is only different by degree, with maybe a few exceptions?
you want some kind of superpower, though. you want to have some special ability that makes you greater than the b+ average student you’ve always been, that makes you a rockstar, a leader, a hero. you want to invent something, or save an important person’s life, or solve an intractable math problem, or discover a combination of mantra chanting, breathing, natural supplements and writing that send your brain soaring into supergenius levels. you want to be like matt damon in good will hunting.
you want famous and important people to call upon you.
you want to be llike harry potter–everyone declares with awe and reverence your name when you are introduced, but you didn’t have to do a damn thing to earn it, except be born, be chosen, be special.
but, of course, you’ll settle.
you’ll settle for the illusion of being someone great–just a couple of kids and a wife who think you’re all right. maybe a footnote in a textbook with your name and a link to more information about you. heck, you’ll skip the recognition if you alone can receive the vision, and live the vision, possess the vision, be the vision.
and autumn reminds you that you are too old for all of that. that you are among the gray-painted slobs too fearful to stand out, too ready to play it safe, too scared to stick around and push the envelope and walk out on the ledge. you have secured a safe, pleasant sort of life, and you can hope to build collections of things and memories, and squirrel away a trove of books and papers, but you can’t hope to know the famous and the chosen, much less be one of them.