Prompt 008: Send a Message to My Past Self
8. If you could send yourself a message several years in the past, what would it be and why? How might getting message in the past change you in the present?
[Names of people and places have been changed to protect the innocent, except for the part about Radiohead.]
You will likely not believe this yet, but this is you, over 20 years in the future. I say "yet" because I'm going to mention an occurrence that you've never mentioned to anyone, and only then will you realize it's you that's talking TO you. It sounds strange and very -Donny Darko-, but you will learn to trust me on this one. And like in that movie, you'll want to take the advice of the strange visitor.
So remember where you were in the summer of 1998. You were living with your fiance in Allentown, on the second floor of that apartment building on Bellomont. The nun who retired from the Catholic school lived on the floor above the two of you. Earlier in the spring of that year, you woke up to an owl sitting outside your bedroom window. You cut your fingertip on a glass that shattered in your hand while you were washing it, and I bet you're thumbing the scar now.
Your father is dead. He died the Spring of the previous year. It left you numb and rootless. You had decided that clinging to the life-raft that was your fiance' was the only way to keep you from drowning. So the two of you ended up in this apartment. You are estranged from your family. Your little brother is confused by you, your older sister is envious of you, and your mother feels betrayed by you. You'll learn later that your mother is a human being, just like you. But that's a story for another time. I won't spoil that for you.
There was a distinct moment that summer, and I remember it distinctly. It will affect you in the coming days. I remember it emerging in my gut. Like a cup of coffee full to the brim: a vibrating earthy-brown nimbus hovering on the lip, waiting to plunge over the edge. There was a single, final drop that landed in it. And that final drop resulted in a spill.
That spill is: you don't want to be married to this lady.
Something in your gut finally blurted out the words. You heard them. You chewed them over in your mind's mouth. In your soul's mouth. These were words you knew, and understood, but dared not speak out loud. Hell, I'm nearly 42 now and I still haven't said this out loud.
The way things turned out for me? I buried those words. Married at 21, divorced at 23. I didn't have the balls to speak up, to have a grown-ass man conversation. This is the result. The good news is I made it out of it. I learned to trust women again. I learned that all women aren't like Sheila.
You can't see it, but she's not gonna stay true to you. You'll have a can't-miss opportunity you act upon, and it's while you're away that she strays. I suppose it's only human, but there's no reason you need to learn this the hard way. It changed you, just like the death of your father changed you.
So grow up now. Have that conversation with her. Do not tie the knot. It'll fuck you up for years. Make it a clean break and move on. Marriage isn't a guarantee, and she's not the kind that can stick to a promise - you already know this. There are no guarantees. You are not your parents, and this is not, " 'til death do us part."
Now go listen to "Let Down" by Radiohead on what you think is the best rock album released in your lifetime. Figure out just how to tell her. Or she's gonna tell you at 11:30pm in a November before you wake up for work at that goddamn corporate coffee joint. That'll be the start of the shittiest days of your young life. Because if you thought it was bad when your dad died, you haven't felt the worst of it yet.