Me, Myself, & I

Knock knock. Knock.

I opened the door.

“’Hey.” The man at the door was barely an adult. He wore baggy jeans and a t-shirt, a pair of glasses sitting on a pimply face under a shaggy mess of hair. He slouched confidently, if such a thing was possible, thumbs hooked in his belt, looking at me expectantly like he expected to be invited in.

I didn’t respond to him. Something wasn’t right. He wasn’t right. Everything about him bothered me. His slouch. His clothes. His glasses. His hair. He chewed on his lip as he waited for me to say anything.

“Aw shit,” I said.

 A familiar smirk crossed his face. “Yep,” he said. “You gonna let me in?” I stood aside and he walked past me. There wasn’t really any other choice. He looked around, feigning disinterest but paying attention to everything about my small apartment. I knew what he was seeing. The dripping faucet, scuffed walls, dusty shelves, and dirty carpet. I closed the front door and followed him.  “This is where you live?” he asked.

“Yep.”

“It’s kind of a shithole.”

I wouldn’t let most people get away with saying something like that, but I didn’t have a lot of options here. He looked out the window, and his face on the glass reflected next to mine. A slightly different haircut. A few less pimples. Other than that…. “How old are you?” I asked.

“19,” he said. I remembered 19. A whole lot of promise at 19. A whole lot of hopes and dreams at 19.

“Are you in your first apartment yet?” I asked.

He nodded. “Yeah, with Alex.”

“Enjoy it.”

Uncomfortable silence ensued. We both took our glasses off and wiped them on our shirt to fill the void. At the same time we looked up at each other, and he smirked as he put his frames back on. Our glasses were the same, his new, mine scratched and stained. “You need new glasses dude,” he said. I was less amused but tried not to show it. He walked around wordlessly, stopping to eye my bookshelf before being distracted. “Is that the new Playstation?” he asked, kneeling in front of my TV.

The Playstation was four years old and had been bought second hand. “No, there’s a newer one now.” He wiped a finger along the top, picking up dust. “What are you doing here?” I finally asked. He looked at me, and grinned.

Knock knock. Knock.

I froze.

Knock knock. Knock.

“You gonna get that?” he asked. I hesitated, but went and opened the door.

The clothes were nicer. A buttoned-up shirt and jeans that fit better than baggy t-shirts. His hair was slightly better kept. The glasses were different. His thumbs were hooked on his belt and he chewed his lip nervously as I opened the door.

“Hey,” he said, a familiar smirk on his lips. “What’s up?”

I sighed, and stepped aside, letting him in. He looked around, seeming nonplused by the other guy, who nodded at him. “Man, it’s been years since I’ve been here.” He shook his head slowly. “I do not miss this place at all. What a shithole.”

“Hey,” I started to protest, but stopped. It’s not like they were wrong. The two others sized each other up as they got closer. Side by side, there wasn’t a huge difference. Different glasses, a bit of a five o’clock shadow on the new one. Their expression was mostly the same. The same as mine. “How old?” I asked to break the silence that was forming.

“39,” he said. I noticed for the first time he wore a wedding ring. Did the younger one notice? What was he assuming about it? Was this even real?

“Is this a dream?” I asked, and they looked at me. It was freaky how similar they were. I was glad there wasn’t a mirror around. “It’s not my dream,” the older one said.

“Not mine,” replied the younger one.

“Great,” I said, starting to pace around my living room. “That’s just great.” The older one, the older me, walked over to my chair, my chair, not his, and plopped down in it, kicking his feet on the dirty coffee table.

“Oh man,” he said, and laughed. “I do miss this chair though. Wow.” He looked at teenage me, college me, young and stupid me, and laughed again. “You got this to look forward to at least,” he said, stretching and groaning.

“Look, this is all well and good, but why the hell are you here?” I asked, my voice starting to rise. Older me tucked his hands behind his head, lounging in my damn chair. Younger me poked around the framed pictures on my dresser. “What is this, Charles Dickens?”

Neither of them said anything. They just looked at me. Younger me picked up a picture. There were several people in there, most of them he wouldn’t even meet for years.  “Put it down,” I said, my voice cracking. He looked at me, that stupid smirk on his stupid face and I never wanted to punch anyone as much as I wanted to punch him. I barely noticed older me sit up in my chair. “Put. It. Down.” I said, then stepped to him and ripped it from his hands.

The photo was shaking in my hands. He wouldn’t recognize anyone in that picture. Except me. And her. “So what is this, the Ghost of Christmas Past come to remind me about how great things were when I was younger? Well guess what, things don’t work out, you understand? She leaves! You get a shit job, doing shit work, and she leaves because you can’t get your shit together! Everything you think is going to happen, you think you’re going to do, doesn’t work, so don’t touch my stuff!”

He looked away, and that just made me madder. “And you!” I turned to my older self. “What, are you here to tell me everything will be okay? That shit will work out? That if I just keep paddling away I’ll keep my head above water? Is that why you’re here? Well fuck that!” I didn’t even realize I threw the picture against the wall until I heard the frame crack on impact. I was breathing hard, heavy, the blood pumping loudly in my ears.

Older me leaned forward, elbows on his knees, chin in his hands. “Dude,” he said, his voice calm. “Not everything is about you.”

Knock knock. Knock.

My breath caught in my throat. The sound was quieter this time, but unmistakable.

Knock knock. Knock.

My older self nodded to the door. “You gonna get that?” he said, the hint of our familiar smirk on his lips. Younger me wouldn’t look at me.  I swallowed hard.

I walked over and opened the door.

He was chewing on his lip nervously. There were no glasses. Those didn’t come until later. His shirt was two sizes too large and he needed a haircut. His thumbs were hooked in his belt, a belt that was too big, holding up pants that didn’t fit. “Hey,” he said. “I think I’m supposed to come here for something.” His voice was quiet. He was a shy kid. The false bravado wouldn’t come until later, sometime in his teenage years when he would discover loud angry music and loud angry books. Right now though he was just a kid, a kid who did everything he could to avoid his arguing parents, to block out the yelling and the screaming, the hate and the vile. A nine year old boy who lost himself every night under his blanket, putting himself to sleep with fantasies of a better life of adventure and excitement where the bad guys always lost and the good guys always won and families always loved each other.

I took a deep breath and held the door open. “Come on in.”

In his pretend life, August Baker is a retail monkey who channels anger and loathing into something vaguely resembling literature. In his real life, he is a Space Pirate.

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