(“What I Would Tell My 21 Year Old Self” prompt)
Across from Nectar’s in Burlington was a parking lot with a small wooded area that we jokingly called the Executive Bathroom. Many was the night that our gang of miscreants – Fatty, Spencer, Matt, Dave, and the Captain – would stumble downtown after hitting a few house parties, load up on Nectar’s World-Famous Gravy Fries, then make a pit stop at the Executive Bathroom. You had to be careful because the Burlington P.D. knew about the throngs of drunk collegiates who used the copse as an open air pissoire and were keen on citing us with a $75 fine and a ride up to the Campus Police station. Then we’d get write-ups and sanctions from Student Life, and most of us were already one or two screw-ups away from losing our housing. So we’d scout the area for any wandering cops or police cars and slip over one or two at a time, relieve our bladders, and head back to our giant styrofoam containers filled with fries and chicken gravy.
One of those nights I had overdone it at the Track and Field House, wiping them out of bourbon after we kicked their keg of Magic Hat. The Track House was always a fun time as they splurged on the beverages and rarely drank to the point of getting absolutely shitfaced. We didn’t mind that they doubled the cover charge for our crew – we more than got our money’s worth. This particular night we were asked to leave after Spencer “accidentally” cracked a window with his head, showing off the steel plate in his skull that he’d acquired over the summer. Hungry and in need of a lavatory, we stumbled down the hill to Nectar’s and got our fries, then took turns watering the maples in the Executive Bathroom.
I had just shaken off the bourbon I’d rented when I heard the leaves crunch behind me. Thinking fast, I dropped a glove and knelt on the ground, pretending to look for it in the leaves. I was expecting a stern rebuke from a local cop or a security guard. Instead I heard a very familiar voice.
“You just dropped your glove in your own piss, idiot. Zip up, pick up your brother’s MP glove, and have a smoke with me. We need to talk.” I blinked and shook my head. How did this guy not only know my go-to ruse to get out of public urination citations, but also the origin of the sweet leather gloves I’d worn every winter since high school? I grabbed my glove and whacked it against a sapling, then pocketed it and stood to face the interloper.
To be honest, I wasn’t impressed initially. His shoes were generic velcro-closed black sneakers, mostly hidden by a pair of fleece pants. His gut was impressive – obviously a man who had missed few meals – and was protected by a grey fleece vest. Though it was barely twenty degrees outside, he had on a short sleeved shirt, revealing a few tattoos that may have been done in a prison. When I saw his face, I nearly stumbled. The stranger was clean-shaven, except for a porn-stache that you might find on a cop. A bulbous nose perched in the center of his face, under a pair of the meanest eyes I’d ever seen. I barely noticed his buzzed short hair after locking gazes with this intruder.
“Give me one of those Camel Wides from your trenchcoat and let’s step over where your drunk pals can’t see you. And don’t even think about pulling that switchblade on me or you’ll be eating that fucker.” Maybe it was a trick of the street lights, but I could have sworn I saw a scar on his upper lip. “Relax, genius, you’ll get that in a few weeks while sledding drunk with Fatty and Matt. Wine is not your friend, Karl.” He started to walk deeper into the Executive Bathroom, grumbling something about paradox.
I fished out my zippo and steel cigarette case, pulling out two cigarettes as I followed him. He paused and turned, narrowing his eyes as he looked me over. “‘Crazy Shorts’ they call you now. I’d forgotten what an idiot I was at your age.” He plucked a cigarette from my hand, then lit it with an older zippo. “Three guesses who I am.”
“You’re the P.I. my mother hired to keep tabs on me at school after my grades went to shit,” I gulped as I lit my own zippo. Strange, we flipped our lighters open the same way.
“Wrong. Next guess, genius.” He took a long drag off of the cigarette, his eyes squinting in the darkness.
“You’re an alternate universe version of myself who has been hunting out younger iterations of me to claim rulership over the multiverse.” Hey, it sounded feasible considering all the bourbon I’d drank.
“Nope. Last chance, Junge.” He smirked as he took another puff from the Camel.
“That was a dead giveaway, arschloch. You’re me, just older and fatter and…” My voice trailed off as the possibility of what I said clicked in my liquor-addled brain.
“Winner winner, schnitzel dinner.” He ashed the cigarette and cracked his neck. “I’m twice your age, Karl-chen. Scary, huh?”
“No way. If you’re really me, tell me something that I’ve never told a soul.”
He grinned and took another drag from the smoke. “Your first sexual experience involved Nina Hartley.”
How the fuck did he know that? I mean I’ve never even met the esteemed adult film actress, but she was in the first porno I
“Believe me now?” He field-stripped the cigarette and pocketed the butt. “So, I’ve got about three minutes left before I’ve got to go back. What would you like to know?”
The words escaped my mouth before I could stop them – thanks, Maker’s Mark! “Does Clinton get impeached?” I kicked myself, hoping I hadn’t pissed away the opportunity to know the future. That and we’re talking about the President – short of an assassin’s bullet, they’re untouchable.
“Yeah, but he finishes his term. Not going to tell you why, but you’ll die laughing.” He plucked another cigarette from his pocket and lit up. “Anything more personal you’d like to know?”
“Do I become a lawyer? Or a politician?” I had to know if abandoning a career in medicine was worth it. Not like I had a choice or anything after flunking Organic Chemistry at two different colleges, but-
“I could tell you, but you’d either lose hope or become even more of an egotistical prick. I’ll tell you this though.” He took a long pull off of his cigarette. “You’ll fall into a career you never expected. You’ll have highs and lows, but you’ll survive.”
I nodded, appreciating the advice and secretly loathing his dig at my ego. “Alright, duly noted. Wife and kids?”
He grimaced, looking pained as he nodded. “Yes and no. The road to meeting your wife is filled with some pretty big potholes, but you will meet the love of your life and be married within four years. No kids that I know of though, sorry.”
“Wow. That’s kind of surprising. I figured I’d be married after law school or sometime before running for an office.” I lit another Camel and sighed. “I know it’s kind of cliche to ask, but do you have any winning lottery numbers?” I chuckled a bit as I said it, expecting at the very least a gut punch from my older, angrier self.
“Not exactly, but around 2009 or so you’ll hear of something called BitCoin. Buy at least $100 worth and do not touch it until the Fall of 2017 when it breaks $20,000 a coin. If you remember anything about this meeting, keep this to heart. If you don’t, we’ve just pissed away thirty million dollars.” For a moment, those cold eyes revealed desperation as he spoke. “One more question and then I’ve got to go back.”
Maybe it was the booze, or maybe it was the whole experience, so I closed my eyes and asked. “Am I insane?”
The bitter old man chuckled. “Kid, we’re fucking certifiable.” He grumbled and continued to speak. “I think what you meant to ask is whether or not you’ll still be angry in twenty one years. And I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt that the answer to that incredibly pertinent question is a definit-”
I stood there in the cold and the dark for a short eternity, waiting for my older self to finish the sentence. My eyes opened slowly, fixed on the spot where the old man had stood. The son of a bitch had vanished before he could answer my question! Scanning the area, I saw that once again I was alone in the woods, though I did hear some crunching in the leaves off in the direction of Nectar’s. I turned to head back, but a glint of metal on the ground flashed in my periphery. Leaning over, I scooped up the old Zippo in my hand and pocketed it, then ran towards Nectar’s to the safety of my drinking buddies and gravy fries.
“Holy shit, K-Man, we thought you got lost! Your fries are all congealed and cold.” Spencer handed me a half-eaten container and casually wiped his mouth. “I may have eaten a few. Fucking delicious.” I nodded and took the fries, wolfing them down.
“Sorry, I had a smoke or three whilst pinching a loaf. Watch your step back there.” The gang groaned and laughed at my lie, which would likely lead to some ribbing for the rest of the week. I mean, I couldn’t tell them what really happened – they’d never believe me.
by “The Meme Addict”