Thankfully, he wasn’t nearly as aggressive as last time, but he did look exhausted. Or worn out. I wasn’t sure what was different, but he definitely lacked the intensity of the last visit.
“You’ve been following my advice pretty well,” he said.
I had to admit, my life was proceeding quite well. My lack of friends concerned me a bit, and the utter lack of experience with females really concerned me, which I made sure to tell the other me.
“I know. Truthfully, it is getting a bit lonely. There should be plenty of time for that sort of thing when I…uh, when you graduate and are in the workforce.”
Whoa. He hadn’t graduated? At twenty-five? What the fuck had he been doing with our life? And for that matter, why did he look so tired and gaunt? Had he stopped working out?
He seemed irritated with my tone. I didn’t care. I pressed him for answers. “Look, I’ve been working. I’ve been working a lot.”
I didn’t understand. He should have been nearing graduation, or have already graduated law school. I knew there was no way the university had denied his admission.
“I did get in, but I received the acceptance just this year.”
I felt anger boiling up inside me. I resisted the urge to get in his face or to push him. I tried to calm myself, and through clenched teeth, I asked him why he’d been fucking around. He should have been much further academically and professionally. What the hell was I working so hard for if he was just gonna fuck around?
“Good God, calm down. I never realized I have such a short fuse. After I graduated undergrad I applied to law school and received admittance. Obviously. So I took a meeting with the dean of the law school and he expressed his disappointment that I hadn’t already done some intern work in my undergraduate years, so I decided to take a year off and work. You should think about some internships.”
I felt like he was trying to change the subject, and I didn’t think interning explained why he was twenty-five and just starting law school. I was still livid.
“After a year of working in Washington and interning for a law firm…”
Washington was good.
“I met a girl who was a journalist…
Oh, goddamnit. A girl. I fucking knew it. I stood up.
“and was investigating stories in Congress…whoa! Hey! What the fuck do you think you’re doing! Get outta my face!”
I wanted to tear his head off his shoulders. I reached out to grab him, but before I could get my fingers on his shirt, he checked my grab at my elbow. He may have looked tired, but he moved pretty fast. Just as fast as me.
“What the fuck!?! Will you sit down and listen to me?”
I mentally flipped a coin. He won. I sat down to listen.
“Look, I don’t want to lie to you. I met a woman in D.C., and I fell madly in love. It was extremely intense and extraordinarily confusing.” He paused and rubbed his head as if he couldn’t decide how much to tell me. “She was wonderful…really…just a spectacular person. Breaking up with her was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, but as this meeting loomed closer and closer, I knew I had to put our career first.” He looked like he might cry. His face made me nauseous.
“I broke up with her for you. And for me. For both of us.”
I calmed down a bit. He may have fucked up, but I knew I didn’t have to make his same mistakes. I told him it seemed as if school would last forever for me, too. I wanted to find love as well, but I hadn’t come this far to crack up right before the finish line.
He sat on the bed next to me. “Yeah. I know what you mean. But I’m nearly done, I guess. And I’m sure hell not applying for any more education after law school. After I get a job I’ll make room for a woman.”
I silently nodded my head in agreement.
We sat on the bed in silence for a while, and then he seemed to come to some kind of internal conclusion. He patted me on the leg and told me happy birthday.
I told him happy birthday as well. He said “See you in five,” smiled at me warily, and then he left.
I followed his advice and spoke with the dean at the law school. He thought it was a fine idea for me to seek out an internship, and he gave me the names of several organizations and law firms actively seeking interns. Many of the names on the dean’s list matched the ones I already planned to contact. I applied for several, all in Washington D.C. Two accepted, and I chose the one that had the highest number of billable hours each quarter.
The move to D.C. was uneventful, as was the internship. I had never really held a job before, and not because I eschew hard work, but mainly because it would have interfered with my studies. I found the monotony to be extremely boring and comforting at the same time. Boring because the internship never truly stimulated me intellectually, and yet comforting for the exact same reason. I could allow myself to just coast, an action which was usually verboten.
And then one lazy afternoon, while I sat in a D. C. bar nursing a scotch and tearing apart an article on tort reform, I met the woman with whom the future me had fallen in love.
She came in with two other people, one male and one female. They sat at the bar, and they began to discuss a story they were investigating for a major newspaper. I don’t remember the story. I don’t remember the details of their investigation. I’m actually surprised I remembered the genders of her two companions.
But I do remember her hair. Vividly, in fact. A lovely brown. Almost honey-like. It fell over her shoulders and moved about her profile like curtains wafting in the wind. I remember her dress. It was straight and black. And she had on black flat shoes. No heels. But she had wonderful calves. Muscled and lean. I was sure she was a runner like me. I imagined she was highly practical. The outfit surely was. Pure business, no frills. A direct, honest person. That appealed to me quite highly.
For the most part I only saw her back because they were sitting at the bar facing away from me, but for roughly twelve seconds, as he walked towards the bathroom, I saw her face.
And I will never, ever, forget it. A glimpse of beauty. Fleeting and life-altering.
Scene after scene played in my head. Scenario after scenario. I could ask her about her story. Tell her about my internship. Point out that I, too, drank scotch. Strike up a conversation. Engage her. Make her laugh. Smile. Anything, anything just to talk to her. I knew she’d be interested. I knew she’d like me. I knew these things because she’d already fallen in love with me once before.
I frantically tried to decide what to do. How to introduce myself.
In the end, I left before she returned from the bathroom. I never even found out her name.
I finished up my internship and returned back the university to complete my undergraduate degree. I applied to and was accepted into my first choice law school.
I read like a man possessed during law school. I dropped all my physical activities, except running. And even then I only allowed myself an hour each morning. While my classmates would decompress at local bars on the weekends, I would hole up in the library, intent on achieving the highest marks in the class. I excelled in Civil and Criminal Procedures and loved the seminars on Tort. The only area where I felt weak was in Property, so I made sure I studied in that area as much as I could.
By the end of my third quarter I was physically and mentally exhausted. I slept only two to three hours a night, and my diet had devolved into whatever I could eat in the library or on the way to classes. I began to get headaches for the first time in my life. When I consulted a doctor he gave me a prescription to help the tension headaches, but most times the meds were only partially helpful at best. I was so out of it I almost forgot my birthday when it rolled around. Luckily, my PDA reminded me of it the day before.
I woke up early, found my notes of my last visit, and proceeded to visit my twenty-year old self. I made sure to reemphasize the necessity of staying away from women. When I got back, I returned my notes to their file folder and sat on my bed to wait and eventually receive whatever advice my thirty-year old self could provide.
I waited all day. I waited into the night. I waited all week. I never left the apartment. I waited long after my birthday had come and gone. I’ve been waiting for two weeks in this two room hole of a domicile, and the thirty year old me has yet to show up.
This epistle to nowhere hasn’t helped me sort out things the way I thought it would. In fact, the opposite has happened, so I’ll just sit here and wait for the other me to appear. History tells me that he’ll show up. Either that, or I’ll eventually catch up to his fate. I’m gonna wait in this room and find out which one happens first.
As I sit here typing, the one thought that stings like a splinter my mind is that in twenty-five years, twenty-five lonely years, I only allowed myself one kiss.
Just one kiss.