I knew what I was getting into the moment I walked into the coffee shop. After all, they didn’t call it Wormhole Café for nothing. Still, before crossing the threshold, I wondered about all the people who had stood here before me thinking the place was given a cool sci-fi name because the owner was a trekkie or something. Imagine their faces as they open the door and quickly became raptor food, or walked inside only to find themselves standing next to General Custer at Little Big Horn,or sitting in the car next to JFK as he rode through Dallas. Despite such horrible visions of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, I decided I was going in anyway. What did I have to lose? Life was shit.
I wasn’t prepared, and who really can be, by what fate had in store for me inside, because when I crossed the open doorway and into the wormhole itself, I came out the other side looking at a mirror image of myself sitting at a table in the corner drinking coffee and reading a book. Well, it wasn’t really a mirror image, for this other me was less 50 pounds or so, and minus a lot of years. Okay , so maybe he had a lot more hair than I do now too, but why taint a memory? From the doorway I could tell what book he was reading, and I knew what would happen within minutes if the clock on the café wall was correct.
You hear all the time from those in the science community that two versions of the same people cannot occupy the same space in time. When I saw myself there, I was hoping they just meant the exact same space, and not the time period or location in general. I decided to take the risk anyway, knowing what was coming, and the eventual outcome of personal history. I walked over to his table and pulled a chair out, sitting down across from him, or me, depending on how you look at it. In my typical fashion, his nose was buried in his book. I guess some things don’t change with time.
“Good book,” I said. “I read it myself when I was your age.”
Finally, he looked up. I don’t think he recognized me at first, because despite my own opinion of how I hadn’t changed over the years, I could tell in his eyes that maybe I had. “Excuse me, do I know you?” he asked.
“No not really,” I replied, and that was the truth. How could anyone tell how they were going to turn out years from now? It was just my fortune, or possibly torture, that allowed the wormhole to put me back, not into just any old history, but my own.
He looked at me with a curious eye, as if he was trying to figure out whether I was dangerous or not. I cast a glance around the room to see if there was anyone else from my youth I recognized. No, not yet, but it was coming.
“I was waiting for someone,” he said. “But I don’t think it was a stranger.”
I smiled. “You’d be surprised the number of strangers who are friends…and the number of friends who are strangers, for that matter.” I reached my open hand across the table. “I’m Chris,” I said.
He managed to smile back, and as a courtesy, I guess he decided it would be good manners to shake my hand. “Wow, that’s me too,” he replied.
“More than you think,” I said, gripping his hand firmly, before letting it go. “You know, that book you’re reading prompted me to want to write books too.”
“Oh really? You an author?”
“Well, yeah, but I guess I’m not popular as Dan Brown or Nicholas Sparks.”
He looked at me strangely. “Who?”
“Oh yeah, sorry. I guess they won’t be popular for another twenty years or so.” To reinforce my point, someone put a quarter in the jukebox and suddenly the opening drums and synth of “Billie Jean” kicked in, reminding me that in this café nearly thirty years of my life hadn’t been lived yet.
He was really looking at me with a strange expression now. But that was nothing. I was getting ready to make it worse. “I won’t bother you long,” I told him. ”I know you’re meeting a girl.”
He rolled his eyes. “Yeah, that’s obvious.”
I grinned with a knowing smile. “Well young man, here’s something that isn’t. She will be wearing a white t-shirt that says ‘Frankie say War. Hide yourself.’ Boy sized jeans with three holes in them. One on each knee, another on the back of the left leg just below her ass. I don’t think she’s aware of that one.”
He laughed and shook his head. “You are one crazy old dude. She wouldn’t be caught dead wearing a Frankie Say t-shirt. “
I shrugged. “Yeah, I guess you’re right. But that’s the one you should be meeting, instead of the one you are wanting to impress today.”
“I guess you are going to tell me about her, too.”
“Sure why not? Any minute now she will walk in with two other girls, each one looking like they just came back from a Pat Benatar look alike contest. And she will have on a ridiculous ‘Whitesnake – Slide It In’ t-shirt, though at the time I guess it is cool to like them.”
He smiled “Yeah that’s more like her.”
“Well, guess what man? In two years Whitesnake will be super famous, and in ten you will be absolute zero to the hot girl who wore their shirt.”
He was offended. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“It means, relax don’t do it. Go for the girl in the Frankie shirt.”
Suddenly, it dawned on him who I was talking about. “Chelsea? Dude, I have known her forever, she’s like my best friend.”
The wheels were now turning in my head. The wormhole had presented a perfect opportunity for me. “To you,maybe,” I replied. “To her, perhaps you are more, and you’re just too blind to see it.”
“Wait a minute, how do you know Chelsea? How do you know me?”
“I just do. I also know that Janie, the girl you are meeting today, is on the rebound from her last boyfriend. You know the one, the jock…what’s his name? Martin? Something like that?”
“So, she never gets over him. She goes back to him. And the girl who adores you madly walks out of this very room today, hurt and crying, never to speak to you again, because you kiss Miss Whitesnake with the bad Benatar haircut, immediately after you introduce her to Chelsea. Word to the wise, if you don’t want a life of misery…do not introduce Chelsea as ‘just a friend’. In fact, just tell Janie you’re not a replacement for Martin and plant a kiss on your best friend instead.”
He planted his hands on the table and rose in anger. I could tell he was angry, but when I stood up too, he seemed to change his mind on taking a swing at the old dude. After all, I was a lot bigger now.
“Don’t worry, I’m leaving,” I said. “I just wanted to give you some advice because I know how it plays out. How it will always play out, if you don’t change it.”
He wouldn’t look me in the eye. He knew. Deep down he knew. He had to. He was me.
“Look, where I come from The Chris’s of the world marry the Janie’s. The Janie’s become dissatisfied because the Chris’s aren’t the Martin’s. And then the Chris’s sit around bemoaning the fact that they should of picked the Chelsea’s. Don’t be that kind of Chris. See you around, big guy.”
I slid the chair under the table and turned to walk away.
“Wait,” he said. “Did you marry a Janie? Is that why you’re telling me this?”
“Yes I did. And I wish more than anything that I had a Chelsea today.”
“What happened to her? Your Chelsea?”
“I don’t know. I never saw her again. But I didn’t forget her, and neither should you.”
I left him standing there to ponder the stranger and his cryptic words. You would think after seeing “Back To The Future” he would make the connection, but I guess it was easier to think of me as a crazy old man. I pulled a quarter out my pocket and put it in the jukebox. I looked back at him, and pointed, my fingers forming the replica of a gun with me pulling the trigger. The song I had chosen began, with a single snap of the snare drum and the singer emoting a vibrant “Hey Hey Hey Hey!”
I walked back through the wormhole with “(Don’t you) forget about me” echoing in the past…
“A Day At The Wormhole Cafe” 2016 Paul D Aronson. All Rights Reserved.