Mostly rambles, few brambles
Blast To The Present
The barbecues rumbled into the street with their prideful owners in tow. Chris, the six-hundred block of Lexington’s newest owner, watched the congregating orgy of pleasantries and nitrates. His brunch buzz waned in the late afternoon light and he affirmed to himself, yet again, that he’d move back downtown long before he took to parading around a grill.
Three years removed from college, his engineering degree had already paid for itself. The two-bedroom-two-bathroom known as 623 Lexington was merely his investment—and certainly not to be misconstrued as a lifestyle. Equity was prudent. It was only a coincidence, Chris reassured himself, that no woman had slept over since he’d moved in two months ago. His surroundings had changed, but he hadn’t. He was still the same tall, affable ladykiller.
Jarvis, his next-door neighbor, tottered out behind his Weber. Chris watched him from his window and poured himself a whiskey. The grill gained momentum as it and Jarvis’ massive frame bumbled down the driveway progressing from a swift walk, to a jog, to a near-sprint with everything, sunglasses and all, crashing into a heap at the curb. The grate rolled away, comically and hub-cap-ly. Jarvis stood up and bent to right it, his frumpy dad ass testing the tensile strength of his khaki’s pleats while Chris smirked and shook his head with confident pity.
Mrs. Jarvis stood on their porch covering her face and unwilling to immediately confront her embarrassing appendage. Upon realizing he wasn’t hurt, she launched into a battery of nags. Her wrath had been conjured from almost nothing and wielded a frostiness that could easily dwarf two sexless months.
Chris and the entire neighborhood watched the unfolding tirade. Jarvis had the grill back together now and was laughing, though it was unclear if out of genuine amusement or if it was a coping mechanism turned conditioned reflex.
Mrs. Jarvis’ taut ponytail whipped around as she scanned the street, finally fixating on Chris’ window. She gestured over and Chris ducked out of sight. He sipped his tumbler and knew it was glaringly evident now that he was not at his brother’s art show. Two hours of block party small talk and finger foods, he reasoned, would be far less agonizing than months of passive aggression. He snagged his almost-two-thirds full whiskey bottle; it would be his potluck contribution.
When he stepped outside, Mrs. Jarvis was already halfway across his lawn. She smiled initially, but vexed at the sight of the whiskey. “Hope you’re ready to party, Mrs. Jarvis,” Chris said, now having forgotten her first name multiple times in their two short months as neighbors.
Stepping into the street, Chris filled his glass and set the bottle down between two competing plates of deviled eggs. The collective judgment weighed on him as he piled seven-layer dip onto his tiny plate. “Delicious,” Chris declared with Frito shrapnel sputtering out of him. “Who made this?” Everyone quieted and craned his way. An older woman near the back meekly raised her hand. Chris pointed at her with a snap of his fingers. “Love it. Could—literally—just eat this up,” he was the only one who laughed at his joke as he made a beeline towards her, unapologetically uncouth. “High-five,” he wiped his right hand on his sweatpants and gently smacked her elevated digits. “Ladies and gentleman,” he pandered to his pastel-clad audience, “I know I’m pretty to stare at, but you’re all doing yourselves a disservice right now by not seven-layer dipping.”
People shuffled over to the table and began foraging. The older woman said that Chris was an incredibly sweet young man. She added something about not judging a book by its cover and both chuckled at her charming backhandedness.
His glass was entirely ice by the time Seven Layer Dip began her sales pitch for her divorced daughter with two kids. Chris shook his head dismissively and playfully batted at her arm. “But if you were thirty years younger,” he stepped back towards the whiskey and she pawed at the air. “Or, like,” he shrugged, “you had drugged me or something.”
He topped off his glass. Jarvis approached, standing about eye level with Chris, asking if he could have just a nip. “Certainly, Grill Master,” Chris said as Jarvis looked away, bashful. Chris poured him much more than a nip as two monosyllabic cronies entered frame—bland, forgettable names like Dan, or Doug, or Cup. The one in salmon commended Chris on his entrance. It wasn’t every year they had a dressed-down twenty-something pounding whiskey and addressing all of Lexington. The one wearing pink concurred. Chris smiled and said he hoped they were both in the mood for whiskey.
The four men and the whiskey bottle huddled around Jarvis’ Weber and Pink Shirt’s propane rig as the meat simmered. The two chefs bantered over which was a more pure form of grilling. Opinions on the upcoming football season instantly forged a transient affinity. “If we win it all,” Chris paused for effect. “For sure will be streaking.” They chuckled, “I know we just met, but each of you may see me naked at some point.” Salmon Shirt followed with a streaking story from college with no real climax or punch line. “We once streaked through a festival back in college.” Chris smiled. He knew he had their attention. “You ever heard of it? Shrimp-Fest? At Red Lobster?”
Salmon Shirt retrieved cigars. Chris opted to bum a steak from Jarvis’ to the mild dismay of Pink Shirt. Medium-rare and perfect, Chris gushed over Jarvis’ steak. Pink Shirt, maybe a touch miffed, suggested that they just fuck already. Setting his whiskey down, Chris looked over at Jarvis. He unsheathed his lip balm, heavily applied it, and smacked his lips. “The night is young, Mr. Jarvis.” Hearty laughter ensued from everyone except Jarvis, who only smiled politely.
The homoerotic mirth tapered off. Salmon Shirt leaned in toward Chris. He scanned the scene and calibrated his furtive voice before preempting his thought. Listing it like a resume, he cited all of the open-mindedness he exhibits in his day-to-day existence before asking is Chris was, indeed, a homosexual.
“Hey,” Chris said as he extended his hand towards Salmon Shirt, “I appreciate you not stereotyping me as a straight guy, even though I’m in stained sweatpants and four days of stubble.” Salmon Shirt shook his hand and sat back in his patio chair. “I don’t know,” Chris sipped his whiskey, “sexuality is more of an ocean than a singular point.” The group settled in. “I mean, yes, I enjoy the ladies.” Contented nods followed. “I do my best. Try to visit Flavor Country as often as possible.” He pseudo apologized for being overly visceral. Everyone knew he didn’t mean it and no one cared. “I don’t seek out men, but say I find myself in a time warp and I encounter my future self, like a Future Chris.” They hung on every word. “Well,” he paused, “there’d be no question—of course we’d bone.”
Nervous titters trickled in slow before snowballing into genuine, unchecked laughter. The follow-up questions shot in, one after the other, and Chris riffed over each one. “I’m consenting now, guys; any future self should have this same mindset and would be similarly consenting.” He refilled his drink with the bottle’s dregs. “You know, we’d be into all the same fetishes, know exactly how far to push that fear frontier.” Salmons Shirt doubled over, close to tears now. “I’m considerate of other’s needs; I assume Future Chris would be too.” Chris admitted that he thought they were all either crazy or unimaginative for never fantasizing or even fathoming this situation.
“It’d be unequivocally the best sex ever.” Pressed for details, he clarified, though, that they wouldn’t just strip naked upon first sight. “If I know myself, I’m going to want to hear about the future, probably a little small talk before we’d get down to dude-on-dude worm-holing.” Pink Shirt hooted, hardly able to breathe. Chris rolled up his sweatpants leg to reveal a birthmark: a brown, Texas-looking blotch on his shin. “We’d have a couple questions, or compare birthmarks or scars to make sure it’s really us.” He sipped. “I know both Present Chris and Future Chris would hate being tricked, so we’d probably be thorough, before we were thorough, you feel me?”
Chris posed the question to them. “Wouldn’t you? It’s you-on-you action, after all? And, no one would feel slighted not cuddling afterwards.” The three conceded the upside. Chris looked back to the table. Most of the party had dispersed. “I should probably go,” he said and the three men protested, before saying that they all should definitely hang out again. Maybe drink more whiskey and watch football. “For sure,” Chris said, and actually meant it. “This was fun, but I really should take off. You know, before I say anything weird.”
They laughed as Chris shuffled back home.
The front door sounded. Sharp, staccato knocks. Chris stirred from his roost on the living room couch, still in his stained sweatpants. The urgency seemed completely unwarranted for ten on a Sunday morning, but the knocks came quicker, echoing now, as he stepped towards the door.
“Chris!” The figure answered, enthused the second the door swung open. Chris looked quizzically at the man in the metallic silver bathing cap and webbed gloves. Their eyes met. “Of course you don’t recognize me,” the man continued as Chris slowly shook his head. “I’m you.” He paused. “Or us, rather. Twenty years from now you travel back in time to right now.” He pushed his way past Chris into the house. “Heh heh,” he smirked, “I forgot when I first moved in and I had the couch there. You’ll move it over by the window soon. It’ll really open up the room.” Skeptical, Chris looked and pondered the rearrangement, which did actually made sense. The visitor moved to the kitchen, noting the coffee pot and asked if we still drank coffee. “The week you go cold turkey is not fun.”
“How did you get here?”
“Walked.” He laughed again. “Seriously, though, I can’t tell you too much or it’ll ruin everything when it’s your turn.” He could see Chris struggling to grasp it all and instead came over and threw his arms around him. “I can’t believe it’s been twenty years since I was on the other side of this hug.”
The coffee pot gurgled to life. “Look, I think I can save us some time.” The visitor put his left foot up on a chair and rolled up his sweatpant leg. The sweatpants were beautiful, probably in the thousands for thread count with a golden, shimmering stripe running down them. Chris drew his attention to the birthmark on the hairier, more varicose-y leg.
“You’ve got a—”
“Texas. Yeah.” He grinned with all of his similarly straight teeth. “We’ve always had Texas.” Chris froze. “Shocking I know.” He threw his arm around him again, burying his face in the nape of Chris’ neck. “You moved to this house two months ago from an apartment at 741 Masonic, downtown. You were born on January 29th. The last four digits of our social are four, two, six, and nine. Recently you changed your car insurance. You work as an mechanical engineer and the job is way too easy for you.”
Chris cautiously moved to the coffee pot, wary and confirming the correctness. Wide-eyed he didn’t take his eyes off his large, also blue-eyed counterpart. “Take your cap off…Chris.” Future Chris apologized and obliged, revealing a thinning, grey buzz cut.
“Sorry to break the bad news.” He shuffled over to Present Chris at the coffee machine. “I was hoping to keep my Chrono Cap on, but I should have known.” Present Chris shivered as he poured himself a coffee. “Happens when you’re about thirty-five, and the buzz cut’s the best way to minimize it. Future Chris gave me that idea, actually. Still crush it with the ladies, though.” He chuckled, “Don’t you worry.”
They sat at the counter. Present Chris drank slowly, “How do I know you’re really me?”
The large kitchen clock ticked along. “We crave women,” He looked off. “Though we really love the pursuit, so much more so than your friends who have settled into those tedious, tepid relationships.” Present Chris’ eye twitched involuntarily. “It terrifies us to think about being in a normal thing,” He threw Present Chris a little wink and whispered. “Don’t worry.” Present Chris sipped his coffee, looking ahead with a hollow stare. “At twenty-five we’re over-evaluating our self everyday.” Future Chris paused. “We think that we should be doing something more creative than engineering and every day is still a bit of an existential crisis.”
Future Chris scooted his stool closer to Present Chris. “Do we,” Present Chris paused, pale, his eyes narrowed. “Do we ever find a job we like?”
“It all works out.” Future Chris threw his arm around Present Chris and kissed him at the base of his neck. Present Chris resisted, his whole body rigid. “I can’t say too much. Self-discovery is how we forge through mostly. It won’t work if I feed you the answers.” The succession of kisses intensified as Present Chris sat frozen, ambivalent now. “It’s okay,” he kept kissing him, traversing his shoulders and back now. “I felt the same fear twenty years ago.” He went on saying how this inconceivable action could only ever start as a little spark. That little spark, though, would grow and grow and soon all you’d feel is cozy and warm. Present Chris brought his arm around Future Chris. “That was the best day of my life until today.”
“Today, you and me?” Present Chris looked out the window. “And then in twenty years I come back and I’m… us?” Future Chris confirmed, nuzzling further into Present Chris’ nape. Future Chris turned, kissing Present Chris, unchecked and unapologetic.
“I wish I could go back. Be you again.” Future Chris kissed him again. “Everything is new. Everything feels possible.” Present Chris kissed him back.
“What happens next?” Present Chris asked, friction now radiating from their sweatpants and stubble.
Future Chris nodded, coy. “It’s nothing you wouldn’t do.”
Present Chris took him by the hand and led him upstairs. Unselfish, compassionate, and generous, they rediscovered and reaped rewards from all the best things about Chris. They explored familiar passages with an electric energy. Each trusted the other and knew, implicitly, that they’d each be grateful for having embarked on the journey.
By four in the afternoon both were completely depleted. They lied entwined in each other’s arms, both achingly sore and craving showers.
“This was amazing,” Future Chris declared. Present Chris agreed between gulps from a water bottle. Future Chris rolled off the bed, scavenging through the clothes for his Chrono Cap.
“Afraid so. I need to reach the nexus point before it closes.” He shook his head and he pulled on his boxers. “Sorry. It’s a Future thing.”
He stood up off the bed. Present Chris glanced at his shin and could’ve sworn that his Texas looked like everything north of Dallas had vanished, completely rubbed away. Before he could mention it Future Chris threw his sweatpants on.
“Enjoy ourselves in twenty years.”
Present Chris nodded, satisfied.
The next day, Monday, Chris took a sick day. He didn’t want to face work and instead spent the morning moving the couch over by the window and researching improv classes. Jarvis trudged across his lawn a little after noon and dropped a letter in Chris’ mailbox. He didn’t knock or anything and quickly strode back towards his home. Curious, Chris stepped out and checked the box. He called out to Jarvis, who was nearly back to his front stoop now. Jarvis was a little befuddled, but said the mailman had delivered some of his mail to him by mistake. “Yeah. Just opened it by accident. Think it’s from your insurance.”