He showed up. I must admit, I was surprised. These situations could be a bit off-putting. I know it was difficult for me to believe when it happened so many years ago. He took a seat at a vacant table just as I received the coffee from the young barista. I studied him for a few minutes before walking over. He was a twenty-nine year old father of four, and he’s been married for nine years at this point in his life. It was difficult to remember looking so young.
“Good morning,” I said and placed his cup in front of him. “I’m glad you could make it.”
“Thanks, yeah, good morning,” he said. “I wasn’t sure the car would start this morning.” He gestured to the old, beat-up car in the parking lot. The paint was peeling on the hood, the roof lining hung low, and the windows were open on a hot August morning.
“I remember those days.” I said and sat across from him.
He shifted in his seat and gently tapped his fingers on the table. It was his turn to study me. He examined every line on my face, the eyeglasses, and receding hair line. “So, I see the hair is still there.”
“Well, yeah, what’s left of it,” I smiled. “But the upside is that I can almost grow a full beard now.”
He laughed nervously and sipped his coffee. “Hmm, caramel macchiato. My favorite”
“What are you, I mean, what are we drinking on your end?”
“Chai latte, mostly” I said. “But I still enjoy a caramel macchiato every now and then.”
Changing the subject, I asked about work. He was bored at his dead end job. No room for growth or advancement, he wanted to go back to school, but it seemed impossible with shift work. Seemingly stuck in a rut, he wasn’t very optimistic about his future.
“So, how does this work?” He asked. “Does everyone get to do this?”
“I’m not sure how it works. And I’m not sure how many people get this opportunity. I know it runs in the family, though.”
“Like the balding thing?”
“Yeah, like the balding thing, but this is better. Just think of it as a timeout in life. It works both ways for us. For you, it’s a chance to keep hope alive and for me to take stock on how far I’ve come to this point my life. In our life.”
“This feels like a dream,” he said. “I mean, it feels real, but not real at the same time.”
“Well, it is a dream. Time travel hasn’t been invented, yet, so the only way this can happen is in a dream. Besides, if this was real, I would still be over at the counter waiting for our drinks.”
“You’re right,” he said. “I know I should have so many questions, but I’m totally drawing a blank.”
“I think that’s normal, I remember this being a little overwhelming. Besides, I’m not allowed to give specific information, anyway.”
“No chance at future lottery numbers, then?” He joked.
“No, no lottery numbers, no Super Bowl winners to bet on or anything like that.”
“So what does my future self have to tell me, in vague terms, that is?”
“Mostly, that you’re doing a good job as a parent. The kids feel safe and they have everything they need. You have been a good provider. With Melissa, be more patient and try not to win every argument. You’ll have some ups and downs through the years, but keep your head, keep your optimism, and you’ll come out okay in ten years. I’m currently going through one of life’s storms and a little perspective will go a long way.”
“Man, that’s good to hear. Will you get a visit from your future self, also?”
“I hope so,” I said. “I want to know if I will ever finish that damn novel.”
“Novel? You’re writing a novel?” His reaction was both surprise and intrigue. “I’ve always wanted to write a novel.”
“Hopefully, we will.”
We talked about sports, politics, and the weather until we finished our drinks. As the tables began to fill with people, we took this as our cue that our time has finished. Standing outside shaking hands, I gave one last piece of advice, “I may get in trouble for this, but look in the help wanted section of the Sunday newspaper. There will be a job listing you’ll be interested in. A job you’ve been trying to get for the last five years.”
“Really?” He said.
“Yes, apply for the job. It will change your life.”