September 28th, 2009
Sometimes obsession works to your advantage. For instance, when I got to my car that day, I realized I had only gotten the young woman’s name and the fact that she lived in Park Ridge, but not her phone number. I swung by the Jefferson Park station, scanning the bus stops for the Frye boots and the suede coat with the fur collar, but saw nothing. All the way home I could not get her out of my head. But why?
She had done nothing exceptional to inspire me. She was just a young woman my own age living in the town next to me. She wrote for her school paper. She was smart, she liked literature. That was all the fuel I needed to get the engine of obsession up and running. She was just like me. That was the bond that brought us together, and that would one day break us apart as well.
With the clarity of hindsight, I jump into the passenger seat of the convertible, floating down from above as in the old Hertz rent-a-car commercial, sitting next to my younger self. I watch myself turn up the music, eagerly switching gears, speeding down Higgins Road.
“You might slow down and stop and think about this for a minute,” I yell to myself over the music.
“Who are you? Where did you come from?”
“I’m you, thirty years from now. I’m older and wiser. I want to tell you to think about this.”
“Oh, leave me alone. Let me be young and do something silly, you old fart.”
“You’re going to end up unhappy. You’re going to end up divorced. Then things will get really complicated. Is that what you want? And by the way, you’d better rustproof that floor. It’s going to rust all the way through and…”
“I want someone to be with, that’s all,” I said. “What’s wrong with that?”
“But you’re not really passionate about this woman,” I said. “Don’t you want someone who makes your heart stop when she walks in the room?”
“I had that,” I said. “It was awful. She broke my heart. I just want to relax and have fun.”
“But someone you’re just ‘okay’ with isn’t enough,” I said. “You’ll never be satisfied…”
I pulled the car over abruptly with a squealing of tires. I turned to my older self and asked, “Who are you with right now? Aren’t you alone, at age fifty-two, or however old you are?”
“Well, yes, but…”
“What do you mean, yes, but? You’re alone. You haven’t got anyone. Who are you to give me advice? Get out of this car and let me do what I want.”
I stood on the corner of Higgins and Cumberland and watched the Fiat rumble off into the forest, sounding like an overgrown lawn mower, carrying my younger self into a future that seemed inescapable. So much for the wisdom of age, I reflected.