Yesterday, I saw the future. It’s pretty much like you think it would be, like they depict it in movies—a little—but it was also surreal. Surreal is also how they depict the future in movies, flashing time and fashion forward, and putting age makeup on the actors, with little pooches under their clothes so that they look like they’ve gained a little weight with their age, thin their hair a little. When you’re dreaming and you step into the future, everything looks a little fuzzy. The light isn’t quite right or the details are a little off, but you get what’s going on. It was like that. Everyone was wearing weird clothes and it was really hot and my feet hurt because wearing heels is uncomfortable as hell when you’re getting older. I remember that part.
It was funny, because when you’re an actor, you see all the makeup and costume things they do to try to make people look older, and all this was done really well. I remember looking around for the trigger that would wake me up, like Chris Reeves in Somewhere In Time.
I am a high school freshman who hasn’t quite yet figured out how bad the world can be. My family is poor. My Mom is on public assistance but she works hard to make sure we have lots of fun and that I have what freedoms she can give me since she doesn’t have much else to give me. Maybe too many freedoms. She and my Dad had a bitter divorce and he has done everything he can to make sure she can’t get ahead here in our small town. I think once I’m out of high school, she’s going to blow this popsicle stand and head for somewhere else where the people don’t glare at her in public or judge her because she got divorced for reasons that aren’t polite to talk about, that she doesn’t tell anyone, that none of us do.
My Dad’s family has disowned me and my sister since we went to live with my Mom after the divorce, but that’s ok. I guess they never really liked us anyway. All those years of birthday parties and holidays and summer picnics together, hello kisses and hugs and pretty dresses and laughter—it was all conditional. That’s been a hard lesson, but not the hardest one I’ll get from them.
I get along really well with my Dad but we don’t see each other that often. He’s not great at keeping to the custody agreement for visitation, and then goes around town blaming my Mom like it was her fault he didn’t pick me up on Friday night when he was supposed to. We never had a lot of money, but now they fight about every dollar. You need $20 to go with the marching band on a trip to Cedar Point? Mom says, I can give you $10, ask your father for the other half. Dad says why should you have to pay if the school is working up there, that’s a bunch of bullshit and it should be free admission. So you borrow the rest from your friend, the one who is taking a C-note there so she has plenty to eat and drink all day, who will help you get the same.
I’m seeing this older guy, roommate of my sister’s boyfriend. She’s in college. Well, they all are. They’re English majors, the lot of them, and the guys deliver pizza so we always have as much pizza as we want for free. I went to stay with her for the weekend at college a couple weeks ago, and we went to a college party one night, and then the next night a big group of us piled into several cars and we drove to Cleveland to go to the U2 concert at The Music Hall. Unforgettable Fire tour, man. I had the flu and was really sick and spent most of the concert laying on the nice cool floor in the bathroom. One of my boyfriend Nick’s friends was hitting on me the whole night, saying Nick shouldn’t be up and dancing in the aisles with his friends, enjoying the concert, but should instead be paying attention to me. I ignore him. It’s *U2!* If I were even a little bit better, I’d be up dancing myself. One of Nick’s friends tells the guy to leave me alone. Everyone looks out for everybody else in a casual and general way.
Nick is nice and very sweet. He’s as innocent about life and the world as I am, even though he’s a few years older. He’s kind of simple, but filled with a happiness about life that’s funny and infectious. He’s really dedicated to becoming a musician. Or a teacher. Maybe both. He spends a LOT of time playing music – singing, keyboards, guitar. I don’t think he’s that good, but that’s ok, none of the other musicians he hangs out with are super fantastic either. When they all get together to practice, it sounds better, and they cover some good old classic rock songs and we hang out and have fun.
All of Nick’s friends dressed up for this futuristic shindig. Well, most of them. Some are still in jeans and t-shirts, but they look a little less like they’ve been drinking for three days straight and at least shaved and combed their hair. His sisters were there, my gosh, and that one female friend of his that never liked me. Derek was there of course, the Ken-doll attractive star of every show, one of Nick’s best friends. Seven feet tall and still great looking in his age makeup, with the hair just a little thinner than it used to be.
I wondered how long the surreal flash into the future would last. My feet really hurt and I longed to get out of there, the scene was starting to look worn and thin around the edges. I talked to a lot of people and we all joked and laughed about how “long ago” things were and talked about stuff that happened “way back when.”
I went to the bathroom and sat down on the toilet and wondered when I would wake up. When Dave N. would have dark hair again and Derek’s hair would be white blonde again and Nick would be laughing really loud and John and Lenny and Dave J. would come over with their instruments to practice. I sat there thinking it was time to wake up. It was the strangest feeling.
Because of course the future is now. And this was Nick’s calling hours. With pictures flashing on the big screen TV of him and our friends from THIRTY TWO years ago.
There’s the one from that time you guys shaved your chests and lifted weights to get buff and took pictures, hoping to be male models. And there’s one from before we all went to U2. And that one big party where the band played at a farm and we all drank too much and were there for too long and someone got their car stuck in a ditch.
My sister and I walked out into the harsh, hot sunlight. I took my shoes off, because those were my costume. My feet hot and burning as I moved quickly across the asphalt in the funeral home’s driveway.
Addendum: The last song in many early U2 concerts was “40.” The whole of the audience sang the refrain over and over after they were done, as we all made our exodus out of the theater. As it was at the one I went to, with Nick and his friends way back when. The song’s lyrics are based on Psalm 40 of the Bible.
I waited patiently for the Lord
And He inclined to me and heard my cry
He brought me up out of the pit of destruction
Out of the miry clay
And He set my feet upon a rock, making my footsteps firm
He put a new song in my mouth
A song of praise to our God