He's a lot suaver than I am as well as more evil. You can tell by
the way he tilts the sugar spoon slightly so that the sugar slides into a
perfect parabola before he turns his wrist and the sugar cascades into his
Ideally I would like to become as suave as he is without becoming as
evil. Which is one of the reasons I agreed to have lunch with my future
self. As a down payment, I practice getting a spoonful of sugar in
exactly the way he does it. A few grains end up on the tablecloth.
"You're mocking me," he snarls. A really nice snarl too, one that
will probably take decades in front of the mirror to perfect.
"What gives you that impression?"
I give him my wry-ironic-yet-somehow-naively-innocent look, which is
as carefully practiced as his snarl. It gives me a bit of a jolt to
realize that my mannerisms are as fake as my future self's, but less cool.
He looks gray-haired and distinguished in a velvet cloak embroidered
with riffs on satanic imagery, and a pleated dark blue chemise with
diamond buttons. I sport long hair, a Nirvana T-shirt and jeans. We're
eating at a fancy downtown hotel, which I could not normally even get
into, much less afford. I glance up at wedding cake ceilings, then in a
downward arc to the plush walls and heavy pink drapes.
Gaggles of debutantes and Friends Of the Yadda Yadda Museum stare at
us. They probably think this dude's my father, when it's more like the
other way around. Actually, having lunch with my dad would be less weird.
"Terrible service here," I venture, glancing around. In fact the
service is nonexistent, as if the waiters are hoping we'll leave without
"I know. It's almost as bad as the snotty waiters in Paris. Of
course I hadn't been to Paris yet, had I? But you'll go soon enough."
The swapping pronouns were driving me nuts.
"I got so annoyed with Paris I nerve-gassed the place. It will be
your 50th. birthday present to yourself, ridding the world of a snottiness
infestation, not to mention a source of annoying art films." Before I
could respond to this, my future self clapped his hands in a staccato
pattern over his head as if he were doing the Lambada in his seat. A
waiter resigned himself to coming over.
"You see, killing is easy, after a while." My 50-something
incarnation leaned across the table and gazed at me. "Especially if
you're well paid for it, as I am most of the time."
I wished I could still pretend this guy wasn't who I might become.
He'd proved it to me a dozen ways, including that dogbite scar on his/my
butt (he showed me in the men's room), memories only I had, and various
bits of future technology, including the temporal displacement whatsit
he'd used to descend upon me.
The leer when he had found me in Forbidden Planet -- "still skulking
into the adult comics section, eh Todd?" -- had set the tone for our
entire day together. What I couldn't get was why he was hanging out with
"Nah, man, killing's too much of an effort," I said, exaggerating my
own draggy voice. "Most days I need a reason to get out of bed. I can't
even begin to imagine a reason enough to kill someone."
The waiter arrived. My evil future self ordered first. "I wish to
cause the deaths of as many innocent animals as possible," he told the
waiter slowly. "Slaughter geese to make a small square of pate for me.
After that, kindly slit a chicken's throat and turn it into soup.
Finally, an agonizing factory farm death for my veal cutlet, if you
He had this way of emphasizing words like "slaughter," "slit" and
"agonizing" so that they echoed through the dining room and even into the
lobby. I ordered a salad quietly.
"Anyway, you were saying. Reason enough to get out of bed. Reason
enough to commit mass murder." He was like a professor on a roll.
"Which only shows what a narrow slice of the human experience you've had
in your coddled little life."
"So how did I become so bad?" I asked after a long silence.
"By stages." He sipped for five minutes and I thought he had told me
all he wanted to.
"If you are lucky enough to become me, then a major turning point is
when you go to prison. At first it may seem like the end, but that's
where you get your rep. You become the man who killed the man who killed
the president. Not to mention the man who raped the man who raped the
For the umpteenth time I asked him to what I owed the honor of him
buying me lunch. This time he answered.
"It's one of the things about getting older that you cannot possibly
anticipate. Everybody -- except maybe Mick Jagger -- wastes time at some
point in their dotage sitting around and thinking: if only I hadn't been
such a dork when I was younger. I killed him, by the way."
"So you want to make me less dorky?" Then I caught his last
statement. "Killed who? Mick Jagger?"
"In the nursing home. With his own guitar string."
"You -- I make me sick. But I was saying wouldn't making me less
dorky interfere with your own development? I mean, you said I should
treat you with respect because you're a product of my own evolution as a
person, but aren't you messing up that same evolution by showing up here?"
"Ah, so he has a brain after all." My evil future self finished his
pate. I still hadn't gotten my salad. "But you see, I don't give a shit
what happens to you. The time line that created me has already happened,
from my standpoint. If you go off and create a new time line, it won't
bother me in the least. Be good. Be even worse than me. See if I care."
"So if you don't give a shit what happens to me, why are you here?"
"God, I can't believe I was this dense. Because you're a dork. And I
cannot countenance the fact that you will likely spend the next 25 years
of your life being a dork before you wise up -- and that's only if you
turn out as well as I did. I probably can't change that. But at least I
can mitigate the the awful night you're about to have."
"Tell me about it."