He thought he saw a rattlesnake
That questioned him in greek
He looks again and found it was
The middle of next week
The one thing I regret, he said
Is that it cannot speak
- Lewis Carrol
Sitting in his dorm he heard a curt knock and rose to answer; upon opening the door he saw himself. Dressed in clothes he knew to be clean in his dresser. The band t-shirt he rarely wore, the black jeans – the only pair he had owned in the past decade. These are the things he thought of, and that novelists have it wrong; you don’t try to kill the thing or leap out the window or collapse onto the floor comatose. You just accept it. Cannot be real and will understand soon. The analyst in you demands data so you speak.
How are you wearing my clothes?
These are my clothes. Should I come in?
Yes, yes you should.
He stepped inside and closed the door behind him, stood awkwardly hovering and glancing at the window.
You are going to wish you had offered me a seat.
He sat on his roommate’s bed, he pulled over a chair. He was seated but had hardly relaxed at all, as if his weight was still on his feet.
Are you a hallucination?
Maybe, I’m you in four days.
Those clothes are still in my drawer then.
There are two of them as there are two of us.
He could have checked but he didn’t.
How long are you staying?
I’m not sure.
Was this your choice or is it just happening to you the way it is to me?
No, I chose it. You might too.
And you did this why?
Thought I might be able to help.
He spoke it almost as a question.
In twenty minutes you are going to have to come back up the elevator to get your lab goggles and tomorrow you are going to forget to write your history discussion questions.
And I’ll do these things no matter what?
No, you can change them. It’s why I came.
Anything else? Or will these things change something?
Not really. Maybe in a long time. I didn’t have long to think about this, I’m just trying to come up with mistakes I made in the last four days.
Any big ones?
Employment opportunities I will miss, people I will alienate, women I should declare my love to.
Not her, I’m not saying anything to her.
You’re going to see her in line as you are getting dinner and then sitting by herself when you leave. You’re going to think that she’s waiting for someone, she was ahead of you so she’ll leave soon anyways, things have been weird this quarter anyways, but these are insignificant and you know it. You’re just being a coward.
So it’s one of those ‘take a chance, you never know what may happen’ speeches?
No, it’s one of those do what you want for once in your life instead of what’s easiest and stop worrying about what she’ll think of you.
But you didn’t sit by her?
Did she look-
He spoke spoke the word his face downturned and his voice low.
You stood there for a second didn’t you, she wasn’t facing you?
Yes. No. She wasn’t.
His mood was coming down, whatever he had hoped for this it wasn’t happening.
And I’m going to see the same thing.
And why, when you did nothing, will I not?
I don’t know.
She was beautiful?
But especially right then?
It would be easier if she wasn’t.
So why am I going to do this? I want it. You wanted it. But neither of us enough, neither had any reason to think things will turn out.
You probably won’t.
But I should. You came to tell me I should, but you say I won’t.
If you did it wouldn’t matter, there’s such a small chance that it would change things.
There is a way I could find out-
You can’t burden her with that, you have no right.
True. But were you not just telling me to act selfishly? You didn’t keep it to yourself to save her from embarrassment. You didn’t do it for the same reason you haven’t done everything else for the past twenty years. You, I, don’t give control to another person, I would never throw myself at someone’s feet.
I remember thinking about that, working that out at night when I was trying to go to sleep. It’s all very nice, and maybe it’s true, but it has no practical expression. Are you going to give up control just because now you can see it’s effect on you?
It’d be like climbing that wall at Vantage, you can go for it, make the leap, give up control, but you will only gain a meter, likely less, and it won’t be any easier next time. You’ll have to keep doing that most difficult thing at every opportunity.
This is what I think about in the next four days?
While you are zoning out on the Avicenna reading thinking about her.
She’s so much cooler than Avicenna.
Yes, she is, she’s much cooler than most people.
But not those two.
She comes close though, more so than most.
It’s weird to be talking about this, kind of refreshing.
I can’t stay.
Are we losing time four days from now?
No, but you need to get to class and not forget your goggles.
Right, yes, I should be leaving.
I’ll walk with you.
Can other people see you.
So I’ll be talking to myself.
Can’t be any worse than what they already think of you.
True, the thermals might be a mistake.
Fuck them, that random guy at the bus stop knew you were a hiker.
He did, that was weird.
Yes, it was. You forgot your goggles.
Can you hold the elevator?
I’ll be right back.
- or alternately -
upon opening the door he saw… a window where the hall had been. He steadied himself against the doorframe as the view soared over the landscape. Lake Washington, Capitol Hill, Queen Anne, the Sound, and the city gone. As if it had never been built. And the forest three thousand miles beside the ocean.