I Was Nobody, From the Future"Well fuck you, mister," the old man spat. "Fuck you for following me." His bulbous nose quivered, the exploded vessels in it visibly filling as blood rushed to his face and he barked " follow me in the road, all over this city, I'm just minding my own business, fuck you, young man."
As if from above, I could see my hands tighten on the handbrakes, lips pulling back over my teeth while I said, "All I was doing was riding my bike and stopping at this stoplight when you stepped into the street right in front of me...you can just eat a big bowl of my shit, mister."
After alcohol, the fight-or-flight response is responsible for more ridiculous epithets than any influence on earth. Combine alcohol and fight-or-flight and you've got yourself a powerhouse.
I steamed off into the night, so mad I could have served a bowlful up right there. I pedaled until my rusted chain chattered off the gears, wrapping itself around my leg like a hungry snake desperate for someone to hold. I jumped off the bike in a front yard that seemed really, really familiar. I lay in the grass, stroking the starving little bike chain and cooing to it in the international language of abused metal--it's important to be soothing with frustrated machinery. Take your anger out on a furious bike chain and it's likely to gnaw its way down to your bones.
"Jeff? Is that you?" A familiar female voice rang out across the dew-covered lawn. It was Ms. Benson, mother of Frank, one of my best friends in high school. The chain slithered off complacently into the bushes as I leapt to my feet, wiping my pants with my greasy hands.
"How have you been? Frankie was asking about you a week or so ago..I didn't know you were back here."
"Here" was a curious place. I live and bike in Washington, D.C. Ms. Benson lives in Norfolk, Virginia. I was riding like mad earlier, but I sure hadn't ridden my bike up on the interstate for several hours. However, wormholes in space-time are totally invisible, with only a little blurriness at ground level like smudged glass reality, and could have totally been hidden by the thick blanket of fog covering the ground.
Ms. Benson vanished, mumbling something about turning her front yard into a luxury condo that cost $1200 a month to rent. I curled up on the porch, panting and in desperate need of rest. After plugging my cell phone and ATM card into the mail slot to recharge, I slipped into a deep, dreamless sleep.
I could have slept for 48 hours or fifteen much-needed minutes, but either way I woke up to a guy shaking my arm, saying "hurry...we've got to get you out of here before Ms. Benson finishes peeling her mask off...get in the van and I'll drive you to safety."
I didn't need to see the forest of snakes under her fake facial skin again after the stunt with the laundry detergent in eighth grade--I hit the floor of the van at near-escape velocity as the it fishtailed off into the night.
I crept up to the front seat to get a better look at my rescuer. He was a tall guy, maybe 22 years old with a head full of curly, shaggy hair. He looked really, really familiar, too. I thanked him for the rescue and we chatted about books and bands. The weird thing was, he hadn't heard of any of the bands I mentioned...or at least, any of the ones that came into existence after maybe 1988. He was nuts for Bad Brains and the Cramps and dub reggae. I asked him about Fugazi, and this look came over his face like he'd seen a ghost. Shaking, he held up a notebook with the word written in it and circled several times.
"That's what I was going to name my new band," he said. "I got it from this comic book, 'The 'Nam'."
"Hang on a second here," I replied. "What's your name?"
"I'm Ian. Ian MacKaye. Who are you?"
Ian Mackaye, age approximately 22, had pulled me up off of Ms. Benson's porch. He had no idea of the legacy he was about to create or the tremendous changes his band would wreak on independent music.
Then it hit me. I thought that I just thought it, but I said it out loud:
"You're a figure in my dream. You might be real in your reality, but right now I am creating you, or at least summoning you into my world. When I wake up, you're going to vanish along with everything else."
Mackaye replied: "How do you know I'm going to vanish? How do you know I'm not going to stay right here driving this van while you vanish, sir? You think you created my whole world with your sleeping mind, but your brain can't have that much power. I think you've just propelled yourself here."
He had a point.
"Well," I said, "either way, we can't hang out together too much longer. In my world, you are in your early forties. In my reality we have not met yet, even though you grew up right around the corner form my apartment. Your band is one of my favorites and really changed me for the better when I was in high school. That band, Fugazi, is going to be one of the greatest rock band of all time. By 2005 it will all be over, more or less. Nobody will know if you have broken up or not, but one thing is sure: you're going to leave a large mark on a lot of people. Then you'll start a new band, a two-piece called the Evens that is really different from Fugazi, and really critically acclaimed. When you play at this church in D.C. on last Friday, my world's time, I will miss the show."
He sat there for a long time, open-mouthed. It's not every day that a stranger from the future lays out your whole future at the hundred-thousand-foot level, and it's that incredible a future.
He regained some composure after a few minutes, and his face twisted a little bit, looked somewhat annoyed. "Wait. What do you mean coming along here and just telling me my whole life like that? I don't want to go around with some sort of fucked-up sense of entitlement now that you've told me this...I want to work for it! What am I supposed to do now?"
"I don't know, man," I replied. "Try and act surprised."