• 25 June - Wednesday afternoon - Smalton
Back in our room after our walk around town, which had included lunch, I flopped down on one bed and covered my face with a pillow.
"You okay, Lisa?" asked Maggie, sitting on the other bed.
I put the pillow under my head. "I don't know, Maggie. At first, after we appeared in Woodward Park in Tulsa, I was feeling great and was all jazzed up about living my life as it should have been. Then I realized I still had many of the same problems around telling people about my past and who I really am. This latest turn of events is interesting, but I'm becoming conscious of kind of a split personality response to things; my sixty-five year old mind whispering in the ear of my eighteen year old body."
"How did you feel the first time you were eighteen?"
"Hah! When I wasn't feeling suicidal and beating my head against the wall in my bedroom? Oh, defiant, immortal, with the answer to everything that didn't matter; all the usual teenage crap. When I think back on all the things I just blindly rushed into and somehow survived, I'm amazed. Now I see problems to be solved, or perhaps avoided, compromises to be made and commitments to be honored."
"What do you think you would have done back then, in a situation like this?"
"Something stupid that would get someone hurt eventually, no doubt. Even at sixty-five I'm still too naïve and trusting for my own good. I'm not at all certain I understand human beings.
"Which reminds me that I need to find Sean and smooth things out somehow. You and Anna going to be okay here for a while?" I sat up and looked around. "Where is Anna?"
"That's a good question," said Maggie. "I thought she was going to use the bathroom, but now I suspect she's wandered off. I'll go look for her."
— ∴ —
Sean and Nan were not in their bedrooms or in the den, so we went outside. Aunt Sarah was weeding the flower bed around the patio. She said she believed that Nan and Anna were in the park, so Maggie headed in that direction. I saw Sean in the backyard near the shed, throwing darts at the board hanging on the side of the shed. I walked toward him.
"Hey, Sean. Can we talk? Just the two of us?"
Sean threw his final dart, then turned to look at me. "Sure, if you really want to."
"I do. Let's take the trail through the woodlot, okay?"
We cut through the field behind the house and followed the street to the entrance to the woodlot, without saying anything. Once under the trees, Sean stopped. Not looking at me, he said, "Last summer, we were holding hands. Now I don't know what to do."
"We can hold hands if you'd like. I'm naturally a touchy-feely cuddly kind of person."
He turned around. "But you don't remember? Anything?"
"I remember you, and doing all kinds of things with you and Nan. But I don't remember being romantically involved with you. This is a different me than you used to know. It's confusing for me, too. My memories of my first eighteen years aren't valid here."
Sean slowly shook his head, still not looking me in the eyes. "I hear you say that, but I can't really wrap my head around it. I mean, I was prepared for things to be different when I saw you again, after almost seven months; I know you've had a rough time in Tulsa. And it's not like we promised each other anything. And we're first cousins, so it's not like anything could really come of it, probably. I even made myself go out with a couple of girls last semester. We agreed that would be a good idea. But, it didn't work. My feelings didn't change."
"And then I show up in a cloud of drama, unaware of your feelings and tell you I'm not the person you were hoping to see. Sean, I am sorry!"
"So what now, Lisa?"
"Let's walk and talk. And hold hands, please. I haven't held hands with anyone for, gosh, it must be almost thirty years now." I offered my hand to Sean, but he just looked at it.
"Okay, then we'll just walk and talk. Are you going to college in the fall?" I strode off down the path, hoping Sean would follow.
From behind me, Sean said, "I was accepted at The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, but I'm also thinking of taking a gap year. Maybe bum around Canada for a while. It's something I really wanted to talk with you about, regardless."
I glanced back and slowed down, letting Sean catch up. We continued on side-by-side. "Were you thinking of waiting a year so we could go to college together? After I finish high school?"
"Yeah, possibly. That's part of it."
"Maybe in a state that allows cousins to marry, instead of simply cohabit, I assume?"
He stopped walking, clenched his fists and turned away from me.
"Sean, I'm not making fun of you. It would be the obvious thing to do if we liked each other. I'm sure I would have gone along with a plan like that. I've always been ready to burn bridges and leap into the unknown."
"I would have. My life is a lot more complicated now than it used to be. And I have to take care of Anna and Maggie."
"Then this is just stupid, after all, isn't it? Me thinking about you."
"It is not stupid, but it's suddenly different. I did not do this to you on purpose. Well, I did come to see you all on purpose, and maybe that was a mistake. If this is too hard on you, I'll leave. I don't want to hurt anyone."
"Leave? And then what?"
"I'm sure I can find a job somewhere, doing something."
"Are you crazy? Three girls on their own? Do you know what could happen to you?"
"Anyone who lays a hand on Maggie is going to be sailing through the air in two seconds, and any stranger who touches Anna will wish they had decided to poke at a rattlesnake instead."
"And what about you?"
"Anna and Maggie will protect me. And I'm a lot more street smart than you seem to believe!"
We stared at each other for about thirty seconds. Then Sean walked past me, on down the trail. I followed. This was not going well.
In a couple of minutes we reached the part of the trail that went up the side of a ridge. "I left my boots in Tulsa," I said. Sean offered me his hand without looking me in the eyes, and I quickly took it.
Once the trail leveled out again, Sean tried to release my hand, but I kept hold. It had been so long since anyone had held my hand! We walked a few more steps before he yanked his hand free. I stopped walking and felt my eyes tear up.
"Lisa? Are you coming?" said Sean, from about fifteen feet down the trail.
"Just a minute," I said, wiping my eyes. At least crying was easier without glasses. I walked to catch up with Sean.
"Sorry," I said, "I shouldn't have done that, but it felt so nice to have someone hold my hand."
"You're older than my parents. I'm just a kid, compared to you. I assume you've done all kinds of adult things."
"Adult things? What is it you think adults do that you couldn't do now if you wanted to?"
"You know, get married, raise a family, have a career."
"Those are simply things that take an extended amount of time, not things that you are in some way incapable of doing until you age a few more years. You'll find out as time passes that most people don't really change the way they think about themselves as they grow older."
"But you have more experience. You've done things I've only thought about doing."
"Yes, that's true. I've done things, seen things. Made mistakes. Taken responsibility. Done things I didn't want to do. Burned bridges. Made enemies. Lost friends. Hurt people. Been hurt. But I can't say that I understand life any better now than I did when I was a teenager. I've lost faith in many things and lost hope about many things.
"And now all those memories are no longer attached to anything, no longer shared with anyone. They might as well be dreams, or tears in the rain.
"It's all gone, the good and the bad of that life. I haven't even actually lived the first eighteen years of this life. I'm a leaf on the wind, a lost soul in an eighteen-year-old host body."
"You sound like Nan's poetry and songs. If you talk like that around anyone but us you are going to be taken for crazy and locked up!"
"Oh, that's right, they still have mental hospitals in 1970, don't they? There's one in Fulton."
"Still have . . . what do they do with crazy people in fifty years?"
"For the most part, very little. If their families can't take care of them, they end up homeless and on the street, or in prison if they're violent. In some cases, though, they actually can cure or at least stabilize people with various drug therapies."
"So the future is dystopian?"
"Has Future Shock been published yet?"
"I've heard of it, but I haven't seen a copy."
"We'll have to pick one up! I'd like to read it again. But to answer your question, yes and no. For most of the twenty-first century I hated what was happening and wished I was back in the past. Which is why I am, because I told Anna and Maggie that more than once. There are a few things I miss, but mostly not."
"What do you miss?"
I stopped walking and thought about that for a minute. "You know, Sean, I think it would be best for now if I don't talk about things that we can't share. I need to re-sync myself with the here and now, and that wouldn't help. It's kind of like I have amnesia, and I had a bunch of crazy dreams while I was knocked out. Talking about the crazy dreams may be interesting, but isn't going to help me get my feet back on the ground."
"I suppose that makes sense. We used to talk for hours, about all kinds of stuff. It's one of the things I like, or liked about you."
"Hey! I'm still a motormouth, and I'm still full of crazy ideas. I'm just more of a ditz than I was last summer."
"You weren't a ditz last summer, and I don't think of you that way now, either. But you're not the same person, Lisa. It's like the Lisa I knew died, and you replaced her."
I had an intense moment of déjà vu. I started to cry and covered my face with my hands. Oh, god, not again. "That's not fair, Sean! Would you feel that way if I actually had fallen out of a tree last summer and really did have amnesia?"
"Well, no, of course not!"
"What if I told you I was hesitant about being serious with you because I wasn't sure I liked boys more that I liked girls? Would that also make me seem like a completely different person?"
Sean stared at me. "You did tell me that, Lisa. That was what led to us agreeing that I should try dating other girls."
"Oh, okay. Then maybe I'm really not all that different. How about we work on getting to know each other again instead of leaping to conclusions?"
We resumed walking. After a few minutes, Sean held out his hand. "Let's go back to the house. We have a shelf full of photo albums, and as you've come here many summers, you're in most of them. I know there are some photos we took last summer at Kevin's place. Would you like to see them?"
"Absolutely," I said, happily taking hold of his hand again. "I want to know as much about my past here as I can, if it doesn't bother you. Like it or not, there's only one of me, so we just have to work with that."
"It does bother me. I just have to cope with it and get over thinking about the you that's stuck in my head. The real you is the one I'm holding hands with. I can't argue with that."
Going down the steep part of the trail I slipped and Sean put his arm around my waist until we reached level ground. "Thanks!" I said.
Sean blushed. "Sorry. Didn't mean to be overly familiar."
"Don't be silly. I'm not complaining, am I?"
— ∴ —
While Lisa went off to the woodlot with Sean, Maggie walked over to the little park near the house. Nan and Anna were seated in adjacent swings, talking.
Anna looked up and said, "Hiyo, what's up?"
"Lisa went off to talk with Sean, so I decided to track you down." Maggie jumped up, grabbed the pipe from which the swings hung and began doing chin-ups.
"Gee, Maggie. That's exactly what Sean does when he walks over here to find me," said Nan. "I like to slowly swing and think, but he's more into vigorously doing whatever he can."
"Yep, that's Maggie. Maybe you and Sean should figure out some sporty thing to do together, Maggie. You were always complaining that Lisa and I didn't like to do anything more energetic than walk and talk."
"Maybe. But it sounds like Sean would rather spend time with Lisa than with me."
"I wouldn't be too sure of that," said Nan. "Right now Sean is very confused about Lisa not being Lisa, if you know what I mean."
"Then I might do that. I'm feeling rather angsty and frustrated. Some physical exertion sounds quite appealing. What were you two talking about?"
"This and that. Just getting to know each other," said Anna.
"You're not going to try and teach Nan how to do any magic, are you?"
"Wouldn't it be an interesting experiment? We don't know what the rules of this timeline are, after all. Obviously we have to start small, so don't be all worried."
"Telling you not to do something is a waste of time, so please be careful?"
"I will, but we haven't even tried anything yet. Lots of background to fill in first."
"All right. I'm going to run a few laps around the park, then go back to the house and see if Lisa and Sean are back yet. Maybe I can talk Sean into doing something energetic."
"That sounds dreadfully sweaty and boring. Anna and I are going to stay here for a while longer being intellectual," said Nan.
— ∴ —
Back at the house, Maggie encountered Sean and Lisa returning from the woodlot.
"Hey, Sean! I need some exercise. Is there something we can do together?"
"Go ahead," I said. "We can look at the photo albums after dinner. I'll go see if Sarah needs help."
"Fine. Maggie, we could shoot some hoops. I'll back the car down the driveway so we can use the basket."
"Hoops? Basket?" Maggie looked mystified.
"You know, basketball."
"What is basketball? Lisa's interest in sports is zero, unless board games count. I know nothing about this planet's sports."
"O-kay. Well, I'll show you. Basically, there's a round, inflated ball that one person bounces up and down. They try to throw it through a hoop, to score a point. The other person tries to block them from doing so, and take possession of the ball so they can try to score their own point. It can get pretty fast and furious."
"Sounds like fun," said Maggie, as she and Sean began walking toward the garage.
"Maggie! Did you find Anna?" I remembered to ask.
"I did. She and Nan are swinging in the park, talking about magic and who knows what else. Nan said they're going to stay there for a while longer."
"Okay, thanks." I headed for the house.
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