Coming of Age Drama Science Fiction

“Hey ace. We need to talk. Now.” Walking toward me at a brisk pace, I grabbed my arm and pulled me along into the sidewalk crowd that cared nothing that I was literally talking to myself. “Do you still have those….coffee shops? The ones that sell an easy drink to make at a ridiculous price and pretend it’s something that matters to everyone else?”

I grunted, surprised at the force that I had at this old age. “Uh, yeah. Who are you?! What are you doing?!” I said to myself, staggering at being pulled by my own hand, even decades older.

“Where? Out with it, kid. Where??” I said as my hand gripped my elbow and pulled me around, both of me searching around for…something.

“Uh….Starbrews. There, a block from here.” I pointed to show myself the way. I responded with more quick tugs on me. That seems to be the problem with people nowadays. No one notices when I’m being coerced by myself as we’re talking to myself. “Why do you look like an older me? And who are you?! Let me go!” 

“You and me, kid. We have business to discuss. Quickly.” I said, still surprised by the strength I display at this age. This didn’t seem to be a mugging or an assault. Just me forcing myself into a walk to talk with overpriced coffee between myself.

We got to the line for the barista and I asked myself what I wanted. I shrugged. “I dunno, kid. You’re paying. I can’t use money from my age. Too many questions.”

“Okay, then. Two large coffees, black.” I pulled out a few dollars. I suddenly grabbed them and looked over them and laughed like a discovery at a distant archeological dig that had rubber chickens buried there for millions of years.  While I was amused at this discovery, I pulled out my debit card and paid for them in front of the confused high school-age cashier. I handed myself back my worn out bills and when I spied the debit card, I backed away. “You didn’t just use one of those robots, did you?!?!” I shouted, causing yet another scene. 

“My, uh…grandpa, everybody. He’s a little…out of sorts in the head.” I looked around, explaining to everybody about me. 

“Grandpa this, you little dumbass.” I grabbed both coffees out of my hand even before my name was called, walked to a booth that people were just climbing out of. “Move it. My ungrateful, dumbass grandson and me got words to throw at each other.” We slid into the booth seats across from each other, coffees still steaming between us. 

“Okay, I bought your coffee. What is going on and who are you?”

“Finally! Some nerve!” I laughed and gulped the steaming hot, costly, brown water. It burned my tongue watching myself do that.

“You look like an older me. What’s going on?”

“Because I AM you from the future! So……..?? So….” I waved my hands open, demanding a followup answer. Frustrated, I rolled my eyes, rubbed the bridge of my nose…and pulled out what looked like a really, really old school wallet. Digging around the clear plastic cards and slips of yellowed paper, I grabbed a cracked and faded card that looked like my current drivers’ license. Exactly the one that I have….in…..my….wallet. I ignored my cooling coffee and grabbed my wallet, pulled it out and open…. “Lo and behold….proof that I’m not lying and I really am NOT senile, huh grandson?!”

Still shocked, I told myself, “I knew old people can be cranky, but wow.” I turned the card over a few times, looking over it and comparing it to my…current one. Exactly alike except for the…age.

“Now for why I’m here and what I have to tell you. The usual sci-fi plot twists.”

“How do I know you’re not some con artist. You can do this kind of work in Photoshop and 3D print it anywhere.”

“Because I know how badly you embarrassed yourself at the junior prom bringing your cousin as your date.” We paused, and, reading my mind perfectly, I sighed… “Mark Altonson, Raymond Jerren, Fred Darkins, all the football players that made your school life a living hell. Not out of any kind of Ted Talk, ‘Make your life better through adversarial times’ kind of thing, but their only purpose in life was to torture you. Let you and everyone else around you know what a loser you were and still are.” I gulped. “No, this is not a prank by those stupid, brain-dead morons. In my time, after they each got married the first time, they all got fat, bald and whipped by their wives before they got dumped because they couldn’t get it up to produce another welfare check. Each of them met to reminisce over old days, broke up to get married again, get another kid, and the wheels go round and round.” I took a swig of that coffee. Just seeing myself do that made my tongue hurt. “As far as the embarrassment goes, those three idiots found out who she was to you and dressed for the prom in overalls, boots and stray hats, and changed the music to some hillbilly crap. Then, taking the microphone from Mr. Dugan…poor guy….” I shook my head, swirling what was left of the large cupful…. “Mark came up behind you, whispered in your ear that they knew who she was in relation to you, ordered the DJ to play and old Elvis song. ‘Kissin’ Cousins’ or something like that, and started a ‘Kiss! Kiss! Kiss!’ chant. Being grateful for the chance to actually go out on a date at all, she got on her toes and up to you and kissed you. Those boys folded up laughing their asses off.”

“WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME?!?!??!” If I didn’t cause a scene, I guess that I had to. The booth didn’t allow any leg room to stand up in outrage and rant like in the movies, but I punched the table with my fists to make my point. “I believe you! Okay??! You’re me, but like a different me?? A Star Trek me? Or…I don’t know!!!!” I punched the table again.

I had a broad smile on my wrinkled face. “Well, well. Maybe I’m not so hopeless after all.” We both looked at my spotted, marked hands and for a few seconds, I thought they looked transparent. “Okay. Okay. Looks like we’re on the right track. You want to know what I’m doing here bugging you in your time? Let me tell you what’s going on in MY time.”

I explained that, after high school, I got into the college that my dad picked for me since I was 5 months in mom’s womb. 24 years and a pandemic and one failed relationship after another after another, I ended up taking a research assistant’s job at a teaching hospital. Pay was alright, but I was at the mercy of the higher-ups, the “real” researchers that treated me like the dead specimens in the cages and petri dishes. Long hours, no back talk expected and no socialization due to my “station”. I dared ask for a raise at one clinic that I started out in and got laughed out before being shown the door. That showed me how things are done in my line of work. With no other prospects, I joined the army. The country and the world, being what it always has been, was at war with somebody, somewhere, so I found the army accepting a field medic with open arms and loud orders, early mornings and cries of the wounded and more. This showed me a side of man that I never considered before. Cruel and compassionate. Greedy and selfless. I learned to gamble, learned to box, learned about other physical pleasures that few Americans dream of. Gained and lost fortunes. When I was offered my discharge papers after 2 years and lots of shiny things on my uniform chest and some diseases that I would prefer not to talk about, I accepted. Now, with the experiences mentioned above, you’d think I’d stay and continue traveling the world and helping those in need. A good saint in olive drab and camo gear and boots. I knew when my baptism by fire was done and I was ready to see the world as a civilian. I didn’t go home, wherever that was. I just hopped a train and wanted to see the rest of the world outside of a military base. I did. I didn’t gain fortunes, so I didn’t lose any. I knew, from experience, not to get those unmentionable diseases so I was more or less healthy. A good life. Which brings me to my next chapter. Nailah. I made a stop over in Cairo’s airport to…somewhere… and I met her. Nailah. She wasn’t just a great conversationalist, she *knew* me. The marathon talk session that was our first date kept us up past time for my flight and I didn’t care. She took me around landmarks, including the pyramids and the Valley of the Kings, museums, but for the first time in my travels, I didn’t care about any other landmarks but her face, her words. We lived together for months, years. No desire for children, but the children of the little town we lived in surrounded us. Fairy-land tale perfection. But exposed to the modern world, those tales come to a nasty, brutal end, don’t they? She and I did. Her brother was the (maybe) mistaken target of an American grenade in Iraq. Something about her family that I failed to hear. Something about me that she refused to remember. But now, she remembered with a vengeance. I came back from a street market shopping trip with some native blooms and her favorite fruits to help ease her grief and I found my stuff outside of our….her…door in ashes. Not just my bags and clothes, but what looked like a U.S. flag on top of it burned as well. I turned away, throwing the flowers and food in the trash. The poorer kids we had been feeding, grabbing all they could out of the can. Starting over again. 

Because of this and other wars the U.S. got themselves into, it was harder for me to stay there in that region, so I left and came back. Things weren’t much better here since the economy kept tanking every other year or so. Jobs were hard to come by, even for vets like myself. Thankfully, I had medical training, so I found…yes, another research assistant job. This time, I told them what I was going to be making and what my time was going to be. They obeyed and I was happy for a good while. Then, I met you. Not you, right now, sitting across from me, half-listening, wondering what the hell is he getting at, but a much younger version of the now-you. This poor kid just sat there as his parents kept telling him “sit up straight”, “you’re getting broccoli, so don’t even ask about fries”, “don’t embarrass yourself”. Just constantly harassing him about…anything. Mainly out of being afraid of being the wrong kind of parents, knowing they’re mostly screwed up themselves. 

The mostly grown-up version of that kid sitting here across from me now, picking at our nails, hoping that all this is some big hoax. Some trick pulled by a friend or two or more.” We leaned in toward our face. “Guess what. Nobody gives that much of a damn about you.”

The long pause gave me enough time to go get another cup while I waited on tears to start. Nothing. No result. Just staying there. Waiting on something else to happen. More words to make me take stock of my life, make some changes, the whole thing. I came back with shortbread cookies this time along with the large refill. I opened the bag, held one out. When I waved it off, I pushed one into my hand. I dipped it into the cooling cup. It wasn’t bad at all at this temperature. “See what happens when you decided to enjoy something, kid?”

“How did you come back to this time and place? Did time travel get invented by your age?”

“Obviously, yeah.” I laughed. “Not like with a machine or anything breakable like that. It’s more of a math formula you say out loud. There’s more to it, but that’s how I got here.”

“Why me? Us? Why now?”

“To create some feel-good moment so you can change your life, get more assertive about how you act in the world? That kind of thing you were just thinking about while I stepped away? Told you that I’m you from the future.”

I dipped another cookie in the newly refilled black liquid. “Just to clear something up….I’m not here to tell you how horrible your life turned out. Kid, even with everything I went through, the relationship, the job failures, I’m glad that I went through it all. It all makes a great story.”

“So that’s the meaning of life? To get great stories?”

“Yeah, enter contests and tell them, talk about the characters you’ve met. Throw some vanilla life stories, disguised morals in while you’re at it.”

“You remember all of this? Us meeting here and you telling me all of this? So, I’ll go back in time in my future and do this?”

I waved to myself and laughed. “It’s not that cut and dried. The time-dilation specialist that sent me back said that all of time, what we call past and future are just possibilities. There was a good chance that I wouldn’t have ran into you out there and forced you to come here. That’s why I asked you about whether or not there were coffee shops around. Just to make sure.”

“You forced me to come here. I know that if you walked up to me and asked me to come, I probably wouldn’t have, so you had to grab my arm and pull me in here. Why force me? Why not just walk with me on the sidewalk?”

“I know that you were on your way to do…..something. That you can’t accept what and who you are. Plain and simple. Not out of a self-help book or anything. Just that. Remember? I’m you and I’ve lived in what are now my memories. And most of them aren’t good. I know that now, you’re thinking of running out of here and calling cops, but I also know that you believe me. You know that I really am you and you’re just looking for a way out of all of this.”

I went silent for some time.

“Take your time. Let yourself un-freeze. Yes, I went to a therapist not long after this.” The follow-up sip brought me back down.

“Why? Why come here? Did it cost a lot of money to come here?”

“Cost, it didn’t actually cost much at all. Besides, after the economic fall-out a few decades after this, our view of money changed a lot. Why? Because I love me.”

That big wrinkled grin threw me for a loop. “So I’m egotistic?”

“Okay. Let’s go with that.” I laughed. With everything that’s happened with me, I hope that I can convince us to have a better past. That’s all. I’ve felt sorry for myself…for us…too much to pass up on having a fun life. I know that, by doing this, I’ll change things and I won’t feel the need to come back and have overpriced coffee and stale cookies, but I’m willing to take that chance. And remember, you’re getting off better than Scrooge.”

“Lame.” I heard myself say to my grouchy, older self. 

“Well, it’s you…or us….so you didn’t think it would be any different, did you?”

After a long silence between me and him, I got up.

“You’re paying, right?” I winked at my older self and walked out to move my way through, instead of around the crowds. I glanced back at the coffee shop. I was able to see the booth where me and myself sat and he was gone. 

May 04, 2023 02:57

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.


Lily Finch
00:07 May 11, 2023

Hi David, as I read the story---love that song btw---I felt it was pulling me into the scenes and gave us just enough tell and then BAM! You put me right back into the thick of, yet another scene of immersion(ism). Well done! I believe every storyteller deserves a new word, even if it is made up. 💁🏼‍♀️ If I had to make a suggestion I---if I may? Make a shorter version. But that's if I had to, otherwise disregard. Thank you for demonstrating excellent storytelling. I have much to learn here: I will follow. LF6


David Drake
01:40 May 11, 2023

Thank you so much for your feedback! I had considered making all of the reminiscing that the older "me" was doing shorter, but just capture the feeling that he was going through. Like an elder statesman of "our" life giving his experience to a stubborn younger "us". Agreed, I have a lot to learn here. I won't be consistent with my story submissions here due to "real life" commitments and also a book I type a few sentences here and there. Lol. But, I'll send what I can when a prompt inspires me. And yes, I was thinking of that song and it...


Lily Finch
01:46 May 11, 2023

Agreed, I have a lot to learn here. --- Nah, not you silly1 I meant me, LOL. Thanks. Sorry I didn't recognize your name? Did you leave a comment to one of my stories? LF6


Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
RBE | Illustration — We made a writing app for you | 2023-02

We made a writing app for you

Yes, you! Write. Format. Export for ebook and print. 100% free, always.