Dylan lay in the hospital bed, semi-conscious and in pain.
The memory of the purse with a brass clasp hurtling into his face kept flashing in his mind’s eye.
‘Brick? No brick? You decide…’ He still had his teeth.
They would release him today.
A nurse came to check his vitals. She handed him an envelope from the bedside tray.
“This is yours.”
“What is it?”
“A get well card?”
He flipped the envelope onto his lap. ‘Just what I need, badly rhymed platitudes.’
The nurse said, “We’re releasing you. Do you have someone to drive you?”
“I’ll catch the bus.”
The nurse sighed and left.
‘How do people stand the pain…?’
A groan escaped his throat as he reached for the envelope. No one to help him. Alone.
His live-in girlfriend, Julie left him yesterday. He understood, but it hurt. She believed he cheated. A simple misunderstanding spun out of control. Her pregnancy paranoia didn’t help.
At the bar last night he drank too much. He got angry. And stupid.
Dylan sensed a presence.
Julie stood in the doorway. She had an effortless beauty. ‘Too late to fix this?’
He waved her in. It hurt to smile.
“You okay? I heard you were here. Should I go?”
“No, stay. Just a flesh wound.”
It hurt her to look at him. “Your eye?”
“Like new in a few days. Getting fitted for a pirate patch.” He couldn’t muster an ‘arggh.’
“Usual stupidity. Got angry. Got drunk. Got mugged…”
Wanting to comfort him, she stopped short of touching him.
“I didn’t know when we’d see each other. But wanted you to know we’re cool... you know, about… well, you know.”
He nodded. She had nothing else to say. She reached for the envelope. “You got a card.”
“Probably an ad.”
“In your handwriting?”
He didn’t respond.
“I should go. Don’t want to cramp your style...”
“There’s no one, Jule…”
“Anyway… You were right. You’re not ready for parenthood... Obviously. It’s… we’re better this way.” She patted his hand and turned away.
“Hey, Jule… They’re booting me out today. Can I hitch a ride?”
“Own your choices Dyl. Don’t confuse things. She’ll drive you.”
“I’m glad you’re okay.” She left.
He lay immersed in pain.
His anger boiled when she didn’t show up. He’d never drunk so many, so fast.
Four laughing women blocked the exit. Pushing by them, he muttered an insult. They followed him, shouting outrage.
Then he saw that purse hurtling toward his face.
He came to in the ambulance.
The paramedic said, “The bouncer dragged them off you. Never seen anyone kicked with high heels… What’d you do…? Ask for it, or earn it?”
Expecting to die, Dylan lay in woozy pain. “Third degree stupidity. Said ‘all women are whores.’ They took it wrong…”
“You kidding? Tell me you didn’t… Send ‘em flowers in thanks for not neutering you.”
Dylan laughed and pain flooded his body.
Reaching a few inches for the envelope seemed impossible. He handled it. It smelled like an attic.
No address. No stamp. Just his name, written in what looked to be his own hand.
The nurse entered. While she made notes, the doctor came in.
“It looks like you’re ready to go home. How do you feel?”
“Pretty crappy. I’ll live.” The doctor nodded. “How about my eye?”
“Leave the bandage on for another day. Prescribed an ointment for it. Eye’s not damaged. No concussion.”
“That too. Be sure to follow the instructions.”
Dylan nodded. “I get it.”
The nurse asked, “Did you find someone to drive you?”
“Yeah… they’re meeting me out front.”
“We’ll have an orderly escort you.” She left.
The doctor gave Dylan forms to sign. The orderly brought a wheelchair and assisted Dylan into it.
Every muscle ached.
They took an elevator. The orderly pushed the chair to the sheltered, traffic turn-about.
Dylan said, “They might be running late. I’ll be okay.”
“Don’t worry. I’ll stay with you.”
The orderly stood behind the wheelchair. Watching cars come and go, they waited for Dylan’s fantasy ride.
Dylan fanned himself with the mysterious envelope.
The orderly asked, “You thirsty? You like some water?”
He stared at the envelope. ‘What the hell…?’ He ripped it open. No card. Just a tri-folded sheet of paper filled with his cryptic writing style.
The date at the top read yesterday’s date, but 1993, twenty years in the future.
‘Hey, man… It’s only 1973. You high? Smudge the ‘seven’ into a ‘nine’? Twenty years past…? Wait… future? ’
A mix of awkwardly printed capitals and illegible cursive followed. His childish scrawl reminded him of spiders that died in a break for freedom. ‘Who copied my hand writing?’
It began, “Dear Dylan,
I write you with utmost affection. I heard of writing a letter to my past self, so, here goes.
I’ve been where you are, plus a lot. It’s been a long road with many detours.
You don’t know me. But I know you.
If you trust my words, you can side-step the worst of it.
1. Stop being an idiot. I had to. You need to.
It’s no fun and there’s no future in it.
The main outcomes of idiocy appear to be –
Time in a hospital (as you know), and jail (don’t ask).
You’re better than that, Dylan.
What will wake you up?
2. We make choices. That’s all anyone does.
Make better ones and change your course.
A shift in attitude tilts the world’s axis.
‘Living up to your potential’ implies not being a drug addled n’er do well wreaking havoc on everyone around you.
Are you the last word on anything? Seek the truth and serve it.
Would you recognize its slap?
3. Feel a victim? Life isn’t fair? Take the reins and cut the crap.
Can’t stand the pain? Make needed changes.
Move forward. Step by step.
I learned the hard way. Head off the pain. Sooner’s easier than later.
How you treat people reveals your sense of yourself.
Want to prove your manhood? Do what’s necessary.
Whoever clocked you with that purse maybe did you the biggest favor ever.
But without course correction, those shoals will ground you.
4. I know you.
Such changes mean we’ll never meet. That’s okay.
Finding yourself counts for more.
Don’t follow my path down a multitude of dead ends.
I am you, with twenty years hindsight.
Trust me. Take the high road.
5. Be smart. Don’t punish yourself. Juice the learning curve.
The superior man acts with integrity.
Wherever you travel, you must live with yourself. Live well and in peace.
Your choice, Dylan. Grow up. Own your life.
Don’t lose time.
Fret not. It will all work out.”
The writer signed it, ‘love, Boris.’
When he turned eight, Dylan took that secret nickname for himself. Unused for years, only he knew it.
He sighed. ‘Who wrote this crap?’
‘Purse…’ Dylan felt awful. Never so bad.
He reread the letter, and nodded.
The orderly murmured. “Your ride coming?”
“Uhm, yeah. They’ll be here. Said they’d be late.”
“Alright, I leave you for a minute?”
“Sure. I’m cool.”
The orderly walked into the building.
Dylan folded the letter into his pocket. He hadn’t stood alone since leaving the bar. He wobbled to his feet and gained his bearings. Pain helped him focus.
Taking time, he moved down the sidewalk. ‘No hurry, got all day.’ A bus shelter stood a block down.
‘Time for a change…’