Monday, November 7, 2011

"Future Perfect" by Scott Carpenter

By the time you read this letter I will be dead.

Or as good as. I’m only fifteen years old, but don’t beat yourself up over it. Even though it’s your own damn fault.

You are thirty. And mostly I fear you will have disappointed me.

Tell me: What do you remember? For example, do you recall the name of the turtle that escaped from its tank and ended up with its head squished in the screen door?

What about playing freeze tag with Mick and Kelsey and Emily, that time up at the cabin?

How about all those tadpoles from the pond, the ones we kept in a tub in the garage until they turned into frogs and disappeared?

No? I didn’t think so.

Do you remember anything?

What about later? Like that boy at camp who wanted to share a sleeping bag, and then pressed himself against you that way? (I bet that rings a bell.) Do you remember lying in the grass at night at the base of the water tower with Jennifer M., placing your mouth on hers while your hand slipped under her shirt? (You should.) Do you have any recollection of the violence of my desires? (You probably wish you did.)

And do you remember your promises? How you would never betray anyone? How you would travel the world? How you would learn six languages? How you would never vote? How you would always be your own boss? How you would never, ever become like your father?

I have to ask you these questions because you and I are not the same person. Every year each of our atoms is replaced. So by the time you read this, you will be a copy of a copy of a copy. There may be some resemblance, but it won’t go very far. No more than I recognize myself in the one who bore my name and lived at my address half a lifetime ago, when that person, whose existence I barely recall, was seven or eight.

We are writing these letters in Mrs. Grant’s AP English class, and the school will have mailed this to you when fifteen years have gone by. In case you don’t recall, this is not the version I turned in for a grade, where I said what she wanted me to say. This one is for you. To remind you of what you have forgotten. Even though I know it’s too late.

I am afraid of what, at the time you read this, will already have taken place. I can feel the seeds of disappointment sprouting inside me even now.

I had hoped for better.

For what it’s worth, let me give you a bit of advice. An assignment, really. Sit down and write yourself a letter, to the you that you’ll have become when you’ve doubled your age yet again. Include this one with it, to remind our future self of what you will have used to want. Make him listen to both of us. Because, you see, you’re the only chance I have.

Do it now. I don’t trust you to wait. It doesn’t have to be long.

And don’t forget the proper postage. I’d suggest you use a Forever Stamp. Although I fear that
name may be overly optimistic.

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