Every sci-fi nerd has the wild, crazy dream of time travel. For those of us who have held that fantasy, the one person we middle-aged geeks would love to meet is a younger version of ourselves. My blatherings today are of such a dream, and is the conversation that I might have should I ever ride along with a madman in a blue box or slingshot around the sun at high warp velocities.
My exact time would be October of 1988, twenty-five years ago. I would have been 17 then, filled with every bit of hope for a better life and all of the frustrations of being a teenager in the late 1980s. Let me tell you about this boy, the teenager named David Shelton.
He was small for his age, and had a chip on his shoulder the size of the Death Star. Blond hair, blue eyed, and was ready to explode with an internal fury that he didn’t really know that he had. He hated his schoolmates. He hated his dad. He hated his town. He didn’t hate life, but he certainly saw a lot of things he would love to change.
And change didn’t happen on his terms. At 17, he had no control over his own destiny — or so he thought. He couldn’t move out and go to Nashville to live with his mom since his parents had divorced a few years earlier. Teenage David saw his dad as the root of all his problems, and his entire environment was the product of what his dad did… or didn’t do.
Teen David lived in a basement of his dad’s house. He had a few clear loves in his life. They were movies, sci-fi, and Star Trek. Specifically, the films and TNG (what we Trekkies call Star Trek: The Next Generation). His bedroom was a large space, with movie posters on every wall and all over the ceiling, from which hung model kits of two versions of the Starship Enterprise: NCC-1701-A and NCC-1701-D. To this day, these are my two favorite versions of the legendary starship, with A being the all-time favorite.
He had a desk with an old Apple //c that hadn’t really been turned on in a couple of years, except when he needed to do a little report for school. His waterbed was the old wavy type that was a perfect, warm haven for his not-so-lithe body, and led to many nights of dream-filled sleep. At the head of the bed was a few of his favorite books, a bottle of hand lotion, and a box of kleenex that never seemed to last very long. Ah, teenage sexual angst.
He had no real interest in women, just in sex. It fascinated him. As it does any teenage virgin. He wanted to get laid just like any guy, but for some reason, he didn’t bone up every time a girl walked nearby. Sure, he had a slight interest in girls, but only because he knew it was expected for him to get a girlfriend somehow. But he just didn’t really want to go there. So he stayed single, and went through more kleenex boxes.
Young David had a part time at a nearby pizza joint, and he was about to start as a projectionist for the local theatre; a job that would eventually become his first career. He drove his dad’s old beat up 1982 pickup truck, a vehicle that he was told by a local state trooper that was well-known by every cop in town.
Apparently, when your dad is a judge, word gets out that his teenage son has a bit of a heavy foot.
But all of that was about to take an entirely new light. For teenage David was about to get a visitor from another time: Me. From 2013. I have 25 years of experience to impart to my younger self, and it was time I had a heart-to-heart chat with the boy who would become the man I am today.
But first, I had to make sure to put myself into a position so that he wouldn’t question. In this fantasy, I only have a few hours to talk with my younger self, and I remember how hard-headed that kid can be. Hell, I’m still stubborn. Something I’m going to have to talk to the kid about for sure. I would need some kind of touchstone. A link to the boy he is that he’ll recognize instantly. Because my current fat face sure as hell isn’t recognizable to a 140-pound string bean teenager.
I know just the thing. The Lego transformer. It’s one of the few things I created in my mid-teens that I still own today, a red and blue version of the Optimus Prime truck. Yes, kids. Good ol’ Prime was around 25 years ago. You’re playing with your parents toys. Ponder that.
But this wasn’t just any transformer — it was one I created. Out of Legos. And yes, it actually transformed. It was a feat of teenage genius that I still smile at today. Because, you see, I’m freaking brilliant. And damned proud of it. I’ll pack that old, dusty pack of Legos in my satchel, and it’ll be just the proof I need to prove to myself that I am indeed his older self.
My method of time travel is a stone that was found deep in the heart of a mysterious cave nearby. It’s a crystal that’s a glowing, radiant spire of light. All I have to do is read the inscription and grab hold of it. And no, it’s not a sex toy. Really. It isn’t. I don’t care what you think it looks like.
It’s a simple enough procedure. Just pick a date, time, and place. And off I go. I’ll pick 3:00 p.m. on a Thursday. Just before TeenMe has to go off to work. The incantation is a simple enough task, and a blue flash overtakes all of my senses, and there I am. In the basement of my dad’s old house. Standing face-to-face with my younger self.
He’s wearing a button-down shirt and a denim jacket. His hair is fuller than mine, and cut into the shape of that God-awful mullet. The jeans are tight. Probably a 29-inch waist, the bastard. He didn’t have on his glasses in favor of contacts. His hair is parted in the middle, in a vain attempt to look stylish. His face has a few more pimples than I do now, and is just as soft and smooth as I remember.
His jaw drops, revealing his teeth and the gap between his two front teeth that was starting to re-open after losing his retainer in a McDonald’s trash can.
He had kicked off his shoes already, and was relaxing a bit before going to his job. He hadn’t even changed into his khakis and white button-down shirt that was required at the pizza place.
“Who the fuck are you?” Ah, the potty mouth. Every teen has it. Especially this guy, who had a lot of anger and daddy issues.
“Um… hi,” I start.
“Why the hell are you in my room?” A flash of anger. “GET OUT!”
“David, hey,” I try to recompose myself. “Listen.” As if that word has any bearing on a 17-year-old’s mind. I tighten my lips and sigh through my nose. “I’m you.” A beat. “From the future.”
Teen David stops for a second and looks at me for a few moments, giving me the head-to-toe work over with his eyes. I’m wearing my usual attire, jeans, a comfortable shirt, and my leather shoes. I have my glasses on — and just to emphasize the point, I remove them and looked into his eyes. He still registers doubt in his eyes, so I break out the transformer. It’s old, dusty, and it’s all I can do to keep the thing from falling apart. I cradle it gently and hold it up to him. I let him take it. There’s only one human being on this planet that I trust with my Lego transformer, and it’s him. Me. Whatever.
He takes the toy and looks it over. A piece falls off, and puts it right back where it belongs. He looks behind his right shoulder and sees the exact same object sitting on a shelf. He starts to drop it but quickly cradles it. He knows how important this little bit of plastic bricks is, and gently hands it back to me. The doubt is gone. The apprehension is gone. He tilts his head and squints his eyes. His next words would undoubtedly be the most important words of our conversation. They would acknowledge that the man standing before him is indeed an older version of himself.
“Good God, you got fat.”
DAVID W. SHELTON is a graphic designer, blogger, writer, activist, and author of The Rainbow Kingdom: Christianity & The Homosexual Reconciled. He lives in Clarksville, TN with his better half and their many, many pets.