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In my mind, I’m driving down a country lane, loose gravel flying up and hitting the side of the car. Even in the blinding summer sun, it reminds me of heavy rain, like bullets on a rooftop. I slow the car and turn into a long driveway leading up to a big, white farmhouse. In the backyard I watch myself climbing a tree. I go as high as I can and sit, cradled in the tree’s branches.

From on the ground I can see how uncomfortable I am, up in the tree, squirming and wiggling. But I remember how much I loved being up there. Partially because my mother told me not to, but mostly because I loved being so high up. I look up at the little me and I look down through leafy tree branches at the stranger in my yard. I begin to climb down. I take another look at me. I see it dawn on my younger face, it’s not a stranger, it’s me! How many times did I dream about being older? How often have I thought about what I would look like, sound like, be like in the future?
So the little me jumps to the ground, stands next to the tree and the big me walks over, waving. I wave back like this sort of thing happens every day. We stand in front of each other for a while, thinking. Then, I can’t take it anymore. I hug her, this little me and not me. I cry out of fear and anger and hopelessness. I cling to her, sobbing, I cling to the child I used to be. I’m afraid, so very afraid, of nothing. I cry louder and I feel worse. Now I’ve done it, how will I ever stop? She strokes my hair and we sit on the roots of the tree. She pats my cheek and the tears slow down a bit.
“I’m sorry,” I say, “so sorry.” Because, honestly, what else is there to say? She nods to show she understands but she won’t look me in the eye. I’ve disappointed her. I haven’t come from the future with fame and fortune and friends. No, I’ve come with tears, guilt, and self-loathing. I didn’t even have the decency to bring a jet-pack or a spaceship. She sighs, lightly, and her leg twitches. She’s getting bored now. I stand and she does too. I hug her one last time. She smells like sun and dandelions and tree bark. I let go, reluctantly, and she jumps into the sandbox.
I walk back through the yard, past the house, to the waiting car. Of course, I take one last look at her. She hasn’t kicked and screamed at the “FOR SALE” sign because it isn’t there yet. She hasn’t lost her favorite teddy-bear, for real this time, and her older sister hasn’t found it under the bed. And she hasn’t figured out that maybe Mom and Dad aren’t quite perfect. None of this has happened to her, but it will. I envy her and I pity her.
When did I start looking back with jealousy and regret? What could possibly drive her to become me? Was it the move? The divorce? Or was it something subtler? I’m tired and this trip down memory lane was not all it was cracked up to be. I wave goodbye, but she’s already forgotten me.



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