THE CONVERSATION THAT I HAD WITH A YOUNGER VERSION OF MYSELF
"in a field, i am the absence of field. this is always the case. wherever i am, i am what is missing." -mark strand
it was somewhere between may and june because i remember either the mayflies being late or the june bugs being early. but the whole place buzzed with life. it was the time of year when the dusk had just relearned to argue against the coming of the night. you could tell because the dead oak tree at the far end of the field silhouetted against the sky like heaven's windshield had been shattered. and i remember the wheat rolling with the wind. how i loved to watch it roll. it complemented my mood. swaying like a metronome to an ancient rhythm long since forgotten. a whispered cadence that only nature knew. grasshoppers jumped in step as if mortar rounds were soaring to unknown foxholes. a quiet war for a beautiful day. and let's not be mistaken...it was that kind of day. perfect and serene, somewhere out the pages of robert frost. it was the vermont i had grown up in. the vermont where i'd spend my life.
underneath that giant oak sat myself, seven years old and unassuming. what else to do but make introductions? i walked slowly taking in what i could, breathing the air, and feeling the stalks flirt against my thighs. i remember whipping my palm across both lashes of my eyes; clearing out the pollen, brushing daydreams from my mind. as i rounded the tree and came up next to myself i remember how unassuming i looked, how innocent, like i hadn't a care in the world. my whole life was ahead of me and i just sat there with a blade of wheat in my hand swiping it across my knee like it was my job. as if the whole world would end if i took a breath and stopped to look around.
"hi." i said with a surprising weakness to my voice, "mind if i sit down?"
he didn't look up but stopped playing with the wheat, then paused for what seemed like an eternity. "sure." he said, "i've been waiting for you." He spoke slowly and deliberate, strange for a boy of his age.
i brushed off my jeans and leaned quietly into the tree sitting down beside him. "how did you know i was coming?"
"because there was something you wanted to say." he never looked up. just out and into the distance, eyes fixated on the horizon as if waiting for something that was bound to come shortly. and he never stuttered or hesitated. his voice rang out; young but clear, awkward but full of confidence. and suddenly i wondered what i possibly could have to say.
"i guess i just wanted to tell you what it's going to be like when you grow up."
"oh?" he said with a strange candor to his tone. I remembered how he grimaced, looking down with his eyebrows raised, chuckling to a joke that he’d never share and one that I wouldn’t understand if he did.
"it's not like it is for you now...it's" i hesitated, wondering how to explain to a little boy the complications that life had in store.
"how is it?" he snapped back…butting in the way I still do to this day.
"it's different.” I finally blurted out, “hard i guess. things get really complicated."
"complicated how?" this wasn't going how i planned.
"there are a lot more problems...serious problems that might be hard to figure out."
"but there's never such thing as a problem without a gift wrapped inside." he said as if he'd been rehearsing it for years.
"what do you i mean?" i asked, surprised at what my younger self had to offer.
"we create our problems because we need their gifts. we need to learn from how we fail." i knew he was right but couldn't be sure how to respond. "why did you come here?" he added slowly but brimming with force and self-assurance.
"um...to talk to you about getting older."
"do you like yourself matt?" he asked.
"what do mean?"
"do you like who you are...it's a simple question." his words where so clear but there was still that childhood lisp that took away from there meaning. I swallowed back a laugh while digesting his phrase. The words rung clear but they took longer than usual to sink in.
"of course i do." i said finally, as sure of myself as ever.
he looked at me and smiled. his young eyes fixating upon mine with the familiarity of a mirror but with the strength of an untouched knowledge. "then this conversation is over,” he said, “I’ll see you when I get there.