Owing to severe lack of focus I tend to lose anything that isn’t part of my actual body. I tell the ladies that I just have a canny asceticism, but it’s hard for me to maintain an air of wisdom when I’m locked outside my own house four times a week because I can’t remember where I put my key. This is why I keep a spare house key up in the rain gutter. The house is one of those modern designs, made primarily out of a single slab of some foamcrete-like material, so I suppose I could just walk through one of the walls if I pushed firmly enough. In any case, because it’s a slab structure there are no convenient crooks or crannies in which one might conceal a spare key, which is why I’ve taken to hiding it up in the rain gutter.
One drawback to stowing a key in the rain gutter is that getting it down is less than convenient. The stepladder lives in the shed, which in turn lives in the back yard. Factoring in the time it takes to clamber over the fence both ways, key retrieval is a good five minute undertaking. But inconvenience alone isn’t the problem. The problem is that once I’ve stowed the stepladder and return to my front door, the thought will inevitably occur to me: “What would it take to toss this key back up into the gutter?”
I know why I lose things. I think started losing my edge in my teens, not long after my stepfather installed an attic fan in our house. The man was too cheap to pay for proper air conditioning, but, ironically, procured from an old ex-aerospace buddy an attic fan roughly the size and strength of a hypersonic wind tunnel. Most males express mid-life crisis through showy, frivolous trifles. My stepfather fetishized household fixtures and appliances. Hammacher Schlemmer and Brookstone catalogs were his porn. And the attic fan was a particularly unfortunate way for him to exhibit machismo, because the condo we lived in wasn’t much larger than a gypsy caravan. The result is that whenever the fan screamed to life, every door in the house that wasn’t stopped by an anvil was sucked shut. Astronauts know better than to open their facemasks in the vacuum of space, and my stepfather could have learned something from that. The hotter the weather was, the more I could look forward to popped eardrums. By evening my head would be splitting, and I got so used to forcing my eustation tubes open that I must have been blowing brain circuitry by the fourth summer.
Or perhaps that’s just a convenient excuse.
As for my irrational notion about retrieving the key ad infinitum? The mere thought of such a wasteful act makes me giddy, because where’s the harm? If there’s a malevolent aspect to this whimsy, I’m the only one who will have to pay the consequences. And another way to look at it is that it’s Future me who has to clean up the messes made by Present me. Why wouldn’t Present me surrender to folly if the responsibility always fell to Future me? Present me, free from consequence, may do as the muses deign. Who wouldn’t? It’s like living in a sloppy, delicious lucid dream.
But now we come to the reason it’s not all fun and games–I have an explanation, but it’s a troubling one. I’ve presently retrieved the key from the rain gutter three times in the past 10 minutes, because I immediately toss it back up after each retrieval in a conscious, willful act. So, as of this moment, the antagonist–Present me–is about five minutes away from the protagonist–Future me.
I need only look to my past to see that the time between deed and rectification is growing shorter.
When I was fresh out of college, and living for the first time on my own, I enjoyed a particularly adversarial relationship with myself. My acts of aggression were small, usually centering around the sabotage of everyday household items. When I came across anything with a screw top lid, for instance, I would twist the lid on as tight as I could, sometimes employing a wet rag or rubber strap to achieve the tightest seal possible. “Take that, you fuck,” I would say to my Future self. Chances were that I wouldn’t need to open a given jar more than once in a single day, so there was always enough time to forget my act of skulduggery. It wasn’t until the next time I happened upon the rigged jar that I remembered who I was up against.
So now it’s down to five minutes from mischief to atonement, a period that grows briefer by the day. My ability to dissociate the two states has always hinged on some passage of time, which provided a kind of interstitial curtain. Present me and Future me may as well be two different people. That’s how it’s always been. But what happens when these two finally meet?