One foot in front of the other, lost in thought, walking, because for the rest of the day he would be sitting, typing away, earning a paycheck.
His thoughts rushed, as they usually do, from ideas to relationships to simple stories, his mind run-run-running.
Similar themes circle, cycling, re-occurring day after day, step after step, then and now.
“I don’t know who I am and I don’t know where I’m going.”
The clouds, cumulus, flying across the sky, are an authentic backdrop to the towering glass, steel and concrete buildings.
He walked looking up, observing the tops of buildings, the clouds, the trees, breathing deeply, thinking bigger.
“I’m not who I want to be.”
The busy people, the SUV’s and sedans with one driver, the lack of bikes, the hustle of suits and heels, the homeless, the trash…
“I’m stuck, floating in between…”
This thought, one he’d had before, over and over, reappeared as he lowered his gaze from the sky to his routine path.
He immediately stopped walking.
As if someone hit pause, everything had stopped. The birds were suspended mid flap. The cars, blinkers and horns and tires, paused. He looked up at the clouds that earlier sailed through the sky but now stood still.
The combustion engines and loud conversations and background noise gave way to immediate, absolute silence.
He slowly lowered his gaze as he heard the footsteps.
Thirty feet out was a man walking directly towards him. Not just walking but strutting with a purpose, right at him.
Twenty feet. Fifteen. Ten.
“Finish your thought.”
“Finish your thought. The one you just had. ‘I’m stuck, floating between…’ Finish it.”
The man that stood before him, the man questioning him, was, him. He himself was asking himself this question.
“Wait wait, this has to be a joke…”
“It’s your life you’re talking about, man. It’s no joke.”
“But, you’re… me.”
“I am. You’re me and I’m you. Not exactly, though. You are me, all of me, but I’m only a part of you.”
“You know the thoughts that run through your head, those that make you think, question, answer? They happen late at night when you can’t sleep, when you walk through the city, when you’re stoned or tipsy, when you day dream, when you journal, when you meditate. You know those thoughts?”
“I’m one of those. I’m you, the full you, but just a sliver, a personification of your thoughts.”
He shakes his head.
“Man, I know it’s fucking weird, but you’re just going to have to accept it,” came a voice from behind him.
He turns to see him, again. Another him, standing there, dressed in an outfit from his closet.
“Yes, man it’s weird. But run with it,” he answers his stupefied look.
“What are y’all doing here? What’s happening?”
He turns back towards the first him, only to see another him walking up. He’s older, though, by maybe five years, and dressed more professionally, tailored suit, nice shoes.
“You feel lost, huh?” he says.
“You feel in between, yeah?”
“You feel stuck?”
“Yeah, I remember that time.” The older him responds with a sigh, looking off into the past, remembering.
“Who the hell are y’all? What’s going on?”
“We’re all a bunch of different you’s, bro.”
He stares at himself, looking for more.
“We, all of us, are personifications of you, in some way. Some of us are you, now. Some of us are you, in the future. There’s also a few of you from the past.”
He looks around at the him’s surrounding him.
They’re all dressed differently, if only slightly. Some are older, from a few years all the way to a few decades. Some are dressed nicer while others are more casual. The diction and verbiage is off, from him to him to him, but only he could recognize that.
He has on dress shoes while he has on sneakers. He has a clean cut while he has unkempt hair while he is bald.
“So why are y’all here?”
“You’re fucking life, man” comes the aggressive answer from behind.
Everyone is standing in a circle, more or less, with him in the center. In the middle of the road, in the middle of the traffic, in the middle of the pedestrians, in the middle of a paused scene.
“We are all here to give you insight to your life, like where you are, what you’re doing, where you’re going. We as a whole cover all aspects of your life, whether now or then. Good or bad.” This came from an older him, maybe in his early 40’s.
“We don’t have much time.”
“So, look, man. We’re not here to tell you what to do. As you know, we all hate when someone tells us what to do.”
Laughs from the group.
“We’re here to share our experiences, which could be yours. We are not all projections of your exact situations. We are a collection of “could-be’s”. What if you didn’t go travel. What if you did take that entry level. What if you stayed with that girl. Get it?”
As he started to understand, the conversation started to flow as all of the him’s injected insight, answered questions and offered reinforcing compliments.
“You’ve had a rough year. A few really rough couple of months. But that’s nothing, a small blip on the timeline of your life. We all went through it. Just keep walking, keep doing. Use it to push you forward instead of hold you back.”
“Cut those people out of your life. Don’t burn bridges because we all know how that works out. Instead, just move on.”
“Promiscuity is fun but after awhile the fun runs out. Find a good girl, respect her, grow with her, trust her.”
“Exercise. Get your health right. Sweat, stretch, strength. Yoga, foam rollers.”
“Consistency. Stay with it. Whatever it is. We all have Shiny Object Syndrome but you can work through it. Get organized.”
The time flew, standing still, as the conversation flowed. Insights were internalized and specifics emphasized.
He had these talks with himself quite often, in the confines of his mind, silently debating himself. But this was different. Actually talking out loud, hearing out loud, being able to ask questions and receive verbal feedback, this was different.
“So, what about the possibility of moving cities for a job?”
“3…2…1…CLEAR!” came the response from the three him’s standing to his left.
The silence, the intimate conversation, all the him’s immediately gave way to chaos as car horns and sirens and city noises roared back to life.
Staring, past the faces staring down at him, he saw the clouds flying swiftly past, as he took a gasping breath.
A breath of his life.