It seems like forever since we spoke on the phone, forever since I saw your face. I promise that’s not intended as a really bad time-travel pun, I know you never really appreciated them. Your loss…
I remember you, because in our childhood you stood out. In the American breadbasket, anyone who’s not painfully white stands out. I never stood out, still don’t. I remember our shared bike rides around the parking lot of our grade school. I remember that day when your bike wiped out in the mud. Was that really the first time we met? I remember the time we kissed, even though we were both so young, far too young to appreciate the weight of such a thing.
I also remember, with my other friends and behind your back, making fun of your name, and your skin, and your eyes, because you stood out. At the time I sometimes believed you didn’t belong. Children can be so cruel. I am truly sorry, because you were always the more clever of us and I’m sure at some point you heard or found out about it, but you never said a word to me. I think I’m a better person now, but there’s nothing I can do to make up for the pain I surely caused you back then.
(The Bureau told me that stronger memories, whether good or bad, are better for stuck travelers. Believe me, I’d rather not be TOO heavy, not really my style. But in this case it’s necessary, helpful even.)
I remember our strange play dates. The He-Man/Strawberry Shortcake crossovers, where the Purple Pieman and Skeletor worked together to crush the delicious forces of good. Trading Atari games and later Nintendo games. I never could beat Dark Link in the second Zelda game. Still can’t.
My girlfriend is a Zelda nut. I hope you get to meet her someday. I think you’d like her.
I remember, sadly, how we drifted apart. I think the transition from high school to college is what did it. I was always smart (and so modest!) but never had the resources of your family. Even if I had applied to MIT there’s no way I could ever have afforded to go there, but you could have easily afforded it. Of course you didn’t need to, being so bright as to earn scholarships practically anywhere you wanted.
You once confided in me that you worried that your family name and family wealth meant you had a spot you didn’t earn, I promise that’s not the case. I settled for a public school. Just paid off the student loans a couple years ago. I couldn’t have worked for the Bureau even if I wanted to. History always was my weakest subject.
I always was a little bit jealous of Bureau field agents like you, for whom time is such a non-constraint. Some of us have only a limited amount of time. I know you surely have snuck off to the Great Library of Alexandria for a weekend to finish a report due in half an hour. Some of us, we have to experience time always in the right order, which means that we can only live one day per day. And my day is over soon. I promise I will write again soon, whatever that means.
I miss you.
#rememberaugust This was to be the first in a series of letters to August Tan. August left years ago to work for the Bureau of Time Disruption, and has become un-stuck in time. To my shame, I never wrote the rest of them, but it seemed like a good idea to leave this one up, with this footnote. For details, see the Kickstarter for “Remember August” by Shing Yin Kor.