There she sat on her canopy bed, a remnant from her childhood that she had already outgrown, as she was twelve going on twenty. I watched her for some time, a girl surrounded by the things she loved, Hit Parader and Creem magazines, her favorite tunes (currently "Sweet Leaf" by Black Sabbath) on the turntable, and posters galore on her wall. Oh, the posters!
She looked up suddenly and said, "Oh, it's you again."
Just stopping by, I told her, and wanted to see how she was doing on this New Year's eve of thirty years ago.
"Hey, are you ready for the eighties?" I asked.
"I guess," she muttered, never much one for conversation.
"So I heard Jefferson Starship is going to give a concert that's gonna be broadcast live on KLOL tonight. Cool!" I said, hoping this will help open her up.
"Yeah, I'm set to record it. It's gonna be good. Patti is gonna come over tonight."
Ah, Patti. Her very best friend for life, or so she thought. I didn't have the heart to tell her that many years hence, best friends sometimes don't have so much in common and drift apart, through nobody's fault. It just happens. I decided to just let her enjoy this moment.
She then said, "I invited Todd, but he couldn't come."
Oh, man, Todd. Now I remember. Good ol' shoplifting, class-cutting, destined-for-juvie Todd.
I had to try to steer her onto the right track here, but doubted she would listen to me. Does any twelve year old? Particularly this bullheaded, stubborn chick?
"Maybe you should forget about Todd for a while. How about Donald that took you to the homecoming dance? He's really cute, and you might be surprised how he turns out...."
She cut me off at the pass. "Donald's not cool. He hangs around the kickers. I love Todd. HE'S my boyfriend now!"
Yep, that went over real well. I shouldn't have opened my mouth. Next subject, please.
"Hey, you've still got that Star Wars poster hanging by your light switch, I see."
"Yeah, it's cool," she replied. "George Lucas says he's gonna make all nine chapters into movies three years apart. So I figure by the time I'm 34, I'll have seen them all."
Oh, jeez. How to break this girl's bubble? How on Earth to tell her about the Ewoks, JarJar Binks, and the SIX movies made? I really couldn't do that to her. "Well, just enjoy the movies as they come along," I told her.
Man, this room was dark. Between the blue lights in the ceiling fixture and the black lights on the wall, I could scarcely tell if she was paying any attention to me at all. But I sure could tell how messy her room was.
"Hey, you know, it's not cool to leave all your Mr. Pibb and Tab cans laying around. That's nasty," I informed her.
"Who asked you?" she said smartly.
Yeah, she had me there.
"Well, you're old enough to pick up after yourself," I said. "Give your mom a break every now and then, okay?"
"Whatever," she shot back.
Time to change the subject again.
"What are you thinking of doing this coming year, next year, next ten years?" I asked.
"Uh.....I guess just going to school and hanging out with friends maybe. When I'm done with school, I want to be with rock and roll bands, like KISS, helping them with concerts and stuff...."
"Oh, you mean like a roadie?"
"Naw, not really, just like promoting them and booking their concerts and helping them and stuff."
"Ah," I replied. "A regular Bobbie Fleckman in the making, right?"
"Who??" she asked with a scrunched-up nose.
"Nevermind," I said, wondering if she knew how much she looked like a kid with that nose and those freckles and those braces on her teeth. I noticed suddenly how she seemed so young, so fresh, so small. I suddenly wanted to hold her, to protect her, to never let her get hurt, to shield her from all that I knew would come and all that would go. I wanted to tell her don't cross the street, don't hang around people that do drugs, don't be so caught up in boys, don't shut people out when they try to help you, don't live a day without telling your parents you love them, don't drink, don't drive, don't drink and drive, don't be sad when he doesn't call back because you never really needed him anyway, don't wear fuschia eye shadow with leg warmers and giant hair bows, don't take anything in life for granted, don't......
But I couldn't. These were things that she would have to figure out for herself. Things that would make her the woman she would need to be to deal with everything life had in store for her. So, I just wanted to take a moment to help her remember her dreams.
"So what about being an astronaut? I know that's what you really want more than anything else. Don't you remember how much you love space? If that's what you want, that's what you should do. You're smart enough, you know. And don't let anyone ever tell you that you're not."
"Eh," she said. "Maybe someday."
Oh, honey. Sometimes somedays come and sometimes they don't. Sometimes we get so busy living life that we leave our dreams in the dust and when we want to revisit them, it's too late. You will never have it better than you have it right now. Both your parents and all your grandparents are here. All four Beatles are still walking the Earth, all the Ramones are still making music, you are sheltered, loved, and so full of potential.
How to reach her? I knew she probably wouldn't listen. Would anything I say soak in? If I could reveal her life to her now would it make a difference?
I decided to just enjoy this moment with her and let her be who she was. She would touch down on the ground again when the time was right. I couldn't save her from the heartache I knew would befall her, but I wouldn't for a moment prevent her from experiencing the joy and freedom to come later. Besides, she wasn't a half-bad kid. Stubborn and willful, yes. Wild and untethered? Of course. But loving, polite, smart, and fearless as I've ever witnessed. I didn't want that part of myself to ever be snuffed out.
"You know, you're weird," she said, half-amusedly. "But kinda cool."
"So are you, chickadee, so are you."
And for the first time, I saw a smile emerge from that little-girl face, with a hint of mouth metal gleaming under the black light.
"Thanks!" she beamed.