Oh, but I can.
And I will.
“You can’t do that, you know,” said the man next to Charlie on the bench next to the canal.
Charlie looked at the man, looked around as if asking Who me? and realized there was no one. He almost asked Excuse me? or What did you say? but he knew exactly what the man said it was just out of context.
Rather than play dumb or question the man’s judgment or get into some polite conversation, Charlie answered with a rapid-fire set of just a few words.
“Oh, but I can.”
The man was older and, based on Charlie’s having seen too many spy movies, looked like he was retired CIA or maybe an old mob boss. But he was clean cut and sharp. His clothes were perfect and he wasn’t going to give in—to much of anything—without a fight.
“Ah, the youth today.”
“I’m not as young as you might think, sir,” Charlie responded and wondered if he had, in the past 20 years ever tried to be older than he was.
Charlie kept going.
“It has nothing to do with youth, though,” he paused, waiting for a response, but thought of a follow-up before he wanted to wait any longer. “Unless, of course, you’re talking about a youth of mindset.”
The man shook his head and smiled. Without a word, he said so much. You think you know everything. I actually do know everything because I’m old and wise. I’m not sure I want to spend my afternoon here explaining how it all works to you.
But the old man said nothing.
Charlie tried to hold back. He scoured his mind for his own CIA interrogation training except that, oh that’s right, he didn’t actually have any. He didn’t want to speak. To talk first was a sign of weakness. He spoke.
“You think I have to work hard, wait more, put in the time,” Charlie hit on a note he could expand on. “Yes, put in the time.” He paused and let that sink in—for both of them.
“Listen, sir, I have a little news flash for you, but you’re not going to like and you’re not going to believe me. In fact, I would probably be better off not telling you because you’re going to fight me on it and I’m sure you’ll have all kinds of retort and rebuttal and refuting,” Charlie knew he was stepping over the line on the use of R words and were it another time and place, he might have mentioned it. But this was not the time or place. He kept going.
“So here you go, I’ll just blurt it out and see what you think, but I don’t want to discuss it, I don’t want to fight about it. You won’t believe me and I won’t believe you but that’s OK. We can agree to disagree. We can talk here and you can think the world is like this and I can think the world is like that. That’s OK. It’s fine. In fact, I don’t know why you even started talking to me. You said, ‘You can’t do that, you know.’ and who are you to say what I can and cannot do? Who am I to need to believe you?”
So much for playing silent.
“Oh, I almost forgot my main point. Remember, the one you’re not going to believe? Here you go, you’re not going to like it. Are you ready?”
The old man had not moved a muscle during Charlie’s long-winded harangue. He didn’t flinch, he might have not even taken a breath. But now there was a question between them. Charlie waited for his reaction.
With the slightest nod of his head, maybe the old guy had seen too many spy films as well, he agreed to listen.
“Time is not linear,” Charlie said.