You are required to spend the next year in either the past or the future.
To what year would you travel and why?
Washington's resolve, Marx's shunned critique, the vision of Dr. King, it all lies in the past, waiting to be re-lived. Yet the notion of the future-of the promise of foresight, wealth, and knowledge-yearns to be exploited. So then why do I once again find myself in 2017? I abstain from the temptations of a rich human history in favor a near past, but not in an effort to change it, but to live it once more. I travel to 2017 to see and feel the love, pain, and loss of it all, just one more time.
I park my car fixed between two warehouses scarred with rust and decay. I know this farm well, it's where I spent almost every morning of the summer of 2017, working for a man I have come to know well, but at this moment in time, have yet to meet. Vernon May sits atop a damp stump, a mountain of logs and wood to his back. I make my way into his kingdom of lumber, as he greets me with a warm smile hidden behind a thick grey beard. Introducing myself to him for the first, and what is now the second time, I refrain from embracing him, instead sticking my hand out to be shook as a stranger, and not a friend. Mr. May, or Vernon as he will insist I call him in the months to come, walks me over to a wood splitter caked in sawdust and grease. Pretending not to know how it works, I let Vernon explain how it splits the unprocessed wood before us, before turning and leaving me to work. In the past, I feared doing something wrong, breaking something so expensive, but as a tourist of my own past, I know Vernon put his trust in me, believed in me, from the moment we met. I shouldn't know how he deeply he cares for everyone in his life, that he wants nothing more than to see me succeed, but standing there alone on his farm, I'm grateful I do.
Five weeks later, a light rain beats down on my exposed skin. I could've dressed for the weather, like everything else, I knew it would rain today. But in my reliving of 2017, I need everything to be the same-to feel the same. Two weeks ago, Vernon and I used his truck to move the splitter to his backyard, as he sung along to Disturbed's cover of The Sound of Silence, teasing his time as a rock singer. I hesitantly lock the lever of the splitter upward, knowing it will cause the hydraulic line to burst and spew boiling fluid, just as it had done before. Vernon drops his attention from the pavilion he is constructing, racing up to me in an instant. As I knew he would, he ignores the damage to the splitter, ensuring I wasn't burned. He does not scorn me, he does not fire me, he simply puts his arm around me, thanking God for keeping me safe.
It is this moment and so many like it that have brought me back to 2017, eager to feel the compassion, love, and friendship of such a great man. However, it is also these moments that tear me apart as I pull out of Vernon's driveway three weeks later having collected my final paycheck. I want to burst through the screen door of Vernon's secluded cabin, pleading him to stay home on May 7th, 2018, but I know that I can't. Vernon will go to work in his blue sunglasses and faded hat, and he will tragically and suddenly pass away in an accident on his way home. I can't change this, I can't fight this, so I drive away, finding solace in the fact that I got to hear him sing, meet his wife and children, and laugh with him, just one last time.