Making Friends With Your Five-Year-Old Self: A Crash Course
By: Brent Hearn
First off, it’s important to meet him in a familiar place. Your grandparents’ backyard, say. Right beside the balding patch of grass where the basketball goal is set up, where the long, cracked-concrete, skinned-knee driveway ends and that forever backyard begins.
When you tell him who you are, it’s a toss-up as to whether he’ll believe you. On the one hand, he’ll want to because he still sees magic everywhere. On the other, he’s been warned about strangers.
Either way, he’ll probably test you.
So when he asks What do you call those lightey-up-the-night bugs? you’ll smile and say Oh, you mean the lightning butts? Then he’ll giggle and you’ll have him.
When he asks if he can touch your beard, let him. He’ll run his small fingers through it and across the top of your bald head, laughing and saying It scratches! while you envy his straight blond hair and how the Mississippi heat warps and prisms the sunlight to show you the reds too. He’ll see the lines around your eyes and the tinges of white in the hair around your chin, things he already knows to associate with people who are either old or getting there.
This will scare him.
You can ask me anything, you’ll tell him. He forms the words in his head first, his fear, his shyness, and a five-year-old’s rudimentary grasp of tact playing tug-of-war with his curiosity. Do you see Mommy much? You know what he’s really asking: If I’m that old, Mommy must be really old. Or…
Pretty often you’ll say. In fact, I’m seeing her this weekend! His eyes light up and he says Me too! And then it hits you what’s next and you don’t even have time to finish the thought before he asks What about Daddy?
You turn your head–but not fast enough–and he knows.
He just lost Grandaddy, and that taught him to recognize the heaviness in the air when someone has bad news. He starts to cry and you remember that day and the one when you got the call about Daddy, and you cry too. You wipe your eyes with the back of your hand, and he does the same. It’s okay, you say softly. You’ve still got time.
You don’t say It won’t nearly be enough.
While you’re trying to think of something that will make him feel better, he beats you to it. You wanna play short shot/long shot? You say Only if it won’t hurt your feelings too bad when I win, and then he promptly destroys you. That goal is nowhere near regulation–he’s used to it and he works the backboard like a champ.
You’re on game three, finally hitting your stride, talking to him about which is cooler–Michael Knight’s Trans Am or Magnum’s Ferrari–when a woman’s voice calls out from the house telling him to come inside, that the batter is done mixing if he wants lick the bowl.
You manage to turn your head before he sees this time.
He asks if you want to come in and have some of Mimi’s brownies and oh God please please please you’d give everything you have but you know there’s only enough magic for one more thing, so you make him forget the stuff about Daddy and then say I have to go now, but you be sure to mind Mimi and Papaw and Look out for your little brother, okay? and You’ll see me again before you know it.
Brent Hearn writes poetry, plays, fiction, and comedy. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Sledgehammer Lit, The Minison Project, The Daily Drunk, Defenestration, Drunk Monkeys, The Offbeat, and on various Mississippi stages. You should hit him up sometime, maybe talk dessert. Over dessert.
You can find Brent @rollnwrite on Twitter and @armbard on Instagram.