If breakfast is the most important meal, then today must be the most important day in my life for today is the day that I will have breakfast with anyone I want to.
Everything has to be prepared. One slip up, and I might certainly be disappointed. Both of us might. Who knows – my guest might not want to talk to me again. Worse yet, he might not want to talk to himself ever again.
But, the probability of probable disappointment is pretty improbable. Probably. To say the least, the room is regal – and even that may be an understatement. Whatever meager cash I’ve gleaned over the years of scrubbing test tubes and writing pithy articles in a chasm of student journalism, I’ve spent on this day. Another way to say this is that I don’t have much. I have two tea sets even though none of us drink tea, two bagels, one sausage because I’m a vegetarian and he isn’t, peanut butter, jelly, paper plates, a live band that doesn’t play music because we can’t agree on a song but instead stands there pantomiming a great song, a clock that keeps on ticking through silence that could kill time, extra batteries if it doesn’t, chairs, a bean bag, my parent’s alcohol smuggled in a water bottle because one of us thinks this is rebellious, maturity inked on flesh and a scar and unkempt hair and sweatpants and everything else I’ve become and everything I haven’t. That is to say, I’m wearing a suit and tie, the clothing of a man with everything to lose and nothing to gain.
I hope it’s enough. I need to impress him. No one will have greater criticism of me than him. No one will be more dissatisfied with me if something goes awry. I guess that’s why I’m having breakfast with him. That, and because he’s a great guy. He’s funny. He’s modest. He’s me. For if I were to have breakfast with anyone in the world, I would have it with myself.
Maybe it’s narcissistic to do so, but I would disagree. I should first clarifiy that by having breakfast with myself, I am not in any way or form suggesting that I am one of the great people implicitly mentioned in the topic question of this essay. I know this. Both of us do. Nor am I saying that I’m interesting. If anything, I know myself and I know I am incredibly boring. To be honest, I hope that I’ll be able to carry a conversation with myself. Even worse will be when I can’t shut him or I or whatever up.
Now don’t get me wrong. There are hundreds of people I’d rather have lunch with before myself. Kurt Vonnegut. Richard. Adolf Hitler But that wouldn’t help me much. These people, from the good to the bad, are a culmination of who I am right now. Kurt Vonnegut is pervasive behind each and every one of my sentences. Richard’s death is the reason why I’m here. Same with Adolf Hitler. Those are just three people from the millions of others that form my haphazard characterization and without them, there would be no Kacper.
But still, they each are just one person in a group of many. If I am to learn anything from this breakfast, it must be with myself because it is only when I see who I’ve been that I’ll learn anything about where I’m going. And if that isn’t convincing enough, I want to have breakfast with myself because if I won’t, then who will?
So everything is prepared just the way I like it. Just as I am placing the Japanese animation comics on the table, the doorbell rings. He’s here. I’m here. And while the room looks magnificent, it is barely setup the way I desire. There are still plates to be set, cutlery to organize, food to be cooked, a table to be washed, and a whole slew of other chores that would put a Disney princess to shame. I guess it’s part of my nature. I’m disorganized. Always have been. Hopefully, I forgive myself for being myself.
I’m nervous, though. He’s early. I’m never early. Could it be that I don’t even know myself? And if I don’t, do I want to know more?
Hundreds such questions pass through my mind as I dribble a tongue that feels foreign in my mouth and I laggardly trudge towards the door with feet weighed down by the gravity of expectation. Sweaty palms slip against the brass doorknob as I shakily turn it. As the door opens and the clock ticks and tocks in the background and the band waits around anxiously and the alcohol ferments slowly, surely, I see myself and I know this is going to be a mistake because I am exactly as I remember I was.
A vibrant yellow American Eagle sweater flashes before my eyes along with a pair of ripped jeans that I still own. Soft, blond hair waves effortlessly with the movement of the door and I can’t help but think that I look like porcupine wheedled away of all its spikes. My lips are more plump and red than they are now. A face free from pimples, facial hair, and prepubescent scratching greets me with a wide smile. “Kacper,” the younger me says regally, as if he had just met a long, lost cousin.I think to myself that the younger me is a smug bastard and I reply, “Kacper, come in won’t you. Or should I say I? Won’t I come in?”
My younger self doesn’t laugh. He walks in, looks around, almost oblivious of his surroundings, and slumps down on to a chair. It moves away from its perfect orientation, an orientation I planned for hours.
“Please,” I say annoyed, “Sit down.”
“Nice place,” he says, ignoring my obvious frustration.
“Thanks,” I reply. “It’s yours as much as it’s mine.”
“Nawh. I could never live in a place this clean.”
“You do because I do.”
“Yes,” I say tersely.
He mulls over it. “Nawh. Can’t be.”
“Can and is.”
“Wow. That’s shitty.”
I want to tell myself to watch my tongue, but it seems pointless. Even now, I like to swear. And he/I has a point. It is pretty shitty. When did I become so forsaken? I remember telling my parents that I’d never clean my room because a clean room was a sign of emptiness. I told them that I’d rather have a messy room because at least it meant I was thinking. We argued about it until I began to clean my room one day.
The person in front of me, Kacper Edward Niburski, was not yet at this age. He was fifteen. And he was messy, like he always thought he would be. The ketchup stain on his sweater was evidence enough.
My younger self eyeballs the alcohol in water bottles. “Classy,” he whistles.
“Just the way you like it.”
“Is this warm wine?” He takes a sip, “Delicious.”
“Drinking is drinking, my friend.”
“So is breathing and you don’t see me bragging about it.”
“You’re right. What I see is a person I don’t like.”
“What do you mean? I’m you, just older. And besides, we just met.” He was being brass and abrasive, a throwback to a bygone personality.
“Here. Let me put it this way, do you smoke?”
“I need all the brain cells I can muster.”
“But you still drink, right?”
“You’re a fucking contradiction. A walking paradox.”
“You think so?”
“Ya. What’s 438 times 374?”
“What does that have to do with anything?”
“Aren’t you smart?”
“You really let the shit hit the fan. How much potential did you waste?”
“What? I didn’t.” I reply as my voice cracks.
“Someone did, and it wasn’t me.”
“I thought when I’d get older, things would get clearer, not more muddled.” He takes a sip of the alcohol and grimaces.
“That’s not how life works,” I say, trying to get the conversation back where I want it, “You grow. You learn. You ask more questions with fewer answers to them.”
“No, you just stopped searching for them, didn’t you?”
“You gave up. You fucking gave up.”
“You did. Tell me what you’ve done with your life.”
“Well, you know, or I know, or whatever…”
“Spit it out.”
“Well, I’ve gone to school and got into university and I am doing okay in academics. Sometimes.”
“You hate school. I hate school.”
“For fuck sakes why.”
“I guess I or you or whoever had no other option.”
“You always have options. You just didn’t inquire about them. I bet you got complacent and settled. Maybe it was the right thing to do at the time. Maybe it was financially viable. I don’t know. I just see a person that gave in and ultimately gave up.”
“You’re a coward.”
“You think so?”
“I know so,” I said.
“I guess you do,” I said.
His eyes, my eyes, roll over me like a surgeon’s at a tumor, analyzing and dissecting every word. I sit still, somewhat afraid of myself, somewhat anxious to hear what I say next.
“What happened to you,” he says, “You used to be cool.”
“I know,” I reply.
Before I can try to offer an explanation, I interrupt myself. “What happened to you? You used to dream big.”
“I know,” I reply again.
“You used to joke a lot more.”
“You used to talk slower.”
“You used to wonder.”
“You used t…”
“People change,” I shout over myself. “I changed.” I’m crying. It’s overwhelming. This encounter, this room, my clothes, the reality of not growing up into the person that I was supposed to.
“I changed.” The tears keep pouring on.
“You cry now too? Oh man. I changed into a pussy.”
I want to punch myself and pummel that stupid little haircut of mine. I am fuming. It’s not because of what the younger me is saying but instead how true it all is. The younger me would just punch this smart alec if he could. He would punch me. But the older me – the present me – rationalizes and thinks and decides that such an action would be pointless. He is right. I am right. I am a pussy.
The word, disgusting as it is, echoes in my mouth with a dreadful whistle. I can’t believe I used such language and I can’t believe that I’ve become it too. He/I must be wrong. Somehow. Yet who knows me better than myself? No one. No one at all.
But looking at younger myself while he/I whisks the warm wine around and he/I smiles at my own misfortune, I realize that he/I isn’t right. I am simply different, and while people often use this word as an excuse for their milksop personalities, I realize I had grown into a person more courageous than I had ever been.
“Maybe you’re right,” I say, “but I look at you and I see a kid scared of the everything in the world so he rejects it. He fights it. What I do now is not what you thought you would do but instead what you wished you could do. I write. I read. I try to become something by myself rather than with others. I have lost the friends you’ve come to accept and instead found friends who bring out the best in me. I try to be kind because others aren’t, including you. I have loved rather than lusted. My family is proud to call me their son. I have lost the burdens that have haunted me and lie a lot less about how I feel. I have accepted that people die and I am not angry about it anymore. I know that I am wrong more often than I am right and often I am wrong about that too. I don’t have to swear anymore because I’ve found beautiful words to use instead. I am not embarrassed of who I am or what I’ve done because they define me and give me experiences no one else has. I am optimistic in tomorrow rather than forced to regret yesterday. And although you are my everything because you are me entirely, I wouldn’t trade anything for what I’ve become. I’m happy and for once, that means something longer than a thirty minute buzz.”
The younger me sits quietly sipping his warm wine. Eventually he places it on the table. The band is still in the back. They too have stopped pretending to play, though. The silence is suffocating. It brings back to a memory of when I was wearing that vibrant American Eagle sweater with a ketchup stain and those ripped jeans and I realized that I hated my lifestyle and I hated how cold I was and I hated how superficial I had become. Most of all, I hated how I didn’t even know who I was.
The silence drags on in the room as I realize that I might never know who I am exactly. I might always be enigmatic and maybe that’s who I really am – a clusterfuck. And I laugh because that’s okay. So the only sound in the room is my laughter for a while. For a long while. Forever it seems.
After my laugh dies down and I am left with a throat that begs for more, I say, “It may be a bit unclear to you now and I may have not achieved as much as you thought you would, but in the end, Kacper, I am the person you always wanted to be but the one you never you would become.”
His eyes dropped embarrassingly. I smiled and asked to see his uneven grin again. He smiled and his crooked teeth battling against an army of braces flashed back at me. Even the band smiled, although they were getting paid to do so.
“We’re still a shithead, I see,” he chuckled, regaining his composure, “Still talking on and on and not saying much.” Both of us laughed.
“I guess. Once a shithead, always a shithead.”
He smiled weakly. I see that he wants to ask a few questions. This breakfast wasn’t for me only. It was to let him know that everything will be okay eventually. “Go ahead,” I say. “Ask.”
“Is Grandma still alive?”
“Yes. Don’t worry. All wounds heal, cancer included.”
“Going through the best and worst time of his life, like he always does. And yes, he’s still smarter than you.”
“She has grown into a beautiful, smart, and confident woman.”
“He can still beat us up.”
“You’re not afraid to tell her you love her anymore.”
“She’s practically a fossil but still kicking around. We also got a new dog Lola. She’s a little fart.”
“That’s great. I’m looking forward to it. One last question: what are you going to do next?”
“Not sure, and I don’t think I have to know. I will continue learning. I will continue finding meaning in different places. I will figure out more about myself every day, things I never knew before like the fact that I don’t mind ballroom music. All and all, I will keep growing just like you did – and hopefully, I’ll grow into someone better than the person you see now. Then one day I’ll have breakfast with my current self in the future and we’ll laugh about how long my hair was or how unshaven my face was or how foolish I seemed against the scheme of the universe.”
He smiled again. “Like you said, it’s just like I wanted. Thanks. But we have breakfast here and I’m hungry. Puberty does this to boys, as I’m sure you are aware.”
“Let’s chow down.”
So we ate and talked about girls and gossip and how things looked back then and how things didn’t and how things will look and about the family and how we were both happy, how we were both infinite.