I'm reading a short story from the March 17 issue of The New Yorker by T. Coraghessan Boyle called "The Relive Box." I haven't finished it, because I keep getting interrupted by my book (Moss in No Country for Old Men got killed off last night with no fanfare. I knew that might happen, but his murder was so understated that I wasn't at first sure if he was killed or if it was a different victim). And I also haven't finished the story because I'm not in love with tales that have a futuristic angle. For example, I love George Saunders' short stories, but I didn't love that one story where you could buy those Russian slaves as decorations--can't think of the title now--they seem like an almost too obvious critique of how shallow and disconnected our culture has become. In any case, this story so far takes place in the not too distant future where you purchase a devise called the relive box. This is like a DVD player that allows you to sit quietly watching certain moments in your life like an observer. You can pick any date and time in your personal history and watch it play out, just like in a movie. You can also stop and pause and stare at a person's face or rewind or skip the boring parts or whatever. You can't change anything that happens, and you can't actually be there--you're watching your younger self in action, but you can smell, hear, and see everything that's going on. The narrator in this story opts to check out of his real life and spend most of his time in 1982 with his first love; neglecting his teen daughter, who wants to go back to being nine years old, before her mother left them.
But anyway, it makes you wonder what moments you might choose to go back to and watch again if given the choice. I imagine I would spend a lot of time in college, trying to figure out why I chased after so many disinterested theater boys. Or maybe I would pick being really little and living on the farm and hanging out with our German Shepherd, Oscar, who I loved more than people. I would like to see my grandpa's face again and my uncles when they were younger and working on their souped up Mustangs in the gravel drive way and my mom too--as a twenty year old with cat eye glasses and hair that got "did" at the local beauty parlor every Saturday.
But I think most of that would also be painful and sad; those people are far away from me now or gone for good, and as for my younger self--I can't imagine feeling any other way than dumb for not seeing that I should have expected more for myself than the scant attention of some theater kid tripping on acid who was just as lost as I was.