"I've always believed in writing without a collaborator, because where two people are writing the same book, each believes he gets all the worries and only half the royalties."
Wednesday, January 17, 2001
"Hey, who are you?"
"I'm you. Well, I'm you two years from now. My time is 2001, but through the miracle of a fictional narrative, I'm visiting you, the Shmuel of 1999, just as you're about to start your own online journal."
"Oh, I see. Umm, what happened to your eye?"
"You'll find out soon enough."
"That's what I'm afraid of. Geez, it looks like--"
"Will you shut up about the eye? Look, that's old news; I'm here because it's our journal's second anniversary, and I thought it would be nice if we celebrated it together."
"So I made it through year number two! Cool... although I'll admit I'd hoped for a longer run."
"Who's to say it won't have one?"
"Duh, if it made it to, say, year number five, wouldn't one of my even older selves be here to visit too?"
"Nah. The Shmuel of 2003 went through a phase where he decided conversations with younger selves were too hokey."
"How would you kn-- oh, never mind. So I'll make it to at least two years of regular updates! That is so cool!"
"Well, I wouldn't say regular updates, exactly. They've been few and far between at times. Our low point was this past April, when we had an entire three entries. We've managed between six and ten entries during most months of the past year, though."
"Yeesh. I'd hoped to do better than that. Do I... you... umm, do we still have any readers?"
"Some, yeah. We're not one of the Really Popular Journals, and readership went down a bit when we stopped updating every day, but a bunch of regulars have stayed with us. Our readers are the greatest."
"Really, they are. We've made a bunch of friends, gotten some great e-mail -- much of which we've never replied to, which makes us feel really guilty -- and gotten some help and advice when we've needed it."
"It is. Oh, and we get some vicarious pleasure from the fact that we're indirectly responsible for a friend's starting her own journal, which is one of the Really Popular ones. She probably would've stumbled on the form without us, but that doesn't stop us from basking in the reflected glory."
"Ooh. Which friend?"
"Remember Jen? From the writing awards?"
"No, you're thinking of Jessica. It'll be another few months until you manage to get that straight, after which you'll still occasionally get confused by the three Jens you know from college."
"How long until I stop having that problem?"
"Beats me; it's only gotten worse with all the other Jens we've met over the Internet. Besides, we've always been terrible with names..."
"Then again, our own name has recently been used as a descriptive term for a kind of journal entry, but I'm not sure how you're going to take this. It would seem that doing a 'Shmuel' is--"
"--writing a particularly insightful essay?"
"A well-reasoned argument? A really bad series of puns?"
"Not a pedantic bit of literary criticism?"
"No, not that either."
"Well, what, then?"
"As near as I can tell, it's an entry in which one quickly catches up with the events of the past few days."
"Nope. The citation's over here."
"This is a side effect of those few and far-between entries, huh?"
"Well, I guess it's nice to be famous for something. Besides, none of my attempts at keeping a private diary lasted anywhere near two years, you know?"
"Of course I know. I'm you!"
"Yeah, but I didn't know if you'd remember. If our memory is still as bad as it was, or is, or-- hey, Douglas Adams is right. We need a new set of tenses for time travel."
"Yeah. Anyway, you're right. Our memory still sucks. But we can reread our old entries now. It comes in handy more often than you'd think."
"So what else can you tell me? ...my brain still hasn't turned to Jell-O, I hope?"
"No, we haven't started dating. Although we have started looking for a social life."
"A social life. Going out, meeting friends for tea, movies, or whatever other excuse we can contrive for getting together, you know?"
"I don't know."
"You'll figure it out. We're still coming to terms with this, but apparently we're not satisfied being alone all the time anymore."
"Oh, great. Next thing I know, you'll tell me you're composing sonnets in your spare time and bewailing the lack of a partner with which--"
"Hey, I told you, we're not dating!"
"Uh huh. You're still scaring me, man."
"Well, don't worry."
"So how's college going?"
"Not too bad. We're overextended as always, but getting by, and one semester away from graduation. After that, we're probably going to grad school, but we don't yet know where."
"Indecision again, huh?"
"Yes, but so far it's on the part of the colleges we've applied to. It'll be our turn for that only if more than one accepts us."
"Otherwise, we've continued getting awards in the annual English Department writing contest, especially the one for an Essay in the Orwell Tradition. We seem to be very good at that, even if nobody can quite figure out what it means. And we've kept our column in the college newspaper. In fact, that's what's won us that award for the past two years."
"Columns in the paper are eligible?"
"They are now."
"But, wait, you said we've kept the column... are you implying that we're not an editor there anymore?"
"Old news again. We resigned early in '99."
"Well, excuse me. It's not my fault the Shmuel of 2000 didn't stop by."
"I know, I know. Oh! And we made Phi Beta Kappa."
"I knew you'd like that... but we've stopped using smilies in the journal. We don't like the way they look in a proportionate typeface. Plus we decided that entries here were more akin to essays than e-mail messages, so that it was best to find ways of avoiding them entirely."
"Oh. Sorry. But, umm, when did we start calling them 'smilies'?"
"We lost the 'emoticon' war ages ago. We blame AOL."
"AOL hasn't tanked yet, then."
"Don't even try to guess what they've been up to. Let's move on."
"So tell me, have any relatives stumbled across the journal yet?"
"If they have, they're wisely keeping their mouths shut. But we're pretty sure they haven't. Plus we've passed the point where we'd have enough material out there to incriminate us, but not enough to provide a decent picture on our own terms. We still dread the inevitable day of reckoning, but the worst-case scenarios have passed."
"Oh, and our two oldest sisters know the journal exists, but neither has seen it, and they're not going to, either."
"How'd they find out--"
"We tell the older one almost everything, and the younger one... well, it's a long story, involving one of her poems, referrer logs, and a conversation we probably should have resisted. It doesn't really matter; we explained that it was private, and she respects that."
"Y'know, this is more than we've written about either of them in the past. We decided pretty early on to keep other people out of this journal as much as possible. Even when we do mention others, it's in pretty general terms, unless they read the journal themselves."
"I've wondered how I'd handle that. Okay, makes sense."
"Of course, that's one reason why I still haven't written about the accident--"
"Umm, never mind."
"Let's just say that you have a very interesting year ahead of you. But, on the bright side, Y2K was much nicer. At least as hectic, but nowhere near as exciting."
"You're scaring me again."
"Well, cheer up; this is a festive occasion. Here, I brought..."
"...Entenmann's blackout cake! Yum!"
"Lemme just turn this text editor off. We've got some celebrating to do."