today i went out for sushi with a few of my coworkers.  while we waited for the food to arrive i began to feel restless, so i went outside to make a phone call.  there are a lot of oak trees around austin, and acorns have been all over the place lately.  i was pacing back and forth on the sidewalk outside the restaurant when i felt one go *crunch* underneath my foot.  it was an interesting feeling, like popping bubble wrap or stepping on ice on a snowy day.  i resumed my pacing, but varied my steps a bit so i could crunch on as many acorns as possible.  after i finished the phone call i stayed outside for a few more minutes, stepping on acorns.  briefly i wondered what my coworkers would think if they glanced out the window and saw me, but for some reason i couldn’t stop until there were no more whole acorns nearby.  it felt like it took a long time.

i spent labor day weekend camping in new braunfels with some friends from the restaurant where i used to work.  the night before the campout was a pretty awful one, so i was glad to get away for a few days and spend some time with my little service-industry family.  when we got to the campsite we pitched our tents, unpacked the food, and then, as waiters are wont to do, settled into some serious drinking.

we were sitting around the fire laughing and having a good time, but suddenly i didn’t want to be there.  the fun we were having seemed out of sync with the mood i should have been in after the previous night, so i stood up quietly and walked down to the river.  two boys were sitting together by the bank, but i walked down the steps anyway, put my beer on the last step, and sat in the water.

“you don’t care if we smoke, do you?” one of the boys said to me.

“no,” i said.  “why, what are you smoking?”

“cigarettes, but we’re underage.”

“i don’t care.”

“cool.  my real mom doesn’t let me smoke, but my stepmom does.”

i didn’t want to have this (or any) conversation, so i didn’t respond.

“how old are you?” the other boy said to me.


“oh.”  the boys fell silent, as i assumed they would when they heard i’m almost thirty.  i didn’t say anything, either, and eventually they stood up and went away.

so i was left alone with the river.  it was surprisingly quiet for a river surrounded by campers; the only sound was a faint one of a nearby stereo.  the water and trees and rocks were black in the dark.

rocks.  i picked one up and held it in my hand.  it was round and smooth from years of running water.  when i threw it into the water it made a satisfying noise.  i picked up another rock and threw that one in too.

“i’m throwing rocks,” i whispered to myself.  “they’re making a good sound.”

so i threw some more.  rock after rock was pulled from the water and tossed back in, and after every one i said, “i’m throwing rocks; they’re making a good sound.”

*plunk* “i’m throwing rocks; they’re making a good sound.”
*plunk* “i’m throwing rocks; they’re making a good sound.”
*plunk* “i’m throwing rocks; they’re making a good sound.”

i don’t know how long i kept doing this, but i couldn’t stop, and it seemed like forever.  anyway it was long enough for my friends to wonder where i was, because trina and daniel came looking for me.  they sat down on the steps and i told them about the rocks and the good sound.  trina agreed that it was, in fact, a good sound.  if she and daniel thought i was weird, they didn’t let on.

those situations, i think, are the cornerstones of plausible time travel.  repetitive behavior allows you to crunch acorns for seconds when it feels like a week, to throw rocks for minutes when it feels like a year.  like billy pilgrim you can become “unstuck in time,” even if it’s only for a little while.

or a year.  whatever.

2. when there wasn’t a 1.
trina and daniel and my other waiter friends are the reason i wore that stupid plastic campsite wristband for over a month after the camping trip was over: to remind myself that if they still want to hang out with me after seeing me like that, they are very good friends, indeed.