There, just behind you (don’t look now!) is a field where you spent time as a child, running through thickets chasing grasshoppers that jumped towards the sky and fluttered for a moment before crashing back into the ground. You used to wonder how with all their gusto and equipment they never could learn to fly. Here he comes running up, now (turn around!).
Take it in. You run your hand over the soft skin of his face. The long, curly light brown hair, slowly bleached by the sun, feels welcoming. You hug him close. He has no idea who you are but you come to him in a dream. In this dream he has also seen what his brother will look like fifteen years’ time. He is afraid. You remember.
What do you tell him? What can you tell him, to prepare him for the next fifteen years? You’re tongue-tied. You forget the entire English language as your brain is awash with the waves of memory and time, subtle at first and then immense, just like the life you have lived since running in the field on that day.
Tell him about your dad. Do it now. Tell him to enjoy every goddamn moment with that man because he is fading from view more and more each passing day. His face is turning lighter and lighter until light itself can pass through it. He picks you up one day and you fall right through him. Embarrassed, he tries to pick you up but you are too heavy and he is too translucent. He drops you off with your mom and heads home, until the day he is put into a grave.
You can’t. How could you?
Tell him about the years in middle school. Those ugly, scarred years, tinged with the pain of existential dread, the life sucked from you. Tell him.
Maybe prepare him for the years ahead. Try to explain to this child how his college years will define him and he will find someone really special.
You want to tell him about the best friend he will meet in high school, and how that friendship will largely define him as a person.
But you can’t really tell him all that.
So you just hug that child and stand beside him and watch the sun set together in this perfect moment. The field starts to crumble, pieces falling away to the creeping darkness. It consumes everything in its path and then it sweeps over you and the child. You rustle the kid’s hair, wait for the sun.