Date: September 13, 2013 Location: Hyatt Regency Indianapolis, Indiana
I have a few minutes before the First Timers session at the ACFW Conference, so I explore the hotel. BT Level. This button looks different than the others but it’s the lowest down, so I press it. In a woosh of light and sound I descend. The doors open to terrazzo floors. I walk up vaguely familiar stairs and spill out to a different place. Time too judging by the big hair and stonewashed jeans. When I see her, I know the date and time. It’s September 13, 1991 and like today, it’s unseasonably hot. Her hair is long and blond with short bangs not unlike mine now. Hot from the walk from her dorm, she’s sprawled on the terrazzo floor wearing a jumpsuit in emerald green with legs that look like genie pants. I want to tell her that she’s too young to wear those maroon Aigner sandals. That the outfit doesn’t make her 115-pound frame look fat and eyebrow waxing is painless. I owe it to her, she’s me at 18. A freshman at Purdue waiting for her CHM 115 lecture outside of Wetherill 200. Something stops me. A few other things need to happen in 1991 and 2013.
Date: September 16, 2013 Location Hyatt Regency Indianapolis, Indiana
It’s early Monday morning. I can’t sleep because I have to catch a cab at 4 a.m. and I’m afraid I won’t wake up in time. I slip out of the room and go back down to BT Level which takes me Back in Time.
This time I don’t arrive in Wetherill but in the tunnels near Shealy Hall. I assume it’s still 1991 so I go to my freshman room. I use my room card from the Hyatt to jimmy open the door. I creep over to the bed and wake my younger self to a responsive dream state.
40 Me: Hi Gretchen, I’m you at 40. I’m going to tell you something really bizarre.
18 Me: I’m meeting future self. I wouldn’t expect normal.
40 Me: You know how you’re reading This Present Darkness. Well, I just came from a conference and was a few feet away from Frank Peretti. He just got a lifetime achievement award from American Christian Fiction Writers. They’re having a writer’s conference and I slipped away to talk to you.
18 Me: I write novels? Let me guess, historical romance.
40 Me: No, something called speculative fiction. It’s like real world but with a supernatural twist. Not quite science fiction or fantasy. I know you hate science fiction and fantasy but you learn to love it. A lot.
18 Me: I do?
40 Me: Yes, remember I’m you only older, so I can kind of read your mind. Anyway, there’s this guy, I think you met him at Inter Varsity Friday night. A couple of years ago, I was on Facebook. How do I explain Facebook? It’s like that meet book thing with all of the students’ pictures, only on the internet. And you don’t know what the internet is. Think email on steroids. So, I found out his wife writes Christian fiction and one thing led to another and I started writing this story. Now, I’m in Indy pitching a novel to agents and editors. And you’ll never guess who is doing the same thing?
18 Me (her voice is a little sarcastic, probably because 40 Me knows more than she does): Who?
40 Me: Professor M. your, our computer science professor.
18 Me: He’s a Christian too? And writes books? That’s awesome. I knew he was cool. I can’t believe we can e-mail our FORTRAN assignments to him. So high tech. What other weird stuff is there in the year 2000? (18 Me counts on her fingers) I mean 2013.
40 Me: Computer screens look like real pictures. Not those green and orange screens. In a couple of years, you’ll use Windows machines. Like those only better. By 1996, you’ll use a laptop and modems evolve to be so fast you can watch movies. And read books on an electronic tablet. And smart phones. They’re like little computers. In 2013 you use an outdated flip phone but it’s still high tech for 1991. It’s smaller than a deck of cards.
18 Me: Wow. (18 Me reverts to default boy-crazy mode) Who do I marry? Have I met him? Do we have kids?
40 Me: I can’t tell you those things. But I’ll give you a hint. In two weeks, September 28. You and your roommate and a couple of other girls are going to go to a crew party.
18 Me: Do I decide to become a coxswain for the guys’ team? I marry a hot guy on the rowing team, right?
40 Me: Listen to me. You’re going to run into someone you know. She is going to be with some guys. You’re going to join her and go to Taco Bell and watch Saturday Night Live with them. I know, I know. That sounds lame compared to a party with hot crew guys but trust me on this. The crossroads of your life are at Northwestern and Grant. There are two kids who don’t want to do a Marty McFly and fade into oblivion…