Vol. 4, Issue 2, March 21, 2006
Random Numbers for All Purposes
Studio8

Who Is That Young Fellow in My Photo Album?

Ezekiel F. Watley, Esq.

Periodically I embark upon an Adventurous Safari within the crowded wilds of my Book-shelves. There, hidden among the thickets of Legal Tomes and odd copses of Classical literature (sometimes in Scandalous condition, I must admit: time is not Kind to books these days) I may occasionally seek a long-lost Letter or Volume. My chances of success depend Greatly on Perseverance, Luck, and whether or not I leave sufficient time for the Search before my Luncheon. Whatever impulse may drive me to find, for example, the volume of Plautus which I carried about in my University days stands no chance in the face of the prospect of a nice Game-hen at the Club.

More often, in search of something, I find Another, unexpected thing altogether which draws me away from the original Hunt. To-day was just such a day, for while searching for my original draft of the Bill of Rights (I suspect they have Tampered with it in recent years) I came across an unanticipated find: my Younger Self.

The cracked leather Volume was one of Snap-shots and Daguerrotypes from my younger days, back when I was a feckless Youth plying the halls of Knowledge at that esteemed Institution of Higher Learning. Great Scott, but this tome strikes an instant Chord. Surely it has been Many years since last it saw the light of day. Its very cover, with worn gilt lettering, is a startling breath from the past which puts me Entirely off my original track. This bears examination, preferably with some 20-year old Speyside.

I open the book, and there, gazing out in blurred sepia tones, as if from behind a dirty windowpane, is my younger Self. Zounds. Could this callow lad truly be me? His eyes are unfocused and bright with Promise, cheerfully unaware of the Years to follow. Not, of course, that they have been Bad years, but one's road-maps for Life in University rarely describe our actual Routes all that well. They tend to get the Distances all wrong, and to leave critical portions marked terra incognito or "Here there be Dragons." The gift of genuine prophecy is not given to Man, and especially not to his younger incarnations.

Another glass of the Scotch is called for as I slowly turn the brittle pages. Here, I stand with friends long gone, in matching straw Boaters and striped coats - what was that fellow's name, with the curly Hair? I cannot recall, though I remember quite Clearly that the watercress sand-wiches we ate on that Outing made him Violently ill. Good Heavens, what was I thinking with those Mutton-chop whiskers? And I appear rather less Healthy around the Middle: where was the Rest of me? Clearly, they were not Feeding us enough at that school.

Despite my years I do not often feel truly Old, being too busy living in To-day to overly concern myself about an excess of Yesterdays in the trunk. But I confess that the visage of my younger Self, with his almost foreign carriage and startlingly smooth Features, is both Compelling and Disconcerting. He and I are one and the same, of course, separated by a mere span of Years; but this image of youth, staring past me from these little cracked windows frozen on the album pages, seems a separate Entity altogether, forever Twenty and inscrutable.

I while away a thoughtful Hour with this young fellow, before reshelving the Album and heading down to the Club. I find that my yesterdays, like my best Scotch, are best enjoyed in Moderation.


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