Brandy Has My Eyes
I didn’t know I had a 23-year-old daughter until she appeared on my doorstep with a suitcase. I had just turned thirty.
“Daddy!” she beamed, throwing her arms around my neck. Before I could assemble my thoughts into some sort of coherent response, she had dragged her suitcase into my apartment and was rifling through my refrigerator. She found an apple and bit into it, then spat the mouthful into her hand.
“That is one horrible apple,” she said. She threw the apple and the missing bite into the trash and wiped her hands on her jeans.
She smiled at me with bright blue eyes, and the questions began.
“Who are you?” was the first one, the obvious one.
“I’m your daughter,” she said, as though it were the stupidest question anyone had ever asked anyone else. “My name is Brandy.”
“And how old are you?” I said.
“Twenty-three,” she insisted.
“You can’t be twenty-three,” I said. “Because I’m thirty. It doesn’t match up, mathematically. Also, I don’t have a daughter.”
“Mom says I have your eyes,” said Brandy.
“It’s true,” I said. “But nevertheless.”
She unpacked her suitcase on my bed and cleared out a chest of drawers and half the bedroom closet for her things. She didn’t have that much, but she said she might go shopping. I would sleep on the couch, she explained, until more comfortable arrangements could be made.
When she was finished putting everything away, she sat down on the bed.
“I suppose you’re wondering what I’m doing here,” she said.
“Among other things,” I said. I looked into my own eyes and a chill went up my spine.
“I built a time machine,” she said.
“That doesn’t make any sense,” I said.
“Why?” she snorted, “Because I’m a girl?”
“No, because that’s impossible.”
“Because if time travel exists, it has to exist for all time. Well, now it exists, but I’m not going to tell anybody about it. You look just like your pictures.”
“Well,” I said, “They’re pictures of me.”
“Anyway, I didn’t build a time machine on purpose. I was messing around in the physics lab, working on my dissertation. I’m really smart, you should know. Anyway, one thing led to another. You know how it is. So I decided it might be a good idea to come back to meet you, seeing as how I never did.”
“It’s not like me to run out on your mother,” I said. “By the way, who is your mother?”
“You haven’t met her yet,” said Brandy. She brushed her hair from her forehead and wrinkled her nose.
“Well, I’d like to be ready.”
“It’s probably not a good idea to tell you,” she said. “I haven’t worked out all the kinks of this time travel thing, and I’d hate for you to get all flustered when you met her and then maybe you’d barf on her or something and then I wouldn’t exist.”
“Where is this time machine?” I said. “Is it a car or…some kind of a helmet?”
“It’s inside me,” she said. “I had it implanted underneath my skin. That way nobody else can use it. Could you imagine the chaos if people were jumping all around in time? Everything would be a total mess. Nothing would ever get done. It’s better this way.”
“Where is it?”
She rolled up her sleeve and showed me a band-aid, which she peeled back to reveal a fresh incision, held together with three stitches, on her upper arm.
“Feel it,” she said. “Just be careful, it’s still healing.”
I gently poked her arm with my finger. There was something solid beneath the skin.
“See? Time machine,” she said.
“You said you had it implanted. Who implanted it?”
“Oh, my boyfriend. He does body modifications and stuff. Piercings, inserting things under the skin, that kind of stuff. He doesn’t know it’s a time machine, though. I told him I just wanted a microchip under my skin. He doesn’t ask questions.”
“I’m not sure I like the idea of my daughter dating a body piercer.”
She laughed and rolled her eyes.
Rudy did not believe Brandy’s story. Rudy is a guy I work with. I used to think he must be called Rudy because he is rude, but he told me that was not the case. I guess he’s my friend. He scratched his stubble when I told him what Brandy told me, and then he put his arm around my shoulder and led me aside.
“You know that’s a load of crap, right?” he said.
“What if it’s not?”
“What are the odds that it is versus the odds that it isn’t?” he said.
“I don’t understand how odds work,” I said.
“Okay, well…it’s very unlikely that this chick built a time machine and came here from 25 years in the future. We can leave it at that.”
“I don’t know,” I said. “I’ve always wanted a daughter.”
“Yeah, but not a crazy grown-up daughter, right?”
“You know,” I said, “Maybe it’s better when they’re grown up. You don’t have to change their diapers or pay for college. You can just hang out and be proud of their accomplishments. Oh! I could be a grandpa. Although I don’t like her boyfriend.”
“She brought her boyfriend through time with her?” said Rudy.
“No, but I don’t like his type.”
“Let me ask you something,” said Rudy. “Let’s give her the benefit of the doubt for a minute. If she’s in the future and she wants to meet you so bad, why doesn’t she just seek you out where she is? Why does she need to travel through time to meet you?”
“Uh…that’s a good question. Maybe…anthropology?”
“What does that mean?”
“I don’t know. Jeez, maybe I’m dead in the future. I’ll have to ask her.”
“Listen,” said Rudy. “Promise me you won’t give this girl any money. Don’t put her in your will, don’t let her take out any insurance policies in your name. Okay?”
“Stop coming between me and my family, Rudy.”
We were having breakfast, Brandy and I, and she was reading the newspaper and laughing at everything. She said it was funny reading about all the things we didn’t know yet. I decided to broach the uncomfortable subject.
“Hey, Brandy,” I said.
“Hm?” she said, through a mouthful of grapefruit.
“Am I dead in the future?”
“Everybody’s dead in the future,” she said. “At some point, anyway.”
“Why did you come all the way back here to see me instead of just looking me up in the future?”
She shrugged and took a sip of coffee. It became clear that was the best I was going to get. Satisfied that I was possibly not dead, I pressed on.
“So,” I said. “Is there anything at all you can tell me about your mother?”
“It’s probably best that I don’t,” said Brandy, as she chewed a piece of cinnamon toast. “I like existing.”
“But,” I said, “what if the very fact that you have come here from the future is the thing that leads me to her? Like, what if I never would have even approached her if I didn’t already know that I was going to have a kid with her? What if by not telling me about her, you are foiling our meeting and, thus, preventing your own existence?”
“Shit,” said Brandy, “That’s a good point. I don’t know what I should do.”
“How about give me a hint?”
She snapped her fingers in a eureka moment.
“Obviously, whatever I do is the right thing, because I’m still here. If I prevented my own existence, I wouldn’t be here now. So whatever decision I make is the correct one.”
“What decision have you made?”
“I’ve decided not to tell you about her.”
“Crap,” I said.
“I will tell you that, according to her, it was not your choice for the two of you not to be together. My mother is very picky about men. I don’t mean that to sound harsh. It’s just a fact.”
“I’ll try not to take it personally,” I said. “What else?”
“Nuh-uh,” she said, shaking her finger at me. “I’m not telling you anymore. I might have already told you too much.”
“Obviously not,” I said. “You didn’t disappear in a puff of smoke or anything.”
“I imagine it being more like a flash of light, like an implosion. I bet it sounds like a firecracker.”
“So, do you think you’ll stick around for a while?” I said.
She considered it for a moment, chewing her food with a thoughtful look on face, then shook her head.
“No. I have to get back soon or I’ll lose my apartment.”
“Can’t you just go back earlier, so it’s like you never left?”
“Yeah, but that messes with your head. It’s like massive jet lag.”
“Don’t worry,” she said. “I’ll see you on the other side. I’ll come looking for you. Don’t try to contact me for about twenty-five years, though, or mom will be pissed that I talked to you. You know how it is.”
“Well, it’s been nice getting to know you. I wish I’d gotten to know you better.”
“Sometimes things are the way they’re supposed to be,” said Brandy. “Kind of sucks, doesn’t it?”
“Yeah. So when are you leaving?”
“What day is today?” she said.
“Yikes. I’ll probably take off sometime tomorrow. We’ll see how I feel.”
The next morning, there was a note on the refrigerator:
Sorry I had to bug out so suddenly.
Catch you later.
P.S. I took some raisins from the cupboard.
“That’s it?” said Rudy. “She comes from the future and just like that she leaves with a stupid little note? People in the future are assholes.”
“I sense you’re being sarcastic,” I said.
“You are one giant, human-shaped all-day sucker, you know that?” said Rudy. “Do you still believe her?”
“Well, she didn’t rob me like you thought. All she took was some raisins. I have a hard time believing she concocted an elaborate scam just to get a box of raisins. We have supermarkets.”
“So what now?” said Rudy. He wasn’t really asking because he cared about me. He was asking because he was interested in making fun of me some more. But I used the opportunity to kind of sort things out for myself, no matter what he thought.
“Well,” I said, “I’ll have to keep an eye out for a girl who looks somewhat like Brandy, but without my eyes. You know, I think that’s probably the best thing to do. Plus, I have this note from Brandy and as long as the note exists, I’ll know that she existed and thus, I’m making the right decisions.”
“Boy, you’re as crazy as she is, pal.”
“The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,” I said.