Sisyphus Redux

Author : Susan Nance Carhart

It's always good to see Mom again.

Exasperating, too. There's always that moment of mental groaning; always that “Here we go again!”

That said, it's good to see her alive.

July 15, 1964. I'm back. Always the same date. I'm about to start high school. I know that my father will die from his heart condition next April. I've never been able to do a thing about that, so I no longer try. I do drop hints to my mother about her smoking.

We have the same old fight about Latin versus typing. I know the right buttons to push now, so she calls the school and makes the arrangements. I confidently promise to learn typing in the next month. Then I buckle down to the awful suckiness of high school. And the discipline of not using words like 'suckiness.'

It's not all bad. There are the Sixties to experience again, the Beatles to hear afresh, a host of superb movies to see. I anticipate September 8, 1966, when I can watch the first episode of Star Trek again, tears running down my face. It never gets old.

And after so many years of it, I am probably the greatest high school student ever. When did I last miss an algebra problem, or a question on a history test? When have my essays been anything but exemplary? It's good to be a prodigy. In various iterations, I've published books, hosted radio programs, played in concerto competitions. I've had some false starts, too. I once got into serious, ridiculous, embarrassing trouble about a book I wrote. The principal actually called my mother. After that, I stuck to pseudonyms. This is the Bible Belt, after all.

I've now been to over two dozen different universities, studying all sorts of wonderful things. I've had remarkable careers, and some not so remarkable. The foreign service thing in Kabul in 1976? Not so good. Ouch. The trip to the Outback in 1983? A very unpleasant way to go. That said, the only pleasant way to go is a thoroughly organized and well-prepared suicide. Oregon is very pretty in the fall.

After my first life, I got very observant. Now I spend quite a bit of time preparing for the next-go-round. And I become very rich at a very young age. That's something to look forward to. On the other hand, my various children have been Chaos Theory in action.

Nobody else seems to remember. I have no idea why I do. It's like living forever, like being immortal, punctuated now and then with a horrific grand pause. Sisyphus rolls the stone up the hill; it rolls back down and crushes him. And so forth. I've never lived beyond 2048, which is fine, considering what happens that year.

I used to think I was progressing; that if I became good enough or smart enough or changed the world enough, I would ascend to some higher level. I don't think so anymore. I think this is it. I think this is my life— my eternal life— and I have to make the best of it. There are still infinite possibilities before me. Just once, though, I'd love to meet someone else in the know.

Mom sends me out to the store for milk. I smile at my old blue bike, and settle gingerly into the saddle, peddling off down Farmer Avenue. I vaguely recall the loca—

Whoa! I totally did not see that car coming! Well… that was… brief…

But it's always good to see Mom again.

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