I first met Richard Ireland online. He was nothing more than an avatar on a screen. We first started talking on a forum about guitars. It was never more than anything casual, just a friendly hello, or a "how are you?". I got a friend request on Facebook one day from him, and I added him without a second thought. This is when I found out he was British (Facebook stalking is a hobby of mine). He immediately got about 100 cool points added in his favor (The British are awesome, what can I say?). Anyway, the friendship remained casual, for a while at least. Then we started talking more and more. He seemed to know me almost better than I knew myself, and not in the romantic way. I mean in the "are you outside my window right now" kind of way. Then I started seeing him everywhere as well. Well, not exactly him. Maybe an older guy in his 50s had a similarly shaped face, or some kid running down the street with the same eyes as him... I think stress from school was finally getting to me.
My junior year in college, I managed to go to Germany to study for a year. It did not escape the attention of a certain British guy that I was suddenly a lot closer to the land of the Queen and pip pip, cheerio and all that. He frequently inquired as to when I was going to be able to visit him. While I really wanted to visit him, I was still a little wary, because I kept seeing his face everywhere. I wondered whether or not I was in love with him or something because I kept seeing him everywhere, but I quickly ruled that out as a possibility: I was positive that there was no way there was anything more than friendship there.
|Same pub, different day.|
One cold evening that December, my friends and I were hanging out at our favorite Irish pub, O'Reilly's. It was quiz night, and we were just entering the music round. After a particularly difficult question, whose answer turned out to be Barbra Streisand, I heard a meow around my feet. I looked down, and saw a gray tabby cat weaving around my ankles, purring like there was no tomorrow. I then felt a chill run down my spine. I looked toward the door, and saw him walk out from the snow, covered in a gigantic coat, with a heavy flannel shirt underneath it. I was curious about this: it wasn't really cold enough for all that heavy gear, even for a person from the South, like me. He sat at the bar and talked to Henny the bartender while drinking a Guinness. He glanced over at our table once or twice, especially when we cheered about guessing the Styx song right (though to be fair, everyone in the pub stared at us at that point), but he was very discrete. I was impressed. I was expecting a much more grandiose affair when I saw him walk through the door.
After quiz night (our group got second prize!), I told my friends that I was going to stay behind and walk. They all looked at me like I was crazy, especially because it was still snowing outside. I finally managed to convince them that "it was a Southern thing" and I just wanted to enjoy the snow. It seemed to take forever, though. Once they had finally left, I approached Richard.
|Not this exact cat, but similar.|
"This is a little creepy, you know," I told him, trying to play it cool, despite being completely freaked out.
"I know, but you weren't going to visit me, and this was the only way I was going to get to explain." Suddenly the cat jumped up in his lap, looked up at him, looked up at me, mrowled loudly, then started purring again. I began petting him out of instinct. I was not ready for what happened next.
There was a bright flash, and the next thing I knew, I was in a very familiar place. We were in a field that was well manicured, with a school in the background. It was sweltering hot, especially in all those layers I was wearing. Richard, in his flannel, didn't seem to even notice the heat. Then I heard a "BAND TEN HUT!" "GO BEARS!" from behind me. My stomach suddenly was filled with lead. I had avoided visiting my high school ever since my graduation, because the quality of performance in the marching band had deteriorated so much in a short amount of time. It seemed through some strange phenomenon, I had ended up back to witness my old band perform on the practice field once again. I dreaded hearing what kind of rap garbage they were going to play, but then the song started. I suddenly heard a trumpet begin the intro to "Georgia on my Mind". I scoffed: we had just played this set 3 years ago, though I did have to admit that they sounded a lot better than I had anticipated. I walked closer to the field so I could get a better look (to give you a mental image of the layout: there are 3 football fields behind our school. One of them is on top a large hill, and you can't see the other two. This is where we appeared). The band was tiny! It couldn't have had more than 35 people out there. Apparently not much had changed since I'd left. I instinctively looked towards the drum major (as a drum major for two years, you tend to look at other DMs so you can compare), and she was a short little white girl. Her form was really sloppy, but you could tell she was trying. It was cute. Then I looked at the rest of the band, who had just turned around for the grand finale. They were even marching the same set we did!
|GHS Band of Gold 2006-2007|
How lame! I then heard Ms. Cheek shout for the band to stop and try again. At this point something was niggling in the back of my mind. I looked over at Richard. He was just looking at the band, enjoying the show, not saying a word. Then it clicked: Ms. Cheek quit after my senior year. She was supposed to be a bartender down in Florida. Suddenly that chubby little white chick called the band to attention again, and I knew. I finally made the connection. This wasn't the new band that I left behind. This was MY band. My senior year. That chubby little white girl giving the orders was me. I don't really remember what happened immediately after that: I kinda passed out from shock.
I woke up to the sound of Ray Charles played sweetly (well, as sweetly as high schoolers can actually play instruments, at any rate). Richard was still standing and watching. I sat up and decided to get some questions answered.
"So, it really was you that I keep seeing everywhere. I thought I was just going crazy," I told him with a nervous laugh.
"Yeah, sorry if I freaked you out a bit. It's all a bit strange, really," he replied, not taking his eyes off of the marching band.
"Care to explain how in the hell I'm watching my 17 year old self conduct, even though I'm clearly 20 and standing right here?" I was starting to get a little impatient with how calmly he was talking about everything.
"I don't know, really. The cat seems to like you, that's about the only thing I can figure out."
"The...cat?" Now I was really confused. Some interrogator I was.
"Yeah, it's his fault I pop in and out of places like that. I never know when the little bugger is going to do it, either, so it's always a surprise trip when he takes me along. Fortunately he never seems to leave me behind once we've made a trip. He's been on a real kick about you ever since he saw us having conversations on Facebook. Guess he knew you were a cat person." I suddenly felt the little furball wrapping himself between my legs and purring. I picked him up.
"How long have you had this little time travelling ball of fluff?" I asked him.
"Oh, my whole life, really. He showed up as an abandoned kitten when I was just a baby. He got really old, but then he one day showed up again as a kitten. I call him the furry Doctor." He grinned. "I imagine that he uses his nine lives to come back again anew whenever he gets old." He then reached out to pet the kitty I was holding in my arms. Suddenly we were on a different field behind yet another football stadium. "I guess now he's on a kick about marching bands," Richard said. Suddenly the band began to play. "And Styx as well." We made our way around to the main field, and watched the band do a breakdown of the robot dance to the song "Mr. Roboto". It wasn't until the song ended and they started to play "Come Sail Away" that I realized that I recognized this place, too. There were some obvious changes, such as the stadium seats were much older (and smaller), but it was definitely where I had spent many of my Friday nights during Football season. As I looked at the band, I saw a redhead playing clarinet march by. I realized that I had just seen my mom in all her high school nerdy glory. I smiled, then started laughing like a maniac. This was all just too surreal. We only stayed until the end of the set, then the cat decided it was time again to go.
We ended up right outside of my dorm room. I checked my phone, and only 20 minutes or so had passed. I invited Richard and his feline friend inside out of the snow. We walked into my bedroom, and I tried my best not to collapse onto the bed, but instead sat as calmly as possible. "Thanks for an interesting adventure," I said to him.
"No problem. Now do you see why I had to come see you? This is actually my yesterday. The cat just really wanted to come say hi, and apparently I needed to come with him for this adventure." I laughed.
"Well, it was nice to finally meet an internet friend. It's a shame I can't tell anyone about this adventure. No one would ever believe me."
"Well, it'll make a good "fiction" story, anyhow, wouldn't it?" He raised an eyebrow and winked. Then he picked up the cat, petted him, and...nothing happened. "What now?" he almost shouted at the cat. The cat then jumped out of his arms and came over to me. He purred and purred, and then curled up in my lap. Just after I was finally convinced he was asleep, he jumped out of my lap, and started making his traditional figure eights around Richard's legs. "Heh. I guess he just wanted to say goodbye." He picked up the cat, and then he was gone. I sat on my bed staring at where he was for a good while, then finally just lay down and attempted to sleep.
A year later, my senior year has arrived. I'm forced to write doom paper after doom paper, but I seemed to have caught a bit of senioritis. I decided to finally write down the...dream? experience? ...story, just so it'd be difficult to forget later on (it was either that or post a million posts on Facebook like some addict). I still see Richard from time to time, but he's been pretty good at remaining hidden lately. He'll still show up in some of my photos sometimes. You know, I've never noticed before, but I've never seen his cat in any of the pictures, nor whenever I saw him on the street. I wonder what that's all about...
Here's the latest blog! Sorry it took so long, but better late than never, right? See you next time!