“When you speak to him,” Old Mark said, “for the love of God don’t use his name.”
The look Old Mark shot him immediately telegraphed how stupid the question was. “You don’t know him. Why would you be using his name?”
“Right.” Mark watched the guy, and tried to think of a reason to speak to him. When the young man rose to get more food, Mark saw his chance.
He bolted from his seat and found himself standing next to Ashton as he scooped an impressive amount of bananas covered in bright red strawberry sauce into a bowl. He grabbed a clean plate and used tongs to pick up a piece of cake. He stared at Ashton’s shoulder, willing him to look up, knowing how completely creepy he seemed; a strange guy holding a plate of cake, obviously done with what he came to do, but not moving. He willed the other guy to look at him before it got too weird. As if reading his mind, Ashton turned to look at him.
Mark froze. Then he tilted his chin and said, “Hey.” Shit, he thought. That was supposed to be hello.
“’Sup,” Ashton replied, then returned to filling his bowl.
Mark took his plate with its single one inch square piece of cake back to the table where Old Mark was eating the last of his food.
“I did what you asked. Well, I didn’t exactly say ‘Hello’.”
“What the hell did you say?!” Old Mark’s outburst brought a look from the waitress passing by.
“Shhhh!” Mark hissed. “I said ‘Hey.’ It just came out like that. Sorry.”
Old Mark fixed him with a look that said he was debating whether to insult him. It was a look Mark was familiar with. His father did it all the time. “I suppose that will have to do,” Old Mark said. “Let’s get out of here.” He stood, hitched up his pants as they were very loose on him, and started shuffling away. He was past the koi pond before Mark realized that he was on the hook for lunch.
Mark flagged down the waitress, and pocketed the fortune cookies she brought with the check. He could see Old Mark through the front window. The old man was shuffling back and forth in front of the restaurant, impatient. Mark paid, and joined his future self on the sidewalk outside.
“So, now what?” Mark asked.
Old Mark clapped him on the shoulder. “Now, you’re going to go back to your regular life, and I’m going to wake up.”
Old Mark smiled, winked and tapped the side of his nose. Also a motion Mark’s own father made. Mark blinked at the familiarity of the gesture.