it wasn't my voice.
not even the voice I hear by mistake
when I play back the answering machine
and it's the message I left saying I'll be home for dinner,
the voice that my kids tell me
"yeah, dad, that's what you really sound like."
it was a voice I hadn't heard in years.
when I was younger, in my teens and early twenties,
I used to think there was this old guy in my head,
sitting at something like the space flight
mission control center in Houston,
surrounded by consoles with little screens,
lots of lights and buttons and switches,
columns of numbers scrolling by,
graphs peaking and troughing,
grainy black and white video feeds
that switched scenes every ten seconds or so,
this guy was plugged into everything that was going on
even the stuff I didn't know about,
and he was giving me hints,
oblique suggestions, obscure references
that were somehow supposed to tell me
what to do.
I trusted that guy totally because
I was sure he had lived forever,
he had seen it all and done it all and been through it all
a thousand times.
I used to go see him every day, just pop in
and listen to him talking to himself,
like my own private oracle, or maybe
I shared him, I didn't really care,
but for every answer that came out of his mouth
and hung there in the air
I had a question
and that answer and that question would
fall in love at first sight, all the way
from saying hello to dating to first sex
to living together.
for no reason I can remember,
I just stopped dropping by.
so when this voice came out of nowhere
and I finally realized where I'd heard it before
I went looking for him.
sure enough, I found him right where I'd left him:
no cobwebs, no dust, no creaky door,
just a complete hardware and software upgrade,
everything smaller, sleeker,
simpler now except the screens,
which were huge and in color.
he was sitting there looking the same
as the first day I saw him,
talking to himself,
and the first words I heard were,
"you know you're in trouble
when the two best times of day
are just before you wake up in the morning
and just after you fall asleep at night."