Luis got lost halfway through his lecture. He continued to smile; he continued to gaze deeply into Ashton's eyes. But he had a feeling he wasn't going to get very far with Ashton. Though he was intelligent, he didn't seem very practical. He reminded Luis of the kind of guy who would tell you all about the history of the automobile if you asked him how to fix a flat tire. Luis had friends like this in the future. His best friend, Hillary, was one of the most pedantic women he'd ever met. He loved her dearly. But the last time he asked her about her new e-reader and she went into a long speech about all the technical aspects of digital reading he almost yawned in her face and went back to reading print books. All Luis wanted to know was how to turn the e-reader on and press a button to buy a book; just like the only thing he wanted to know about a car was how to start it and drive it. He didn't care about how it was made or how it worked. Right now, all he wanted to do was get back to his life and his family.
When Ashton finished speaking, Luis stood up and walked toward a long row of windows on the other side of the lab. “So you're saying time travel is, indeed, possible?” He honestly wasn't sure after that long-winded speech.
“I believe in frequencies,” Ashton said. “I believe that sometimes these frequencies overlap and people can get caught up in them. And when there are overlapping frequencies, there has to be time travel. It only stands to reason.”
It didn't make an ounce of sense to Luis. But Luis ran over to Ashton and hugged him. He smiled and jumped up and down. “I was hoping you'd get it. I was hoping you'd understand.”
Ashton quirked his eyebrows and shrugged. “But I'm not sure I do understand. I was only talking about my beliefs. I'm not sure there's any scientific data to back me up. In fact, most people would think I'm a little loony for even suggesting it.”
“You're not loony,” Luis said. “You're a genius.” He reached down and grabbed Ashton's hands. He lowered his voice and glanced deeply into his eyes. “I'm going to tell you something you can't repeat. I need to know I can trust you completely.”
Ashton tilted his head. “This sounds serious.”
Luis looked back and forth to be sure no one else was listening. Then he leaned in closer and said, “I come from the year 2011. I have somehow been transported back to l986 and I'm not sure how I got here. All I want to do is go back home, to my real life. And I'm hoping you can help me do this.”
Ashton's eyes grew wider. He jumped back and scowled at Luis. “I thought you were different from the rest of these assholes. I thought I could trust you and confide in you. But you're like all the rest. You're only interested in making fun of the geeky queer kid who doesn't date, play sports, or ride around in cars with other guys drinking beer. Fuck you, asshole.” Then he turned and started toward the door.
“Wait,” Luis said. “I can prove it.” He ran up to Ashton and took his arm. “I know all about your plans to help change the world. I know how deeply you feel about cancer because your mother was diagnosed with cancer. One day you're going to invent medical equipment that will change the way we look at cancer and many other things. I don't know the details. I'm not smart enough to know things like that. But you're going to help millions of people and you are going to help change the world.”
Ashton turned around and faced him. His expression fell; his mouth was slightly open. “How did you know that? Very few people know about my mother. We haven't told anyone yet.”
Luis decided not to tell him about his mother's death. It would have been cruel. But he had to say something solid to get Ashton to believe him. “I read about you in a magazine in the future. You're also going to be an extremely wealthy, respected man. And you're going to be openly gay and proud of it.”
This time Ashton laughed. “Oh, you almost had me. I almost believed you. But you should have left the part out about being a proud openly gay man, because I don't see that happening any time soon. Especially not now with AIDS. I'll be lucky if I'm alive ten years from now ... unless I decide to be a monk.”
“No,” Luis said, “I promise you. It's not like that. There will be new drugs developed and people who are exposed to AIDS will be able to take these new drugs and live with it like a chronic illness. Gay people will be allowed to get married in some states. They will even let gay men and women serve openly in the military.”
“I'm starting to think you're nuts,” Ashton said. “I know nothing about you, where you came from, or who you are. This is absurd.”
Luis refused to quit. He looked deeply into his eyes. “I'm not joking about this. I'll tell you one more thing, too. The entire world will be different in 2011. People will be reading books on computers and everything will be digital. Buy as much stock in computer technology as you can right now, especially Apple. You'll thank me for it later.”
After that, Luis and Ashton sat down and talked more about the future. Luis told Ashton things that made him clutch the counter. When Luis talked about the Internet and explained how it would change the world, Ashton gaped at him with wide eyes. When he talked about how newspapers and magazines would one day go out of business because everyone would read digital print on computerized devices, he almost lost his balance and fell sideways. And when he said that one day America would have a President of African descent, he stared at Luis in amazement without blinking.
“You mean Ronald Reagan won't be President forever?” Ashton asked, with a wry, sarcastic tone. “It seems so dismal now. I've been worried the moral majority is going to take over the world and we'll all have to fall in line and submit to them.”
Luis laughed. “Politics isn't going to get easier in the future, not by any means. In fact, it's going to become more brutal than ever before. But I can tell you this, Ronald Reagan will not be President forever and the moral majority will not take over the world.” He decided not to go into details about future politics. Ashton could learn about that on his own.
When it was time for Luis to leave, Ashton promised he'd keep his secret and said he'd try to figure out a way to help Luis get back to the year 2011. Luis hugged him before he left the lab and said he'd wait to hear from him. Then Luis jogged out to the parking lot to meet Jase, hoping Jase would still be there. It was after five and Luis knew how much Jase hated to be kept waiting.
Jase's car was one of the few remaining in the student parking lot. Jase was leaning against the passenger door with his arms folded, tapping his foot on the pavement. When he saw Luis running toward him, he shoved his hands into his pockets and said, “Where were you? I've been waiting. You're always late. I think when a person says they will be somewhere at a certain time, they should be there.”