Now and the Never

We'll never get to the future if we don't worry about it now.


I was riding the train with some friends last weekend, headed from one bar to the next. It was just us three and a lady with some groceries sitting at the opposite end of the car. I looked out the window as we whizzed by houses and streetlights. I was just tipsy enough where I thought how cool it looked to not focus on any single outside object, instead letting it all be a blur.

My buddy Gus pointed to a poster above the door we stood in. It showed a brown leather briefcase below an empty blue train seat. "If you see something, say something" was printed in dark, bold text at the top.

"Like I'm ever going to report a fancy abandoned bag," said Gus.

Our other buddy Larry swung from the pole he held onto. "No man, shady stuff always takes place in nice bags," he said.

The train took a slight turn and I had to widen my feet to keep from falling, my hands in my pockets. "Robbers can put more money in gym bags," I said. "But they can put money from upscale heists, larger bills and stuff, in a briefcase."

Gus nodded. "Exactly. That's why I'd take a sleek one like that if I saw it just lying around."

Larry grabbed the pole with his free hand and pulled himself upright. "And when you get home and open it, what if it's not a money or drug transfer thing? What if it blows up on you?"

"That's what they want us to think, but trains aren't targets for anything. Trains are for commuters and sleeping bums."

I leaned against the opposite door, tired of trying to balance. "You really wouldn't tell the cops?"

"I don't know. Maybe I would," said Gus.

"I heard in Europe they have these like automated police tellers at train stations," said Larry, scratching his five o'clock shadow.

"Bullshit," I said. I reached into my pocket and pulled out a pack of gum. I took a piece and offered some to the boys. Gus took one.

"They've got police at all the stations there. There's no police ATMs."

"No, it's not like that. It's like little droids," said Larry.

"Like robot cops?" asked Gus, playing for a rouse.

"Not like the movie. They have cameras on them," said Larry.

"Great movie," I blurted out. "What if that's how it's going to be someday?"

"The future sounds like it sucks," said Gus. The train stopped and we got off.


I've never seen the movie RoboCop. However, I never remember that I haven't seen it. So, when someone brings up RoboCop every once in a while, I always chime right in about how great and awesome the movie is. It's happened enough times now where I've put together what the movie is like in my mind. No, I never actually check up on any of the details. No, I still haven't seen the movie. And no, it doesn't happen frequently enough for me to ever think, Hey, I actually have to watch RoboCop this time. It might sound crazy, but it's just how it is.

*   *

The movie opens with credits playing over a montage of old school cop shots. 1970s black and white cop cars. Close ups of badges. Mustaches. A policeman shoots his pistol over the hood of his car. A detective in a white collared shirt and black suspenders drinks coffee at his desk. A close up of a radar system.

A young police officer walks down the street. He hears a commotion from an alley. He walks down the alley. A group of thugs are beating up a scientist who's trying to protect a fancy new computer. They rip the computer out of his hands and punch the scientist in the face. The police officer yells, "Freeze, I'm police officer Rod Benson and I order you in the name of the law to stop!"

The head thug waves everyone to stop. He wears a purple tie and black suit. He takes the computer in his hands and approaches Officer Benson. "Sorry, officer. Just a friendly misunderstanding." He smiles and takes another step.

"Stop! I'm warning you," says Benson.

"Here, is this what you're looking for?" asks the head thug. He throws the computer and Benson catches it. The head thug draws his pistol and shoots. Benson defends himself with the computer. A bullet goes through the computer into his heart. Benson collapses. The thugs run.

The scientist gets up and runs to Benson. "Oh no, what have they done?" says the scientist, bending over to check on Benson.

Benson coughs. "I'm not dead." The computer starts to spark colorful sparks and flickers lights.

"That's not the problem--" T

The computer opens a time warp and disappears. Benson is gone too.

"It's too late," says the scientist, bowing his head. "He's already there."


I pulled my stool closer to the bar. Stools are always so damn high off the ground. "Can I get a Goose IPA? And the first round of whatever these two are having."

"Sure thing," said the bartender. He grabbed a glass off the top of the stack, pulled the white tap shaped like a goose's head, and poured. "For you two?" he asked.

Gus chewed some peanuts. "Just a High Life bottle."

Larry leaned his arms on the bar, watching one of the TVs. "Little Sumpin' Sumpin', please."

The bartender gave us our drinks. I handed him my card. "You can keep the tab open."

"Thanks, Macky," said Larry, raising his glass. We all clinked our drinks, tapped them on the bar, then drank. "We won't be able to do this someday, you know."

"What're you talkin' about?" asked Gus.

"There's not going to be any liquid booze in the future," said Larry.

"That's insane," I said. "Drinking is the only thing that's kept society in order for ages, no matter how much it messes up a lot of people's lives."

"And it's fricken' awesome," said Gus, taking another drink.

Larry shook his head. "It's all gonna be powdered booze. And legalized drugs. Different, safer drugs than what we got now."

A chubby guy in a baggy blue sweatshirt next to me leaned into our conversation. "I don't know about the drugs, but I've heard about the powdered booze thing," he said, eyes on the TV.

"See! Thank you, sir. Now this guy's a smart fellow," said Larry.

Gus took another handful of peanuts. "Maybe there won't be so many morons in the future."

I laughed a solitary ha. I leaned back in my stool and turned. The bar wasn't as full as I thought it would be on a weekend. A few guys played pool. A table of ladies drank cocktails, laughing loudly. A Galaga machine was on the far wall, next to a bright flashing pinball machine.

It was a RoboCop pinball machine.


Officer Benson files through papers on his desk. Only he isn't the same. His wound is healed and his chest is metallic. He has a cyclops-like band for eyes and a silver metal helmet as part of his head. He has robotic hands and stronger human legs than before. He is a robotic hybrid cop. The RoboCop.

"Got some fresh leads on the Hernandez case," says a voice. Benson looks up. He's in a futuristic police office.

A beautiful woman hands him a packet. She has auburn hair, blue eyes, and a stud in her nose. As she hands him the packet, they hold hands.

"I love you so much, Debra," says Benson.

They release hands, lingering fingertip to fingertip for a moment. We see the lack of a ring on Debra's hand.

"You too. I just wish that the force would let us prove it to God," says Debra.

The office door bursts open. A thug steps in, wearing crazy future sunglasses, a purple tie, and a black suit. He holds a laser shotgun.

"The leads lead here, cop scum!" He cocks his laser shotgun. "This is for my great grandpa Hernandez!" The thug shoots Debra full of laser pelts, then runs out.

Benson holds Debra in his robotic hands. "Deeeebbraaaaaa!" he yells.

A future hologram poster hangs in the background of the office. It's for Kraft Jet-Puffed Miniature Marshmallows. It might be a hologram, but it's still the same good old Kraft Jet-Puffed Miniature Marshmallows that we all know and love.

In my mind Kraft Jet-Puffed Miniature Marshmallows are the sponsor of RoboCop.


Larry and I sat across from each other in a yellow, contoured wooden booth. The late night food joint had four booths and a long, shallow table running along the window. The smell and feel of fried grease filled the air.

Gus set down two large red plastic baskets, one french fries and the other chicken nuggets. I immediately grabbed a few fries and put them in my mouth. They were too hot to eat, but I was too hungry to wait, so I cooled them with my breath before swallowing. Gus sat down. He dunked a chicken nugget in barbecue sauce and ate it.

"Mustang Pete's is the single greatest fast food place on the planet," said Larry, sipping root beer through a straw from his generic styrofoam cup.

"No doubt," said Gus, who was also doing the breath-to-cool technique to eat some fries. "If any chain ever figures out the magic of Pete's, the whole world will die fat and happy."

A couple walked through the door, arm in arm. They looked young, probably high schoolers. Their faces were painted with the dual excitement of being out late and being in teenage love.

"You don't think Pete will ever try and do it himself?" I asked.

Gus shook his head. "No way."

I watched the young couple order. The guy reached into his pocket and opened a velcro wallet. Tony was smiling as he told told a joke from behind the register. His eyes squinted shut when he really smiled, which was often. The couple both laughed. The girl wrapped her arms around the guy's arm again.

"Absolutely not. Not a chance in hell," said Larry, dipping a fry in a mixture of ketchup and mustard. "It's just the way it's supposed to be, like it's always been."


Benson climbs over the top of a ladder onto a roof. "Nowhere to go but down, Hernandez." Benson stands firm, holding his ground.

The thug looks over the edge of the building, out over the city. "You pigs think you run this city, with your laws and self-righteousness. But you don't." Hernandez turns, facing Benson. "We do, we real people, we real lords of the streets." He kneels and opens the brown leather briefcase he has been holding.

Benson raises his hand and points his finger, which is a robot gun. "Don't even bother. You know I'm bulletproof."

Hernandez laughs. "You can't shoot a RoboCop. But a RoboCop can sure shoot the shit out of you and everyone you know. Where's the justice for the justice keepers, though? Isn't that what our forefathers wanted to prevent all those years ago when they wrote the constitution? Isn't that what the second amendment's all about? Man, how far this great nation has gone, and how low it has dug."

Benson starts walking toward Hernandez. "If you're so right and civil, why do you traffic alcohol powders and syntha-drugs, then?"

Hernandez shakes his head. "Too many rules. I've never played by the rules." He turns the briefcase. It has a screen with a computer countdown. 5... 4... 3... "There's no rule about blowing up RoboCops." 1...


I got home late, around 1:30. I was more tired than I was drunk, which always makes for good sleep. I sat on the edge of the bathtub while I brushed my teeth, facing the mirror. I've looked into a mirror thousands of times, maybe more. It's always the exact me looking back, exactly as I am, exactly how I've always been. It's only strange when I look at pictures from the past to see how much I've changed over the years.

I took off my shirt, put on a pair of shorts, and got into bed. I rubbed my feet against the cold sheets until it felt warmer.

That's one of my favorite sensations in life. It simply feels good as it is in itself, going from cold to warm in a comfortable contrast. What makes it so special is that it comes at the end of the day when you're unwinding, relaxed, falling asleep.

Not thinking backwards, not thinking forwards.

Just thinking now, enjoying now. Sleepy now, happy now.