"No, really. There are so many things that I have to explain to you still. You have no idea."
"Well," he leans back, his arms draping over the back of the couch. "You can start by telling me how you know who I am." His voice has a pleasant drawl to it and his upper lip pouts as he speaks. "You ain't no Yankee, for sure. But if this is the future as you say, how'd you even know of me?"
Oh jeez. How am I going to do this? Well, Lewis, I saw your picture online, some 150 years after you died and developed this almost instantaneous crush on you? Since then, I've been gathering any information I can get and think about you constantly?
"I have this friend," I say, hesitating. "She knows who you are and studies your life."
"My life?" His brows draw together, a crease forming between his eyes and his nose.
"Yes. In 2012, you are somewhat of an historical figure. A person of interest. Because of the, uh, you know, um, business with Abraham Lincoln."
He wrinkles his tiny nose at the mention of Lincoln's name and his lip curls up in a slant, almost a sneer.
Uh oh. Touchy subject.
"What do ya know about him?" he demands.
I pause, unsure of how I should proceed. Obviously Lewis has no idea about the current state of things or how the events during his time have impacted modern society. Perhaps he figured that Lincoln would fade into obscurity?
"Well…" I begin to explain. "These days we are very interested in history. 1865 isn't that long ago, you know. Events from back then were carefully recorded."
He swallows, a look of concern settling over his eyes.
"Before you landed here, you were about to be hanged," I say, watching him grow increasingly uncomfortable. "We know about this. There are records of it…" I tread carefully, aware of his probing gaze. "Even photographs."
"And I was…. hanged?" His expression darkens.
I grind my teeth and clench my hands together over my phone, searching for the right words.
"Well, theoretically…. Yes."
"But I am here?" He says it almost like an insult.
"That is just it," I say. "You are here. So you weren't hanged. At least not in some other reality."
Obviously I am making no sense to him at all. He looks utterly perplexed, his face brooding as he glowers at me from beneath lowered lashes.
"You must have fallen through some kind of time warp, perhaps a worm hole while you were being executed." I indicate the rope marks on his neck. "For some reason, you did not die. You came here instead."
He says nothing, his eyes shooting daggers at me. He looks dangerous, his features suddenly wild and feral. I suddenly missed the slightly arrogant, playful Lewis of a few minutes ago.
He's frightened. Just remember that. His world has been turned upside down.
"You know what I'd done?" His nostrils are flaring and there is something twitching in his jaw.
"Um, yeah….." I can see that it upsets him. "If you mean that thing with Seward…. I know about it, yes."
He flinches. "And you went and brought me here anyways? Why?"
He thinks I'm responsible. He believes I'm the one who sent him into the future.
"No, um, ah – I didn't do it, if that's what you're thinking," I correct him. "I have no idea how it happened. Suddenly you were just there, in my living room."
"Your room?" He leans in closer, his eyes narrowing.
Oh no. This is not getting any better.
"Yes. That was my house and my father who chased you out of it. There was no way to explain things to him. I had to wait until you were gone, then go and find you."
My face flushes as I lie to him, unable to admit my inability to face my father. For a moment, I feel a surge of shame in light of his tremendous courage.
He went to his death without faltering. He stood up against months of isolation and torment without breaking. And you are scared of confronting your angry father.
I stand there, tense, watching his every move. The problem is, he doesn't move at all. Even his eyes stay locked to mine, like the Eiger Nordwand, icy and cold.
God, he's certainly prone to mood swings.
"I'm going to figure it out," I stammer. "I'm going to find a way to help you. My friends will know how. I have a few people I can talk to about the situation."
He stares at me with open animosity.
"Lewis, please. I'm telling the truth. I'm not making this up. You really are in the future – that is the only reason why I know who you are." I am pleading with him so hard that I'm almost clasping my hands in prayer.
He seems to contemplate everything for minute, his eyes losing none of their edge.
"You're right…..I was 'bout to be hanged," he finally says in a gruff voice. "I felt the drop. Thought I was a goner and then….."
I am relieved to see his face finally soften. He slumps forward, elbows on his knees, stroking the red, irritated skin on his wrists.
"I can't believe this is all happenin' to me," he shakes his head. "How kin I be in some other time like you's sayin'? How's that even possible? That don't make no sense at all. None!" He lets his head drop into his hands, eyes wide open and fixed on the ground with a touch of madness.
I clear my voice, hesitating before I speak. "I told you, nowadays, these things are possible. Something must have happened…"
"Me of all people!" he exclaims. "Why me? I was ready to die. I'd made my peace with what I'd done. I's ready to go."
"Look," I try to console him. "It might not be as bad as you think. Maybe we can find a way to get you back where you belong….."
"I can't go back." He says softly, releasing his head, now mesmerized by his hands.
"Oh, don't worry, maybe there is a way to get you back so that you won't end up dying.."
"You don't understand," he croaks miserably.
He looks so forlorn, his head sinking down to his chest. Oh god. I see that the one leg of his pants is torn, revealing a jagged bloody scratch. Stinky must have bit him in the living room. I want to comfort him, to take him into my arms, but I don't dare move from my spot. Instead, I let the other part of me, the one that is angry with him for putting me so on edge, get me back in focus.
Yes, he looks like a lost little boy now, but a moment ago, he seemed kind of scary. And before that he was almost flirty. You can't keep letting him to that to you. Most of it is probably just show. If it were anyone except Lewis, you'd have him figured out and put in his place in two seconds!
"We'll figure it out," I tell him in a firm voice. "There will be a solution to this problem. Just wait and see. But there is no point in fretting about it now. For tonight there is nothing we can do."
He just sits there looking dejected. It is really, really difficult to be hard on him.
He must be exhausted, I thought. Completely wasted. This morning he woke up thinking he was going to be executed and now here he is in the evening, 147 years away from that terrible reality, sitting in a world he does not know. He must be a turmoil of mixed emotions. He just doesn't like showing it.
"So, how about getting some food into your belly, huh?" I say, trying to keep my voice light, hoping to infect him with a more positive outlook on things. "There's no point in starving yourself. You're here now, so let's make the best of it."
He smiles slightly, but it is a weak smile.
"Yeah, I reckon I'm kind of starving alright."
I exhale long and hard, feeling a load of tension escape with my breath. "Great. There is a problem though….. I will have to leave in order to get the food," I explain to Lewis. "You will have to stay here."
He shrugs. "I s'ppose," he says listlessly.
"You have to promise you'll stay here. I don't want you getting lost out there," I say adamantly.
I can see a trace of annoyance flicker across his face, but he nods. I hold up the remote for the television again.
"But first, something to keep you busy while I'm gone." I point it at the flat screen. "Remember the television I was talking about earlier? Before my father called me?"
"Let me explain it to you quickly. So that you know what it is," I wait for some sign of acknowledgement and he nicks his head at me. "Think of this the same way you would of 3d pictures – you know, the ones you folks watch in slide shows back in your time?"
He nods again.
"Only these move. It looks like there are tiny people really moving and talking in this box here. But they're not really there. They're just really, really fast pictures."
Lewis has perked up now. His eyes are moving from the screen to my face, full of expectation.
"It's going to be a bit bright at first, but you'll get used to it."
I press "ON" and the television comes to life with a big flash that takes him aback with its intensity. I watch his face intently – at first he is blinded, his eyes squeezed shut and then slowly they begin to adjust, widening in amazement as he begins to realize what he is seeing.
There is a One Direction video playing.
Lewis is clutching the edge of the couch, his mouth slack. His eyes blink furiously as the pictures flicker across them. I try to adjust the volume, so that the music doesn't blare. Lewis cocks his head slightly, crooked tooth protruding slightly from his parted lips.
You don't know uh oh, that's what makes you beautiful.
"Are those men?" He asks, pointing to the figures on the screen.
I can't help myself, I burst into laughter.
"I'm not entirely sure, Lewis." I can barely speak, gasping for air. I can see him snickering, trying in vain to keep his lips closed. Oh poor thing, I thought. Now he has complexes about his teeth.
"I've been told they're SUPPOSED to be men."
Lewis is grinning as broadly as he can with a closed mouth, chuckling in a muffled sort of way. I can see that he and the television are going to get along just fine. Once I'm gone, he'll probably get up and poke at it, but I'm sure they'll reach some kind of understanding.
"So, I'm going to step out now and get you something to eat." I pat my back pockets to see if my wallet is still in place. "So, stay right here and don't leave this room. Don't touch anything. Just watch the television until I get back."
Lewis smirks. "Miss Natty – I'm from 1865, not simple minded."
I sigh deeply. "Right. I'll be back soon. Hang tight."
As I close the door behind me, I take one last look at his face, now serene and almost angelic in the dancing light of the TV. It occurs to me that I have not shown him the toilet yet and I really hope he doesn't have to use the washroom.