I have the chance that so many people dream about. I get to talk to my 17 year old self and give her advice. When celebrities are asked about what they would do in this scenario they always say things like “I would tell my younger self to follow their heart and things will work out.” My advice is going to be somewhat different. No self-help platitudes for the young Chloe. I’m going to give her some hard and concrete advice that’s going to avoid a lot of heart ache.
I found a wormhole to the past. I know that sounds crazy, but it’s true. It’s in the big bathroom upstairs in my new house. One night I was going in and I held the handle for a minute with my eyes closed. When I opened the door I didn’t see my beautiful sleek bathroom with tiled walls and a claw foot tub. I saw horrendous orange flowery wallpaper and a vinyl floor. I closed the door in shock and then opened it again slowly and, there, thank goodness, was my tasteful bathroom. I decided to forget about the incident but, for some reason, the terrible wallpaper kept coming into my mind until I realised where I had seen it before. My friend, Jenny Green’s house had that wallpaper in the upstairs hall, bedroom and, at that time, only bathroom. I live in that house now. It’s been refurbished, renovated and extended, but it’s still the same house. As soon as I realised the connection I went back to the bathroom and perfected the technique for entering the past.
I was excited by the discovery but, to be honest, it really made me feel quite lonely to have such an amazing secret and no one to tell. When Peter and I divorced I had a few excruciating internet dates but I soon got discouraged and gave up on that. Peter didn’t want children, so we didn’t have any, although he evidently feels differently now as he has a little boy with his new, much younger wife. As for me, all I have is work. I like work but I don’t think it’s enough.
Suddenly it struck me that, perhaps, if I could visit my younger self then I could persuade young me to not make all the same stupid mistakes. Once this idea entered my head I couldn’t shift it. I guessed the year in the orange bathroom as 1975 based on the evidence of the laundry hamper and my memory of Jenny’s wardrobe. Jenny’s family had visited London for New Year’s Eve 1975 and she had been left at home. We used to call this an empty, and when you had an empty you were duty bound to have a party I wasn’t great at parties when I was 17 and I had hidden in the bathroom just before midnight to avoid the hell of New Year’s kissing. I had been embarrassed about my dowdy clothes and was, as always, wishing my hair was blond.
Now, in 2013 I stand outside the door and watch the hands on my watch move excruciatingly slowly while I wait for midnight. My advice to young Chloe is running through my brain. “Don’t marry Peter. Don’t die your hair blond because it doesn’t suit you. Don’t study English Literature at university as there are no jobs. Most of all, don’t marry Peter.” I have the radio on so I can hear the countdown to the New Year.
I grab the door handle, close my eyes, hesitate and then push. There I am, leaning against the cabinet with, I have to admit, really bad clothes on. I am taken aback by how emotional I feel at seeing my younger self. I have never before felt such an intensity of love or protectiveness. How can I tell her not to enjoy the blissful time of falling in love with Peter and deprive her of the happy times she will have in her marriage. I can’t caution against indulging her love of literature as her employment problem works itself out in the end. All the good times go through my mind and I can feel my eyes welling up with tears at the thought of what she has in front of her.
“Excuse me.” I start to back out the door. Then suddenly I have a second thought and say “Don’t ever dye your hair blonde. It really won’t suit you.”