Your past is a skeleton walking one step behind you, and your future is a skeleton walking one step in front of you. Maybe you don’t wear a watch, but your skeletons do, and believe me – they always know what time it is. Our skeletons are made of memories, dreams and voices. They can trap you in the in-between, between touching and becoming. They aren’t really evil either, unless you allow them to be.
What we have to do is keep moving in step with our skeletons. They will never leave us, so we shouldn’t ever fear that they will. Our past isn’t going to fall too far behind, and our future won’t go too far ahead. Sometimes, our skeletons will talk to us, tell us to sit down rest for a while…Breathe a little.
Sometimes they’ll make us promises and tell us what we want to hear. Sometimes our skeletons will dress up like beautiful little women and ask us to dance. Sometimes the skeletons will dress up like your best friend and offer you a drink, one for the road. Sometimes they might look like your family and offer you gifts.
It’s very important that no matter what they do, Keep Walking, Keep Moving!…and don’t wear a watch. Your skeletons always know what time it is, and will remind you. It is always NOW. That is what Indian time is. Now. The past and the future, all of it is neatly packaged in the Now. That’s just how it is. We are trapped in the Now. Just keep it moving. Not too slow, not too fast. And if you ever lose track of time, just ask your skeletons.
“As we try to get there from here…..our here passes our there.”
JW’s letter to me and my Rainbow…6/17/10
from The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven by Sherman Alexie. The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven is a collection of twenty-two short stories. The excerpt came from the chapter titled “A Drug Called Tradition.” “Hey,” he said. “You two want to hear a story?” Junior and I looked at each other, looked back at Thomas, and decided that it would be all right. Thomas closed his eyes and told his story. It is now. Three Indian boys are drinking Diet Pepsi and talking out by Benjamin Lake. They are wearing only loincloths and braids. Although it is the twentieth century and planes are passing overhead, the Indian boys have decided to be real Indians tonight. They all want to have their vision, to receive their true names, their adult names. That is the problem with Indians these days. They have the same names all their lives. Indians wear their names like a pair of bad shoes. So they decided to build a fire and breathe in that sweet smoke. They have not eaten for days so they know their visions should arrive soon. Maybe they’ll see it in the flames or in the wood. Maybe the smoke will talk in Spokane or English. Maybe the cinders and ash will rise up. The boys sit by the fire and breathe, their visions arrive. They are all carried away to the past, to the moment before any of them took their first drink of alcohol. The boy Thomas throws the beer he is offered into the garbage. The boy Junior throws his whiskey through a window. The boy Victor spills his vodka down the drain. Then the boys sing. They sing and dance and drum. The steal horses. I can see them. They steal horses. “You don’t really believe that shit?” I asked Thomas. “Don’t need to believe anything. It just is.” Thomas stood up and walked away. He wouldn’t even try to tell us any stories again for a few years. We had never been very good to him, even as boys, but he had always been kind to us. When he stopped even looking at me, I was hurt. How do you explain that? Before he left for good, though, he turned back to Junior and me and yelled at us. I couldn’t really understand what he was saying, but Junior swore he told us not to slow dance with our skeletons. “What the hell does that mean?” I asked. “I don’t know,” Junior said. There are things you should learn. Your past is a skeleton walking one step behind you, and your future is a skeleton walking one step in front of you. Maybe you don’t wear a watch, but your skeletons do, and they always know what time it is. Now, these skeletons are made of memories, dreams, and voices. And they can trap you in the in-between, between touching and becoming. But they’re not necessarily evil, unless you let them be. What you have to do is keep moving, keep walking, in step with your skeletons. They ain’t ever going to leave you, so you don’t have to worry about that. Your past ain’t going to fall behind, and your future won’t get too far ahead. Sometimes, though, your skeletons will talk to you, tell you to sit down and take a rest, breathe a little. Maybe they’ll make you promises, tell you all the things you want to hear. Sometimes your skeletons will dress up as beautiful Indian women and ask you to slow dance. Sometimes your skeletons will dress up as your best friend and offer you a drink, one more for the road. Sometimes your skeletons will look exactly like your parents and offer you gifts. But, no matter what they do, keep walking, keep moving. And don’t wear a watch. Hell, Indians never need to wear a watch because your skeletons will always remind you about the time. See, it is always now. That’s what Indian time is. The past, the future, all of it is wrapped up in the now. That’s how it is. We are all trapped in the now.