The four of us would hang out in the basement at Louie's place, playing video games, music and generally goofing around. I was always grateful for those times, the school days made bearable knowing we could retreat into our den at night. I think that was true for all of us. We talked a lot about the future, Meg's concrete will set on game development, Louie's self-critical plans of a doctorate, my vague dreams of animal care. Jake was the only one who could never be pinned down, always told us he already knew what he'd do but it didn't matter. I always assumed he didn't have a clue but was too embarrassed to say in the face of our more-or-less clear aims. But I was wrong. He knew better than any of us.
One night in the summer before our exam year, Meg lost her shit about Jake's indifference. I think that was around the time her Mom ran off, before the divorce. We all knew she was worried about exams.
She was pretty relentless that night, "How can you be so relaxed? You're better than this. Stop wasting your life!" she went on and on. Jake took it with a detached poise that impressed me.
After hours of this, he paused the game, looked dead into her eyes and said "I remember what I'm going to do, it's just too fucking boring to talk about."
Confused silence, then Lou's quick deduction "Remember what you're going to do?"
"Yeah remember next year, what's your point?" Jake said.
"Stop being weird, no-one remembers the future, it hasn't happened yet."
"Yes it has, and it's mostly boring shit."
The evening was sombre after that, the conversation killed by Jake's reply. I guessed that he had found a creative way to end Meg's barrage. It had worked.
A few weeks later, the topic came up again. Lou had been teasing Jake about some embarrassing incident, I forget what. Funny how our distressing school stories are forgotten by everyone except ourselves.
Lou said something like "You didn't remember that future in time, eh?"
Jake came back with "Says the dude who'll crap himself at school. Better remember your nappy that day."
His comment quickly disappeared into the flow of our antics, just another wise-crack that we knew was false, like Lou would ever allow that to happen in real life. But it did happen, months later, during his final Biology exam. At the time, Lou had been discrete, but he told his closest friends, and we laughed and consoled him in equal measure.
"You're playing some next-level shit with me Jakey-boy, planting suggestions into my subconscious for me to act out at a later date," Lou said.
"Nah I just remembered it," was Jake's reply.
Sometimes Matty would hang out with us, playing a new song that he wanted our opinions on. Lou's cool older brother, we all idolised him. It was the only time I remember Meg keep silent when certain topics came up, the weight of her teenage crush restraining her strong beliefs. I'm always sad to think about Matty, a person too sensitive and too stubborn for this world. He frequently told us that if he left behind just one great album, he could go ahead and die in peace. It still shocks me that he managed to do both before he was 21. He spent his last summer recording, burning through savings until the album was finished and becoming something of a legend all over the county. It was money well spent. Six months later he killed himself. Lou was never the same, more pedantic about every little thing and his good-natured arrogance hollowed out.
Jake idolised Matty the most it seemed, always asking about his newest project and the work in progress. Jake was always certain about which song should make the cut and would give surprisingly insightful advice about each demo. Matty frequently left our basement deep in thought from these revelations. I think Jake's encouragement and critique drove the musician to get the album done finally, just to shut him up! It was like Jake knew that Matty did not have long, like he could already hear the songs so clearly in his head. But as we found out later, from Jake's point of view, this was more true than any of us would believe.
Why am I thinking of all this? It's the one memory I'm trying to avoid, the disturbing conversation that changed everything and nothing. It happened years later, Lou and Meg home at the end of the semester, Jake and I off work for a week. A reunion of sorts, I think we were all about 22. Matty had been gone five years by that point, the ghost forever haunting our basement. So we went camping, the last time we would all be together as just the four of us, although we didn't know that at the time.
Those evenings were the best, feeling free and connected around the campfire, commiserating our failures and wisecracking like old times.
Meg brought up the subject finally, saying to Jake "You never did tell us more about your skills of remembrance. Go on, give us a clue."
Our hesitant faces fixed on Jake as he stared solemnly into the fire. And he told us everything.
"I always knew about things that hadn't happened yet. When I was a kid I called it remembering because that's what it always felt like, remembering things in the future the same as remembering things in the past.
"For a long time I just assumed everyone could do it. Never felt particularly special to me. The further away in the future, the hazier the memory, just the same as memories of the past. Some future memories were very strong though, like Matty. That one was always vivid to me, sometimes I wish I could forget. Whenever I'd tell people about it, they'd get confused or annoyed, so I always assumed that I wasn't explaining it right, just like always."
The fire crackling, crickets pulsing, all of us peered deep into those glowing embers. Jake was telling us something we already knew about him but were too afraid to admit.
"But recently I've come to realise that no-one can actually remember the future except me, that I am special in some way. Never thought that would happen.
"I've told a guy at work, he thinks it's all philosophy but I'm actually getting his opinion on this thing, to see if I can understand it more. He asks me such dumb questions, like if you could see the future then you could change it. What an idiot! It's like saying that you can change the past by knowing that. How the fuck would I even know where to begin to change stuff just by having some vague memory of it happening? Like I can remember dates, licence plates, times and all that shit. I'm not a cop for god's sake!
"But then sometimes I guess I probably have affected the future, like getting Matty to finish the damn album that I've had on loop in my head since I was 10 years old! There were times I thought he wouldn't finish it. Then where would the songs in my head go? Would they just disappear? But maybe he would have finished it without me? As super-powers go, it's pretty lame. So that's why I never talk about it."
I can't remember much after that, only that in the weeks following our camping trip, I would get a feeling of falling down that would come over me unexpectedly. We never spoke of it again, none of us, it was like some dream too weird to face. The four of us round the fire, an island in the night, an impossible tale. Best to forget about it.
I've not seen any of the gang for years, all of us busy with life. Lou finally got his doctorate and Meg has made some pretty successful games. I'm too busy with the kids and pets to think about the old days much. And Jake... the last I heard about Jake was that he was finally having some good luck, getting really popular with the voters around here.
I hope he remembers something good.