It’s a slow day in 2007. I get in my time machine and fly to 1996 to watch television with myself. We’re at our parents’, sitting on the gray couch, the one we’ll throw away two years hence. My ’96 self has the remote. I had it last time.
“So what do you watch in the future?” he asks. Fran Drescher is nasalating and the audience finds that funny. A self-content butler smiles at himself. Niles? Giles? What’s his name?
“Not much,” I say. “Not much. Although I did watch this thing that was–but… no. You wouldn’t like to… no.”
“Come on,” he says. “Tell me.”
“No,” I say. “No. Okay. It’s this show where… This is funny. Gracie Sheffield has sex with agent Mulder and punches him in the face. You know, for kicks? Yeah. And later…”
The smile withers on my lips. My ’96 self looks at the TV as the Sheffield girls fight about some prom date or a secret they were supposed to keep from Charles Shaughnessy. “Please tell me that you mean Maggie,” says me.
“No, man,” I say, and suddenly I understand why you must never, ever, bring news of the future back in time. “I’m sorry. Madeline Zima.”
“And David Duchovny,” he says.
“I’m sorry,” I say. I put my hand on his shoulder. He shrugs it off.
“What’s it called?”
“The show,” says me, looking away. “What’s it called?”
“Eh… I… Forget it,” I say.
We watch the rest of the show silently. Only the recorded audience laughs.