I can't break up with Graham today, even though I told my friends I'd do it the next time I saw him. So instead, I'm hiding in my bedroom, setting up my new computer while he plays Ultimate Frisbee in the park across the street. (1.1)
Right away we see Emma hiding from her dreams—in this case, her dream of single-don—in the present. We also see her using her computer to do so… for the first of many times.
"Here's the thing," I say, taking in a breath. "In the future, you're married to Sydney Mills."
Josh's mouth hangs open.
I open the car door. "We're going to be late." (7.31-33)
Marrying Sydney Mills is everyone's dream, but she's so hot that nobody like Josh would plan on that dream becoming a reality. Here, though, Josh finds out that dreams really do come true. Or at least this dream does… though he doesn't hold onto it forever.
I personally have never had sex. It's not like I'm waiting for love because who knows if that will ever happen, but it always felt like I would be giving too much of myself to a guy. Like Graham. I definitely wouldn't want him to be the one I lose my virginity to. (11.4)
At track practice, Emma thinks about her plans for sex, and while she may not always make the best decisions, she's definitely in control of this one. Which is great, because this decision has the potential to be a real deal-breaker—it could end up being a dream come true or a big mistake.
"I always imagined time travel would be so big and life-changing," she says. "Like A Wrinkle in Time or Back to the Future. But here, all most people care about are lame vacation photos and trivial things." (14.35)
What a bummer: Emma is totally disappointed by what the future looks like. Guess it's not exactly as she'd hoped and dreamed…
Kellan links arms with me and squeals. "This is our first step on the way to med school!"
"We're going to med school now?"
"We can even live together. And do our residency at the same hospital!" (17.22-24)
Putting the distant future aside for a minute, here Emma and Kellan are talking about the next big step in their lives: college. This is a really normal dream for a high school student. Also normal? Kellan's dream involves the two friends going to school together.
As I hold the phone against my ear, I actually feel sad. In the future, Jordan and I were supposed to meet at college and get married. Now, we'll probably never even know each other. (25.54)
Emma takes action to change her fate because she gets the feeling that her future with Jordan is not ideal. But it's a bit sad when she says goodbye to the guy she was supposed to marry. Who knows how she would have felt about Jordan if she had met him under ordinary circumstances? She nips this prospect in the bud.
When I get back to my room, I snuggle deep under my covers and think about Kevin Storm. His name is perfect. I wonder if we name our daughter Olivia. I've always loved that name, and Olivia Storm sounds like she'll grow to be a confident woman. (29.9)
Slow down, Emma—here we're finding out that she's kind of quick to form opinions about things that she really doesn't know anything about. After getting rid of her first husband, she immediately assumes that the next guy's a lot better and starts daydreaming about naming their kid.
I wish I could muster her level of enthusiasm. Yes, I'm relieved it's over with Graham. And I'm excited about Cody. But Josh's attitude at lunch bothered me. It's like the discovery of his future is changing him now. (36.7)
First of all, neither Emma nor Josh knew that it would become a dream (or a reality) of Josh's to marry Sydney Mills. It sure isn't on his mind in 1996. But when he finds out that someday he will marry her, it puts the idea into his head—and it starts changing who he is, motivating him to want different things. His dream starts influencing his reality, if you will.
With her sunglasses on and her hair spilling around her shoulders, Sydney looks content with whatever life tosses her way. It's the exact opposite of how I feel. I know that someday she and I will own a house out here and go on fancy vacations. But something amazing must happen between now and then because, at this moment, we don't feel right for each other. (47.48)
Josh is trying to make a dream happen that was supposed to happen all by itself. And when he tries to force it, he finds that he can't force what he wants here and now—so maybe this dream will have to stay just that: not reality.
All week, I've known bits and pieces of my future, and I've wondered how my current actions affect me in fifteen years. But when Emma's finger touched mine, I was only thinking about now. (65.1)
In the end, Josh figures out the key to success: In order to end up with the right future, he has to listen to his heart now. Sure, we would all be thrown for a loop if we were able to see what happens to us someday. But the future doesn't just materialize out of thing air—it may feel like a dream, but it's concretely built in the decisions we make now.
I know it's stupid to worry about bumping into Graham. Wagner Park is huge. It stretches along the edge of downtown all the way to the newer subdivision of homes. Graham could be playing Frisbee anywhere. [At prom last weekend, he was all over me. I even missed doing the Macarena with Kellan and Ruby and my other friends]. (1.30)
Nothing says confinement quite like having a boyfriend that you don't want. On the other hand, nothing is more confining than being too afraid to change something. Sure, Emma doesn't like dating Graham, but she's so afraid of taking control and breaking up with him that really she's trapping herself.
"Can you work on it later?" her mom asks. "Marty has to call a client before dinner and he can't do it while you're on the Internet."
"But I'm not done," Emma says. "I don't know if I'll be able to get back to this website again." (2.61-62)
Emma and Josh aren't adults yet, which means they're confined by their parents rules and expectations. So even though they've just discovered Facebook (and their futures), Emma's mom is banging on the door asking them to get offline, and they're going to have to listen.
I, on the other hand, placed fourth in the sixteen hundred and was the second slowest leg of my relay. I'm usually a stronger link, but I'm going on practically no sleep, and my brain is scattered. Before last night I'd never heard of Jordan Jones Jr., and suddenly I'm in a bad marriage to him. (11.1)
Emma has just found out that she ends up with a miserable future. Talk about feeling like there's no way out, right? At this point, she doesn't even feel like there's anything she can do to keep it from happening: She hasn't even met Jordan Jones Jr., but someday she'll fall in love with him and then end up miserable because of it. Bummer.
"No, now you're wrong," she says. "If it was a prank, nothing would've changed between yesterday and today. But everything I did differently today sent little ripples of change into the future." (14.45)
Yay—freedom. Emma and Josh discover that they can still change what happens to them in the future; it's not a done deal. Each action that they take in the present, however small, changes what happens next. This Facebook thing might actually have a helpful side to it, after all…
Ms. Nesbit fidgets with one of her earrings. "Any state in particular?"
My pulse quickens. "California?"
"You should try the public library," Ms. Nesbit says. "They have phone books from all over the country. I'm sure they have some from California." (19.28-30)
Emma decides to change her future and make sure that she never meets Jordan Jones Jr. This is a huge because it shows that knowing the future doesn't have to mean confinement; instead, Emma can use her future as a warning sign and change things accordingly. Instead of being trapped, here we see Emma taking charge.
Emma sits behind me on the bed. She rubs her hands together to warm them up. My mind tells me to pull away, but I can't.
"I don't understand," I say.
She presses her fingers along the muscles at the back of my neck. "I think we need to realize there's no way to control these particular types of changes." (26.69-71)
There are a couple types of confinement here: Josh has just found out a small change in the present has changed his future children, and he's confused and kind of sad because those kids he saw in pictures will never exist—and he didn't try to change that. Also, as Emma is making a move on him, Josh finds himself wanting to pull away (since he knows it's dangerous territory) but he finds himself rooted to the spot. He's double trapped here, Shmoopers.
"My brother, my parents, none of them," I add. "Because what if something bad happens between now and the future? If we can't find out exactly what happens, it would drive us crazy trying to figure it out." (31.49)
Emma and Josh are toying with the idea of looking up other people on Facebook, but they realize that they might find out stuff that they don't really need, or want, to know. And this might take away their freedom to enjoy their lives right now.
One reason my parents feel overbearing is their need to discuss everything. That was probably why David moved across the country. He wasn't comfortable with them knowing every part of his life. (43.16)
Josh thinks about his brother's decision to move away from their overly involved parents—they aren't bad parents, they're just a little too hands-on with their kids' lives. And this makes Josh and his brother feel a little bit trapped. Especially since they're older, they need to be able to have parts of their lives that their parents don't know everything about.
After Ms. Nesbit returns to her books, I watch the freshmen laugh at something on the computer, and it occurs to me that I've been using Facebook the wrong way. It's not about automatically having control. It's about taking control with the resources you have. (46.9)
Emma has a breakthrough moment here as she realizes that she's been using her knowledge of the future to control her life in the wrong way. Now she sees that it can be used to orient her toward the right decisions.
For the past five days, I've been trying to understand why this happens to me and how I can tweak things so it won't happen again. But I'm starting to wonder if it actually has nothing to do with the future. Maybe it has everything to do with what happens now. (56.45)
Here, Emma realizes that she's been using the future to manipulate what she wants her future to be. She's been trapped in the future because of this, though, instead of living freely in the present. Oops.
Our friend Kellan recently got AOL. She squeals every time someone sends her an instant message. She'll spend hours hunched over her keyboard typing out a conversation with someone who may not even go to Lake Forest High. (1.14)
And so the age of modern communication begins. Believe it or not, it wasn't as easy to have personal conversations with total strangers you've never seen before until the Internet was invented—and in 1996, Kellan finds it a major novelty that she can chat with a stranger while staring at a screen inside her bedroom. This was definitely a huge shift in the way that people interact with each other.
Josh shakes his head. "My parents don't want to get the Internet. They say it's a waste of time, and my mom thinks the chatrooms are full of perverts." (1.16)
Guess what? When the Internet came around, lots of parents were pretty skeptical about this new type of communication. The telephone was a huge deal back in the day, but this is communication to a whole new level—it can help someone hide who they are and pretend to be just about anybody.
"Why would anyone say this stuff about themselves on the Internet? It's crazy!"
"Exactly," I say. "I'm going to be mentally ill in fifteen years, and that's why my husband doesn't want to be around me." (5.30-31)
Josh and Emma's minds are blown by Emma's status updates about unemployment and therapy. These are both really personal issues, and in the 1990s, people generally handled them by discussing them with their nearest and dearest… which, since this required a phone call or face-to-face conversation, definitely didn't include four hundred other people.
"I wasn't walking fast because I'm excited," I say, "I just hate it when you… you know… touch my hair and stuff."
"I'm sorry," Emma says, and I know she gets it. She doesn't want to hurt our friendship either. That's why she let me put distance between us for the past six months. (8.14-15)
Body language is a very important part of communication. Emma and Josh are in a rough patch in their friendship, but Emma's body language has a tendency to not match up with her words. She gave Josh a strict verbal declaration that they're just friends, but still gets touchy sometimes. It's called a mixed signal, and it makes Josh uncomfortable.
We were standing right next to Clarence and Millicent when Josh said, "I really like you, Emma."
I smiled. "I really like you, too."
"I'm glad," he said, and then he stepped close like he was about to kiss me.
I stumbled back. "No," I said, shaking my head. "You're… Josh."
As soon as the words were out of my mouth, I could see how much I hurt him. (13.17-21)
Major communication fail: Josh failed to pick up on the fact that Emma didn't like him that way. And rather than finding the best words to turn her best friend down, Emma blurts out a quick response that hurts their friendship. This moment is kind of a big deal in the story because it seriously interrupted the great communication that Josh and Emma had before.
On my way here, I slipped a note through the vents in his locker, saying I wouldn't see him until band. That way he won't hunt me down for a makeout session before class. Eventually we need to have the breakup talk, just not this morning. (17.9)
Emma is using a written note to avoid Graham, rather than break up with him right away. She's making a lot of extra work (and stress) for herself because she won't communicate with him directly. Is this better for anybody? We don't think so. Graham is just confused, and the longer Emma waits, the more stressed out she is about it.
"This might be tougher," Mrs. Tuttle says. She looks at her clipboard and reads, "If things are moving too fast sexually, and a girl is visibly upset, should the boy stop even if the girl hasn't said the word no?" (20.34)
In Peer Issues class, the teacher is helping students explore different ways that they communicate in relationships. She raises a really important question here: Is language necessary to tell someone what you want? Or are there non-verbal cues that are equally effective?
"You're making that face," Emma says as she types in her email address.
"Like you're judging me."
"I'm going to speak as calmly as I can," she says. "The way you're judging me means you're not even trying to understand what that life felt like for me." (26.18-21)
Here's that body language again, this time mixed with a lack of using verbal language to express feelings. Emma's upset because Josh isn't putting himself in her shoes—if he did, he'd understand that she was miserable with her future. But he's too busy thinking about Sydney Mills to open himself up to communicating with Emma about what she's going through.
With her sunglasses on and her hair spilling around her shoulders, Sydney looks content with whatever life tosses her way. It's the exact opposite of how I feel. [But something amazing must happen between now and then because, at this moment, we don't feel right for each other. If we started dating now, I can't imagine things lasting through the summer. (47.48)
Josh is hitting a brick wall with Sydney Mills. Sure, she's every guy's dream, but they don't really have chemistry, which is definitely a type of communication. Without chemistry, is the rest of it really worth it?
Difficult decision, but I'm considering canceling my Facebook account. I should spend more time living in the here and now. Anyone who needs to reach me knows how. (56.62)
A big part of communicating effectively is being aware of the present and what's truly going on around you. Emma's future self has spent so much time with this online method of communication that she's neglecting her real life—and here, she's finally realized that she is too dependent on Facebook and needs to plug back into her daily reality.
I don't know what Harry Potter or The Help are, but Josh gave me Tuck Everlasting for my eleventh birthday. The boat gets stuck in a tangle of roots and Tuck explains how the water rushing by is like time flowing on without them. Reading those words made me feel deep and philosophical. (3.21)
Emma is describing why she loves Tuck Everlasting, one of her favorite books. She remembers a certain scene that she felt was very moving and powerful—and this feeling makes her identity herself as "deep and philosophical."
Nothing about me feels sexy right now. Maybe I'm just tired from last night. Or maybe it's because I can't stop thinking about Emma Nelson Jones, and whether I really become an unhappy person with a husband who doesn't come home. (11.19)
Emma is waging an inner war here. There's nothing that she feels inside that matches the attention that she's getting from her boyfriend right now, and it irritates her. She's also bothered because she's found out that her future identity is anything but what she would have expected. Or wanted.
I'll have a fancy graphic-design job, and I'll probably drive a nice car, too. A BMW or, since we'll be out in the country, a Chevy Tahoe. Or both! In fifteen years, maybe I'll drive something so insane I can't even imagine it now. (28.4)
Here we see what Josh looks for in his future identity: fancy things. And though he doesn't have any of this yet, it still tells us something about who Josh is, and how he hopes to be in the world.
David's page says he now lives in Bellingham, Washington, and works as a computer engineer.
Then I notice something else.
In a relationship with: Philip Conner
Okay, that's… um… I don't… (31.11-13)
On Facebook, Josh stumbles across the fact that his brother is gay. Oops—as far as he knows in 1996, his brother isn't gay. But in the future, this is one of the things that define him. So perhaps one of the things that changes about identity is what we share, in addition to who we are.
The sunshine is magnetic, too. All morning, guys who've never said more than What's up? Have stopped to talk to me. And the girls! Between my morning classes, three girls have walked with me, keeping my pace… and I have long legs. (33.4)
Josh is in heaven: Not only is his future totally stacked, but he starts making all these friends at school. Suddenly everyone wants to be around him… and he likes it. Who wouldn't? Josh's identity changes from being the shy guy to being Sydney Mills's arm candy. And everybody wants some.
The other times I've been married to Kevin, and even to Jordan, I kept my Nelson as part of my name. What ripple occurred in the past twenty minutes to make me give up my maiden name? (42.24)
We know that Emma has a bit of an issue with identity since she keeps trying to change futures she doesn't like. Here, she's upset because Facebook shows that she gives up her maiden name, a part of her identity that she wants to keep. She thinks that something must have happened to give up that important part of her identity.
With her sunglasses on and her hair spilling around her shoulders, Sydney looks content with whatever life tosses her way. It's the exact opposite of how I feel. (47.48)
Sydney has got the cool girl persona down, and in Josh's eyes, she has the identity of having everything figured out and being totally comfortable. This may not be true, but it is totally the way her peers identify her.
I've always protected myself when it comes to love. And maybe that's the problem. In the future, maybe I never let my husbands see the real me either, so I never give them the chance to learn what makes me happy. Either that or I marry a conceited jerk like Cody, and then there's definitely not going to be much love. (56.50)
Emma hides her identity a lot, and in this moment, she realizes that doing so pushes people away. In her fear of letting people actually get to know her, she's accidentally setting herself up for unhappiness. And being unhappy is an identity she'd really like to avoid cultivating.
"You're a go-with-the-flow-guy," he says. "You've always been that way. And that can feel great because it means you don't have to make any hard decisions. But sometimes you need to figure out what you want, Josh. If that means you need to swim against the tide to get it, at least you're aiming for something that could make you very happy." (55.53)
David's brother points out that Josh is super passive—he doesn't fight for an identity, but instead just works with whatever comes his way. This is often a good thing, but occasionally there are times where he needs to fight for himself, and sometimes this involves "swimming against the tide."
Sydney holds out her hand and I give her the cup. She takes a small sip. "That was sweet of you to give Emma your sweatshirt. I always knew you were one of the nice guys." (61.9)
Sydney identifies Josh as "one of the nice guys." It's not the most glamorous identity, but if there's one quality about Josh that probably won't change too much, this is it. It's a good identity to have and it makes people want to be around him. Including Sydney.
Then, just under the blue banner, something makes me shiver. Next to a small picture of a woman sitting on a beach, it says "Emma Nelson Jones." The woman is in her thirties with curly brown hair and brown eyes. My stomach tingles because this woman looks familiar.
Too familiar. (1.51-52)
Let the time travel begin. In this moment, Emma discovers her future self, though she doesn't know that it's her yet. She has a weird feeling that makes her shiver, though, and the woman looks way too much like her to be a coincidence.
"Things change so fast when you're a teenager," Dad says, spooning salsa onto his eggs. "You and Emma used to be so close. Last summer Mom and I started to worry that you needed to hang around with other people, too." (4.9)
Josh's dad comments on how quickly things can change in life—especially at Josh's age. When you're a kid, time moves pretty slowly, but Josh is at a point now when things are really going to start moving faster as he gets closer to being an adult. His parents are worried that he's going to get stuck in the routine of doing the same old thing (and hanging out with the same old people) instead of expanding his horizons.
When I was younger, I used to write notes with markers and hold them to this window for Emma to read with her pink binoculars. I still keep that can of markers on my desk, but I'm sure she's sold her binoculars at one of the yard sales the Nelsons are always having. (6.2)
Josh is sad when he thinks about how he and Emma used to be so close. When you spend so many years with somebody, it's hard when things change—time can add to the importance of relationships as we have them for longer and longer. But a lot can also change in very little time. Time can be tricky, man.
I've always loved Josh's smell. It reminds me of tree forts and the lake. Most people went home after the movie, but Kellan, Tyson, Josh and I sent to the graveyard to visit Tyson's mom. She died when he was a baby and, as long as I've known him, he's stopped by to drop off flowers or just say hi. (13.13)
Here we look inside Emma's mind and really get a sense of how time works in her life. Everything's been the same for a long time; she and her little group of friends are really close and have shared a lot. And Josh is part of this picture, so his smell makes her feel comforted because it reminds her of home. In these ways, time hasn't change too much about Emma's world.
"I always imagined time travel would be so big and life-changing," she says. "Like A Wrinkle in Time or Back to the Future. But here, all most people care about are lame vacation photos and trivial things." (14.35)
Time travel turns out to be pretty anticlimactic—no aliens, no leaping into far off lands, no machine that makes broccoli taste like ice cream. We feel Emma on the disappointment she identifies here.
"That's odd," Emma says. "Yesterday, it said I made macaroni and cheese. I wonder why it…" Emma turns to me, her eyes wide. "I bet the mac and cheese at dinner tonight turned me off to it… even in the future." (14.40)
Emma and Josh are exploring how this whole cause-and-effect things works. Originally, Emma had a status about how much she loves mac and cheese. But after being really stressed out at dinner, it turns out that it's no longer her favorite food. Toying with time is a tricky business.
As I watch him walk down the hall, I realize this is yet another ripple brought on by Facebook. If Josh hadn't ditched me yesterday to babysit his phone, I wouldn't have gone for a run and Cody would never have seen me, prompting him to approach me today. And not just approach me… invite me to his house! I wonder if this ripple affects my future with Kevin, a man I don't even know yet. (34.28)
Imagine a stack of dominos tumbling to the ground because you accidentally bumped into one of them. That's the future. Which is usually fine, because we don't know what all the dominoes look like. But Emma and Josh get to see possible outcomes for different sets of actions, so now every time they change something about the present, they're aware that a whole new stack of dominoes has been set in motion.
"Even with our ability to look back on that war," he says, "there's no way to know for certain what was lost and what was saved. But that's how it is. History's a bitch when you're in the middle of it." (49.15)
Josh and Tyson are studying history for their exams, and they comment on how confusing it is to think about all the different ways events could have turned out. It's especially confusing when you imagine living in the middle of it. Sounds a lot like Emma and Josh's problem with Facebook, right?
I flip past the next several Looney Tunes drawings and tear out the first blank sheet. With a broken piece of charcoal, I run a broad squiggle down the center of the page and shade a ragged patch to the right. I study it for a moment, and then add an arched horizon at the bottom. This feels like the beginning of something. I'm just not sure what. (53.20)
By drawing something new in an old sketchbook, Josh is trying to create a boundary between his past and his future. Those old drawings represent his childhood with Emma, which he wants to put behind him; the new drawings are refreshing because they're abstract, representing things he's never done.
Maybe my future self really did need to focus more on the life around her. Maybe it'll help make things better. Or maybe my future self feels a connection to my current self, and she knew that I needed to focus on my here and now. (62.11)
What Emma finally realizes is that the present is the only time that she needs to worry about—after all, the future depends entirely on what happens now. She's also thinking (in some futuristic telepathic way) that thirty-year-old Emma knows that her 1996 self needs to learn this. Which is why the Emma of the future closes her Facebook account.
Lost for you, I mouth the words. I'm so lost for you. The lyrics always make me think of Cody Grainger. He's on the track team with me. He's a senior and an incredible sprinter, ranked in the top twenty in the state. Even though I don't believe in true love, I could reconsider that for Cody. (1.39)
This is the first time that we hear that Emma doesn't really believe in true love… or so she says. We're not quite convinced, however, based on her feelings for Cody. For more on this, check out Emma's analysis over in the "Characters" section.
"I wasn't walking fast because I'm excited," I say. "I just hate it when you… you know… touch my hair and stuff." (8.13)
Ah yes, sexual tension—Emma may have rejected Josh, but there's something about knowing where you can get attention if you want it. It's not fair of her to tease him, plus it makes him feel uncomfortable. But she can't help doing it, which may tell us that maybe she should reconsider her feelings for Josh.
"My parents have been in love for nineteen years," Kellan says. "And look at Tyson and me. We were probably the two most—"
"He broke your heart! How can you call it love when he hurt you so badly?"
Kellan pops another fry into her mouth. "It was love because it was worth it." (9.48-50)
Emma is resistant to one of the key ingredients in love: heartbreak. Does love always work out? Nope, but so it goes; some of the greatest loves have drama attached—just think of Romeo and Juliet. Kellan is a very dramatic person, which perhaps makes her less fearful of getting hurt.
Tyson and Kellan are such opposites that Emma and I never imagined they'd get together. The four of us have always hung out, but last July, an intense flirtation sprouted out of nowhere. They kept it up for the rest of the summer, but on the first day of school Tyson called it off. They were like two magnets who couldn't decide whether to attract or repel. (10.12)
Tyson and Kellan are either fighting or making up. What they have is real when they have it, but it's so inconsistent that it also causes them each some misery. Do you think this is really love then? Or is it possibly just a whole lot of attraction and hormones at work?
But I meant it. For my whole life, Josh had been the one person I could always count on. If something happened between us and it didn't work out, I knew I would lose him. But in trying to protect us, I ended up losing him anyway. (13.19-20)
Josh thinks that Emma's into him as more than a friend, but Emma thinks she isn't. Thing is, though, that they both care a lot about each other—so even if it's not a hot romantic love (right now), their bond is the type of thing that they should want to hold on to. Sometimes this love is the type that matters most.
"Okay, imagine you're about to die in a head-on collision. There you are, driving down the street, when a Ford Bronco comes hurtling toward you. You know this is it, the end. So you glance in the passenger seat and… who do you see?" (19.9)
This is Kellan's very scientific approach to figuring out who your true love is: If you're about to die, who comes to mind? While we wouldn't necessarily quote Kellan in a science paper, we do think she kind of has a point. It's like the old coin-toss trick—as soon as the coin's in the air, you know exactly how you hope it will land.
"That was different," I say. "A long-distance relationship is one thing. But hanging out every day when you don't really like someone, isn't that hard? I'd rather already like someone at the beginning, and then fall madly in love with them over time." (31.40)
Josh doesn't understand how Emma can date guy after guy and not really care about them deeply. It seems like a waste of time to him, and he would prefer to make a commitment to somebody he knows he cares about.
This is so reckless. Emma doesn't care what happens to her future because she doesn't want the future she has. All she cares about is Cody. But since there's no mention of him on Facebook, she has nothing to lose. (41.55)
Emma's so hot for Cody and frustrated that her future isn't lining up with what she wants that she's doing really drastic things. Playing with her future life because of a crush seems kind of dangerous, though, doesn't it? But love can make people do crazy things, we suppose.
"Going out with people and not caring about them," Josh says. "Even with your future you got rid of Jordan Jones like he didn't matter. And today you dumped Graham and immediately moved on to Cody. I saw you in the hall with him. But in case that doesn't work out, now you're starting something with me. Who's next?" (42.12)
Emma, the girl who doesn't believe in love, is going through men like Kleenex. It's so bad that she's even dumping future husbands, and to top it off, she's taking advantage of Josh, who really likes her. She's allowed to be skeptical about love, we'll give her that, but it's not fair of her to use other people to amuse herself and figure out what she wants.
I'm crying because Josh is going to marry Sydney and they're going to have a beautiful life together. And maybe I'll have an okay life, too, but I'll never meet someone like Josh again. He knows the real me, and he likes me for who I am. Josh is… Josh. And now he's gone.
I press my wet face into my pillow. This is what heartbreak feels like. (62.16-17)
Emma finally learns her lesson: It can hurt when you put your heart into someone else's hands. And perhaps more than that, try though you might to keep your heart to yourself, when you really have feelings for someone, there's just no stopping them.
They just had their first baby, so I got this desktop computer with Windows 95 and a color monitor.
I'm scrolling through various screensavers when someone rings the doorbell. I let my mom answer it because I still haven't decided between a shifting brick wall maze and a web of plumber's pipes. (1.2-3)
To set the scene here in 1996, Emma is describing her new computer. It's a desktop with a color monitor, which is totally high tech stuff at this time. And the most exciting accessory is the screen saver. Emma is unable to decide which one she wants to use—the possibilities are just too exciting.
"Doesn't your family want it?" I ask.
Josh shakes his head. "My parents don't want to get the Internet. They say it's a waste of time, and my mom thinks the chatrooms are full of perverts." (1.18-19)
When the Internet came out, people were skeptical, and here we see that Josh's mom is especially wary of online chatrooms, where people can hide their identities. While she's right—there's totally major sketchiness potential online—we know now that pretty much everyone uses the Internet, not just perverts.
EmmaNelson4Ever@aol.com, I type. "Millicent."
For about twenty seconds, my monitor freezes. Then the white box snaps into a tiny blue dot and a new webpage fades in. It has a blue banner running across the top that says "Facebook." A column down the center of the screen is labeled "News Feed" and under that are tiny photos of people I don't recognize. Each photo is followed by a brief statement. (1.49-50)
If you were asked to describe what Facebook looks like, what would you say? Emma's describing it from the perspective of someone who's never seen—or even dreamed of—it before. Have you ever thought of statuses as "statements"? It's what they are, right?
I rub my palms across my knees. One side of my brain whispers that this could be a website from the future. The other side of my brain screams at the first side for being an idiot. (2.36)
One of the cool things about The Future of Us is that it treats the present like the future. The future aside, though, Josh and Emma can't believe that this website exists; it's such a weird idea to post personal information online every day. And when that personal information is yours from the future, well, things only seem stranger.
Josh sets the keychain on my desk and sits down. When he jiggles the mouse, the brick wall disappears and everything's right where I left it, with Emma Nelson Jones writing about macaroni and cheese.
"Why does it say she has three hundred and twenty friends?" Josh asks. Who has that many friends?" (5.19-20)
In addition to the fact that it changes communication, Facebook re-defines the word friend. Which leaves us with one giant question: Are Facebook friendships real friendships? We'll let you decide.
"You know how Vice President Gore calls the Internet the 'Information Superhighway'? Let's say everyone's going the same direction on this superhighway. Time travel would be about finding a way to jump to a different spot." (6.24)
Emma and Josh are doing their best to figure out how they could be travelling in time. The Internet is so new that they're open to the idea that it could contain a whole new world of possibilities… you know, like the ability to "jump" ahead in time.
I shift my paper bag to the other hand and say, as casually as possible, "What do scientists think about time travel?"
She lifts her tray up to her chin and pinches a fry with her teeth. "Why?"
"I'm just curious," I say. "Back to the Future was on cable last night." (9.34-36)
Here's the problem with encountering the future: Chances are decent no one will believe you. Here we see Emma trying to play it cool while asking Kellan whether scientists take time travel seriously.
Tyson's towel is wrapped tight around his waist. He reaches beneath it to pull off his gym shorts. "I tried getting my dad to buy me a beeper for my birthday," he says, "but he thinks only doctors and drug dealers need them." (18.3)
Pagers were another technological fad of the 90s. Usually worn on a belt loop, you could beep someone to get in touch with them—think of it as like the pre-text message device. Tyson's complaining that he really wants one but his dad doesn't think he has any use for it.
"An instant message!" Emma scrambles off the bed. "I've never gotten one of these before."
I cross my legs and turn toward the computer.
"The screen name says it's from DontCallMeCindy," Emma says. "I have no idea who that is, but she's asking if I'm the Emma Nelson who goes to Lake Forest." As she taps at the keys, Emma tells me what she's writing. "Tell me who you are first." (26.87)
Instant message is a new thing in the 90s, and in order to use it, you had to come up with a screen name. But while the Internet might be newfangled tech, Emma's already savvy to playing it safe online—you see how she's careful not to tell some random person who she is? You go, girl.
I sit on the edge of my mattress and stare at the phone. If my parents come home early I don't want them eavesdropping on this call. I'm nervous enough already. So I run to their room, grab the cordless phone from the nightstand, and then head downstairs.
I walk across my lawn toward the street. Every time Sydney comes into Peer Issues, she turns off her cell phone and slips it into her pocket. It always looks so casual and cool. I try shoving the cordless phone into my back pocket, but it's too chunky to fit. (28.12-13)
Oh, the trials and tribulations of trying to get in touch with a crush before individual cell phones. Josh is worried that when Sydney calls the home phone his parents will interrupt—while she happens to have one of those newfangled cell phones that fits into a pocket, Josh isn't so lucky. So he takes the family's cordless phone and sneaks out of the house with it, though it's so large that it won't fit into his pocket.
For the past two months I've been going out with Graham Wilde. We're in band together. He plays drums and I play saxophone. He's sexy, with shoulder-length blond hair, but his clinginess at prom was annoying. I'll definitely end it with him soon. Or maybe I'll just let things dissolve over the summer. (1.41)
Emma is settling for someone who's in her own social class at school. She's not crazy about Graham, but they're both in band and he's got that "sexy" musician thing going for him.
Sydney Mills and I are in completely different orbits. She's a Mercury, with the full hotness of the sun beating down on her. I'm a Pluto. Sure, my friends appreciate me, but I'm barely holding on to the far reaches of the galaxy. (10.4)
Society and class case-in-point: Josh isn't an outcast, but Sydney is queen of Lake Forest, hanging out with the inner circle, the most popular of the popular. Josh cannot imagine that this changes enough for them to get married in the future. But you know what? The social boundaries of high school mean nothing in the long run.
A few more pushups and sit-ups every night and maybe I can become that guy even faster. I turn sideways and flex into the mirror, but from this angle there's no denying I'm still a skinny kid with two years of high school left to go. (16.8)
In order to win the heart of Sydney Mills, Josh thinks that he's going to need to morph into someone that looks like he belongs with Sydney Mills. Josh looks at his reflection and sees what everyone else sees: a skinny high school kid. This isn't Josh on the inside, but he's seeing himself the way that strangers see him.
"There's this girl," I say.
I hear the TV shutting off. "Is she cute?"
"She's gorgeous. Any guy in school would die to go out with her."
"And she's interested in you?" David asks. "That's my brother!"
"No, she's not interested… yet." I take a breath. "It's hard to explain, but I think she could be interested in me… eventually." (16.18-22)
Josh is trying to explain to his brother that he might have a chance with this girl who is totally out of his league. But while he doesn't even know her yet, he readily assumes that she won't be interested in him because she's popular and he isn't.
Mr. Wild Thing is a senior who plays varsity football. Whenever I pass him in the hall, I get the urge to drop and do fifty push-ups. (20.41)
The Future of Us is full of these types of labels: So-and-so is on such-and-such team or in such-and-such group. This is pretty typical in high school when everyone's trying to make sense of themselves, which often involves trying to make sense of other people, too, in order to use them for comparison. Josh looks at this guy in his Peer Issues class and feels an immediate inferiority complex.
I have a computer in my car?Josh is going to freak out when he hears this. And if Kevin saved a life, maybe he's a doctor. Or a paramedic. Or a fireman! That'd be cool because firemen have great bodies. (30.40)
So many stereotypes… Emma is imagining what type of profession her future husband has. She can plan a certain type of life if she knows what type of category her husband will fit into. She also assumes that every single fireman has a great body, which may be a bit of a generalization—but then again, categories always fail to account for everyone in them.
Emma tilts her head and smirks at me. "Tell me truthfully, did you change your underwear because I made fun of you?"
"No," I say. But the answer is yes. Emma walking in on me was embarrassing enough. But there's no telling when a girl I actually have a chance with might get a glimpse of me in my underwear. I don't want her first thought to be Haven't you heard of boxers? (31.18-19)
Emma hit a nerve because she made Josh feel uncool for wearing the wrong underwear. This puts pressure for him to fit a certain image, be a certain type of guy—you know, he type of guy who wears boxers instead of tighty-whities.
He's wearing a dark blue T-shirt with DUKE written across the chest. Everyone in track knows he was accepted there with a full athletic scholarship. As usual, he looks relaxed with his spikey blond hair, pale blue eyes, and a faint shadow on his jawline. (34.2)
Cody is at the top of his game, which both intimidates Emma while also making him perfect crush material. When Emma describes Cody, notice how she includes the phrase "everyone in track knows." The thing that makes him cool, in other words, is that everyone else agrees to see him as such.
I recognize that house from the night I saw Josh's Facebook page. Someday, he'll live there with Sydney. They'll go boating and have barbeques. His children will grow up rich and privileged and Josh will eventually get sucked into that world, too. (38.45)
One of the reasons Emma struggles with Josh's fabulous future is that she feels that it will create a divide between them. When he marries Sydney, Josh will become a part of that other world—the one with fancy cars and houses by the lake. Emma feels like this will change Josh and make him somebody different.
With her sunglasses on and her hair spilling around her shoulders, Sydney looks content with whatever life tosses her way. It's the exact opposite of how I feel. Something amazing must happen between now and then because, at this moment, we don't feel right for each other. (47.48)
Josh is starting to think outside the box, so rather than believing that he and Sydney won't work out because she's a cool kid, he's starting to see that they're two people who just might not be suited for each other.