“Now!” warned Later.
“No, Later!” Now stomped its foot on the ground.
They’d always been fighting. They were the kind of siblings that never saw eye to eye. They grew and they fought, they fought and they grew, and nothing their mother did could change that.
“I’m the only one that truly exists,” Now would complain.
“You’re just something that may or may not come. Why should I take you into consideration?”
“But I am your future self,” Later would counter. “If you ignore me now, you’ll be unhappy later.”
“And if I only think of you, I’ll never get to enjoy myself,” Now would cross its arms annoyed.
“How will you enjoy yourself if you know you have a million things to do?” Later would yell loudly, with its arms open wide. “How will you learn, or be, or do ANYTHING, if you just think of yourself?”
Alone in the corner, Before was rocking back and forth, its hands covering its ears. Before couldn’t stand the fights; it couldn’t stand the noise. The oldest of the siblings had seen all this way too many times before. It has been through all that before. It used to be a later that became a now, before becoming a before. As a later it had tried to reason with the then now. As a now it ignored the next later. And now it lived in disappointment and regret.
“Why should I do anything that I don’t like?” Now continued, after taking a moment to recover from the last blow. “Now is all I have, and I’m going to avoid all the discomfort I can, thank you very much.”
“A little discomfort NOW, could mean more comfort LATER,” Later said exaggeratedly slowly, as if he was talking to someone quite thick, indeed. The tone was not lost on Now, who was not impressed.
“It could also mean I’ve wasted my time being unhappy for no good reason,” Now responded, its voice dripping with sarcasm. “You can’t KNOW anything I do right now will pay off at some point. You can’t judge me for not wasting my time for a ‘maybe’!”
“But there’s NEVER absolute certainty! Would it hurt you to at least TRY from time to time?” Later exclaimed exasperated.
“And would it hurt you to stop bugging me for even a second and let me breathe?” challenged Now.
“OK, fine,” Later changed strategy abruptly. “You don’t want to do things you don’t like. What’s your excuse for not doing the things you do like? There are so many things you want to do and you always leave them for later, too. I wanna learn another language,” he said in mocking tone. “I wanna learn how to play an instrument, I wanna write a book, I wanna, I wanna, I WANNA!” Later’s voice was rising in pitch with every word, “Why don’t you do ANY of those things?” it screamed shrilly making Now cringe.
“I… I…” Now stuttered, finally at the verge of tears, “You’re asking too MUCH of me, I just want to… to… BE!” Its voice cracked and it hid its face in its hands. Later was thrown aback, but still too angry to let it go.
At that point, Time came into the room and within an instant she knew what was going on; her eyes fell on Before still rocking back and forth in the corner and Now crying defeated in its palms. Later had opened its mouth to say something, but she silenced her youngest kid with a look.
“Fighting isn’t helping anybody,” she said as she walked to the middle of the room. “Come sit with me”. She pointed to the couch. Nobody moved. She sighed and sat on the floor next to Before. It looked up at her touch, its eyes full of pain. She hugged it tight and then took it by the hand and guided it to the couch. It took a little longer to calm down Now and convince it to move, and Later, arms still crossed, was less than happy to sit next to them, but didn’t object.
Time knelt in front the three of them. “You’re all part of me. Please, be nice to each other,” she said kindly. Before looked at her lovingly, but Now and Later seemed not to care. “I know you all love each other. You just need to learn how to compromise! Later, don't bug Now all the time. Let it rest and have some fun and be a little lazy. But, also, you, Now, don't ignore Later! It's not such a big deal to get a little uncomfortable from time to time. As for you, Before, there's no reason for you to be so sad. You've had your moment and you did the best you could. Why don't you give yourself a break and give your insight to your siblings?” Time's kids were calmer now. They loved their mother and saw the wisdom in her words, after all.
“There will be a time when we’ll all be gone,” she continued. “There will be no Time; no Before, no Now, and no Later. What will your disagreements mean then? We have this one chance to make right by each other,” she smiled at them gently and they beamed back at her. “How does that sound?” she asked and they mumbled all together, “Sounds good, mom!”
“Run along and go out and play, then!” she encouraged them and so they did.
And that's how our story ends, with Before, Now, and Later laughing and playing in Time's garden...
Inspired by an upcoming med school exam, and the unwillingness of this individual to sit down and study, because her brain would much rather wander to a place far, far away; thankfully, in this galaxy, unfortunately, across an uninviting ocean.