Just a thought to scrub the Symbiosis residue from my hands...
The Myth of Chronology
Chronological living is a kind of lie. That's why I don't do it anymore.
...Charles Yu – How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe
The plain fact is that he's tired of who he is.
Which only partially explains why he reverts to an earlier version of himself, a character that had, in truth, long ago worn him down. There are too many unfortunate highways between the Tony of now and the one he's pulled from a box and he can only wring so much respect out of either. The neutral observer will draw a fairly direct line from his conquests to his self-worth. But he lives in this skin, knows its motivation. And nothing inspires an ill-fated dalliance quite like loneliness.
A moment of joy. A minute of repentance.
The looks don't bother him. Much. The lack of an off-button, the investigator's curse, is one he shares. They know and he'd expect no less. They expect no more, a convenience. And even as his spine straightens, declaring how little he cares for their opinion, he berates his own sensitivity. He cares and this has always gotten him into trouble.
Caring is not an accelerant to change.
It's the gazes that congeal in approval and solidify with envy that lend value to what is ultimately a short experience. Memory runs the span of an evening. Without repetition, the evidence rinses away in the morning shower, a funnel disappearing downstream. Out of sight, and with a freshly empty bed, out of mind. The little voice that tells him it's time to grow up is usually strangled by the inner bully that is already plotting the next downfall.
Pressing forward is a chore.
Generally there's little choice in the matter of time. One must adhere to its preferred direction. But Tony's noticed that, in obeying the standard progression of life, the forward motion of it, people still insist on looking back, against the flow, against reason. Which creates a colossal crick in the neck, he decides. But if he were to occasionally drift backward, all that he'd long to relive would eventually be in front of him. Call him nostalgic but the better parts are always in the past. So he revisits. Often.
They call it regression. He calls it reincarnation.
Rebirth tends to be short-lived, which is why they call orgasm 'the little death.' But lacking a better altar, he'll bend a knee to worship there. And the recipient of his penance never complains. Still, he hates himself just a little for falling back into patterns that he will one day be too old to sustain. He thinks about that a lot these days; aging out of the game. The hair's not as full, the waist not as trim. While the mind refuses to live chronologically, the body stubbornly abides by the calendar.
Once there was a Future Tony...
But it takes work to get to him, a mandate that sucks up time and spits out debris. It's a cumulative process but he's not one to wait for results. No one likes to forge up a hill only to find an unadvertised and steeper hill ahead. Easy vistas keep the walker interested. And in cosmic laziness, Tony has learned the comfort of simply residing in the valley, snugly nestled in the void between walls of problems. No progress, true, but no straining. He only likes to sweat for one activity and a willing collaborator can always be dredged from the bottom.
Picket fences belong in other yards.
He doesn't want the full package when it requires so much maintenance. The shallow part that floats on the surface of his soul craves the more meaningless pursuits because victory is hard enough to achieve without having to fight for it. It's preservation because the culmination of man's evolution is an end to evolving. Lasting happiness is a state of permanent self-medication but he's always been partial to the quick fix. The mess is easier to clean afterward. Which isn't to say he hasn't crafted the ultimate life partner, but there's no disappointment, no heartbreak, if she's left to the lockbox of fantasy.
Not that he fantasizes about Donna Reed.
But there's something moderately attractive about the concept of forever. A smidgen of enticement that narrows in the prospect of reliability. A soul mate never leaves, a beautiful ideal that pragmatism slaps with the warning label of improbability. He's lived in the grand house with the dutiful staff and the trophy couple who photographed well and fought better. Nothing real inhabited that space. He played at real once and got burned by his own immersion in the role.
Real is a stranger in primal darkness and dawn's hasty goodbye.
The plain fact is that he's tired of who he is. But not enough to modify this undirected, juvenile path. Performing in the theater of youth is the best way to combat the encroachment of years, fading into decades. Living for one night, for the same night and its many faces, is reassurance. For all that he's grateful for the interventions of luck, he won't give fate permission to tamper with his comforts. Being branded Peter Pan may be a bit undignified.
But at least it means he can fly.