I have been having an internal struggle to discuss openly the failures of time travel. How some wounds time cannot heal. Regardless how much you bend and mold time like it was clay. I was in love once, or many times. It feels like only once.
I am a man of science- she was a woman of words, of art, of beauty. I couldn’t and still can’t understand the complexities of her spirit. The mind numbing simplicity of her smile, the grace she had when she moved hair out of her face, how it stopped my heart every time. I say again, I am a man of science, not a man of love. I cannot grasp their theories; as I will explain.
I met her in the summer; she was reading The Seven Ages by Louise Gluck. Like most men of my profession I was somewhat timid to approach an attractive woman. So I did what I do best, researched. I returned home and read over as much of Louise Gluck’s work as possible. I returned to the same café, at the same time in hopes she would be there. Sadly she was not. I returned again the next two days; again she was a no show. I commended it was time for me to take the appropriate steps. I rushed home and flicked open my time machine and dialed it back three days to about the time I would be leaving the café. One does not want to run into oneself.
I arrive at the café about two minutes after I left. I go up and buy a large coffee, the kid behind the counter made some remark about being thirsty. I paid and approached her. While half way to where she was seated, I froze. Realizing with all this work I have put into this I have yet to figure out how I would talk to her. I decide that a ‘Hello’ would be too formal. I wanted to seem easy going, or relaxed. Maybe Hi-ya, no this is for twelve-year-olds and soccer moms. No, it was clear that Hi was the best option. So I restarted my walk towards her. I sat at the table to her right. Trying to work up the nerve I stared deeply into my untouched coffee. I was woken from this by her asking me if everything was ok, I replied with “Hi”. She said “oh” and returned to her book. Noticing that I may have just explained to her that I was under the influence of some narcotic, I turned to her “I don’t mean to interrupt- but Hello, I am Karl.” She folds the corner of the page she was on and introduced herself. We began talking about Gluck’s work; I explained to her that it’s more of a hobby than anything else. After an hour or two, we left the café, caught a poetry concert or whatever it’s called. I spent the next few days at her house where we explored the possibilities of each other.
It’s the fall now, at this time I was seeing more of her than my work. I could say this is the point where we truly fell in love. This is also the time I finally met myself. I was taking the brisk walk to her house that I’d grown accustomed to in the last couple of weeks. I was approaching her house when I was greeted with a hello that sounded too familiar. I twisted on my heels to find myself. God be damned I’m handsome. The other me replied, “Thank you.” We grinned our shit house grins. “Before you say what you’re going to say let me explain this.” The other me said. With a slack jaw and a racing mind, I listened. “First things first, I am you from 3 hours in the future. I came to stop me or you from making the same mistakes I made or you will make” He said. I laughed, “Skip the formalities and get to the point.” I said. “Ok, it’s quite simple. You’re going to go up there; she’s going to be weeping.” I nodded “This will be because her grandmother has died.” He said. “Alright, but why do we need such a thing like this?” I motioned my hands as to describe him being here. “Well quite simple really, we’re an idiot when it comes to things like this. After awhile you’ll say she should forget about this and let’s get something to eat.” After a second or two, I realize the mistake. “She’ll throw you or me out and later on say it’s over.” He said. I stand there for a second and turn around. “Don’t forget to come back in time to stop yourself here!” He yelled out from behind me. I gave an ok with my hand and walked up the steps to her apartment. As explained she was in a sorry state mourning for her grandmother. I did what I told myself to do and kept my mouth shut, I was there, This was what she needed. Three hours roll by; I make an excuse about getting us food. I run home, go back in time, and explain everything to myself. Just as the other me had done. Hang at a coffee shop near her house for about 3 hours, order some things to go then return to her house.
I mentioned before- time can be bent, molded like clay. When you make a change in time, you also seem to change with it. With the added complexities of keeping a dying relationship alive, one can begin to lose sleep, will, and the fight to keep it going. She was my only spark, but like a spark, it’s beautiful until it’s gone milliseconds later.
It’s spring time now- I seem to have spent more time talking to myself than anyone else at this point. I run into me, while at the gas station. Damn- do I really look this exhausted? We discuss how and where I’m going to fuck up and the plan to change the outcome. It’s happening more regularly now. At least once a week, it’s showing itself on my face. If I could only get a steady night of sleep. I meet her at the café where we first met. She’s late like she always is. I remember not to bring this up. We greet and I make some flattering remark that I meant but didn’t quite feel. She stares at me as if she was trying to transcribe the lines in my face. “You look tired.” She said. “I didn’t get quite enough sleep last night…” I pause and take a sip of my cold coffee. “Better now, though.” She smiles, sparks light and fade. It reminds me why I’m doing this. She’ll talk about the latest poetry magazine; I’ll nod and nod and nod. I have gotten better at listening by this point. We’ll leave, walk for awhile. She’ll talk about her family. How her sister married someone too old, how her mother keeps nagging her. She’ll turn the table and ask me about mine. I say I don’t feel like talking about it. Not mentioning how I am not brave enough to save them yet. She’ll say it’s ok and squeeze my hand tight; the coward in me slips away and fades. We reach her house, we make plans for later on in the night and I return home.
I find myself sharply dressed waiting in front of my house. “What now?” I asked. “Don’t fall asleep you dick, we’ll be late to meeting her parents- we’re on thin ice as is.” He said. God, I was tired, he looked well rested, though. To be him, or to be me, again. We straighten out the timeline, I wished him good luck and I went inside, made some coffee and drank three cups. I turned on some music and tried to stay awake.
I was woken up by the sound of my front window breaking. My own voice came bellowing through the now broken window. “Wake-up you fuck you’re going to be late!” I rolled over and turned the radio louder. I woke up three minutes after I was supposed to meet her. I got dressed while running to her apartment, thinking of the millions of ways to apologize. I reach her apartment, I buzzed her, what must have been a thousand times. No answer. Stricken with panic, I run to the restaurant where we were supposed to meet her parents at. And to my surprise there I was sitting with her and her family, looking out of place. Relieved I returned home and got a couple hours of sleep. Just to start this all over again. I wake up, drink a cold cup of coffee and set the dial back a couple minutes before I got home earlier in the day. While standing outside I noticed I was still wearing my suit, I must have slept in it. I see myself walking up the street, I put out my cigarette. I tell my younger self not to be late and all that. I go grab a cup of coffee. While reading the newspaper, I check the time- shit, I’m going to be late. Not wanting to have myself running into myself while at dinner with her, I follow the same script as my previous self did. A well-placed stone, a broken window. God this is going to cost me. Satisfied that I did what I needed to, I walked to her apartment to meet up with her so we could head to dinner.
That night we had, would be the last time I ever really spent with her. While leaving I will kiss her goodbye. We were going to meet up later at her apartment. They said there was no way they could have seen it coming. Completely blindsided, I tried to go back and change the course of the night. The endless amount of options, it always ends the same. If I was involved, it would be the end of her.
It’s summer now- I have gone through a thousand different options, but the only one to save her was to go back and stop myself from meeting her. She sits there at her usual table, sipping her latté, reading the new book by Chris Mansell. She folds the corner of the page, looks up from it. She caught me staring and smiles. Sparks, the heart skips a beat. She returns to reading. I stare at my coffee, trying to conjure the memories of the time we spent together. Even with time, we are inevitably left with just memories.