“When did you know you were lost?” he asked. He didn’t look at me, hidden behind his New York Times.
So I told him the truth. “It was October 14, 1066. I was an archer at the Battle of Hastings, you know? We were roundly whipped. I ran into the woods and kept on running. The fight took place north of Hastings, actually. About seven miles northwest. I was in the woods and marshes for a week before I made it to the sea and back again.”
“Hmm.” He was in the sports section now, entirely lost to me.
“I had no idea where I was. And the dark came earlier there—around 6:30. I was alone and cold and hungry. I had a bow…arrows and quiver. I picked arrows off the ground that first night, flung from the Normans,” I paused. “Somehow I managed to get from the sea back to the field.”
“I’m sorry, darling, what?” he asked. He peered over the paper, his glasses low on his nose, his forehead scrunched up. “You said something about Normans and arrows?”
“No matter. It wasn’t important,” I sighed and leaned against the kitchen counter to pour another cup of coffee.
“Of course it was important. You’re important,” he said, folding the newspaper. “Now, tell me again how you were lost. You went for a hike in the woods…”
I told him what I thought he wanted to hear–not the truth, because that sounded crazy. “I went to a park I’ve never been to before – Sussex Woods, about an hour north. The trail markers were awful and confusing and before I knew it, I was lost. I ended up on Route 5 and realized that I wasn’t on the trail anymore. I worked my way back to the woods and eventually came across the main trail. Two hours for a two-mile hike.”
“I keep telling you to use that compass,” he said. He looked at his watch. “Shit. I need to get moving.” He pushed back from the table and stood, gave me a kiss on the cheek, grabbed his brief case and headed out the door.
I did use my compass, I said to him in my head. I found magnetic north and another land. And all I want to do now is go back there, get lost all over again.
I planned my trip for the morning – because maybe it matters what time you enter Sussex Woods, maybe it was the dawn hour that opened the way to the Middle Ages. I didn’t want to risk missing whatever portal sliced open to that world. I packed a bag with some modern conveniences – my cell phone, breath mints, gorp, two necklaces—one with pearls, the other a gold braid—for trade, iPad, Swiss Army knife, inflatable bed, raincoat, a copy of The Canterbury Tales (it seemed right), and Twizzlers (the only snacky thing I had that I might share to make friends). Probably not the most practical items for time travel but I was too excited to think clearly.
The next day, I kissed my sleeping husband on the forehead. I wasn’t running away from him but toward an adventure, I told myself. I took the subway to the Amtrak station and then the train to Egerton, just south of Sussex Woods. A soft fog rolled on the salt marshes. I spied an egret stretching its legs. Red-winged blackbirds sang. I walked to the park entrance, sheltered in pines. I stepped forward, whispered goodbye.
I lost myself.
As I found the clearing, I picked up the quiver with its arrows and the bow, leaning against a willow tree. The battlefield was cleared of the dead. How much time had passed? I walked to the closest village, according to Google maps, Battle in East Sussex. How did my cell phone work?
A sign on the main road of the village welcomed “time travelers who happened to come across the great divide.” It is a known fact, it said, that time is “flappy” and that in certain weak spots (Fort Lauderdale, Minsk, Abuja, Athens, Ohio, and my own Sussex Woods, for example) the universe yawns and a flap opens. I took a picture of that sign, you can bet. It explained how I started in America and ended up in England walking less than five miles.
The universe yawned. I was lost and found and lost again.
It yawned. I love that.