- It was like this: I put on the dress he had bought me, the one I hated but he loved. A navy shirt dress and embroidered belt from Talbott’s. Very preppy. It didn’t fit like it once did, when I was thinner. But time travel slims you.
- I entered the pod and climbed onto the seat. Technicians strapped me in and twisted dials. They would send me back 40 years and then retrieve me in two hours, the equivalent of two days and 12 minutes in 1990.
- (I am enumerating, I know. The numbers help me organize my thoughts. This is how my aged brain works now: slow and in fragments.)
- When traveling in time, you hear crunching sounds, like walking on gravel. There’s a metaphor in here, I’m sure, in this motion backward, the mad spinning and the sound of gravel like the playground at Symington Elementary School.
- It was like this: for decades, I had regretted not saying goodbye before he died. We were estranged, father and daughter. I blamed him for things, terrible things, that I thought he did to me. Later, I would learn it wasn’t him. Much later, I would learn that he tried to protect me. Before the estrangement, he was my best friend. I remember thinking, looking up at the sky at a plane glinting in the sun, that could be him and what if he crashed? I would crash with him. I would die too.
- It was like this: I landed in the middle of a thunderstorm in May. Tornado sirens had just begun to blare. I found myself in a Ford Taurus in his driveway. It’s the most common arrival state for time travel: you find yourself in some car somewhere. I dashed out of the Taurus and onto the porch. The bird house, welcome mat, the earthy smell of wet wood, just as I remembered. On this porch, we had watched squalls build to the west, half-hoping for a tornado to form in the rolling clouds. “Negative ions,” he had said, inhaling deeply. “Negative ions,” I repeated, filling my lungs with fresh currents. I remembered this.
- Inside, the wedding reception had begun, the one I missed 40 years ago. My brother, handsome in his tuxedo, told everyone to head to the basement. Someone threw confetti over our heads as we clung to the railing, hurriedly stepping sideways down in our heels and uncomfortable oxfords. We spread out among the ping pong and pool tables, the laundry room and utility closet. I saw my father. I drew in my breath, stifled it, delaying the tears, letting my temples cool. Oh, Father. My father. Poppa. Dad. In my head, I say these things. I thought I would never see you again.
- (I switch to present tense. I want to remember it like that.)
- He takes charge, tells us to move to the southeast corner, where cans of soup and broccoli stems and jars of applesauce cram the shelves, and distilled water in plastic quarts line the floor against the wall. He was always prepared. Ready for disaster. A shelter in the storm. He grabs my hand, gives me a bear hug, tells me how happy he is that I’m there.
- And then I see the sweat on his brow, his face growing pale. No, this is too soon. I tell him I love him but he doesn’t hear me. He falls to the ground. The sirens stop and now it is a race to get an ambulance. And someone scrambling upstairs for pillows and my brother pounding on Dad’s chest, “Come on, big guy. Come on. Don’t give up.” I whisper my apologies, love, regrets and gratitude. I know he’s not coming back. I know what happens.
- Weddings and funerals. They are tedious events with mumbled small talk, while we disappear inside ourselves with deeper thoughts of hope and sorrow, marking moments, taking photographs, listening for some profound phrase that illuminates everything.
- I hadn’t prepared for the grief before my time travel. I thought only of reunion. Now I realize what protected me before, in the other time. I was saved the ache of watching my father die.
- In the spinning return to today, I hear the gravel and underneath a low sad voice says, “I knew you loved me.” The shirt dress constricts me. Now I can take it off. Now I can breathe.
I’ve read a lot of time travel stories. This one was beautiful. Tragic, but so well done.
Beautiful writing. ****
So creative with the numbering! The dress – the perfect identifier of time passage. It shows not just the time travel but the change that comes with time. The dress reveals the the then and now of emotions. Yep, the dress!
Imagine, being able to travel back in time to rectify something but only getting seconds to do it. Loved how you numbered it. Not seen story told like this (numbers)
I loved the surprise of “But time travel slims you.”