So I finally said, “Well, I’ve had a quite enough of this.” And, boy had I. But they were not expecting that response.
“What did you just say?” They continued yelling and I stood up and walked out, drifting off, feeling bad for leaving that kind of fall-out, even if it would be only momentary, but I really had had quite enough. A man of my age can only take being yelled at for so long before it gets old.
That’s the part no one thinks about. They all say, ‘I’d love to go back to when I was younger with everything I know now.’ And there are moments that are great. Don’t get me wrong; I have vastly enjoyed telling off college professors, ex-girlfriends, moronic bosses, strangers who I’d never been able to shake, and all kinds of people. But, the fun fades quickly. The reality of what those moments were, is that they were. Things like not speaking up or saying the wrong thing, taking the insult, feeling the embarrassment, the judgement, the pain, the whatever it might have been, that’s what made me who I am. That’s what allowed for this to happen. So it can’t change, not for me.
I can tell you all of this, anything really, because you won’t remember. The moment it happened, it didn’t happen. That’s the reality of living out of time. I can go back and relive moments, step into my child self, my teenage self, my future self – or at least what it would’ve been. I’ve experienced my birth. I’ve watched ET in the cinema, held hands with my first girlfriend, slept with a few others, faced up to bullies and bosses, gone on vacations again, got to know my grandparents, all kinds of wonderful.
But like I said, the moment it happened, it didn’t. When I step into moments, time, like me, ceases to exist. My five year-old self can discuss the fall of the roman empire with Grandma Marjorie all day long, and it has, and it’s wonderful. But as soon as I step back out of time, into my world, everything else returns to a moment just after I’d stepped in, and I watch the momentary flicker of a memory fade from their eyes.
It actually happens to me about a week from now in your time. I’m just not sure how long ago that was. It’s tough to piece together what came first and next. It’s just all happened and happening.
I was like you, working behind a bar. A little spot in Brooklyn, not dissimilar to this one, that I’d been managing for close to a decade. I had a decent apartment, some good friends, regular traditions, a flexible schedule, and was generally content. I would walk the same route to work each day, getting my coffee from the same bodega. I’d get food on the way home at the same diner. Occasionally I’d go on a date or even start seeing someone. I was set in my ways and enjoyed my daily routine and schedule. It was comfortable.
And then it wasn’t. I’ve done it differently an infinite number of times, but it already happened, so there’s no changing it.
I’m walking from my apartment, down Clermont, coffee in my hand, headphones in, The Pogues providing soundtrack, a slight cloud cover coming in, the feeling of rain blowing across Lafayette, reaching into my pocket to grab the keys, running down the list of restocking and juicing that need be done, smelling the grill waft down the street, reaching the front door, checking the plants and deciding they don’t need water because it’s going to rain, flipping my keys, turning the lock and squeezing the knob, stepping into the dark, reaching for the light switch and turning them on.
Then, he was there. Old and exhausted, looking like he’d been through a hell of a long day. A whiskey half drunk in front of him, a bottle on the far side, and his vintage, maroon suit dusty like it had been in a closet for half a century. He cleared his throat and slowly turned his head towards me, lifting his whiskey and taking a small sip before waving me in.
I was less polite. He scared the shit out of me. “Who the hell are you?” I started to shout, but he held his hand up to stop me and waved me in again, nodding and looking back down at his whiskey, taking another sip and setting it down.
“Would you just come sit down already?”
I figured, what the hell, at the very least, it’ll be a funny story to share throughout the shift. So I sat down two stools away from the old man. “Can I help you?”
He chuckled. “I remember that.”
“Nevermind. Won’t matter. Pour me another one, would you? And one for you.”
I don’t know why, but I reached over the bar and grabbed a glass. He slid the bottle over to me and I poured us each a couple fingers worth. He lifted it up, stared at it, let the light shine through it, smelled it, and breathed it in before he held it out in front of mine and tilted it so my glass tapped the side of his. Then, he took a small and purposeful sip and said, “Cheers. And thank you.”
I nodded and took a much larger sip. He chuckled again, shaking his head and staring into his whiskey. “It always tastes better on the day you remember.”
“Do I know you?”
“No. And you won’t. Aside from this moment. But you’ll remember.” He smiled and shook his head again. “You’re the only one who ever does.”
“I’m sorry, I don’t -“
“I know. I’ve done this an infinite number of times. I know.”
I threw back the rest of my whiskey and stood up. “Alright.” He took the hint and gulped the rest of his. He nodded and stood up, reached his hand out to shake mine, and grabbed the whiskey bottle. “I’m gonna hold onto this one.”
“No. That’s gonna have to stay. The shots are on me, but can’t let you take the bottle.” He laughed again and held it out for me to grab, shaking my other hand as I did so.
“Cheers. And thanks.” And then he looked me right in the eyes, “Until next time, old friend.” Then he was gone. Like he was never there. The whiskey bottle and the glass, back on their shelves, the stools flipped upside down on the bar. I thought I’d lost my mind.
And then, suddenly, I was walking through he door, stepping into the dark, reaching for the light, and turning them on. And there he was.
“You must have questions. Come have another drink. You’re going to need it.” And I did. I do. I will. It gets confusing, at this point, but indulge me. I haven’t told you this story in quite a while I think.
At some point in the distant future, for you, time travel is discovered. It’s very complicated and even in the years following its inception, is very misunderstood. While those who travelled through time, returned and lived lives, they also didn’t. Once one steps out of time, no matter if they step back or not, they are now out of time. Returning to any point, is simply a point in time, disconnected from the rest. So, for example, the first chrononaut, Evelyn Shane, who was born in 2103, left time on August 7, 2156 at 2:13:12 am. She returned at 2:13:13 am. Most didn’t even believe she had travelled. And in reality, she had not. And yet she still is. You see? It’s confusing.
Another example: that day at the bar, after the old man left me, before I was again in the door reliving that moment, my day and life actually continued on. I worked my shift, with massive confusion about who the old man was and how he’d disappeared. Confusion that build to madness over a number of days, weeks, months and years, until it ultimately led to me being institutionalized, where I lived until I died of natural causes on September 17, 2061. I, also, that day, stepped back to that doorway and turned the lights on again, sat down and the old man explained this to me.
He hadn’t chosen me, doesn’t choose me. He simply noticed that of everyone he stepped into time to have a conversation or a drink with, I was the only one that remembered. It ruins my life. So, he corrected that. He pulled me out of time, making me one of seven chrononauts that will ever exist.
Evelyn Shane, Demerick Ron, Polly Sedanski, and Jin Son were part of the team that first sent Evelyn out in 2156. Their supervisors and investors, not seeing any results, canned the project, and funding for time research was and is never again given serious consideration. The old man was pulled out by Polly, who wanted to know her great grandfather. Simultaneously, as everything is for us, Demerick pulled his child before she got sick, so he could spend eternity with her. Rules were put in place amongst the chrononauts. They saw the damage pulling someone did to their true self, what it had done and would do in time’s reality to each of them. The old man was and is scolded for pulling me. He argued that I’d remembered and that no one else ever had or will.
They didn’t and don’t disagree, and none could be sure he’d pulled me before or after the rule had been established, as we live in a state of it being constantly both. And had they tried to correct it, it can’t be undone. They can’t punish or not punish us. They can’t kill us. So, we exist, as we do, living every moment of our lives, at every moment, infinitely, in every way possible.