The Man with the Time Machine

The Man with the Time Machine arrived at his destination. He was going to make it right, this time.

He stepped out of his machine and looked at the house in front of him. It looked the same as it would eight years in the future. There were small differences; the siding would not look so pristine where he came from; the garden, now lush and beautiful – would be abandoned to wild negligence. The doghouse – this thought stopped him momentarily.

“Webster?” His voice almost broke, but he held himself steady. A small ball of fur bounded out of the bushes and hurled itself at the man. He burst into surprised laughter as he picked up the little creature. “You’re still a pup, aren’t you? I’d forgotten. I’ve missed you, buddy.”

The man looked at the house again. She would be in there, right now. She would be crying and packing her bags. His past self would have left a while ago in a huff, and wouldn’t be returning for hours.

This would be his only chance to stop her. He set down the excited dog, took a calming breath, and strode towards the house.

Inside, he could hear the sounds of hurried departure. The muffled swish of clothes being strewn about and packed, the crinkling of newspaper as trinkets were carefully wrapped and placed in boxes.

He faced the stairs with something akin to hope, mixed with paralyzing fear.

Upstairs Sabine was zipping closed a suitcase as he walked through the door behind her. She grabbed a photograph from the nightstand beside her and raised it over her head, pivoting on one heel to face him. At the sight of him, she frowned and the picture frame fell from her hand. The sound of shattering glass was magnified by the tense silence between them.

“Joel? Is that you?” Sabine blinked at him. Her voice was shaking.

“Sabine, you know it is. Please, please don’t go. I’ll do anything, just don’t leave.”

“What happened to you? You’re…different. And your clothes…  Joel, tell me what’s going on.”

“I did it, Sabine. I finally built the time machine. But since this day…” Remember the rules, he reminded himself, she can’t know. “Sabine, since you left, life has been hell. I’ve worked for eight years to come back to today and convince you to stay with me.”

Sabine looked at the sad, scruffy, thin man in front of her. He looked like her Joel, if her Joel hadn’t eaten or slept for months. His eyes, though, were the dark and sunken eyes of a man obsessed. This Joel, though she wouldn’t admit it, terrified her.

She steeled herself before she replied.

“No, Joel. You can’t fix this that way. If we were meant to be, we’d have eventually worked things out. You made some really big mistakes, and you need to live with them for the rest of your life. I’m leaving. If you want me to come back to you, you need to talk to your past self about making that happen, not me.”

With that, she picked up the suitcase and stepped over the broken glass, brushing past him through the door. He heard her descending the stairs, slamming the front door behind her. He heard the car engine start, heard her drive away.

Joel was dumfounded. He’d thought this would work. And now there was nothing he could do. He heaved broken breaths as the sobbing threatened to choke him.

Back inside the time machine, Joel was cradling Webster the puppy and looking at a yellowed newspaper clipping taped to a panel.

Young woman dies in tragic car accident

The date on the machine panel is the same as the date on the paper.

Joel gives a few more sniffles, then gently ushers the pup out the door.

“There you go, bud. No, it’s ok. The guy in there will need you more than I do.”

Joel closed the door and began fiddling with his panels. He couldn’t give up, he wouldn’t give up. He would just have to find another way to do it.

The Man with the Time Machine arrived at his destination. He was going to make it right, this time.

Reflections on a woman I never knew, whose light touched my life today

This is a bit complicated. Usually I like to elaborate on a simple subject, or tell a short story, but this has been on my mind today and I just feel like I need to talk about it. Please excuse if it doesn’t all flow very well

So it’s National Suicide Prevention Week. When I saw that, the first thing I thought of was my dear cousin, who left us in March 2011. Initially I thought of writing a small memorial post for him, but I don’t want to be depressing. I know he certainly wouldn’t want that.

However, it did make me want to write something, I just wasn’t sure what, exactly. Then, I saw this obituary, which made national news because of its unusual and touching nature.

That got me to thinking about my own mortality, and how not all that long ago I was at a low point in my life, where I wasn’t exactly suicidal, but I found myself hoping to die. Every day. Hoping that something would happen to me, to end my existence. I saw opportunity everywhere, and tried a lot of dangerous things. It was a dark time and I did climb out of it, and honestly, I like to pretend that point in my life never happened. But we all have pasts that we must face, we all have regrets, and we all have to just get over it. If you’re always looking backwards, you’ll never move forward.

I’m past that now, though, and that isn’t what this post is about.

Anyway, reading that obituary made me wonder about the mark I have left – will leave upon the world. What kind of legacy will I leave behind when I’m gone? That woman, Pink, as she is called by her surviving relatives, sounds like a very extraordinary individual. Her mark is in the love she left behind, everywhere and in every one she ever spoke to.

I’m so very guilty of many petty crimes that Pink rose above.

Never say mean things about rotten people, instead think of them as “poor souls who we should pray for.”

I definitely always say mean things about rotten people. I wish zombification on every horrible driver, I regularly imagine global catastrophes hitting obnoxious crowds, I internally curse every jerk I see in my daily interactions with people. Never, and I mean never, have I pitied those people for their ignorance and lack of respect for anyone else. But what a lofty idea, what a beautiful thought. It makes me think of the book A Little Princess, and how when I was little I wanted to be the sort of person that Sara Crewe was, always behaving like a princess would. A real princess would never say mean things about rotten people, no matter how terribly they behaved. Princesses are above that sort of thing.

Offer rides to people carrying a big load or caught in the rain or the summer heat. Believe the hitchhiker you pick up who says he is a landscaper and his name is “Peat Moss”. Offer to help anyone struggling to get their kids in a car, into a shopping cart or across a parking lot. Give to every single charity that asks. Choose to believe the best about what they do with your money, no matter what your children say they discovered online.

Wow. That’s a tall order. I’m convinced that this woman was a saint.

Are we such a jaded society that we no longer believe in truly good people, who do truly good things? I do my “good deed per day”, most days. I give myself a pat on the back every time too. Yeah, self, there’s some karma points. But now I’m thinking that maybe to make the world a better place, I should become a better person. Not that I think I’m a bad person. I’m not. I’m actually one of the best people that I know. But maybe this world needs people who lead by example, like Pink; instead of people who preach their morality to everyone else.

Take magazines you’ve already read to your doctors’ waiting rooms for others to enjoy. Do not tear off the mailing label … “Because if someone wants to contact me that would be nice.”

Ok, so I don’t actually ever get physical magazines, but this is such a nice thought.

Growing up, there is a mantra drilled into the head of every child. Don’t talk to strangers. Granted, this is pretty good advice for a small child. As an adult, we have to talk to strangers all the time, but we keep the conversation minimal. I don’t start a conversation with anyone I don’t already know at the grocery store, the doctor’s office, not even at social places like beaches, restaurants, bars, sports games, whatever. I keep to my group of family or friends and, I guess honesty is the best policy; I secretly watch and judge everyone else there. We do this all the time. We call it people-watching. You spot a person, or a couple, or a family, and you make up an imaginary life for them inside your head, based on what you see. But you never go up to them and ask to see how their real life compares.

I just think that it’s rare to meet and cultivate a friendship with someone who is not in your pre-established social circles these days. It’s kind of sad, really. So I might make it a point to say hello to people I don’t know now and then. If they’re not interested in a conversation, I won’t push the issue. But you never know if you’ll meet someone who enriches your life in some way. And that would be nice.

It’s especially wonderful that this woman, though I never even met her, has got me rethinking my own bad behavior towards others, and the world in general. Even after she’s gone, she’s touching lives.

What a legacy. What a saint. What a wonderful person to want to emulate.

None of us are perfect. But we can try to be our best, and that’s all that we can do. The legacy we leave behind is the lives we’ve touched, the people we’ve helped, the way we’re remembered as a person, and the lessons we pass on to future generations. The more love you put into the world, the more you’ll get back.

Those who’ve taken her lessons to heart will continue to ensure that a cold drink will be left for the garbage collector and the mail carrier on a hot day, that every baby will be kissed and every person in the nursing home will have a visitor, that the hungry will have a sandwich and the visitor will have a warm bed and a soft nightlight…

Your legacy is when the love you leave behind continues to live after you’re gone.

Make Coffee, Work In My Pajamas

Another Daily Prompt, to get me writing. Here is what I see in my future (a hopeful prediction):

You wake up slowly as the sun shines through the bedroom curtains, gently warming your face. You stretch in stages, methodically and deliberately, waking each muscle in turn.

You look at him, slumbering deeply next to you and smile. You always wake up before he does. His late-night terrible movie addiction keeps him up most of the night. You’ve tried to stay awake with him, but you always fall asleep on his chest, lulled by his heartbeat and steady breathing.

Pulling on a set of pajamas, you tiptoe out of the bedroom and gently close the door behind you. The stairs are maneuvered carefully, as you’ve slipped onto your rear one too many times to be caught off-guard again.

Once you’ve safely reached the first floor, you move almost instinctively, switching on the coffee machine and grabbing your tablet on your way to the porch, where you enjoy the cool and quiet morning air with a cigarette while doing some light reading. It looks to be a beautiful day.

Back inside, you make your coffee and settle into the couch with your laptop, starting the workday. You love being able to work from home. You love your job. You love going to work in your pajamas.

You check the latest reviews from the movie you’ve written, which has just been made into a big-budget blockbuster film. They are glowing, praising reviews. You smile again.

A passing thought strikes you; you can’t remember the last time you actually frowned. You try to frown, just for posterity. It feels wrong, and you’re not quite sure that you’ve succeeded. The thought makes you smile again.

You check your emails, check your blog, your social media. You putter about a little. You jot down notes and ideas. You do some reading, some editing, some story-arc building. You write a few more pages in your novel, which is coming along nicely, by the way.

You attempt to take a sip of your coffee, and discover that the cup is already empty. Ah, that’s what a frown feels like. Ok, make more coffee.

With that done, you decide to go sit on the porch again. That morning air is just wonderful. The sun hovers, still relatively low in the sky, bathing you in orange and pink light.

He joins you on the porch after he wakes, greeting you by brushing his lips against your lips, your cheek, your jaw line, and telling you good morning beautiful. You roll your eyes at the compliment, but inside you’re beaming. You lean into him and breathe him in.

When the two of you go in, you make him a cup of coffee while he fetches his laptop from his office.

Both of you sit on the couch, and continue co-writing your next masterpiece.

Before the day is out you’ve cranked out some wonderful material together, taken an invigorating bike ride, showered, and spent some “quality time” that’s probably best left unwritten here.

You finish the day by falling asleep with your head nestled on his chest while he watches a terrible movie, and you try to stay awake with him, but you both know you’ll be asleep in five minutes, tops.

Everyday is like this, except the ones that aren’t. You love what you do, you make a living off of it, you spend every day in slow-paced bliss with a partner who adores you. Not every day is as perfect as this one, and sometimes you spend nearly the whole day frowning. But not often.

Most days are like this one, and you smile all the time, and you have someone to share your wonderful life with, and most days, the only time you frown is when you run out of coffee.