I’m standing in the dealership. I’m surrounded by all the latest models filled with all the latest extras to make traveling easier and more comfortable . . . lots of cup holders, g-p-s, bluetooth, wifi . . . all the comforts of home in one little machine. They come in all the colors of the rainbow, and if I can’t find one I like then the dealership will special order one for me. So many to choose from.
They are separated into two groups. Not “new” and “pre-owned” like cars, but instead “past” and “future.” Therein lies the ultimate choice in which time machine I will pick out. I have brochures that lay out all the specs for each and every model, each touting the benefits of looking back or looking ahead.
“Relive all the moments that were special to you.”
“Who is going to win the 2027 World Series? Knowledge is just a push of the button away.”
But what about the moments that weren’t special to me? What about the moments that hurt, that broke my heart, that tried to break my spirit? Do I want to relive those moments?
What about the element of surprise? By looking ahead would my future be affected by the fact that I already know about it? Will I change anything in present to change something I may not like about my future?
“Prom. Your wedding. The day you were born. Better than pictures. We can take you there now! Put the past in your hand in the blink of an eye.”
“The future doesn’t have to sneak up on you. Take control of your destiny!”
It all sounds too good to be true! I could relive favorite family vacations, the night my husband proposed, my first day at my first radio station. Or I could see my son when he’s all grown up. I could be in the know of what my step-daughters wedding dress will look like, or find out what years the Cardinals win the World Series. Oh, the possibilities.
Time to flag down a Time Travel Specialist. Before I can even move I am approached by a woman. She looks tired and haggard. She is my height and shares a vague resemblance to my father. I stand frozen on the showroom floor. She has a crazy look in her eyes. I want to run, but I can’t move. Does nobody else see her? She is coming toward me briskly. She is slightly hunched over but that doesn’t slow her determined gait. My heart starts to pound as she stops inches from me. She is staring right at me as if she is searching from something hidden in my eyes.
“It’s you,” she growls.
“It’s you. I’ve been waiting for you.”
“For who? Me? I think you are mistaken.”
“I know who you are. I’ve been waiting for you so I can warn you.”
“Who are you?”
“I am you.”
My heart seems to stop as I notice a Time Travel Specialist moving so quickly toward me that he is almost running. I glance back at the woman. Her eyes have suddenly gone terrified.
“Don’t do it. Leave here now. Please!”
“Who are you?”
“I am you,” she whispers to me quickly. Her eyes dart back and forth between me and the Time Travel Specialist. “I am you. I was here 37 years ago picking out my machine. I went all the way back, back to the day I was born. Don’t do it. Leave here right now.”
“You are crazy.”
“You can’t come back. I’ve been stuck since that day.”
“Get out of here,” a deep, forceful, male voice demands from behind me. A hand gently, comfortingly presses into my back. I turn around and see the man who has come to my rescue. “Pay no attention to her, ma’am. We get crazy people in here like her all the time making up all kinds of wild stories about getting stuck in time.”
“I’m not making it up,” the old woman spit at the man.
The man gently wrapped his arm around my shoulders. He is nudging me away from that woman. Why does he look a little spooked though. I glance back at the woman. Her head is hanging down. She looks defeated. She looks lost. The man directs me into his office where the walls are all covered in pictures of the latest and sportiest models of time travel machine.
He pulls piles of paperwork from drawers and folders and we rush through it. He is eager to make my sale and rack up his commission. He’s spouting off the wonders of time travel as I sign my name to endless forms, waivers, and contracts.
Finally he is showing me to the model I have chosen. The Time Travel Specialist assists me into the machine and we quickly go over the basics of operation. Though daunting I feel comfortable behind the controls of my new toy. I can’t wait to travel.
I look at the Time Travel Specialist and, giggling, say to him, “when this baby hits 88 miles per hour you are going to see some serious shit.” He is looking at me with confusion.
“Ma’am, you don’t drive this machine like a car. You just input the date you want to go to and you are there.”
I shake my head and wonder what Doc Brown and Marty would have thought about the state of time travel today.
Finally the Time Travel Specialist bids me a farewell and walks away. It is time to travel. I can see the old woman though. She is standing outside the plate-glass windows of the dealership and she is staring at me. Is that a tear I see rolling down her cheek? I wave goodbye to her and input the date I want to go to. I can’t wait to see that day up close and personal and not just through the stories I’ve heard of that day. I look forward to coming back and telling my children about the day I was born.
Just as I hit the “go” button to initiate time travel I notice a small sticker on the control panel.
“All time travel is one way only. The make of this device can not and will not be held responsible for those who get stuck or lost in a time that was undesired or was an unintended destination for long-term relocation. This device should not be used by those who do no wish to permanently displace themselves from their current time.”
I want out.
I can’t come back.
I can’t open the door.
I am already gone.
The old woman was me . . . and now I will become her.