When I learned the theme of the recent contest on this site, I was enthused and immediately gifted with an idea. But having agreed to be a judge, I was of course eliminated from the competition. Even so, here is the resulting story. I hope you enjoy it.
After I’d researched the science behind it and finally constructed it, the first question, of course, was how to put it to use . . .
The campus gleamed on this September afternoon, warm, clear and a bit breezy. I fit into the scene, my old t-shirt and jeans might seem a bit bizarre should anyone care to closely inspect me. But folding myself into the crowd, I became simply another grey haired oldster that wanted to join the kids in their protest; there were quite a few seniors, most of them with weathered faces and tie-dyed shirts.
I slipped into the confab, studied the environs I knew so well from the years of my youth. On the steps of the Old Admin the organizers had formed a group. Stretching from pillar to pillar was the banner, red words on dirty bedsheets: ‘US out of VietNam Now!’ The masses sported similar signs. ‘Hell No We Won’t Go’, ’Peace is Patriotic’, and of course the ever popular ‘Make Love Not War’. The last speaker, an agitated professor, was wrapping up.
Spurred on by the rhetorics the crowd began chanting ‘One, Two, Three, Four, We Don’t Want Your Fucking War!’ just as I spied her. Ah, yes! A dotted blouse, cut off denim shorts that surely would have dismayed her father in their brevity. Curly brunette hair surrounded by a headband hung to her shoulders. Her wide eyes were that wonderful viridian shade, although I found the the nose and mouth surprisingly wide for her oval, yet not unattractive face. The boy she was holding hands with was frankly nondescript, brown eyes set in a unkempt hairstyle, long sleeved shirt adorned in a pattern of twine, dirty bellbottoms. As the crowd began to disperse peacefully, I watched the couple turn to each other and kiss. They seemed familiar with each other, I knew they’d been dating since their first day on campus, three weeks previous.
I followed them to the edge of the quad and along the blocks of Court Street, shut to automobile traffic by the liberal city fathers for the benefit of the protest. The establishments that possessed liquor licenses were off limits to them, they being three years below the minimum drinking age; of course, had he not had his 2S deferment, the boy would have been old enough to be conscripted. As I followed thirty feet behind, lost in the mob, I spied them from time to time, adrift in their reclusive world, focusing only on each other. At Little Italy the old man had set up a table on the sidewalk, he presented them with two slices of pizza in exchange for a few coins. They walked on, hand in hand.
Then, as I knew they would, they doubled back. Friends from their Freshman English class greeted them, invited them to the college green for a frisbee toss. I could study her face as she demurely refused, her brow furrowed in cupidity. I took a shortcut, wandered in front of the couple, sat on a bench as they passed. The mien on his young face indicated nothing other than cluelessness, while her lissom body seemed poised in anticipation. Keeping back, I pursued till they approached his dorm, whereupon they halted, lost in plotting conversation. It was then that she nuzzled against his neck, seemed to whisper in his ear. I could see him blush from eighty feet away, and then, suddenly, whisk her across the threshold.
I turned the corner to the back of the dorm, an older building constructed during the great depression. I watched as a masculine hand pulled a towel over the open frame of a third floor window, shutting the possibility of observation from surrounding buildings. I timed myself, listening to Surrealistic Pillow blaring from one of the rooms, waiting little more than five minutes until I crept into the side door, one that should have been locked for security but, I knew, seldom was. Climbing the stairs, I slowly approached the door I knew they were behind.
Luckily, I saw no one on my journey through the passages; I’d planned to tell anyone I might meet I was searching for the room of my grandson. From the open transom I heard feminine coos and the bright clamor of a man grunting. I knew the pair I’d been stalking were in the throes of coitus, reveling in each other’s body. After a brief time of enjoyment in their fervor, I moved on.
Crossing the green again, I reflected on what I knew of that young couple. Their love affair would last through the snows and spring, ending only when she, Jenny, would take another beau during the ensuing summer while they were apart. For him, Larry, he wouldn’t find another partner who matched her sexually or emotionally for years. But after he shook the trauma of losing a true love, he’d sow his oats widely; he’d be okay.
I approached the woods at the edge of the river and found the time/space continuum machine I’d invented hidden there. I reflected on what I’d learned about the romance between Jenny and Larry. I had remembered some things more or less accurately, the beauty of the day, the size of the protest. But other details I’d forgotten over the forty-seven years; I’d somehow idealized Jenny’s beauty. I’d never been sure whose idea the trip to my room was, now I was positive Jenny had instigated the romp. Yes, now I fully remembered the day I’d lost my virginity.
I reflected on where I should go next. I knew if I revealed my invention, the powers that be would want to use it ‘wisely.’ Perhaps they’d wish to discover historical evidence. Was there really an itinerant carpenter in Palestine during the first century, and had he died gruesomely? Who (if anyone) was on that grassy knoll in Dallas? Or perhaps they’d actually try to alter the chronicle by ensuring Hitler was never allowed to come to power.
But those uses and debates could come later. For now, I decided to enjoy my apparatus and set the dials six years in my present future, looked forward to seeing my young self meet my beloved wife.