I was not psyched about attending my 10-year high school reunion. My high school memories are awful. I had practically no friends. I was basically a social outcast. Things got somewhat better in the intervening years. I went to community college and got an associate’s degree in business. I am now the assistant manager of Chick-in-a-Bun and I manage a good group of young men and women. It’s a fine establishment. I am not exactly what people might call a stellar success. At least, I think that might be a tough sell to the Hillwood High School graduates from the class of ’08. But when I got that letter with the invitation for the 10-year reunion, something in my gut told me I should go.
The day arrived and I walked into the large meeting room packed with dozens of tables spread across the floor. There were at least a hundred of my former classmates milling around and talking among themselves. I saw the usual cast of characters I expected to see: sports jocks, the science nerds, all the expected stereotypes. And then I beheld the most beautiful girl of all, Laura Phillips. The girl of my dreams, the girl I – and every other teenage boy – passionately longed for.
I skulked over to a corner and hoped my mounting panic attack would soon subside. After which, maybe I’d try and strike up a conversation with a few people who looked friendly. Then I’d scoot out of there as quickly as my legs could carry me. That’s when someone bumped into me and spilled his drink on my arm. I turned around and saw a face that seemed familiar, but I couldn’t quite place it. Then it hit me, it was Patrick Gillespie, the obnoxious know-it all that always sat in the front row of English class and knew all the answers to the all the teacher’s questions. Everyone hated him.
But he didn’t look like the obnoxious bloat that I remembered him being. He looked suave and svelte in a sharp black tuxedo. He was overdressed for an event like this, but I had to admit he looked confident and dressed for success.
He said, “I’m sorry, excuse my clumsiness. Let me get that for you.” Patrick pulled out a white spanking new handkerchief out of his front pocket and started dabbing at the wet blotch on my arm.
“No worries. It was probably my fault. I’m sure I was standing in your way.” Patrick seemed not to notice my dumb remark.
“I must say, Paul, it’s really nice to see you after all these years.” He remembered my name. That made me feel special. I figured I’d be nice and not bring back any memories of what a little brat I remembered him being years ago.
“Same to you, Patrick. So, what have you been up to since we last saw each other?”
“It’s been quite an adventure, that’s for sure.” His dazzling blue eyes were twinkling at me. I was suddenly feeling giddy and starstruck by this fellow, who until now I had taken to be a complete lout. I gazed dumbly at him, assuming there was more to come, but Patrick seemed content to leave it at that. A long silence ensued. I figured he would move along. We had nothing in common as far as I could remember, so it was baffling why he was still standing there, a slightly expectant look on his face, as if he didn’t feel our interaction had run its course just yet.
I scanned the room, hoping for some topic, any topic, to come to my mind. There was Laura Phillips again. The beautiful, glorious, and oh-so-perfect Laura Phillips with her glistening onyx shoulder length hair and those long flirtatious eyelashes that drove everyone mad. She was laughing, throwing her head back and exposing her picturesque neckline accentuating her exquisite bosom.
I glanced at Patrick, who was following my gaze and staring at Laura as well. He clucked his tongue and looked at me with thinly veiled disappointment. I asked him, “Surely, you remember Laura Phillips? I think every boy in the school must have had a crush on her.”
“Yes, indeed. But no one more than you. It’s a shame you didn’t have the courage to ask her out in this timeline.”
I let the timeline bit go, because I didn’t know what to make of that. “Yeah, well, she only dated the crème de la crème. The beautiful only mix with the beautiful, right?”
“That’s a pessimistic view of the world, Paul Cameron. What if, instead of being scared to death of talking to her, you had boldly asked her to go to the prom with you?”
“Right,” I scoffed, “Maybe you’ve mistaken me for someone else. I was a loner in high school. I was the kid who sat by himself in the cafeteria. Laura Phillips probably didn’t even know I existed.”
“Suppose I told you that there are multiple timelines that are available to us, not an infinite number because that would be just ridiculous, but a finite number of timelines that play out simultaneously.”
“You want my opinion on that?” I scoffed.
“No, my friend, not just yet. Merely your willingness to participate in a little experiment.”
So now we were friends. I was starting to regret meeting up with Patrick, but I was slightly curious where this was going. I decided to hear him out.
“Paul, this may be hard for you to believe, but there is an alternate timeline where you and I are business partners. In that timeline, you are married to Laura Phillips.”
“Well good for the me in the other timeline. What kind of experiment do you have in mind?”
“Right. The experiment is this: I believe that all timelines are interconnected and that it may be possible to merge, or at least closely approximate, one timeline to another. I thought this might be the perfect opportunity to run in to you, well before we meet in an alternate timeline to become business partners.”
He went on, “I believe there is a part of Laura Phillips, deep down, that will recognize you as her husband in an alternate timeline. I want you to go up to her and remind her of experiences you have had – or will have – in another timeline. I expect her reaction will be quite interesting.”
“There’s no way I’m talking to her. I get severe anxiety in stressful situations. Laura makes my knees buckle just thinking about talking to her.”
“You’re doing just fine with me, old mate. Just repeat what I tell you to say.”
He gave me his instructions and told me to meet him in the parking lot directly afterwards. He gave me a wink and walked away.
My brain told me this Patrick Gillespie fellow was full of beans, but something in my gut compelled me to go along with the charade. I gathered up my courage and walked up to Laura. I said, “Hello Laura. There is an active volcano in Hawaii that will erupt while we stand at the mountain’s base. Miraculously we survive. You will have a son, Alfred, who will bring outside insects into his bedroom and create mini-insect hotels. Also, I’ll never forget to buy mint chocolate chip – the green kind -- and pralines and cream at the same time, because I know that’s your favorite combination. You don’t know that yet, but you will.”
I waited for the humiliation, or at the very least, complete bafflement, followed by irritation, followed by a demand for me to leave her presence. Instead, she became very still, and her eyes dilated, her deep brown eyes taking in all of me.
“Who are you?” she asked, not rudely, but genuinely curious.
“Paul. Paul Cameron. We had a few classes together. It’s understandable you don’t remember me. I don’t believe we ever spoke with one another.”
“Paul… yes. I do remember you. The boy with no friends who ate lunch alone in the cafeteria every day.” She did not seem repulsed. She touched my shoulder and said softly, “Meet me in the lady’s bathroom in five minutes. I’ll leave it unlocked.”
My face was on fire. I didn’t know what to say to that. Did Patrick just give me the magic words to make Laura Phillips swoon over me?
I looked at my watch and noted the time. It was 2:37 pm. At 2:42 pm, you better believe I was going to be in that bathroom. But first, I felt I owed Patrick that quick meeting he had asked for. Sure enough, he was waiting for me right outside. He said, “I’d ask you how it went. But I already know.”
“Oh, there is no way you know what just happened to me. In five minutes, I have a date in a bathroom.”
“Yes, I’m fully aware. Sorry to burst your bubble, but it’s not what you think. Still, it will change your life. But as for my experiment, I got the information I needed. I’d tell you now, but it would take more than the three and a half minutes you have remaining before your important date. I’ll be in touch.”
I hightailed it to the bathroom and true to her word, the door was open. The inside was not a bathroom, however. It was a room cluttered with all kinds of strange apparatuses and technical devices. I knew at once what I was looking at. This was a direct replica of the Dr. Who time traveling spaceship. I had just watched an episode the night before, so I was absolutely sure of what I was looking at. I thought to myself, it must be an elaborate prank. Or maybe I was having some kind of weird mental episode of some kind.
As these thoughts swirled in my brain, Laura stepped around the corner and began to approach me. This was not the same Laura I had spoken to five minutes before. This Laura had aged, not tremendously, certainly not in a bad way. She looked stately, queenly, dare I say, divine.
She said, “Thank you for meeting me. I know it must have sounded weird to meet me in the lady’s bathroom. But as you can see, this is definitely not a bathroom.”
“I see that. Just what is going on here? Why are we in a Dr. Who set?”
Laura looked concerned, “Patrick did fill you in, did he not?”
“He most certainly did not.”
“Okay. Patrick came here to meet you in this timeline to see if certain triggers could merge one timeline into another. The fascinating news is that we determined they can. This room may look like a Dr. Who episode to you, but that’s only because this is the way your mind is able to process the physical dimensions of this incredible machine. In actuality, this space we are standing in, it’s not really a physical space at all. We are in between the folds of spacetime. Time travel occurs by opening up those folds and then traversing along a particular timeline. It’s all very technical and scientific. You couldn’t possibly understand. Well, perhaps in the future you might, but right now you’re just going to have to go with this. You and Patrick collaborated together in a different timeline to learn how to navigate time travel.”
“Ri-ight. I barely passed high school and my business school B- average was generous, at best. There is no way you are going to convince me I had anything to do with discovering time travel.”
“In this timeline, I would agree. You haven’t done too well for yourself. But don’t feel too bad. Everyone has at least a few shameful timelines. You just happen to be living in one of your worst ones.”
“Gee, thanks. I didn’t think I was that bad…”
“I know this is a lot to take in. It’s better that you experience it first-hand.”
She pulled a lever and suddenly I felt all the air suck out of me like a pierced balloon. I could see the blackness of space in all directions. There were hints of light far off in the distance, stars I supposed. I had a sense of movement, but I wasn’t sure because there was no air. And just like that, we were back in the Dr. Who replica spaceship.
“Here we are. Open the door and take a look.”
I opened the door and sure enough, I was looking back at the high school reunion meeting room. It looked basically the same. I looked to where Laura had been standing before she had walked away to go to the bathroom for our little rendezvous. Standing next to her, I saw a very fashionable fellow, dressed quite similarly to Patrick Gillespie, in fact, who was holding her hand and sipping a glass of white wine. The man turned slightly, and I gasped. The man was undeniably me.
The Laura from the spaceship whispered to me, “Go walk toward the corner of the room. It wouldn’t be great for people to notice there are two of you in the same room.”
“How bad would that be, anyway?” I asked. “You know, in the movie Time Cop, if you touch your double, you turn into some disgusting monster and then disintegrate.”
“Yeah, that’s not very accurate. Actually, meeting your double turns out to be fairly insignificant. We have experimented with that idea. It has the potential to create new timelines but doesn’t seem to mess up the original timeline very much. Of course, you guys are totally winging it. For all I know, you might have irreparably damaged the fabric of spacetime and our universe. At any point we might just go blip and be destroyed.”
“Okay, I guess I’m convinced. So, what’s the deal? What’s your involvement in all of this?”
“Well, I suppose you could call me a fellow time travel conspirator. In my timeline, I’ve been your wife since right after high school. You’ve taught me almost everything you know about time travel, and I’ve been along for the entire ride.”
“That doesn’t sound very much like me.”
“Like I said before, the version of you in my timeline is a much better version of you. No offense.”
“None taken. I guess. So quick question: since you are in love with the me that’s in your timeline, does that mean you’re also in love with here-and-now-me, since we’re all interconnected, as you said?”
“Well, in a way. But hold your horses. I’m not the Laura Phillips who falls in love with,” -- she looked me up and down somewhat disdainfully -- “…this. I am in love with the version of you that’s back in my timeline. However, Patrick’s hunch that certain memories from one timeline could impact the natural course of another timeline has proven to be true. Patrick has already time traveled to this timeline’s future, after you said those words to me – well, the me in your timeline – and it looks like your timeline is now following a parallel track to my timeline. This is good news for you because the Laura Phillips of your timeline has just begun the process of slowly falling in love with you. She is going to become your muse, and you will ultimately collaborate with Patrick and do great things. Just like you did in my timeline. Patrick’s experiment has successfully merged two timelines. It is very exciting.”
We got back in the time travel ship as inconspicuously as possible -- which wasn’t difficult since it was just a bathroom door -- and traveled back to my timeline. Laura gave me a quick peck on the check and said, “A version of me will be waiting for you soon. Good luck! And don’t screw it up. Based on our experiments, we don’t think you will, but there’s always a chance you could do something stupid and mess up our probability predictions.”
“I’ll do my best.” I walked out of the spaceship and went back to where Laura and I had been talking. Laura was spending an awfully long time in the bathroom. In all the excitement, I had forgotten I was supposed to meet her in the bathroom. Again. I made my way to the lady’s bathroom door and pulled it open. This time it was a normal single-stall bathroom. Laura was standing in front of the toilet, somehow still looking positively radiant. She was also back to looking her appropriate age. Not that there was anything wrong with the older, more mature Laura. Laura was drop dead gorgeous at any age.
To break the ice I said, “You are not going to believe what just happened to me.”
“I was about to say the same thing to you. I have absolutely no idea why I asked you to come to the bathroom. That was really weird. But after everything you… well, a future version of you just showed me, I guess it kind of makes sense. Something must have compelled me to ask you to go there. Perhaps, we were both meant to see our future.”
I stared deeply into her eyes. “So does this mean you’re in love with me?”
She laughed. “No, that does not seem to have happened. I believe the way it works is that you have to woo me first. You know, be romantic and that sort of thing.”
“Ah, yes. Romance. That’s my specialty,” I put my arms around her waist. Her hand caressed the back of my neck. Our eyes locked. Our lips moved slowly toward each other.
A loud bang at the door. “Hey, hurry up in there! People gotta pee around here!”
Drat, I thought. But I had the undeniable feeling this was the beginning of a very special relationship.