I have the Essential Apparatus for Time Travel


Dave gave it to me, to watch for a while, but he never answers his phone, so I have it.

I’ve mostly been using it to buy and eat my favorite ice cream flavor, Scraped Vanilla Bean, which was discontinued in 2004. Dave always says, “That’s just vanilla, man.” But I know that it’s different.

Dave invented the Essential Apparatus for Time Travel. I don’t know how much of a role Jessica played in that. I could ask her, but we haven’t talked much since the break up, except to say that we should still be friends too.

Maybe that makes it fucked up to say, since we’re technically all friends, but I’m glad Dave and Jessica broke up. They had nothing in common, and sort of drove each other up the wall.

When I went over there to see the cold fusion mock up they were working on, Dave was embarrassed to ask me to take off my shoes. “Sorry, Jessica’s really scared of roaches, so the more dirt that tracks in, y’know . . .” He’d trail off like that. Like it was just self-evident that Jessica was right.

One thing about Time Travel is that the movies got it wrong, you can’t run into yourself if you keep going back. I just go to the same store, the Stop-n-Go that Dave worked at in high school-at the same time-9:30 PM, May 22nd, 2003-pick up my ice cream, go home, get a little high, and eat. Every time High School Dave mentions that I look weird and tired. I tell him it’s the fluorescent lights in the Stop-n-Go. I wonder if that makes it my fault that Present Dave is so weird about when you want to take his picture in in-door lighting. I forget what Dave told me about changing the future, if it was possible or not. Most of the time I’m pretty sure Dave was always weird about taking his picture under fluorescent lights, so I think I didn’t change much.

The truth is, sometimes I feel responsible for how unhappy Dave and Jessica were. I knew they weren’t working out, but then it dragged on and on. I could see Dave shrinking, getting smaller. He’d look at his hands, like he was always thinking of getting back to work on a circuit board or a particle accelerator.

Finally Dave picks up his phone, and we hang out. He seems happy. I ask him if he’s working on that Faster-Than-Light drive, and he shrugs and says work has been busy. But then we talk about how he’s been baking bread a lot, and he lights up. I ask if he’s seeing anyone. He says he’s been hanging out with this woman he met through some of his work friends. I ask if she’s a particle physicist too, if they’re working on the FTL drive together. He frowns and says she’s a dancer, and I get the feeling that he doesn’t want to talk about the FTL drive anymore. Or maybe he doesn’t want to talk about dating?

When I’m ready to leave, I ask him if he wants the Essential Apparatus for Time Travel back. He frowns again, and shrugs, and says I can keep it for now.

When I get back home, I smoke a little weed, and then I go back to 9:30 PM May 22nd, 2003. I grab my ice cream, and I go to check out. High School Dave tells me I look tired and weird.

That’s when I decide to tell him everything. I confess to being from the future. I tell him about Jessica. They’ll meet in a robotics club. High School Dave says, “I don’t know anything about robotics.” “You’ll get into it in college,” I say. “You know that show Battle Bots? We both will get really into reruns of it, and we’ll say we’re going to build one, but we never will.” I look him in the eye. “We never will build a Battle bot together. Instead you date Jessica.” High School Dave doesn’t say anything. He just sort of looks at his hands. I pay for my ice cream and go.

I get home and I eat my ice cream, slowly. Dave says it’s just vanilla, but I know it’s different. I take the Essential Apparatus for Time Travel, I put it in the drawer where I keep some stuff, and I forget about it. 

Mordecai Martin is a 5th generation New Yorker working in a Philadelphian idiom. He has work forthcoming in Sortes, Gone Lawn, Toho Journal, and the Bitchin’ Kitsch. He blogs at http://mordecaimartin.net and tweets @mordecaipmartin

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