Time travel is a lot like breaking up. You call it quits on the one person you thought you could depend on and trust. They had a key to your apartment, fed your cat while you were attending conferences on Theoretical Physics in Switzerland, gave good neck rubs, could stand your bad breath when you kissed. Or they call it quits on you. You were never there when something important to the other person happened, like some nonsense of attending their sister’s baby shower or meeting their parents or they’re graduating with an MFA, never sent them that picture they wanted of Lake Geneva because you said you were too busy even though you were there for an hour when the tour bus you went on with the Nobel Prize winner that year and the Marcel Benoist Prize winner last year broke down. So you each decide to apply a specific direction of motion (in a general direction away from the other) that both shrinks the distance, time, and variability of remaining a couple while still keeping you in a Closed Time-like Curve (CTC via tear in space) that makes returning to the past and fabricating possible futures and realities where you aren’t you and they aren’t them inevitable.
That or maybe breaking up is more like time travel, but you can’t gather enough courage or self-loathing to pull the trigger on yourself or your grandfather (refer to the Grandfather Paradox). All joking aside, time travel, like breaking up, is something we do to ourselves. It’s effectual. It’s our fault and only our goddamn fault.
In order to understand this, it is important to note that time is a human construct. It does not exist. What exists instead is the space between matter and the steady expansion or reduction of that space. It is also important to note that love is also a human construct. It too does not exist. What exists instead is the space between what matters and the steady expansion or reduction of what doesn’t. However, there is a caveat to both. The denial of time and love both have an adverse effect on memory, more specifically on the length of the days, the taste of your favorite food, the smell of their hair, and how it felt or didn’t feel when you were a couple instead of single.
And the notion of wondering how it was or could be is the key to unlocking time travel and breaking up. You are not creating distance as much as you are acknowledging that it’s always been there, lurking between gravity and how you haven’t texted each other goodnight for months.
A colleague of yours, another Filipino-American like yourself who can’t speak Tagalog or tell you where Manila is, who sacrificed culture for Conformal Cyclic Cosmology (CCC), once mentioned that the astronauts on the International Space Station age .01 seconds less than people on earth do in a year. She invited you to her apartment for a nightcap after running numbers all day and, even though you knew you shouldn’t have, you went anyway. You listened to “Space Odyssey” on vinyl, had too much to drink, determined principal (size), angular momentum (shape), magnetism (orientation), and spin, and stayed the night. In the morning, while picking up your clothes, she studied you, well aware of you and your significant other and what what you did means, and mentioned the International Space Station and how you die a little bit more each day the way you are.
This is a prime example of how distance shrinks in the direction of motion. What may seem like a moment to you might mean a whole life-time to your significant other. They are worried when you come home and, when they find out where you came from and what you were doing (they always do, even if you try to hide the calculations, the emails, the text messages), you have aged them significantly while you retain your relatively youthful exuberance and dilated, albeit obscured, perspective on how they should feel (the side effects of time travel,
motion, being an asshole).
But I digress. We are only talking about moving forward in time. The past is a lot more convoluted. If distance is time and love doesn’t matter, then the past might be easy to forget. Some may argue that causality, pride, and shame prevent people from returning or breaking up, but certain motions in space null any obstacle preventing you from returning to your own past and making the right decision. As mentioned before, a breakup, like time travel, shrinks distance, time, and variability of a determined position and garners the pathway of a CTC from the determined position to itself in a former life.
If you think about it, it’s easy to see whether or not you were both happier together or apart, with or without the space. You look into Lake Geneva and it, like time, obscures the past and every possible future. The fact that the water reflects everything so clearly while completely obstructing what lies beneath and ahead reminds you of why you got together in the first place. They were much happier. You are as you were, now, save the emptiness you tear to get close.
“What is There Time For” by E.P. Tuazon appeared in Issue 42 of Berkeley Fiction Review.
E.P. Tuazon is a Filipinx-American writer from Los Angeles. He has published his works in several publications. His most recent book is a forthcoming novella called The Cussing Cat Clock (HASH Journal, 2022). He was a finalist for the 2021 Prairie Schooner Raz-Shumaker Book Prize in Fiction and the 2021 Five South Short Fiction Prize, and he is currently a member of Advintage Press and The Blank Page Writing Club at the Open Book, Canyon Country. In his spare time, he likes to wander the seafood section of Filipino markets to gossip with the crabs.