Time Travel LP

How can you think of time travel as anything less than a chance to right your deepest wrongs? It’s like getting a cheat code for impermeability, or an extra life on a level you flubbed.

The most vivid dreams I’ve ever had were all about high school—my head full of the grown-up knowledge I have now, back in the body of a teenager gripped by the awkward throes of puberty. In life I was a stumbling, bumbling kid; in dreams I’m always a maverick, a daredevil, a riot. I paint the lockers red and make the popular guys writhe with jealousy. Girls swoon at my sudden wit. I wake up every time shaking my head, laughing at myself. What kind of adult would ever really want to go back to that limbo, halfway between childhood and the future?

Maybe I’d redo my first kiss, make it less nerve-wracking and anxious. Or tell my parents that the university I’d chosen was actually two continents over, not two hours away. What regrets would I bring back? None. I decided conclusively that going back would bring me nothing but the closed, immaculate ribbon loops of all life’s previously broken promises.

#

It’s past five when my wife brings me a covered plate of still hot-dinner.

“Thanks, babe.” I shift the drop cloth a little more to the left, though it hardly matters; Hannah can’t tell a motherboard from a processor.

“You’re welcome!” she chirps. She’s in good spirits—a raise at work has eased some of the pressure of our mortgage payments.

“This looks great,” I say, falling on the food with relief. The salty fat from the pork drips down the fork and finds a fresh nick in my finger. I suck in a quick breath as it seeps into the cut and burns.

Hannah’s dark eyes are worried. “You’ve been at this for hours, are you sure you don’t need a break?”

I do, but I’m close now. So, so close.

“Give me another 20 minutes, okay?” I smile. “I’ll come in and we can watch your show.”

She levels one black eyebrow at me in a kind of smirk. “I’ve heard that one before.”

“Seriously! Be in in two shakes. Give me half a sec.”

Hannah saunters out with the kind of hip-swinging that drove me crazy when we first met as teenagers. She wasn’t my first kiss, but she was my first love; I was devasted when she ended it the year before college, distraught as I sleep-walked my way through two or three freshman hookups, then elated and relieved when she called me, the day after winter break started, and said we could still be friends. We both dated casually over the next months but by the summer we were back on track; married one year later; in our house the next, forfeiting our honeymoon for home insurance.

Hannah is the only thing I wouldn’t go back and change.

If you know where to look on the Internet, there are plans for everything—all you need is a 3D printer and a little computer build knowledge. I unearthed a closed Reddit thread, a few years old, that led me to various questionable IP addresses until I downloaded a VoIP just so I could torrent the blueprints. It wasn’t exactly what I had in mind—I wouldn’t be travelling back physically, or even like a disembodied brain—but I’d be able to establish a connection.

#

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Linkin Park Fan Forum/General/Thread List/Lyrics Share
<Posted by pointsofarthority @ 1:00:00AM Tuesday, December 4, 2018>

Anyone have the lyrics for the Xero tracks? My friend let me rip the CD copy they made onto a tape but they didn’t have the leaflet (obvs). TIA

<Reply to pointsofarthority by hybridthearty @ 2:34:50PM Thursday, July 26, 2001>

lol sick bud how did u get here from teh future? seriously tho u have to teach me that script. i have an OG demo tape even though everyone knows their shit sucked until Chester came on. seriously! do u have the Hybrid Theory EP? that’s worth more than all the lyrics to the x-demo.

<Reply to hybridthearty by pointsofarthority @ 1:35:47AM Tuesday, December 4, 2018>

Haha no promises bud but I can try to figure it out if u have the list?? Do u have the lyrics, too?

<Reply to hybridthearty by Admin @ 5:07:15PM Friday, July 27, 2001>

We don’t tolerate trolling or spamming on these boards. I’ve flagged your profile for suspicious activity based on your timestamps; whatever bug you’re running might be dangerous to our sites. You’re hereby banned until we can figure out if this is some kind of hack.

#

Date: 2018-12-05
From: pointsofarthority@hotmail.com
To: hybridthearty@hotmail.com
Subject: FML

Hey sorry, guess the mods are worse on this board than I remember. I grabbed your email off your profile, hope that’s ok. Would still love to get that track list and lyrics from you.

Thanks,

A


Date: 2001-07-30
To: pointsofarthority@hotmail.com
From: hybridthearty@hotmail.com
Subject: RE:FML
Attached: xero.rtf

Fuck bud that sucks, i just copied it out into an rtf doc, hope that works. I don’t have Word ME on my computer at home and my mom is always watching me use it anyway because she doesn’t know I still buy my porn mags the old-fashioned way lol

Sucks that u got banned! LPFF is a good board, I made a lot of friends in there, including my bud who gave me the xero tape

hope that helps,

XXXX~aRt~XXXX
i’ll be buried in the silence of the answer

#

I have an in but I have no idea where to go from here. Should I coach myself away from sharing my—his—our?—first-ever kiss with Millie Shanks, a slightly sweaty girl who loomed over me after a track meet one evening when the hallway was completely deserted, catching me off guard and prompting me to plant one on her with the sheer desperation of the utterly cornered? Maybe I could tell me to study harder for one of the Physical Science 10 exams I’m sure I’m going to flunk this year—because I do. I did. I barely scraped by with a 62, which the teacher gave me out of a mixture of pity and fear that I’d return the next year for another try.

I try not to email too frequently, but I’ve bookmarked a couple pages (including Wikipedia) so that I can keep up on past current events. He—I—have surprisingly lots to say about them cancelling their European shows after the twin towers fall. I let a few months go by before I write again.  Did he see the show in Michigan? I already know he did, of course. He—I—smoked my first blunt there, after admitting that the contact high I got from standing shoulder to shoulder with a crowd’s worth of white dudes whose beat-up army jackets, salvaged from thrift stores, must have been lined with the stuff rendered my so-far Straight Edge status moot.

His—my—replies are usually pretty prompt, within a few weeks, quieter over the holidays. Sometimes he talks about school, kids he knows, teachers who bother him. Names that I haven’t thought of in years and struggle to attach hazy faces to (usually I can remember just one thing about them—long red hair, a pair of sweatpants worn nearly every day, acne-dotted skin).

#

Date: 2019-07-06
From: pointsofarthority@hotmail.com
To: hybridthearty@hotmail.com
Subject: Detroit Show

They’re coming back your way early next month, with Cypress Hill. You listen to them?

Haven’t heard much, how’s school?

A


Date: 2002-01-15
To: pointsofarthority@hotmail.com
From: hybridthearty@hotmail.com
Subject: RE:Detroit Show

can’t afford it right now but maybe i’ll catch em next time. school is bullshit. can’t wait to be done with it.

XXXX~aRt~XXXX
you’ll soon find we’re out of time left to watch it all unwind

#

The timestamp on the email is like the silent alarm that flashes for ten minutes before the security guard registers something’s wrong. Finally, I clue in.

Winter, right before grad—around the same time Hannah broke the news over a Froster that she thought we should take a break before college. Get used to spending time apart. All that time we wasted before we came back to each other—the thought of coaching myself to popularity, acing a Science test evaporates, replaced by a crystallizing vision so shining and pure it obliterates everything else: we stay together. We make it work.

For the first time in years, a string of staccato rhymes rings through my mind—you’re still so distant and I can’t bring you back. How many times had I played that track on repeat, dashing tears angrily from my eyes until I was finally numb to it, picturing Hannah’s face before she walked away? Even if you’re not with me, I’m with you. I kept those words tightly sealed, close to my heart, until the day the phone rang and it was Hannah’s voice at the other end, telling me she missed me and was sick of the distance.

The front door unlatches, interrupting my train of thought. Vitalized, I fire off a quick reply to the email then head out of the office down to the kitchen, eager to wrap my arms around my wife.

#

Date: 2019-07-06
From: pointsofarthority@hotmail.com
To: hybridthearty@hotmail.com
Subject: RE:RE:Detroit Show

I’m sure your mom’s doing her best. Hang in there, try to help her out at home as much as you can.

I remember how tough high school can be. Everybody moving on to bigger and better things once it’s done—only, sometimes the best things in life are right in front of you. You just have to know what’s worth fighting for. Don’t give up on something you know is good just because you’re afraid you might grow up or grow apart—grow together. Fight for what you know you want. Don’t take no for an answer.

Good luck with it,

Art


Date: 2002-01-16
To: pointsofarthority@hotmail.com
From: hybridthearty@hotmail.com
Subject: RE:RE:RE:Detroit Show

LOL wut, your name is Art too? guess the email address makes sense, i always just figured you didn’t know how to spell.

thx for the advice tho, seriously. made me think. There’s this girl, Hannah, and we’re going to separate colleges in the fall. She doesn’t want to stay in touch, she thinks we need time apart to grow up and learn what we want. But I already know what I want—she’s the first person I’ve ever had real feelings for, you know? So I’m taking your advice. i’m not going to let her go.

gonna need all the luck i can get so thx

XXXX~aRt~XXXX
i wanna know the truth instead of wondering why

#

I rip the foil-lined paper packet apart and drop the dry noodles and green-flecked yellow powder into the bottom of an oversized mug, then slosh a cup and a half worth of boiling hot water over it. The steam that rises from the mug is a facsimile of homemade chicken noodle, but I haven’t had that since I still lived at home. I don’t do much cooking for myself, and even less when I’m sick.

A key in the lock. Mark, my roommate—and God, do I hate that word, every time I say it, I want to die, I’m 35 years old and living with my roommate, this is not the way I thought things would be—undoes the latch and walks into the apartment, prompt as ever.

“I see you’re up and about,” he says when he sees me standing by the counter with the mug clutched in my hands, inhaling deeply. “Feeling better?”

“Sort of,” I say, and my voice sounds thick and clogged with phlegm even to my ears.

Mark throws his keys across the counter, which he knows I hate, but he continues to do it anyway. Fucking roommates. “How about your computer?”

“Fucked,” I say, taking a tentatively sip to test the heat of the soup. For three days I’ve been knocked out by a wicked head cold; as if in sympathy, this morning I booted up my desktop to find that everything—even the backup hard drive—had been wiped out by a virus. “Everything’s gone. Email back-ups, account information, passwords.”

Mark frowns. “Don’t you store anything in the cloud? What about, like, Google?”

“You’ll be first up against the wall when we true tech nerds lead the revolt against Skynet,” I say like I’m joking, but I’m not.

“Your tinfoil hat is showing,” Mark quips but he doesn’t meet my eye. He sorts through the flyers on the kitchen counter. “Junk, junk—ooh, Costco magazine, that one’s mine—” a part of me shrivels up and dies inside, that I could be living with such an individual “—McDonald’s coupons for you, real estate brochure—” he pauses, turns the glossy paper around, then flips back to front. In the time it takes him, I see the woman on the brochure—bright smile against dark skin—and I don’t have to see closer to know that underneath are brown eyes, sparkling and above, a cloud of thick, black hair.

Mark makes a moue. “‘Hannah Dewan’—why does this name sound familiar?”

“We dated.” Mark was a sophomore when I was a senior, though to look at us you’d never be able to guess it, especially not if you were going by who has the most hair. “She was in my year.”

Mark’s eyes widen and his mouth goes into that kind of rictus grin accompanied by raised eyebrows that people get when they know they’ve stepped in something. Unbelievably, he continues anyway: “Didn’t you follow her to college, or something?”

I take a fortifying gulp of soup before answering. “I did. I was supposed to go to U Mich, instead I followed her to Penn State. Enrolled in a couple courses, flunked out before the first term ended. Didn’t work out—there, or with her.” Hannah hadn’t wanted me to go, of course. She told me I should have stayed, and she was right. I just couldn’t let her go that easily.

Mark winces so starkly it almost looks like he’s enjoying the pain. “Brutal.”

“You have no idea.”

I take my mug up to what I picture as the steaming wreckage of my desktop. In reality it’s sitting inert and cold on the desk in my room. I’m determined to drink the rest of my soup in silence.

It’s already frigid and I swallow it in one go, barely registering the feel of the slimy noodles slip-sliding down my throat. I can’t stop thinking about Hannah. If I had to pinpoint one mistake in my life, one decision that had tipped the scales toward one direction instead of another, it had been chasing her so hard that I had pushed her away. It keeps me up at night, this feeling like things could have gone another way. Lately I’d been trolling the dark web for blueprints, convinced I could find a way to fix it. I was pretty sure that’s where the virus that had eaten my computer had come from. But I couldn’t let it go, the chance to do things over. I only needed one shot.

Hannah is the only thing I would go back and change.

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