A Date in Time

Dearest Rachel –

I tend to take it as a good sign when I’m able to construct an entire story with my mind in my dreams. If nothing else, it suggests that I’m getting a full nights sleep in the process.

I wish I could ask you about this story, because it seems so familiar, almost cliché. Boy inadvertently and unknowingly travels through time/space rift, boy meets girl, boy discoveries girl is the love of his life, boy returns to his own timeline and tries find girl and convince her that they belong together, hilarity ensues. It actually sounds like a stuck plot among us science-fiction fans. And yet, as my mind has tried to fill in the details that either are fading from my subconscious even now, or weren’t there in the first place an need to be filled in, the more this looks like a totally unique story line where the only surprise is that it hasn’t been turned into a summer rom-com movie – albeit a relatively forgettable one, since I don’t remember seeing it, even as I acknowledge its familiarity.

The first weird part about its nature is that my mind insisted the story was based on a comic strip. Considering that most comic strips in the west are four panel gag strips, this seems rather unlikely; those with a continuing story tend to be more on the dramatic side, and this was decidedly… not dramatic. It would be more believable if it were based on a manga – not only are there more manga with a long, involved story, but the setting wouldn’t be quite as out of place in Japan, either, despite the fact that my mind insisted that this was set in Los Angeles, or at least, Southern California. You’ll understand why these are inconsistencies in a moment.

The story begins in 1997 (although the story doesn’t make an effort to hit the viewer over the head with that fact at first – the thing is, the news stories of a given time period rarely have that much impact on the average person living through said time, unless they’re part of making them. But I digress), with a young man who’s recently graduated – presumably from college, but possibly from high school, I suppose. He’s on a vacation trip with his family to this big city built on a series of closely-connected islands (no, it’s not New York – that’s too close, and those islands are actually too big), and while not exactly bored out of his mind, is most appreciative of the fact that he is allowed to wander about the city – or at least, the island the family is staying on – on his own recognizance.

The thing is, the only one they’re staying on is fairly small, and after browsing through several storefronts – particularly a bookstore (which might be the one indicator of the temporal setting – it might even be a Borders, complete with coffee bar and reading area, but probably not, as downtown storefront boutiques tend to be smaller than the places we’re used to shopping at here in the ’burbs. There might be a meta moment, in which he reads a comic book with the story of the movie as he’s there, but that might have been a little too on the nose), he decides to hop a water taxi and check out the next island over. Maybe he’ll even hop to the one after that, should he have the time and the nerve.

The boat serving as the water taxi is a curious thing. It’s considerably smaller than the Sonny-S among the Lake Erie islands, but it’s clearly built to carry multiple passengers and groups, as opposed to a single driver ferrying one group on call. Indeed, there are several other families aboard the boat with our protagonist – which means, they would be dealing with the same disruption as he will be (I know, I know, I’m getting ahead of myself) – but, for whatever reason, my mind never bothered to address their situation, or if they were phased by it at all, or if this was a normal part of life in this place. Probably not, which means this should have been addressed by the story, but hey… there was the main plot to get into; who cares what happened to these people?

Anyway, considering that the boat did contain other people, the focal character found himself transported several island beyond where he’d originally intended to go. But, as he’s there as a tourist, he decides to roll with it, as sightseeing on one island is as much the same as on any other. There will be things and places to see here just as much as on his intended destination; maybe more, in fact.

Of course, he’s quite right, although not at all in the way he might expect. People on this island seem to actually know him, and greet him by name. They also complement him on how young and healthy he looks – some may say something about his trip away from there has done him a world of good (get it? World? ’Cause he’s been traveling? Yeah, one of the natives might actually sound like that). There are frequent references to him about how some girl is waiting and looking for him; since I’m remembering the name ‘Fran’ for whatever reason, I’ll call her that. In any event, he is urged to go see her by multiple people and they greet and talk to him. Meanwhile, while he feels somewhat – and somehow – comfortable talking to most of them, he grows increasingly perplexed as to how and why he is so well-known to the folks of this island, and why he should know who this Fran is. There might also be some astonishment at the technology each of them carries with them, but it’s pretty much downplayed, as the natives see nothing unusual about their own mobile phones, even as he gawks at them.

Because, you see, on this island, it appears to be the year 2017. There’s not that much apparent difference to the place, and it shouldn’t be remarked upon – after all, to the viewer, both times are in the past, and to the natives, the time is the time. Who expects someone to show up from somewhen else, after all? It’s assumed that everyone knows what date it is, and so our protagonist doesn’t think to ask – he wouldn’t necessarily know anything has changed, not having been there before – nor do the natives think to fill him in, assuming he’s the long-time resident they’ve known for years, albeit looking better than he ever has to them, for reasons we may understand, but won’t occur to them.

Fran turns out to be an older woman, not so much a Mrs. Robinson type as perhaps a Cool Big Sis. While she may come off as being slightly over affectionate as far as our protagonist is concerned, she’s both pretty and friendly enough to go along with, and the two of them spend a wonderful time together, seeing everything one can of the island together as they can in the course of a single day. I don’t believe my mind I went into great detail about this, but this is the sort of thing that montages are made of.

At some point over dinner – and it could very well be a romantic candlelit dinner – he realizes that his family will most likely be wondering where he is, and he will point this out to Fran, even as he expresses a desire to stay. She reacts with surprise, and replies with “but isn’t your family located in…?” pinpointing the state and city where they do, in fact, reside. At this point, he may actually be getting slightly nervous – how does this woman know all this about me and my family, when I know next to nothing about, her save for what she’s told me today? – but the dots haven’t quite been connected in his mind yet. Again, why would they? It isn’t like this happens in real life, after all.

When he responds by informing her that they’re actually staying on an island nearby, she reacts with a measure of anticipation, wanting to see them again, as “it’s been so long.” At this point, our main character has had enough, and wants to know what she’s talking about, since they only just met, and she should know nothing about his family. To which she replies that, since they’re her in-laws, they’re as much a part of her family, too, and of course she should know about them. Doesn’t he realize this?

At this point, dream logic kicked in in a rather meta way (although I may just be filling in gaps in my dream), as our protagonist finds himself back in the bookshop on the original island. He resolves to travel to the neighboring island (which does exist – its not like Brigadoon or anything) and find Fran, only to discover a girl some five or six years his junior. This time, of course, he’s stayed within the bounds of time. So he tells her to wait for him, and he will make her his bride soon enough.

There are more details that were implied in the story – there’s the suggestion that he left the island in 2016 or so for his health, or possibly even died off-island, which would explain Fran’s joy at seeing him again, particularly in his prime like this – but they were more touched on than fleshed out in the course of a single night’s sleep. There’s also the question as to whether he was an author avatar, and Fran represented you, but I don’t think so. I couldn’t tell you why, and there were a lot of similarities between him and me, and you and her, but there were the differences, too. In any event, it certainly sounds like the kind of story that could make for a decent novella, or even a light and fluffy summer romcom movie. But I didn’t get the happy ending you’d expect, because I didn’t get an ending at all. I just… woke up.

Still, that’s quite a lot to work with, don’t you think?

Anyway, I’ll talk to you later. Until then, honey, keep an eye out for me, and wish me luck. I’m gonna need it.

Published by randy@letters-to-rachel.memorial

I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

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