Free Write: Time Travel Love Affairs
Just woke up a few hours ago from an epic dream/nightmare, a haunting tale of time travel, space, tragic romantic love, and friendships that last generations.
There are these two men, a captain and another officer who barely know each other, and their space ship crash lands back to Earth in the middle of the ocean. They survive and make it to an island, let’s say it’s Puerto Rico or something, and discover that they’ve time traveled many centuries into the past, maybe 18th or 19th century Puerto Rico, and have no idea how to make it back. In the course of trying to figure things out and survive, they meet these two families.
The officer falls in love with the oldest daughter and it’s like a pure, sweet, non-problematic love, okay? It’s one of those meant to be by the fates kind of (fictional) loves. But his captain reminds him that he doesn’t belong there and needs to find a way back home with him, which they do struggle to do as their own friendship develops over dinners with this family and they also meet and get to know another, more privileged family.
They ultimately develop a plan to make it home but, before they can do that, the officer decides he wants to see this girl one last time to say good-bye. So one night he and the captain try to make it to the girl’s home via a river that leads to a bridge and a neighborhood street at the end of her home’s property. She’s waiting for him, with members of both families who have also arrived to say good-bye. She runs down to the bridge to see him but there’s a catastrophic accident, an explosion or something of some kind, that prevents her from getting to him. It’s chaos. The whole town is screaming and confused because the accident is massive. Two men, one from each family, run to save the other two men and the girl from the explosion and resulting fires and damage. They all make it out alive but there’s no time left now (because sci-fi time travel laws) and they have to go. So all the officer can say is “I’ll come back for you; remember me.” And he and the captain somehow fly out, watching the families they met and the town and the destruction turn to dots as space forms back around them and they make it back to their own century.
But time travel isn’t done with them. They return home, seemingly to normal life, their own relationship now gone from that of distant professional coworkers to one more akin to that of brothers, having shared something deeply personal that no one else can understand. In time they move on with their lives and their careers and they become best friends, which the officer seems to have kind of expected and which is new to the captain, who is used to being emotionally removed from other people and being a-romantic. Ten years or so later, the captain time travels again. This time, a la The Time Traveler’s Wife, he travels to his best friend’s childhood. He meets his officer as a little boy and even meets his mom. The mom and the little boy-officer tell him “We’ve been waiting for you” and that “One day, you’re gonna be my best friend and you’re gonna help me.” The captain is shaken, because now he understands why the officer was not surprised when they became best friends, why he seemed to already know him when they met, why he seemed to even expect their long-ago crash landing into the past.
He remembers an old family tale of his that he never took seriously. He remembers family friends growing up that he didn’t work hard enough to stay close to as he grew up even as his own mother admonished him to remember them. The tale goes that the captain’s family and this other family have been long-connected. That generations, centuries, ago, two men crash landed onto their island, that their families made these men welcome and helped them survive, that one of them fell in love with one of their daughters, and that it was the other man’s job as friend and semi-brother to help that man survive and find that daughter again. These two families, they believed, were the ancestors of those two men. Since that crash landing, each generation of each family had passed the tale along, reminding their children that they never knew when the men would come back. That no matter what, each generation should know each other and should know that it was their responsibility to welcome and help these men should they come back in their time. And, if not, to remember that one day, one of them might be the men in question, and to expect help from them and from the other in the other family.
The officer had believed the tales and done a great job of sticking with the families, the captain had not and had therefore not recognized the officer when they met as adults. But now, the captain understood it all. He visited the officer as a boy several more times and now, years after the “original” crash, he developed a plan. The captain and the officer time travel again, on purpose, but aim imperfectly at their destination. As a result, they end up visiting each subsequent generation, creating more stories and a stronger sense of duty and belief in the families. They get to know various generations of sons and daughters and witness various levels of friendship between the families. Sometimes they know each other well, sometimes their relationships are from a distance. The men in the captain’s family are sometimes decent simple people and sometimes privileged assholes who still manage to believe enough to do a crazy thing for visiting time-travelers and a crazy love story.
But the story turns dark, as each visit seems to bring more and more tragedy. Some of the men from the past die trying to save or protect them. Sometimes citizens, total strangers in the town, die. Sometimes they find the girl and she waits just to watch a cousin or a friend die trying to bring this man to her. It gets to where the three, the daughter, the captain, the officer, all wonder why they keep doing this, whether it’s worth all the death and destruction. It all begins to feel so hopeless. But it almost seems beyond their control at this point. There’s no going back and enough people, members of their own families, have sacrificed themselves now that they must keep going. There are explosions, there are floods, there are wolves, even goddamn pets get sacrificed. But each generation just tries harder and keeps each lost family member in their memories and in their photo albums, and their bonds just grow stronger.
Until, eventually, it all goes right. They arrive at the right time, the right spot, to the “original” crash. And this time, as the two men journey down the river toward the bridge that fateful evening, knowing death may be waiting for someone, and she runs down the street toward the bridge, dreading what may happen this time, and the various family members successfully prevent violent tragedy, this time, the officer arrives at the bridge. She arrives and she sees the street lights glowing over him, their families, hers, his, the captain’s, gathering around them to witness the fruit of their long struggle and their long dedication to loyalty, friendship, and familism. “Marry me,” he finally gets to say and she cries and laughs and says “Yes.”
And this time, he and the captain take her away and they go back to their own time together, the three of them, to live the rest of their lives together. Her sisters and the captain’s ancestors had children and passed the stories along, making it all possible in a loop of failure and ultimate success. And they now make one family, the evidence of multiple generations of love and friendship documented in browned softened photographs in photo albums. They make a mosaic of meaning and relationships - all these unique individuals who they met and remember though they died years ago. Now this new family can tell their stories and make stories of their own, with a new respect for relationships that the captain, in particular, and many of us, didn’t have before.