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An Einstein Dream

18 JUNE 2004

A young man walks behind the steel railings across Tower Records in Glorietta. His hand swipes the wooden trimming with his hand and takes a deep breath. He contemplates about a friend who has gone to another country and has never written back. An escalator brings in people from outside, out of their offices to inhale the artificial fresh air of the mall. He stayed there for a minute or two, watching and being watched before proceeding to the bookstore behind him. An actor from a local reality show and his mother sip coffee at a cafe opposite him.

Eight days ago he was with his best friend talking about going to another country the next day, over the steel railings. His friend is waiting for his wife, who later will be introduced to him. An hour ago they were walking within the Ayala Terminal towards the newly-renovated department store. His friend was grateful that he knew the path, else he would go down from the station and walk in the harsh afternoon sun.

They were supposed to part at Tower Records because he will proceed to Powerbooks at Greenbelt to search for a photography magazine. It was really an excuse to be with his best friend until the last minute before going to the United States. He was strangely ashamed to admit that he will definitely miss him by tomorrow. The last in the circle of his friends who have gone, have or have not heard of again.

He would change his mind and go to Tower Records to read Alan Lightman, and finds that his friend is still there, hands over the steel railings, waiting for his wife. He joins him and his friend talks about how he hates the waiting game that his wife plays on him. When the wife finally appears and was introduced, they part and he proceeds to the bookstore.

In this world time is a straight arrow but scientists were able to establish the existence of tunnels that can go back to a specific point, technically known as wormholes. Everybody can choose which point they can go back to--the last minutes before friends part forever, the kiss and the embrace of a forgotten lover, the wisp of tobacco from a grandmother's breath, the first ray of sunshine after a monsoon.

The arrow of time is like a personal railroad track, like the young man, every person can choose to go back to the terminals he has laid down. These people would go back time and again to the happiest events in their lives and would be contented with what has happened, while others go on straight ahead willing to go back someday through the backdoor of time.

The young man would be at the railings, stare at people coming in, take a deep breath, at exactly the same time they parted. A Monday later his friend finally writes a letter to him and he was happy. Finally, he said, another terminal that I can go back to, closing and reopening the letter, like the moment he received it fresh from the post office. The smell of ink wafts to his nose as it did when he first opened his friend's letter.

In this world everybody is permitted to go back to a previous time, their heartbeats slow down but their minds grow to maturity, for every travel they make bears a new perspective to the events that previously took shape before their eyes. An ardent lover writes the same letter of courtship to a woman who did not remit his passion, in the hope of finally reciprocating his love. But in this world, in the tunnel of time, he was the only one who came back.

The woman proceeds to marry an engineer, bears two daughters, and graduates at the Ateneo Graduate School of Business, but keeps receiving the same letter. The lover whines at the unrequitted love but chose to go back at the exact moment when he writes exactly the same words on the same perfumed stationery. He traps himself in a capsule of happiness that only existed in that point in the arrow of time.

In this world, the heart remains a child. It wants to come back to the terminal of its choice in the tracks of time, as soon as possible. A balloon, a lollipop, a toffee right here, right now. Its revenge is in the form of a sulk. It seeks the laughter of its woman, the tenderness of a forbidden kiss in the stairwell, the tightness of a friend's parting embrace.

This world is a subway full of people who want to go back at their own schedule, in their own cabins, to their chosen points in time.

“An Einstein Dream”

  1. Anonymous CF Says:

    For some reason, this entry reminds me of the Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. :D