The Party

Every year, I travel back in time to that day. My younger self, and my husband, are waiting for me. I get the tears out of the way first. I brush my hair, put on make-up, dress up, try to be presentable. Every year I’m a little older, so every year I try to look a little nicer.

He’s waiting for me every year, along with all my younger selves. Each of them got there a few minutes before me. Each one of them said their piece. We have the next year to think of how we’d say goodbye to our beloved.

When I developed time travel, I swore I’d cure his cancer. Go to the future, come back with a cure. That didn’t happen. Oh, there’s cures to be found. But when they’re used early enough, my past self would get obsessed with biology and medicine instead, scrap the temporal physics, and I’d run into paradox.

I tried taking him away from her, spiriting him to the future for a cure there. Another paradox. The truth is I couldn’t have made the discovery without him. Even as he was dying, he was my strength, my light, my hope. He kept me going with everything he had. He said, before the end, that inspiring me had kept him going too. I hope it was true, and not just another shot in the arm.

In our last days together, in the original timeline, we’d agreed that we would set apart 24 hours, and wait, to see if future versions of us came back to say “hi”. It’s always just me. The first few times I saw his face fall, as my early visits came in the morning. By mid-day, decades had gone by for me. He was smiling more, happier, just glad to see me.

It’s now mid-afternoon on the day of the party. There’s plenty of cake and booze. Dubbed Italian science fiction movies - a secret favorite of both of us - are playing on the big screen. I’ve said my piece. It’s no longer a heartfelt declaration of love. He’s heard a dozen of those. Now it’s about how our mutual friends are doing. How their kids are growing up. What’s going on in the neighborhood. Small things. Important things.

He smiles, and nods along. I can tell he likes hearing this stuff. I haven’t told him what I really want to say. How I’ve tried, and tried, over and fucking over, to cure his cancer. That the whole point of time travel was wasted. That my life was worthless. I know what he’d tell me. “I got to see you again. That’s enough for me.”

I made a promise to heal him through time travel. I can’t keep that one. But I made another promise, a long time ago. “Til death do us part”. If I can’t give him more life, I can at least grow old with him. Not the way we both thought, of course. But I’ll take this one last day with him, for as long as we both shall live.