Back into the wayback machine for this choice – which puts in mind the fantasy, wouldn’t it be cool to have a wayback machine? “Yes, but the paradoxes, what you would do to time,” naysayers moan. Yeah, let’s suspend logic; suspend physics, quantum mechanics, all the thinking and all the relative theories. Just pretend you’re a child and play with ideas of all the time travel variations possible.
Just about every house is getting one. It’s the hot holiday gift, and it’s on sale in dozens of places. You, disliking crowds and cold weather, and feeling bored, restless and wanting a change, surf the net and turn to Amazon to check out the offerings and read the reviews. They come up immediately: Wayback Machines. They’re priced at just under six hundred dollars. If you order today, sites claim, “Receive this by Christmas with Free Shipping!”
Okay, but six hundred eggs. Cards are already heavy with spending for the season for toys and clothes, dinners out. But you’re intrigued. You read.
“What’s included: computer interlink, two bracelets, headgear and software.” You skip into the specs and the system requirements, bringing up your system’s information and running a mental checklist.
You have the computer speed, the computer power, an approved OS, the USB ports, everything needed. Well, hell, you should, you blew a wad on this laptop just a year ago for your own special Christmas present because, WTF, you deserve it.
“This is not virtual reality,” a review says. “This the real thing. You are there.”
Yeah, you’ve read the ads, seen them on television during football and baseball games for half the year, talked about them at work while waiting for meetings to begin, swapped information with friends over wine and beer. You know what it’s supposed to be, what it can do.
So you order your Wayback Machine.
Three days later, it arrives. Boxes are in boxes. You’re usually so organized about opening and unpacking boxes, especially things like this, but you’ve become really excited about what it can do.
“Where the fuck is the quick start?” you ask, and it’s right there, the very first thing you pulled out after opening a box, a DVD. There are cables and the headgear, which looks like one of those half-helmets, the small console, the size of your first Roku, resembling a blue and black cigarette back, and the silver and black bracelets.
It’s a clean set-up and install. Breathlessly you power everything up, starting as the program booms, “Welcome,” even thought it’s a soft female voice. Lights are green. The program shows up on your laptop’s screen. You’re sweating and trembling. Well, the heat is running. It’s snowing outside. The wife, children and grandchildren are all out shopping. Then they’re eating somewhere and going ice-skating. You tell your phone to turn down the heat.
Snow falls more heavily outside past the windows. Inside, it’s just you. Your anticipation amazes you. You hope you won’t be disappointed. You put on the bracelets and headgear. The system checks you out. The Wayback program asks, “Do you want to sync with your Fitbit and smart phone?” Hell, yes.
Thirty seconds later, that is done. “Select a year from your life,” the program says.Feeding off a memory, a hope, a dream, you select 1964.
Then shoves now aside. It feels a little violent, more violent than the reviews said it would be like. Your pulse breaks out into something appropriate for finishing a hundred yard dash. Your body –
Oh, my god, you’re back in it, you’re ten years old ago. You’re so skinny. Jesus. It’s amazing how much you look like your grandson, Yuri.
Your young entity is reading a book. The pages swim into your understanding: ‘Stranger in a Strange Land’.
You tear your attention from the page. You’re back in your parents house, Jesus, a place they sold during their divorce in the mid-1970s, back in the wood-paneled game room, built from the finished basement downstairs. In the corner is your father’s bar, positioned back there where he can see the television or play pool. You’re on that leather sofa he and your mother bought for the room. You remember, “This is where the dog barfed,” a disgusting moment that will happen in another year. You won’t even have the dog for a few more months.
There’s the big console TV. Brand new, the huge Zenith can broadcast in color. Taking over your young self – he doesn’t seem to notice – you pick up the remote control, amused at the differences between the technology of your youth, when color TV was new, and the technology of your life, using a computer to come back here. How the fuck is that even possible? You want to explore but you begin carefully, by turning on the television.
There is a show on in black and white. OMG, it’s the Kinks. Jesus, are they still even alive?
Then, releasing everything but enjoyment of the moment, you’re ten and watching the Kinks in your basement in black and white. Everything old is young and new, and you are free to believe that you can change the world.