The Time Traveler’s Lament | 4

I was away for the last couple days in your time. I apologize for that.

Other timelines tend to pull at my synapses and suddenly I am by a roaring river said to have run dry centuries ago, legs folded in the red clay-colored dust, smiling into the gentle mist. Jumping into those truly peaceful and pleasant timelines are few and far removed, to see what humanity did not touch. Far more likely, to see what suffering we have allowed to endure.

That is the thing about time travel they don’t tell you about. The randomness of it all. In an instant you are pulled from your monotonous life doing food deliveries from sunrise to sunset to afford your small bedroom in your late-stage capitalism society. You blink and your nimble fingers are rushing to clear a jam in your loom in an overcrowded textile mill some three hundred years before, to afford your family’s small room in the onset of the great industrial project.

Still trapped in monotony, but the smells are different here. The sounds. The sky is not yet so full of smog, but the air still wreaks of resignation. “This is our lot,” the collective utters as if in prayer, “and it is the noblest action, to accept it in ‘pleace’.”

Peace. That is the one thing all us time travelers seem to lack. It is our burden to see what others do not — will not — the depth of this unchanging state that endures through the ages. It is in fact, not time that heals or does not heal.

It is by our own hands that we keep wounds from closing. The garden, spoken of by so many mythologies throughout our collective existence, from resurrecting itself. It is us.

In the many times I have already seen, we sing the same song. “That is how things are.” “That is how things must be.” Peace, has so often been a function of benign neglect of our surroundings — our kindred — as we watch whatever “power that be” of that time decimate their newest target for resources or for acclaim.

The Romans did it with ease. “That’s just the way things are done.”

Have you seen the Water Protectors fighting Line Three? “That’s just the way things are done.”

Returning to my proper time is never easy, but hearing the same lullabies as I drift off to sleep no matter the civilization, no matter the era, no matter the style of dress or particular choice of delicacies — it helps. My eyes flutter open and I hear the purr of an engine. There are birds twittering outside my window. The curtains have been pulled open, and I gaze uneasily into the daylight, remembering too much at once.

This is my life. To watch in my own time as we repeat the past I’ve just stepped from. As I struggle between my desire to survive, and my desire to fight for something better. A fight that might cost me my freedom — yes, even in the year 2021 we still are not free, as though years removed from trauma had ever erased unhealed trauma. A fight that might cost me my life.

The word “decolonization” perches at the tip of my tongue as I recall with profound clarity the moment I first witnessed my own ancestors hunched over in endless fields of cotton, their fingers bloody as they prick their fingers again and again to pull the soft white stuffs from the plant. Over and over without end.

And in my own time, I chance to look at the tag of my fast fashion shirt, and it reads ‘98% cotton’.

And I wonder whose fingers still bleed to clothe my back today.

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