It was just as exciting as the first time around, though that was at night, this in the daytime, that down a dark street hoping to connect with a lightning bolt, this time into a flimsy wall with acres of desert beyond. I watched him leave for the second time in two weeks and all the excitement suddenly faded - he was gone, and all my knowledge of him would have to wait until we saw each other again in a distant future.
I would have to then spend my life rebuilding the time machine. It was imperative that this become my first priority. I would have to abandon the plan to communicate with fish, reengineer the project that involved building a matter transporter, and altogether scrap the mind connection device, although I suspected it wasn’t going anywhere anyway. I planned and figured and ruminated as I walked back toward home, and firmly kept the door shut on any sadder thoughts, creep though they would around the edges of my consciousness.
It was absolutely imperative that Marty make his way into the past, and then back to the future having saved my future self. I could just glimpse, in the corners of an untold tale there on the gravestone, the possibilities of freedom, strength, and happiness, those I could never achieve living my life in the circumstances I found myself in. To work with my hands in the Wild West, to be loved by, well, a woman, to have the freedom to live and invent with all the knowledge of what the future might hold - it was quite a dream to dream into the future.
Who was Clara, this mysterious figure calling herself beloved by me? What was love anyway? And my mind became suffused in sensation, in memory, and, ah, there the sadder thoughts drifted in unbidden. Marty was gone. I would not see him for many years. In my time his parents had only just discovered each other. An engagement would follow, a wedding, the birth of two children, and then a brilliant third one, a child who would become a boy who would become a man who would entirely change my world. Because love! - I had known love in these past two weeks, I had lived all its bright colours and deep blues, and I had sent him to myself, not knowing if I was sending him to a self that remembered him differently, had cared for him as a friend, not a lover.
But I had loved him. In all my days I had never been able to understand or connect with a woman, although, I could see that this would change in the future/past. And loving men was, of course, not what was done. Not here, not now. Maybe north in San Francisco things were a little freer, but in this small town, you’d find yourself in trouble if the slightest whisper of that was heard.
Marty didn’t seem to care, though. The future must be very different, much better, the strangest of seas, the brightest of shores. A person can be himself there, love a man, love a woman. For does it really matter which you love? You love a human being, and it is all and only love. I firmly believe that love, truly and freely given cannot be evil, for pure love is the desire to see the beloved one happy, even if that means sending them from you, even if the future will stretch out beyond the horizon until you see them again.
Tears sprang unbidden into my eyes at that, and for a moment I wanted to sit down by the roadside and cry until my tears could not be measured in a beaker. Of course I could not do this, it would be unmanly, and if I cried at this, some part of me felt I would be taking back the great sacrifice I had made. I could not keep Marty with me, he was not of my time. I had to send him back, one way or another. Those kisses, the way he touched me, the look in his eyes as we lay in bed together, all those were temporary, given knowing they would not last. We both knew it was a fragile thing, a desert flower that would soon be blown to pieces in the wind.
And I was not even aware that I had stopped moving at all as I gazed up into the blue of a wide open sky with unseeing eyes, remembering the bright new world that had opened up to me with his touch. Feeling his hands sliding down my body, leaving fire in their wake - the memory was so strong that I shivered just as I did then, helpless and awash with sensation.
His eyes - his voice - my hands in his hair, clasping him to me. The feel of our bodies touching together for the first time with nothing but skin between us, the softness of his hair under my fingers, the breathlessness of every gasp he made. All of it, burned into my memory as if it were done with a branding iron.
And I understood then, standing under a clear blue sky in the middle of desert land that would one day be houses, why I’d sent him back. We would meet, and go on from there, back to the future together. Clara didn’t matter, the future would change. The only thing that mattered is that Marty and I would be together, and together we would wander on stranger seas and brighter shores into the far future, and into the past. We would explore together, we would find a way to live out our dreams.
I always did want a flying train, I thought, beginning to walk again, down the road towards home. Maybe they have them in the future. We could live on a flying train converted into a house, and it would have rockets at the back, and it would fly so high that maybe, just maybe, Marty and I could reach the moon, and all the stars.