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Love Conquers All
“What’ll it be?” Mike, the bartender, asks wiping the bar in front of the young man.
“Something strong,” the fellow replies. “And make it a double.”
“Rough day?” Mike asks reaching for a little used bottle of brandy. The barman, pours a hefty shot and sets the drink before the man. “Want to talk about it?” Mike’s an old hand at talking to troubled souls.
“I doubt you’d understand,” the young man replies. “I hardly understand it myself.”
“Oh, I don’t know, I’ve been at this game a long time. Bartending I mean. I’ve probably heard every sad story there is. I doubt your’ll be much different.” Mike pours himself a glass of club soda. It’s mid afternoon and the bar is deserted. “In fact, let me guess. There a girl involved?”
The young man blushes. “I knew it,” says Mike. “It’s usually either love or money. Almost nothing else can drive a man into a bar this early. So, what happened? She dumped you?”
“No, that’s not it at all. We’re still very much in love. I know she loves me and I love her.” The young man sips his drink.
“So then I’m guessing it’s parent trouble. Her folks don’t like you or your folks don’t care for her. Something like that, right?”
“It’s complicated.” The young man finishes his drink and motions for another.
“Yeah,” says Mike. “It’s always complicated when parents are involved. Sometimes nothing pleases them. Why I remember...”
“No, no, it’s nothing like that,” says the young man interrupting. “Her folks like me well enough and my folks never even met her.”
“So, if it’s not parents and she didn’t dump you then it must be about money. Is that it?”
“No,” the young man shakes his head. “Money’s not an issue. I’ve got plenty of money.”
“Okay then,” Mike shrugs. “You got me. I give, what’s the issue?”
The young man shakes his head and sips his drink as if deciding whether to explain the problem to a total stranger. Finally reaching a decision, he says, “It’s Time. Time’s the problem. Time and the laws of physics are the problem.”
Mike is stunned into silence. “Time?” he asks not quite comprehending what he has heard.
“I told you you wouldn’t understand.”
“Look, I may not be the brightest guy on the block but please, give me a chance. Tell me how Time is causing so much trouble.” Mike refills his club soda and tops off the young man’s glass.
“Okay, here’s the story. I don’t care whether you believe it or not. This girl, the girl I love, we met 25 years in the future. Right now, it this moment, she isn’t even born yet and won’t be for four more years.”
“Whoa! Hold on a sec. You met her in the future?” Mike is on his feet. “How did you get to the future? You have a time machine or something?”
“I had one. I don’t anymore.”
“What happened to it?”
“Stolen. Kids broke into my apartment and cleaned me out. They took all my electronics.” The young man put his head on the bar, reliving the painful scene in his head. “They must have thought it was my game box or something they could sell. They took my stereo and my lap top too. It took me six months to build that time machine. Six months.”
“So build another one. In six months you’ll be back together. Surely she’ll wait six months. C’mon cheer up. It’s not like you’ll never see her again.”
“Oh sure, I can build another one, and I can travel into the future again, but I’ll never be able to go to that exact same future. One thing you can’t do is visit the exact same future twice. That particular future, the one where we met, that future is gone.”
“What do you mean, gone?”
“Here’s where the laws of physics come in. The future is the result of all the collective decisions we make. It is all random probability, completely uncertain. It’s the result of a billion trillion separate decisions happening every instant; should I drink this now or later? Someone in Mexico has corn flakes for breakfast instead of oatmeal; some woman in India decides not to answer her phone. Every decision you or I make has an effect on the future. A tiny effect, to be sure, but that’s how it works. Do I drink my drink now or two seconds from now? Do I leave? Do I laugh? The result of those tiny decisions and a billion just like them have an impact on the future. They are the force that creates the future. Now do you understand?”
“Hold on a second, let me see if I have this straight. You’re saying that the future is not fixed or inevitable. It’s completely random. And that’s why you can’t go back and see your girl?”
“That’s right, every future is unique. The future I could transport to right now is different than the one I visited yesterday or the one I could visit a minute from now. Granted not much different but not exactly the same either. A future six months from now will be so different as to be unrecognizable. If I go there, if I find her, she won’t know who I am. She might not even exist at all. Maybe she wasn’t born or her parents never met. There’s so much random chance in the system and it’s constantly changing. Don’t you see, I’ve lost her. I lost my one chance at happiness.”
After a pause, the young man resumes. “So you see my problem? There are an infinite number of probable futures some of them pretty grim and some of them great the problem is that none of them are fixed. It’s the immutable laws of physics and, I’m afraid, this is one obstacle even true love can’t overcome.”
Here the young man put his head in his hands and wept. Mike looked concerned but what could he do? Maybe the kid was right. What did he know about time travel and future probabilities? What Mike could see was opportunity. The heck with true love, here was a chance to make some serious cash. Forget ten, twenty years in the future. How about next week’s lottery numbers? Wouldn’t that be sweet?
When the young man got a grip on his emotions, Mike poured him another drink. “On the house, kid,” Mike said. Mike could see that the young man was already feeling the effects of the alcohol. “Look, kid, I don’t know anything about time travel but I do know a couple of things about love. If there’s one chance in a million that you can find her again, then you have to take it. Build your machine again. Let me know when it’s ready, I’d like to see it.”
“Sure, sure. I’ll bring it by,” said the young man slurring his words. “You’ve been a real pal, Mike, a real pal, thanks for listening to me and thanks for the drinks. I owe you one.”
Mike shakes his hand and pats him on the back. “That’s alright, kid. We’ll settle up later.”
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