In the Timeline Where the Moscow Metro Opened in 1934
by S.L. Harris
In the timeline where the Moscow Metro opened in 1934, we live together in a khrushchyovka on Bourbon Street and eat green caviar on waffles. Times are hard but we love each other like we never love each other, like we never love anyone else, in all the hundreds of millions of timelines I've seen.
I leave because I think I might find something better, and I've been trying to find my way back ever since. Not back, you can never go back. But trying to find another life where we have what we had in the khrushchyovka on Bourbon Street.
My first stop after I leave--the timeline where great Alexander's army never revolted--I lose you in the crush of the party where I meet you and never find you again. That's all right. I've been through enough lives to know not to expect immediate success.
A few hundred timelines later--the one where Apollo 1 made its launch--we're married. We have two children, good jobs, a small circle of friends. When we're alone we're polite but distant. I go to sleep each night aching for those mornings listening to Leonard Cohen and Vladimir Vysotsky on the crank radio while the garbage truck rattles down the street. I slip out one night while you sleep.
In the timeline where Santa Anna crushed Winfield Scott at Cerro Gordo, our fights are so terrible that I leap away and seek timelines in which I die horribly: cancers and mutant wolves and zeppelin crashes. But I can never go through with it. At the last minute, the pain closing in, the jaws clamping shut, the spark catching fire, I leave. I am a coward.
Hope returns to me in the timeline where Abdul Rahman won the Battle of Poitiers. We spend languid afternoons walking in the orange gardens of the Gulf, and I sing to you sad songs in which your lips are carnelian and your eyes those of a young fawn. Years we live in what I think is perfect harmony, but I find you in the arms of another poet. It is a brief thing, and we could perhaps have talked it through, but I cannot forgive you. I cannot forgive myself for not knowing your unhappiness. I slam the door and step into another life.
We do not meet in every timeline. But in most. People might be surprised at this, but people don't generally understand anything about time or destiny. The odds are not small where destiny is concerned.