It was a scene I had only imagined as a child. My grandmother’s house bustling with people, the smell of freshly percolated coffee piping from her stove-top, the aroma filling the tiny apartment. How this space held her, her husband, and their dozen children, I couldn’t comprehend. My childhood had been the complete opposite – I had my very own room, open spaces to run and play, and our cupboards were always full. Which is why I chose to come here, to create a sense of ease, although not to alter the past too drastically. If I had learned anything from my previous slips, it was that there truly was no way to change the past, but there were elements that could be improved. So, that’s what I was going to do, I would make some improvements.
I sat at my grandmother’s dining room table, covered with the cloth which would one day become my own, my father’s dying words ringing in my ears, “It was you who saved me, Ronnie. Do not hesitate, do not fear, now you’ll have me to watch over you, just as you watched over me.” He squeezed my hand with a strength you wouldn’t expect from a frail, 91 year old, dying man. I had no idea what he was talking about that October night one year ago, but I nodded my head, tears tapping his hospital gown, as I watched him fade away. Sitting here now, I couldn’t decide if I felt a sense of peace or sadness. In a few hours this would all be gone, and I would return to a time when none of these people exist, but right here, right now, they were real.
No matter how many times I imagined it, no matter how many times I rehearsed it, nothing could have prepared me for the moment my father, well, the 17 year old version of my father, came through the door. I heard his voice at first, “Ma! I’m home!” It was a ghost, but unmistakable. I fought hard not to cry as I felt the vacancy in my chest widen and practically consume me.
“In the kitchen, Sonny!” she summoned. He appeared almost as quickly as he died, skinnier than the grown man I knew, and devilishly handsome, his Italian features newer than I had ever seen. He greeted his mother with a kiss before he even noticed my presence at the table. He looked at me for a moment and smiled his welcome, “Who are you?” he then asked, his New York approach not to be confused with rudeness, only direct and to the point.
I fought the urge to jump up and hug him, as well as the urge I had to never leave, I was about to reply when his mother answered as she bustled about her kitchen, pouring coffee, preparing dinner, and tending to the needs of her infinite number of children, “She’s the daughter of your great uncle, I think. She says she’s a Rizzo, a cousin, on your father’s side.” I smiled and nodded my head, averting my eyes as to avoid any sense of true recognition. As ridiculous as it sounds, I couldn’t help but feel exposed, the family resemblance was obvious, but my features were softer than theirs, the tiny bit of Irish I inherited from my mother was a blessing among the stereotypical Italian noses and dark hair. But my eyes, my eyes were his, and the most revealing.
Funny how the past looks identical to the future, I mused, in an attempt to redirect my thoughts. I suppose it’s rather silly, but before I met Jonah, I could only imagine that the past took place in black and white, like the pictures I had seen. The reality is that October 20, 1941 looked relatively the same as October 20, 2017, with one exception, my father was still alive and I had something to tell him.
Suddenly, I felt the need to run. Run out the door and back to the rat-infested storage space in the basement of the apartment building a few blocks down. In moments I could be back at Jonah’s time anchor and back to all things familiar.
Only hours ago, Jonah set the date anchor and opened the portal. Thousands of bursts of electricity were sent through my body through a series of leads, although I had no real idea of how all of this worked. He had explained it to me a thousand times, but I never understood. It was a design by Nikola Tesla, which Jonah improved with modern technology. It was quite simple when you removed all of the mind-bending mathematics. It had something to do with the combination of magnetic fields, psychic energy, and a tiny thing called “electrocution.” It actually isn’t as bad as it sounds, although painful at first, by my third time, I had learned how to focus on the result, rendering the means of my travel, insignificant.
Tesla nearly died when testing it, but he lived to tell of seeing the past, present, and future, all at once. However this contraption worked, I knew that I trusted Jonah’s genius, even if I was the only one who did. I believed in him. A remarkable scientist, he was, and I knew he was waiting for me right now. No, I had to put all of that aside. I forced myself to regain my mental composure and focus on the task at hand.