Time is not linear or progressive. It bends, flowing chaotically, moving us from place to place, from moment to moment. Sometimes you can travel through the minutes and years with an instantaneous thought, recalling sensations and intimacy of a forgotten existence. Sometimes you need a time machine. They really aren’t that hard to come by, you just need to know how to find them. We all have our own, particular to us. They surround us, always ready for use, patiently waiting to bring us through worlds past and present, remembrance of things good and bad.
My latest time machine was a purchase. Usually they are free, but sometimes you need to buy one. This one was small red box decorated with pictures of animals. I originally bought it for my son, as a little surprise, unaware of its transmutable power.
There we were, my boy and I, sitting on a blanket I had laid out on the floor. He rubbed his eyes, still sleepy from an afternoon nap, and his wispy blonde hair stuck up on one side of his head. I sipped Earl Grey. Tea time. One of my favorite moments in the day. I placed the red box in the middle of the blanket. His eyes opened with curiosity. I pulled up the lid, revealing a brown waxy package crimped at the top. A sugary aroma mixed with wheat and cardboard drifts upwards as I pull apart the edges and exotic creatures begin their escape.
I no longer exist in the now.
I am pulled and replaced. My hands are small, fingers long but still a little chubby, poking through a metal framework of squares. My knees are up to my chest, making room for boxes of spaghetti, cans of soup, and a bunch of bananas also residing in my space. My mother and brothers are nearby, but I do not see them. Right now I am obsessed with the same red box, being held by a thin, papery, white string looped around my arm. There is a circus in my little purse. I stop poking my fingers through the side of the cart, reach inside, and pull out a ridiculous monkey with a banana. He is ridiculous because all monkeys are. He runs along my knees, attempting to jump through one of the little metal squares, but today is not his day. I devour him, head first of course. That is the merciful way to do it. Next, I pull out an elephant, who was quite furious that the monkey was let out first, until he, too, realized his fate. One by one, giraffes, hippos, and lions leave in my ultimate enjoyment, until the only crumbs and a few limbs remain.
I begin to move. Traveling forward, my pasts intertwine, where glimpses of my life move through a zoetrope of space and time progressing faster and faster. Memories blur, seconds collide. Faster and faster until I – STOP.
My son has his hand deep in the heart of the circus and pulls out a giraffe. He laughs and knowingly bites off the head first. He is not old enough to time travel yet, but I know I’ll be back here one day – sitting with him and watching his sheer pleasure over his first box of animal crackers. I’ll tell him about it. The day he tamed lions, ate a giraffe, held an elephant in the palm of his hand, and danced around with ridiculous monkeys.