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Alex Sobel is a psychiatric nurse living in Toledo, OH. His writing has appeared in publications such as Electric Literature, The Saturday Evening Post Online, Dark Matter Magazine, and Hippocampus Magazine.

She pays, gladly. Of course. It was his money, anyway. Using it to see him again seems right, something wiped clean, fractions evened out, remainders made whole.
How far back?
She wants to go back more, as far as possible. Maybe before he was sick, even. But two years is the limit the doctor from the company gives her, his voice serious, concerned.
Any more than that would be too much, he says. Would give away the illusion, might hurt the momentum of time.
Aren't I doing that anyway? she asks.
No, because no one will know, you have to pretend to be the old you, the doctor says. You can't betray who you really are, when you're really from.
She tries to imagine who she was then, before everything happened, before him.
Nothing comes to mind.
Before going in for the procedure, she gets a coffee at the place, nothing special, but it was her routine, something else lost, that he ruined. She hasn't been there since he died, but it feels like an acting exercise. She pretends she's herself, years ago, getting the same drink, sitting in the same seat that always seemed to be vacant when she came.
The coffee is just okay, but still, there's something, memories, catching like burrs, holding on.
What are you gonna do when you get there? a man in the waiting room asks. He looks lost, almost confused, like he's just woken up here, doesn't know where he is, where he belongs
She shakes her head. It's only ten minutes, she says. Tough choice.
The man leans in. With my wife? I ain't saying nothing. She's gonna yell at me for something stupid like leaving the TV on all night or forgetting to take out the trash. And I'm gonna stand and listen because she ain't around to be mad at me, anymore. Because I miss it and I don't even know why.
She has things she wants to say, wants him to know. Things she needs him to understand, that she wish she has said when he was alive.
She starts a list in her head.
Will he remember this? she asks a nurse with soft features and kind eyes.
He will, from what I understand, the nurse says, attaching telemetry, mumbling a mnemonic to herself before attaching the pads to different spots on her chest.
He'll remember. He did remember. She realizes that this has already happened to him, that time wants to move one way.
That this was yet another thing between them.
There's a slight burn across her skin, reminding her of menthol, and then she's there. Naked, empty handed. A woman quickly approaches her with clothes, a purse, everything she'll need to slip into her old self.
You know where to go, where he'll be? the woman asks.
She nods. She knows everything.
His money was nice, allowed her to do so many things. She has her career now, a life she never imagined.
But the cost. No currency would cover.
The woman give her a piece of paper to write down anything she wants to say, so she doesn't forget.
She knows the gist, what she wants him to know. But the tone is hard to nail down. Does she want him to cry? To feel desperate, alone? Guilty?
He did so much wrong, hurt her so much over the years.
It's only ten minutes.
Remember, nothing to give away that you're from the future, the worker tells her before letting her go, out into the world. It's like the worker knows the plan, is suspicious already.
He's having lunch, alone. As far she knows. It isn't far, a few blocks. The piece of paper is still blank.
Blank. She thinks about it, about how this has already happened, that he didn't change, didn't apologize, never considered he'd been in the wrong. Despite what she does now, what she says, it doesn't matter. His decision has already been made and it's too late to fix him.
With this, she finds her pace speeding up, her feet moving her in the opposite direction.
Away from him.
You'll survive this, she writes on the paper. It seems impossible now, but one day you'll be free.
She watches through the window from across the street as the girl gets her coffee, sits down in the same seat she always does, finds the piece of paper. She picks it up, reads the note. She's not close enough to see her younger face properly, its reaction. Confusion? Joy? Pain?
She doesn't remember this day, doesn't remember reading the bizarre note from a stranger, so obviously it doesn't make too much of an impression. But she hopes that something might have resonated, that there's something left of the notion, something that she can feel now.
The tiniest crumb, a barely tangible remainder.
Something good that survived.
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, September 7th, 2022
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