January 23, 1981
Judy’s Aunt didn’t want me staying in the house, so I ended up staying at a hotel in Scranton, while visiting her. Judy was about to pop when I saw her, her due date was about a week after I stopped by.
She was much calmer when I saw her this time.
“So, is it really weird being here?” After she had been relieved to know that I didn’t know about her personal future, she didn’t seem to have much interest in the future, at least not knowing about it. She was interested in me, and how it all affected me, but didn’t want to know about what was going to happen in the world.
“Yeah. I met my parents, and they’re younger than I am.” Her eyes widened and she laughed at that.
“You know, I read The Time Machine once, and it scared me.” We were sitting in a mall food court. “I think most people think of the future as being bright and shiny, but in that book, beneath the bright and shiny was scary and murky. It was all a facade.”
“The future definitely can feel like that.”
“Once I realized you were right about John Lennon, I decided I didn’t want to know. I doubt there is a whole lot that you’ll tell me that will be incredible, and a whole lot that will be depressing and awful.”
“Well, there is some bright spots, but yeah many of the things that I can point to are awful and devastating.” We both sat quietly for a moment. I looked around, and the food court looked like what I remembered from my childhood and not like the shiny new fast-food fronts of my adulthood. “Can I tell you a couple good things? Maybe some good things that are a little further off? Just so you know it’s not all assassinations and tragedy?”
She smiled, and it was nice, because despite everything, she remained sweet, and I knew she had reason to be bitter, or jaded, but she didn’t seem to be. “Sure, that sounds nice.”
“Well, we elect a black man as President of the United States.”
Her jaw drops, and then turns into a smile.
“Really? How does it go?” Then a look of concern comes across her face. “Does he live?”
“Honestly, I traveled back after he had only served 2 years. But when I left he was alive and well.”
“I don’t know if you know this, but there were a lot of girls who wouldn’t work with black guys, but I always did. I always liked them. I had a lot of issues with white guys, but never any with any black guys.”
“That’s good.” I could see the fantasy of it taking over in her head. She didn’t know what to expect, but there was wonder in her eyes. “Um… Also, a lot of states started letting gay people get married.”
“Really?” Her eyes remained lit up.
“Yeah, and I think it won’t be long until it’s pretty much across the country. It seemed once it started that it went pretty quick.”
“Well that sounds like the bright and shiny future we all hope for!”
“Yeah, but there’s a lot of struggle between now and then.” As the new year came in, I had thought a lot about HIV and AIDS. I knew it was coming, and that at some point in the next year I would be reading about it in vague articles not knowing what was going on, and I was filled with dread. As we talked, and shopped around the mall, I told Judy that if she became sexually active again, that she needed to be careful and have the man wear a condom, and that she couldn’t slip up on that. She looked at me bizarrely as if I were speaking gibberish, and I told her I couldn’t tell her all the details to why without giving her more bad news about the future, but telling her she needed to be careful. Then two days later, with Melanie, I had a similar conversation.
“I need to tell you something about the future. Something that’s really important.” The look of concern on her face must have matched my own as I spoke. “There is going to be a new sexually transmitted disease this year, and it’s the worst yet. It’s nearly a plague…”
I told her about HIV and AIDs and how they wouldn’t know right away, but it’s transmitted sexually or by blood, and that when working with patients she needed to be careful with syringes, and transfusions. I tried to cover as much ground about the medical aspect as possible. I told her that it would first show signs in homosexual men, and intravenous drug users, and haitians, and hemophiliacs and that for a while, due to the lack of medicines, it would kill nearly everyone exposed. I also told her that it couldn’t be transmitted through touch, that she had no need to fear shaking hands, or hugging the infected.
“If we know about this we can tell everyone!”
“No, we can’t.” I felt defeated, I had thought about it a lot over the last year, I tried to figure out a way to help, and I couldn’t come up with one. Ultimately, telling her had been the only thing I could think of. Then she could be safe, but also she could be compassionate.
“We have to! It’s our duty…” There was a combination of defiance and anger in her eyes as she snapped back at me.
“They won’t listen. If we tell them I’m a time-traveler, I’ll be locked up. They’ll think I’m crazy, or if they believe me, they’ll try to use my knowledge to gain an advantage in other things.”
“We don’t tell them you’re a time-traveler, but just act like it’s happening already, and start trying to warn people.”
“Melanie, after the outbreak, it takes years to get the majority of America on the same page, and that’s when they’re seeing the horrifying results. The gay community will feel like they’ve finally been allowed some version of sexual freedom, and that this disease is a way to force them back into the closet, the religious communities will assume it’s God’s punishment, and that it only happens to ‘sinners’. Look, there is no way to stop it from coming. I really truly wish there was. But maybe we can help as best as possible. If you know what I know, you won’t feel the need to treat them like lepers, and there will be others, other amazing people who without knowing what we know will do the same.”
We fought, and she yelled, and I tried to reason with her, and over the course of the next couple days we settled back into our groove. That’s when I told her, that I thought we should bet big on the Super Bowl, and that I thought we should give the money anonymously to AIDS research as soon as it begins.
“Won’t that change things?”
“Here’s the thing about time-travel, it’s really complicated, but there’s a theory, and that is that if I’m here right now, I was always here. So maybe, me giving money helps get it in check as good as it was when I left, and if I had never come back, maybe it would have taken longer, and there would be more dead.”
“That makes no sense!” She looked at me blankly, unable to understand what I was saying.
“It’s complicated, and I think we can do this. That’s what it comes down to. Do you trust me?”
She hugs me, and whispers, “of course I do.”
“Ultimately, if I end up changing the future, it’ll probably be for the better in this case. I don’t see how I could make things worse than they’re about to get.”
We spent the rest of the time working on plans, and then I left for Vegas. I arrived yesterday, and Melanie is scheduled to land in about an hour. I took out a loan for $50,000 and placed every cent on the Oakland Raiders, just before I left for the airport. When she lands, she’s going to place her own $30,000 bet from a loan she took. Now I’m waiting for Melanie, and for Sunday, and for the worst disease in modern human history. I’m sure Melanie’s sitting on that plane thinking about it too, but it’s the best we can do.