Prior sections: part 1, part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.
I suppose for simplicity’s sake, from this point on I should stop marking the times of our jumps in terms of my linear age. I could use years, or Gia’s age, or any of a hundred means of marking time. Mostly, however, we thought in terms of what we began to call AS time, or years After Sex. You see, the night we hooked up in Gia’s apartment that sultry August, when the linear and non-linear strings met, was the last time either of us lived in purely linear time. From then on, it was jump after jump after jump. That was also the night, according to Gia, that we consummated our marriage.
Fortunately for my sanity, as well as my marriage, almost all of our leaps remained in tandem. I’ve studied all my life trying to understand why – quantum mechanics, advanced time warp theory, theology, you name it. Nothing helped. Gia, on the other hand, had a simpler explanation: our spirits were entwined. I shrug my shoulders at that after all of these years. Science certainly hasn’t presented us with any logical answers, so we may as well go with romantic notions.
We did have a child, as it turned out. That was a difficult endeavor, full of love and fraught with guilt. You see, our daughter is a jumper. The initial difficulty, however, was that Gia and I jumped six months into her pregnancy. One day, we were returning from the OB/GYN, happy that we’d managed another checkup without the doctor revealing the baby’s sex, and the next we were escorting our dark-haired daughter to kindergarten. Gia was distraught.
Kelli, our daughter, was equally upset, since she’d apparently jumped into her five-year-old self on her prom night. It took us most of an hour to convince her to get out of the car and be a good kindergartener. Needless to say, she did remarkably well those first three months of school, despite our implorations that she “slow down a bit.” Fortunately, soon after, she jumped to another time period, and the Kelli that was left was a normal five-year-old girl. This became the pattern with our daughter throughout her disjointed childhood – a seemingly random series of time periods where she exceeded all expectations, followed by periods wherein she struggled, both socially and academically.
For reasons known only to God, Kelli’s jumps have always been out of synch with ours. Indeed, she seemed to jump into her childhood years relatively late in life, which lead, ironically, to her performing at a remarkable level, interrupted only by bouts of “dormancy.” Schools labeled her gifted, though possibly bipolar or suffering from borderline personality disorder. After much debate, Gia and I allowed them to think so, even thought we wouldn’t let them treat Kelli for obvious reasons. It was certainly easier than explaining her periods of dormancy were those times when the child was either the correct mental age or even younger than she should have been. When prom-night Kelli jumped to kindergarten, for example, nine-year-old (in linear years) Kelli took her place in the prom. It was a Disney Princess’ dream.
After a lifetime together, leaping from when to when, I found myself here, in a nursing home, weak of body, waiting for the inevitable day when my heart gives out. Most days, it is a struggle to breathe, with what I know is protein build-up in my brain interfering with this old body’s ability to process thoughts clearly. Gia is still by my side, as she’s always been, and I’m certain the old gal will outlive me by quite a while.
Or, rather, by at least eight years. I’ve finally figured out where she was all those years between when we met in Venice and when she first showed up in my linear life at 19, with a non-linear age of 27. She’d been alone, enjoying her “widow” years with the youthful vigor of a young woman, which she was, in her head, anyway. Even better, as I lay here, dying, it gives me pleasure to know her waning mental years will be spent bouncing between the linear ages of 7 and 19, the only years she cannot account for from her direct memory. Ah, it must be the dream of many to live a long, wonderful life, and then die while young. Of course, that presumes she doesn’t live into her 100s.
I will always remember how we met, and finally …
… but here I am back in Venice. I can feel a youthful vigor this body hasn’t felt in years. Gia is with me, giving me odd looks. Perhaps this is another period she has yet to account for. But no, I know that look – it is concern, for me. And the light is wrong here. It is sunny, but all I see is shadows. The light is waning and I am having difficulty … concen … concentrating.
“Will! Don’t you leave me! Don’t you dare. I-I’m not ready.” Gia is crying now. Surely, we are connected as we’ve always been. Perhaps she can feel the life force fading from within me.
I try to give her a weak smile, and look at her young self once more – the self-same visage I saw when first we met. After a twisting, jumbled, leap-frog life, it is fitting that I leave this earthly plane on the day of my first jump, when I met my wife.
“Stop it, Willie.” She cries and touches my cheek. She is shaking me now, screaming at me to fight against “the light.” I haven’t the heart to tell her I’ve seen no light. But the music … ah, it is glorious.
“I love you,” I manage to croak out.
She is shaking her head and weeping. I am lifted, airborne, scattering like particle dust in the cosmic wind. Beneath the universe’s music, I hear a faint shouting. It is Gia’s perfect, sweet goodbye:
“Are you even listening to me, you asshole?”