by Lucy Zhang
Because the time traveler watched houses foreclose and stocks skyrocket, she withdrew her savings, jumped back a few years and invested everything in the market, even when others called her stupid and said all her eggs would crack in their basket. She stayed quiet — best not to flaunt your knowledge.
Because the time traveler knew her financial security was rock solid, she had the leisure to jump back to moments she’d forgotten: when she went whale watching with her family until one of them vomited into a plastic bag, and suddenly they were all vomiting as the boat rocked on empty, whale-less waters; when her parents left her home alone for the first time to get groceries and even though only ten minutes had passed since the garage door closed, she’d cried thinking they’d never come back.
Because the time traveler thought the world must expect me to do some good but also recognized that the only special thing about her was her superposed yet mutually exclusive state, she donated her money to various charities and shelters and medical facilities run by far more talented and educated people.
Because the time traveler had grown sentimental with age, she rewound time more and more to do less and less — five years, ten years, twenty years — analyzing stock trends and the Fortune 500, re-experiencing tap dance lessons where everyone held each other’s hands and ran in a circle singing “London Bridge is Falling Down,” dressing as Kirby during the Halloween parade, racing down school hallways in Heelys before they were banned, and after a while she simply watched and then returned to the present, where her investments had doubled yet again.
Because the time traveler was selfish, she re-attended her university’s lectures in subjects she’d never majored in, memorized her mother’s handiwork while watching her wrapping dumpling peels around pork filling, and slowed her hiking pace so she could stay behind her parents and wait for them to climb over the big, slippery rocks.
Because the time traveler was old now, she was also running low on time leaps — it was always a finite amount, a fact she learned through experience when returning to the present left her in an increasingly long state of vertigo — what once had been minutes became hours — and she knew with more certainty than ever that all things must come to an end, like the vintage Panasonic TV on which she had watched National Geographic with her father, replaced by a flat screen, replaced by the new home owner’s 4K flat screen.
Because the time traveler could count the remaining number of leaps on one hand and because she never once considered jumping into the future, she traveled to a moment she longer recalled as real or imaginary: the whole family sitting in a train passing through Denali National Park, foreheads pressed to windows, staring at the mountains while sharing a bag of frosted caribou-shaped animal crackers, and no one thought to ask are we there yet for a very long time.