Hundreds of comic books, movies and television shows later, I finally get it.
In case you don’t share my viewing habits, picture this: We open on the Starship Enterprise, but the light is different and the uniforms seem more… militaristic. Captain Picard is more aggressive. But somehow, one of the crew members realizes that something’s not right. This is not how the timeline is supposed to be!
For the past two months, I’ve felt like I’m in one of those alternate timelines. Everyone knows that Hillary was supposed to be elected president. “Donald Trump” was going to be the answer to bar trivia in 20 years. Progress would continue to be made on individual rights, income inequality and environmental concerns.
But something went wrong. And I’m one of those Star Trek crew members who recognizes the problem! I’m not the only one. I see it in the eyes of people on the street. Someone says something odd like, “My 70-year-old mother asked me what a golden shower is,” and I look over at a fellow dog walker and I can tell she’s thinking what I’m thinking: “This was never supposed to happen.”
Everyone knows that Hillary was supposed to be elected president. 'Donald Trump' was going to be the answer to bar trivia in 20 years.
I’m not saying that an Arnold Schwarzenegger-shaped Terminator went back in time and messed up the proper universe. I am saying that Kyle Reese better get in his time pod and fix this thing.
The scary thing is that even though someone may end up fixing the proper timeline, according to physicists (at least, physicists in the comic books I read), a new universe has already branched off. In other words, even if some brave soul travels back, possibly sacrificing themselves (or their future selves), to correct the problem (perhaps by fixing the typo in the email telling John Podesta not to click through and change his email password?), I – the current me, typing this out – will still be stuck in this pocket universe.
Did you understand that last sentence? Good! That means you have half a chance of understanding the 2009 "Star Trek" reboot. Also, this essay.
Perhaps at some point, someone will complete their time travel machine. Maybe even a schlub like Mark Duplass's character in "Safety Not Guaranteed." (The title is a reference to the disclaimer in a classified ad that seeks partners for a time travel expedition.) Maybe I’ll sense when it happens, with a weird shiver down my spine. I’ll be happier knowing that, somewhere, the universe has righted itself:
Stranger: Sometimes I feel like Hillary would have appointed Al Gore to head the EPA.
Me, gazing skyward with a knowing smile: Maybe somewhere… she did.
But meanwhile, I’m still here, in this cursed little reality. I’ll do what I can to right the ship, to nudge us back to our proper course. Protesting and calling my congressional delegation isn’t as glamorous as time travel, perhaps, but at least I won’t fall in love with my best friend’s mother and become his dad. Spoiler alert!