The fantasy of time, its limits only solid when looking at it from a day-to-day perspective, has been a popular element in fiction and movies. From H. G. Wells's The Time Machine to the modern day Map of Time by Felix Palma, it's all about time, where you can go, and what is found when the boundaries of time are crossed. Time travel was an element writers like Andre Norton and Stephen King have employed, King in his last 11/23/63, which I have not yet read, but look forward to whenever I unearth it from the cracks it feel between a month or so ago. I may have to tear down a wall to get to it, but that's what happens when reading in bed and falling asleep with it still in my hands.
Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could think or dream ourselves to a different time and walk the streets of Venice or watch the Battle of Waterloo from a mountaintop nearby? Or find that perfect love, the one who was made with us in mind, and find that happily ever after?
It was a portrait of an actress who appeared at a theater after the dawning of the 20th century that drew Richard Collier to the past. Richard Matheson wrote Richard's love story in Bid Time Return, which was made into the movie, Somewhere in Time, with Christopher Reeve as Collier and Jane Seymour as Elise McKenna, a woman of beauty and talent appearing in a theatrical production. That has to be my favorite story and movie, although I saw the movie before I read the story, which is the way I find many books that have become favorites.
It wasn't so much the longing and excitement of that One Love that drew me to the story but the feeling that time is a barrier only in the mind. To be in a room so steeped with time that the past bleeds into the present so seamlessly and to be able to walk from this time to that is an exhilarating possibility. Walking around in that time, knowing that you have been there before and can be again is a marvel of invention and relies only on the heart and mind of the traveler to make it so.
Although the story does not end happily ever after, the power of love and longing that reaches through time and connects two people is romantic and the sadness of the loss makes it that much more romantic and poignant. It is the delicate balance between romance and self-destruction that makes the story so memorable. Was it madness that drove Richard to reach through the veils of time or was it love, that most powerful of emotions? Truth be told, there is madness in love that so single-mindedly drives us to assault the hurdles that prevent us from being with The One. Maybe that's what makes it so compelling, so intoxicating.
There is also a sense of wondrous possibility and hope that permeates the story as Richard strives to find the connection between himself and an actress he met just once, an aging woman who leaves him with a gold watch and a cryptic message: Come back to me. Who would not have remembered and, given the opportunity, follow, no matter the risk? There is hope in such madness and madness beyond words that fills the soul with love and possibility.
Each time I read the story or see the movie I wish again that Richard and Elise had found a way to stay together, but then there would be no story and neither would have reached the pinnacles of their arts. It is the conundrum of time -- and love -- that what burns hottest and brightest is too seductive to resist and is still more worth the having. Who would not risk all to find even a moment of perfect happiness and to know that what was once found can be found again somewhere in time?