I’m sorry to leave without saying goodbye. You said yesterday you didn’t think you could ever love a woman with so many secrets. I took that to heart, which is why I’m taking my leave.
I told you that sometimes, secrets have to be kept, because the truth would be unbearable for the listener to hear. You disagreed. You said I was a cold bitch, and a liar. I am many things, but those two things . . . I have to disagree. I am selfish, yes; cold, no. A liar: absolutely not, but I suppose what I’m about to tell you will sound unbelievable. Yet you leave me no choice.
That grandfather I mentioned? The wealthy one, who invested his money in spectacular inventions? There was one particular invention he put a great deal of money in that actually worked: a time machine. There was only one produced, and he made me hide it in my basement before he passed away, so it wouldn’t fall into the wrong hands. And he left me a list of rules. They go something like this:
- History cannot be changed. It is already written. If you try and change history, forces beyond our comprehension will ensure that this does not happen. Meddling with the past will only leave you disappointed.
- If you try to tell someone the truth—that you’re from fifty years in the future, for example—and you can actually convince them . . . a day later, they’ll forget the whole conversation. Put it in writing, like this note, and the note will disappear. Catch on fire. Get wet and become illegible. History will not be changed.
- The only real benefit to time travel is to get a few more moments to tell the people you loved that you love them. That has to be enough.
When I showed up on the beach last Wednesday, interrupting your family’s game of touch football, I’d just arrived from 2016. I know how that sounds. I suspect you’re now thinking I’m crazy. But didn’t you think that already? How I addressed your brother as Mr. President, even though the election isn’t until November? Or asked your other brother to keep the faith—he’d eventually gain the respect he so craved as attorney general? (I’d thought I’d set my arrival date for one year later, you see. My initial confusion almost got me sent to the funny farm, I suspect.) Or when Jacqueline asked me how I knew she was pregnant, when she’d just found out herself? I had to come up with that ridiculous story about being able to read palms. For three hours, I had to sit in the parlor with your sisters and sisters-in-law, scrambling to remember your family history while I studied their lily-white, uncalloused palms. You called me a liar—yes, in that moment, I lied. I am not a fortune teller. I told them facts that I already knew. I thought Eunice’s eyes would pop out of her head when I said her love for a disabled sister would inspire her to do great things. And yet by the next morning, she’d forgotten—they all had. A lie quickly forgotten is not so much of a mistruth, is it?
I came to Hyannis Port not to see your family, or your brothers, though all of you took my breath away. I came to see you.
History cannot be changed, and you have a tragic one ahead. For that my heart breaks for you. You’ll suffer great loss—enormous tragedy, so hard you won’t think you can bear it. You’ll put one foot in front of the other, and move on, and yes, screw up—screw up tremendously, and terribly—and you’ll continue to plod on. And do your job. And sometimes, in small ways, you’ll do amazing things.
I have health insurance today, because of you. My brother used an education voucher to become a nurse, and now he saves lives—because of you. I received a grant to go to college . . . because of you. My mother’s rights in the workplace—she can’t be discriminated against due to her MS—are protected now. Because of you.
I had to leave today because I couldn’t bear witness to the road you have ahead of you, knowing it can’t be changed. Maybe it shouldn’t. I don’t know.
But I do know this: I love you, Edward Moore Kennedy.
That has to be enough.
Edward Moore Kennedy biographers have noted that in the summer of 1960, Teddy was spotted several times with a beautiful, dark-haired woman in and around Hyannis Port. It is unknown what happened to the woman, who was identified only as Susannah.
Stacey Longo is the author of Ordinary Boy (nominated for a Pushcart Prize) and Secret Things: Twelve Tales to Terrify. Her stories have appeared in numerous anthologies and magazines, including Shroud, Shock Totem, and the Litchfield Literary Review.
She is a past Hiram Award winner, and was a featured author on the 2014 Connecticut Authors Trail. A former humor columnist for the Block Island Times, she maintains a weekly humor blog at www.staceylongo.com.