My name is Ruby Roar


My name is Ruby Roar and today I am nine years, three months and two days old. My favorite flowers are blue and white larkspurs. My favorite smells are summer rains on city sidewalks, and sassafras. I have written three short stories. Like many children, I started imagining things when I was a baby. As I grew older, I started writing my stories down. I was born in Queens, New York, New York. I have two brothers. They are seven and five.

My name is Ruby Roar and I am seventy-two years old today. I have lived long enough that years suffice; there’s no need to bother with the months and days. My favorite flowers are blue and white larkspurs. Over the years, the rain slowly stopped coming and vegetation crowded the sidewalks. Now, in an age where rain is unusual and sidewalks are rare, I love, with nostalgia-infused intensity, the smell of rain on summer city sidewalks. I love sassafras and I grow it in my garden. I have written many stories. Like many children, I started imagining stories when I was a baby. Unlike many children, I remember being a baby and imagining stories. I have two brothers. They are seventy and sixty-eight.

I can travel back in time. I was born with a certain combination of switches flipped on three of my genes. Nobody understands it completely. For most of my life, I thought I was the only, but I’m not. There are a few of us. Brainiacs are studying this; I pay attention only enough to help me put into words a part of myself that I have trouble describing. It’s like breathing; how do you describe that to someone who doesn’t need to breathe? Indeed, it’s hard even to imagine someone not needing to breathe. But really, there are only a few things to know about my time travel.

  • First, even though I said that I can travel back in time, that’s not really true. The truth is that I exist in every measurement of time between right now and the moment of my birth. Everything before this moment is happening at once. If I turn around, I can be at any one of those moments in the past, or all of them, just as easily as I walk up the stairs or run across the yard. I can remember the past the way most people do, but I can choose to also experience it again.
  • Second, the future is locked. The brainiacs think that’s because I have yet to make any number of micro-decisions in situations that will be created by other still unmade micro-decisions (both mine and those of other people) and by the events of the planet that we can’t control. Which shoes will I wear to the party this weekend? That will depend on which shoes I buy tomorrow which will depend on the store’s inventory on the day I go shopping. Will I start up the uneven steps with my left or my right foot? That will depend on which knee feels stiffer which will depend in part on whether I was able to schedule some time with my trainer earlier in the week. On the other hand, I have already decided to be friends with the girl who sat next to me in biology, and to ignore the lines of the frog in the coloring book that my aunt gave me for my third birthday.
  • Third, and this is important, most of the past is locked. Even though I can go back in time I can only visit myself, on my own timeline, through my own then-current eyes and I can’t make much of an impact. It’s not like the movies where people jump around and catch bad guys before they commit crimes, or use their knowledge of the future for economic gain. The only places I can go are the places I’ve already been at the times that I was there. I look through the eyes of past-Ruby. I’m still the more experienced me, but I don’t have the power to cause past-me to make different decisions. She makes her own choices. I think that there have been times in my life when I was aware that future-me was visiting, but I experienced that visit as a ghost. I was the forgotten conversation in the dream, the shadow that I caught in the corner over my right shoulder; the presence that I felt when I thought maybe somebody else had walked into the room. I was the reason I felt calm, but also the reason that I felt anxiety. If you need a visual, think of the painting by Logo Russolo. It’s called Plastic Synthesis of a Woman’s Movements, which frankly doesn’t do it justice.
  • Fourth and finally, even though I am limited to my own past, my own past actually extends before the moment of my birth because part of me exists through my mitochondrial DNA. This means that sometimes I get flashes of pictures, re-live bits of moments that happened before I was born. In those moments, the brainiacs think that I am flashing back to a time when the tiniest bits that exist in me now, existed in my various ancestors. I call those ancestors Mity Ruby.

The net effect of all of this is that I live my life just like everyone else, although I think my perspective is a little different. To me I exist on a bridge and I am always standing in the middle. To one side I can see clearly where I have been, and places where Miter Ruby has been, and I can even run back and re-walk along the sidewalks, peer over the rails, look down at the view. To the other side, the path is obscured in fog, but I know the bridge is there just waiting for me to move into the future along my line and beyond, possibly to the end of humanity’s existence on this planet.

This is my story.