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Saturday, October 23, 1993 (Henry is 30, Clare is 22) (6:00 a.m.)


HENRY: I wake up at 6:00 a.m. and it’s raining. I am in a snug little green room under the eaves in a cozy little bed-and-breakfast called Blake’s, which is right on the south beach in South Haven. Clare’s parents have chosen this place; my dad is sleeping in an equally cozy pink room downstairs, next to Mrs. Kim in a lovely yellow room; Grandpa and Grams are in the uber-cozy blue master bedroom. I lie in the extra-soft bed under Laura Ashley sheets, and I can hear the wind flinging itself against the house. The rain is pouring down in sheets. I wonder if I can run in this monsoon. I hear it coursing through the gutters and drumming on the roof, which is about two feet above my face. This room is like a garret. It has a delicate little writing desk, in case I need to pen any ladylike missives on my wedding day. There’s a china ewer and basin on the bureau; if I actually wanted to use them I’d probably have to break the ice on the water first, because it’s quite cold up here. I feel like a pink worm in the core of this green room, as though I have eaten my way in and should be working on becoming a butterfly, or something. I’m not real awake, here, at the moment. I hear somebody coughing. I hear my heart beating and the high-pitched sound which is my nervous system doing its thing. Oh, God, let today be a normal day. Let me be normally befuddled, normally nervous; get me to the church on time, in time. Let me not startle anyone, especially myself. Let me get through our wedding day as best I can, with no special effects. Deliver Clare from unpleasant scenes. Amen.


(7:00 a.m.)


CLARE: I wake up in my bed, the bed of my childhood. As I float on the surface of waking I can’t find myself in time; is it Christmas, Thanksgiving? Is it third grade, again? Am I sick? Why is it raining? Outside the yellow curtains the sky is dead and the big elm tree is being stripped of its yellow leaves by the wind. I have been dreaming all night. The dreams merge, now. In one part of this dream I was swimming in the ocean, I was a mermaid. I was sort of new at being a mermaid and one of the other mermaids was trying to teach me; she was giving me mermaid lessons. I was afraid to breathe under water. The water got into my lungs and I couldn’t figure out how it was supposed to work, it felt terrible and I kept having to rise up to the surface and breathe and the other mermaid kept saying, No, Clare, like this.. .until finally I realized that she had gills in her neck, and I did too, and then it was better. Swimming was like flying, all the fish were birds...There was a boat on the surface of the ocean, and we all swam up to see the boat. It was just a little sailboat, and my mother was on


The Time Traveler’s Wife Audrey Niffenegger



it, all by herself. I swam up to her and she was surprised to see me there, she said Why Clare, I thought you were getting married today, and I suddenly realized, the way you do in dreams,that I couldn’t get married to Henry if I was a mermaid, and I started to cry, and then I woke up and it was the middle of the night. So I lay there for a while in the dark and I made up that I became a regular woman, like the Little Mermaid except I didn’t have any of that nonsense about hideous pain in my feet or getting my tongue cut out. Hans Christian Andersen must have been a very strange and sad person. Then I went back to sleep and now I am in bed and Henry and I are getting married today.


(7:16 a.m.)


HENRY: The ceremony is at 2:00 p.m. and it will take me about half an hour to dress and twenty minutes for us to drive over to St. Basil’s. It is now 7:16 a.m., which leaves five hours and forty-four minutes to kill. I throw on jeans and a skanky old flannel shirt and high-tops and creep as quietly as possible downstairs seeking coffee. Dad has beat me to it; he’s sitting in the breakfast room with his hands wrapped around a dainty cup of steaming black joe. I pour one for myself and sit across from him. Through the lace-curtained windows the weak light gives Dad a ghostly look; he’s a colorized version of a black and white movie of himself this morning. His hair is standing up every which way and without thinking I smooth mine down, as though he were a mirror. He does the same, and we smile.


(8:17 a.m.)


CLARE: Alicia is sitting on my bed, poking me. “Come on, Clare,” she pokes. “Daylight in the swamp. The birds are singing,” (quite untrue) “and the frogs are jumping and it’s time to get up!” Alicia is tickling me. She throws off the covers and we are wrestling and just as Ipin her Etta sticks her head in the door and hisses “Girls! What is all this bumping. Your father, he thinks a tree fell on the house, but no, it is you sillies trying to kill each other. Breakfast is almost ready.” With that Etta abruptly withdraws her head and we hear her barging down the stairs as we dissolve into laughter.


(8:32 a.m.)


HENRY: It’s still blowing gales out there but I am going running anyway. I study the map of


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South Haven (“A shining jewel on the Sunset Coast of Lake Michigan!”) which Clare has provided me with. Yesterday I ran along the beach, which was pleasant but not something to do this morning. I can see six-foot-tall waves throwing themselves at the shore. I measure out a mile of streets and figure I will run laps; if it’s too awful out there I can cut it short. I stretch out. Every joint pops. I can almost hear tension crackling in my nerves like static in a phone line. I get dressed, and out into the world I go.


The rain is a slap in the face. I am drenched immediately. I soldier slowly down Maple Street. It’s just going to be a slog; I am fighting the wind and there’s no way to get up any speed. I pass a woman standing at the curb with her bulldog and she looks at me with amazement. This isn’t mere exercise, I tell her silently. This is desperation.


(8:54 a.m.)


CLARE: We’re gathered around the breakfast table. Cold leaks in from all the windows, and I can barely see outside, it’s raining so hard. How is Henry going to run in this?


“Perfect weather for a wedding,” Mark jokes. I shrug. “ I didn’t pick it.”


“You didn’t?”


Daddy picked it.”


“Well, I’m paying for it,” Daddy says petulantly. “True.” I munch my toast.


My mother eyes my plate critically. “Honey, why don’t you have some nice bacon? And some of these eggs?”


The very thought turns my stomach. “I can’t. Really. Please.”


“Well, at least put some peanut butter on that toast. You need protein.” I make eye contact with Etta, who strides into the kitchen and comes back a minute later with a tiny crystal dish full of peanut butter. I thank her and spread some on the toast.


I ask my mother, “Do I have any time before Janice shows up?” Janice is going to do something hideous to my face and hair.


“She’s coming at eleven. Why?”


“I need to run into Town, to get something.”


“I can get it for you, sweetie.” She looks relieved at the thought of getting out of the house.


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“I would like to go, myself.” “We can both go.”


“By myself.” I mutely plead with her. She’s puzzled but relents. “Well, okay. Goodness.”


“Great. I’ll be right back.” I get up to leave. Daddy clears his throat. “May I be excused?”


“Certainly.” “Thank you.” I flee.



(9:35 a.m.)


HENRY: I’m standing in the immense, empty bathtub struggling out of my cold, soaked clothes. My brand new running shoes have acquired an entirely new shape, reminiscent of marine life. I have left a trail of water from the front door to the tub, which I hope Mrs. Blake won’t mind too much.


Someone knocks on my door. “Just a minute,” I call. I squoosh over to the door and crack it open. To my complete surprise, it’s Clare. “What’s the password?” I say softly.


“Fuck me,” replies Clare. I swing the door wide.


Clare walks in, sits on the bed, and starts taking off her shoes. “You’re not joking?”


“Come on, O almost-husband mine. I’ve got to be back by eleven.” She looks me up and down. “You went running! I didn’t think you’d run in this rain.”


“Desperate times call for desperate measures.” I peel off my T-shirt and throw it into the tub. It lands with a splat. “Isn’t it supposed to be bad luck for the groom to see the bride before the wedding?”


“So close your eyes.” Clare trots into the bathroom and grabs a towel. I lean over and she dries my hair. It feels wonderful. I could do with a lifetime of this. Yes, indeed.


“It’s really cold up here,” says Clare.


“Come and be bedded, almost-wife. It’s the only warm spot in the whole place.” We climb in.


“We do everything out of order, don’t we?” “You have a problem with that?”



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“No. I like it.”


“Good. You’ve come to the right man for all your extra-chronological needs.”


(11:15 a.m.)


CLARE: I walk in the back door and leave my umbrella in the mud room. In the hall I almost bump into Alicia. “Where have you been? Janice is here.”


“What time is it?”


“Eleven-fifteen. Hey, you’ve got your shirt on backward and inside out.” “I think that’s good luck, isn’t it?”


“Maybe, but you’d better change it before you go upstairs.” I duck back into the mud room and reverse my shirt. Then I run upstairs. Mama and Janice are standing in the hall outside my room. Janice is carrying a huge bag of cosmetics and other implements of torture.


“There you are. I was getting worried.” Mama shepherds me into my room and Janice brings up the rear. “I have to go talk to the caterers.” She is almost wringing her hands as she departs.


I turn to Janice, who examines me critically. “Your hair’s all wet and tangled. Why don’t you comb it out while I set up?” She starts to take a million tubes and bottles from her bag and sets them on my dresser.


“Janice.” I hand her the postcard from the Uffizi. “Can you do this?” I have always loved the little Medici princess whose hair is not unlike mine; hers has many tiny braids and pearls all swooped together in a beautiful fall of amber hair. The anonymous artist must have loved her, too. How could he not love her?


Janice considers. “This isn’t what your mom thinks we’re doing.”


“Uh-huh. But it’s my wedding. And my hair. And I’ll give you a very large tip if you do it my way.”


“I won’t have time to do your face if we do this; it’ll take too long to do all these braids.” Hallelujah. “It’s okay. I’ll put on my own makeup.”


“Well, all right. Just comb it for me and we’ll get started.” I begin to pick out the tangles. I’m starting to enjoy this. As I surrender to Janice’s slender brown hands I wonder what Henry is up to.


The Time Traveler’s Wife Audrey Niffenegger



(11:36 a.m.)


HENRY: The tux and all its attendant miseries are laid out on the bed. I’m freezing my undernourished ass off in this cold room. I throw all my cold wet clothing out of the tub and into the sink. This bathroom is amazingly as big as the bedroom. It’s carpeted, and relentlessly pseudo-


Victorian. The tub is an immense claw-footed thing amid various ferns and stacks of towels and a commode and a large framed reproduction of Hunt’s The Awakened Conscience. The windowsill is six inches from the floor and the curtains are filmy whitemuslin, so I can see Maple Street in all its dead leafy glory. A beige Lincoln Continental cruises lazily up the street. I run hot water into the tub, which is so large that I get tired of waiting for it to fill and climb in. I amuse myself playing with the European-style shower attachment and taking the caps off the ten or so shampoos, shower gels, and conditioners and sniffing them all; by the fifth one I have a headache. I sing Yellow Submarine. Everything within a four-foot radius gets wet.




CLARE: Janice releases me, and Mama and Etta converge. Etta says, “Oh, Clare, you look beautiful!” Mama says, “That’s not the hairstyle we agreed on, Clare.” Mama gives Janice a hard time and then pays her and I give Janice her tip when Mama’s not looking. I’m supposed to get dressed at the church, so they pack me into the car and we drive over to St. Basil’s.


(12:55p.m.) (Henry is 38)


HENRY: I’m walking along Highway 12, about two miles south of South Haven. It’s an unbelievably awful day, weather-wise. It’s fall, rain is gusting and pouring down in sheets, and it’s cold and windy. I’m wearing nothing but jeans, I’m barefoot, and I am soaked to the skin. I have no idea where I am in time. I’m headed for Meadowlark House, hoping to dry out in the Reading Room and maybe eat something. I have no money, but when I see the pink neon light of the Cut-Rate Gas for Less sign I veer toward it. I enter the gas station and stand for a moment, streaming water onto the linoleum and catching my breath.


“Quite a day to be out in ” says the thin elderly gent behind the counter.



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“Yep ” I reply. “Car break down?”


“Huh? Um, no.” He’s taking a good look at me, noting the bare feet, the unseasonable clothing. I pause, feign embarrassment. “Girlfriend threw me out of the house.”


He says something but I don’t hear it because I am looking at the South Haven Daily. Today is Saturday, October 23,1993. Our wedding day. The clock above the cigarette rack says 1:10.


“Gotta run,” I say to the old man, and I do.


(1:42 p.m.)


CLARE: I’m standing in my fourth grade classroom wearing my wedding dress. It’s ivory watered silk with lots of lace and seed pearls. The dress is tightly fitted in the bodice and arms but the skirt is huge, floor-length with a train and twenty yards of fabric. I could hide ten midgets under it. I feel like a parade float, but Mama is making much of me; she’s fussing and taking pictures and trying to get me to put on more makeup. Alicia and Charisse and Helen and Ruth are all fluttering around in their matching sage green velvet bridesmaids’ outfits. Since Charisse and Ruth are both short and Alicia and Helen are both tall they look like some oddly assorted Girl Scouts but we’ve all agreed to be cool about it when Mama’s around. They are comparing the dye jobs on their shoes and arguing about who should get to catch the bouquet. Helen says, “Charisse, you’re already engaged, you shouldn’t even be trying to catch it,” and Charisse shrugs and says, “Insurance. With Gomez you never know.”


(1:48 p.m.)


HENRY: I’m sitting on a radiator in a musty room full of boxes of prayer books. Gomez is pacing back and forth, smoking. He looks terrific in his tux. I feel like I’m impersonating a game show host. Gomez paces and flicks his ashes into a teacup. He’s making me even more nervous than I already am.


“You’ve got the ring?” I ask for the gazillionth time. “Yeah. I’ve got the ring.”


He stops pacing for a moment and looks at me. “Want a drink?”


“Yeah.” Gomez produces a flask and hands it to me. I uncap it and take a swallow. It’s



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very smooth Scotch. I take another mouthful and hand it back. I can hear people laughing and talking out in the vestibule. I’m sweating, and my head aches. The room is very warm. I stand up and open the window, hang my head out, breathe. It’s still raining.


There’s a noise in the shrubbery. I open the window farther and look down. There I am, sitting in the dirt, under the window, soaking wet, panting. He grins at me and gives me the thumbs up.


(1:55 p.m.)


CLARE: We’re all standing in the vestibule of the church. Daddy says, “Let’s get this show on the road,” and knocks on the door of the room Henry is dressing in. Gomez sticks his head out and says, “Give us a minute.” He throws me a look that makes my stomach clench and pulls his head in and shuts the door. I am walking toward the door when Gomez opens it again, and Henry appears, doing up his cuff links. He’s wet, dirty, and unshaven. He looks about forty. But he’s here, and he gives me a triumphant smile as he walks through the doors of the church and down the aisle.


Sunday, June 13, 1976 (Henry is 30)


HENRY: I am lying on the floor in my old bedroom. I’m alone, and it’s a perfect summer night in an unknown year. I lie there swearing and feeling like an idiot for a while. Then I get up and go into the kitchen and help myself to several of Dad’s beers.


Saturday, October 23, 1993 (Henry is 38, and 30, Clare is 22) (2:37p.m.)



CLARE: We are standing at the altar. Henry turns to me and says, “I, Henry, take you, Clare, to be my wife. I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love you and honor you all the days of my life.” I think: remember this. I repeat the promise to him. Father Compton smiles at us and says,“.. .What God has joined, men must not divide.” I think: that’s not really the problem. Henry slides the thin silver ring over my finger into place above the engagement ring. I place his plain gold band on his finger, the only time he will ever wear it. The Mass proceeds, and I think this is all that matters: he’s


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here, I’m here, it doesn’t matter how, as long as he’s with me. Father Compton blesses us,and says, “The Mass is ended, go in peace.” We walk down the aisle, arm in arm, together.




HENRY: The reception is just getting underway. The caterers are rushing back and forth with steel carts and covered trays. People are arriving and checking their coats. The rain has finally stopped. The South Haven Yacht Club is on North Beach, a 1920s building done up in paneling and leather, red carpet, and paintings of ships. It’s dark out now, but the light-


house is blinking away out on the pier. I’m standing at a window, drinking Glenlivet, waiting for Clare, who has been whisked away by her mother for some reason I’m not privy to. I see Gomez and Ben’s reflections, heading toward me, and I turn.


Ben looks worried. “How are you?”


“I’m okay. Can you guys do me a favor?” They nod. “Gomez, go back to the church. I’m there, waiting in the vestibule. Pick me up, and bring me here. Smuggle me into the downstairs men’s John and leave me there. Ben, keep an eye on me,” (I point at my chest) “and when I tell you to, grab my tux and bring it to me in the men’s room. Okay?”


Gomez asks, “How much time do we have?” “Not much.”


He nods, and walks away. Charisse approaches, and Gomez kisses her on the forehead and continues on. I turn to Ben, who looks tired. “How are you?” I ask him.


Ben sighs. “Kind of fatigued. Um, Henry?” “Hmm?”


“When are you coming from?” “2002.”


“Can you.. .Look, I know you don’t like this, but...”


“What? It’s okay, Ben. Whatever you want. It’s a special occasion.”


“Tell me: am I still alive?” Ben isn’t looking at me; he stares at the band, tuning up in the ballroom.


“Yes. You’re doing fine. I just saw you a few days ago; we played pool.” Ben lets his breath out in a rush. “Thank you.”


“No problem.” Tears are welling up in Ben’s eyes. I offer him my handkerchief, and he takes it, but then hands it back unused and goes off in search of the men’s room.



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(7:04 p.m.)


CLARE: Everyone is sitting down to dinner and no one can find Henry. I ask Gomez if he’s seen him, and Gomez just gives me one of his Gomez looks and says that he’s sure Henry will be here any minute. Kimy comes up to us, looking very fragile and worried in her rose silk dress. “Where is Henry?” she asks me.


“I don’t know, Kimy.”


She pulls me toward her and whispers in my ear, “I saw his young friend Ben carrying a pile of clothing out of the Lounge.” Oh, no. If Henry has snapped back to his present it will be hard to explain. Maybe I could say that there was an emergency? Some kind of library emergency that required Henry’s immediate attention. But all his co-workers are here. Maybe I could say Henry has amnesia, has wandered away....


“There he is,” Kimy says. She squeezes my hand. Henry is standing in the doorway scanning the crowd, and sees us. He comes running over.


I kiss him. “Howdy, stranger.” He is back in the present, my younger Henry, the one who belongs here. Henry takes my arm, and Kimy’s arm, and leads us in to dinner. Kimy chuckles, and says something to Henry that I don’t catch. “What’d she say?” I ask as we sit down. “She asked me if we were planning a ménage a trois for the wedding night.” I turn lobster red. Kimy winks at me.


(7:16 p.m.)


HENRY: I’m hanging out in the club Library, eating canapés and reading a sumptuously bound and probably never opened first edition of Heart of Darkness. Out of the corner of my eye I see the manager of the club speeding toward me. I close the book and replace it on the shelf.


“I’m sorry, sir, I’m afraid I’ll have to ask you to leave.” No shirt, no shoes, no service.


“Okay.” I stand up, and as the manager turns his back blood rushes to my head and I vanish. I come to on our kitchen floor on March 2, 2002, laughing. I’ve always wanted to do that.


(7:21 p.m.)


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CLARE: Gomez is making a speech: “Dear Clare, and Henry, family and friends, members of the jury... wait, scratch that. Dearly beloved, we have gathered here this evening on the shores of the Land of Singledom to wave our handkerchiefs at Clare and Henry as they embark together on their voyage on the Good Ship Matrimony. And while we are sad to watch them bid farewell to the joys of single life, we are confident that the much-ballyhooed state of Wedded Bliss will be a more than adequate new address. Some of us may even join them there shortly unless we can think of a way to avoid it. And so, let us have a toast: to Clare Abshire DeTamble, a beautiful artbabe who deserves every happiness that may befall her in her new world. And to Henry DeTamble, a damn fine fellow and a lucky son of a bitch: may the Sea of Life stretch before you like glass, and may you always have the wind at your backs. To the happy couple!” Gomez leans over and kisses me on the mouth, and I catch his eyes for a moment, and then the moment is gone.


(8:48 p.m.)


HENRY: We have cut and eaten the wedding cake. Clare has thrown her bouquet (Charisse caught it) and I have thrown Clare’s garter (Ben, of all people, caught that). The band is playing Take the A Train, and people are dancing. I have danced with Clare, and Kimy, Alicia, and Charisse; now I am dancing with Helen, who is pretty hot stuff, and Clare is dancing with Gomez. As I casually twirl Helen I see Celia Attley cut in on Gomez, who in turn cuts in on me. As he whirls Helen away I join the crowd by the bar and watch Clare dancing with Celia. Ben joins me. He’s drinking seltzer. I order vodka and tonic. Ben is wearing Clare’s garter around his arm like he’s in mourning.


“Who’s that?” he asks me. “Celia Attley. Ingrid’s girlfriend.” “That’s weird.”




“What’s with that guy Gomez?” “What do you mean?”


Ben stares at me and then turns his head. “Never mind.”


(10:23 p.m.)



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CLARE: It’s over. We have kissed and hugged our way out of the club, have driven off in our shaving-cream-and-tin-can-covered car. I pull up in front of the Dew Drop Inn, a tiny, tacky motel on Silver Lake. Henry is asleep. I get out, check in, get the desk guy to help me walk Henry into our room and dump him on the bed. The guy brings in the luggage, eyeballs my wedding dress and Henry’s inert state, and smirks at me. I tip him. He leaves. I remove Henry’s shoes, loosen his tie. I take off my dress and lay it over the armchair.


I’m standing in the bathroom, shivering in my slip and brushing my teeth. In the mirror I can see Henry lying on the bed. He’s snoring. I spit out the toothpaste and rinse my mouth. Suddenly it comes over me: happiness. And the realization: we’re married. Well, I’m married, anyway.


When I turn out the light I kiss Henry goodnight. He smells of alcohol sweat and Helen’s perfume. Goodnight, goodnight, don’t let the bedbugs bite. And I fall asleep, dreamless and happy.


Monday, October 25, 1993 (Henry is 30, Clare is 22)


HENRY: The Monday after the wedding Clare and I are at Chicago City Hall, being married by a judge. Gomez and Charisse are the witnesses. Afterward we all go out for dinner at Charlie Trotter’s, a restaurant so expensive that the decor resembles the first-class section of an airplane or a minimalist sculpture. Fortunately, although the food looks like art, it tastes great. Charisse takes photographs of each course as it appears in front of us.


“How’s it feel, being married?” asks Charisse. “I feel very married,” Clare says.


“You could keep going,” says Gomez. “Try out all the different ceremonies, Buddhist, nudist...”


“I wonder if I’m a bigamist?” Clare is eating something pistachio-colored that has several large shrimp poised over it as though they are nearsighted old men reading a newspaper.


“I think you’re allowed to marry the same person as many times as you want,” Charisse says.


“Are you the same person?” Gomez asks me. The thing I’m eating is covered with thin slices of raw tuna that melt on my tongue. I take a moment to appreciate them before I answer:


“Yes, but more so.”


Gomez is disgruntled and mutters something about Zen koans, but Clare smiles at me and raises her glass. I tap hers with mine: a delicate crystal note rings out and falls away in the


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hum of the restaurant. And so, we are married.


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“What is it? My dear?” “Ah, how can we bear it?” “Bear what?”


“This. For so short a time. How can we sleep this time away?”


“We can be quiet together, and pretend—since it is only the beginning—that we have all the time in the world.”


“And every day we shall have less. And then none.” “Would you rather, therefore, have had nothing at all?”


“No. This is where I have always been coming to. Since my time began. And when I go away from here, this will be the mid-point, to which everything ran, before, and from which everything will run. But now, my love, we are here, we are now, and those other times are running elsewhere.”


—A. S. Byatt, Possession



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March, 1994 (Clare is 22, Henry is 30)


CLARE: And so we are married. At first we live in a two-bedroom apartment in a two-flat in Ravenswood. It’s sunny, with butter-colored hardwood floors and a kitchen full of antique cabinets and antiquated appliances. We buy things, spend Sunday afternoons in Crate & Barrel exchanging wedding presents, order a sofa that can’t fit through the doors of the apartment and has to be sent back. The apartment is a laboratory in which we conduct experiments, perform research on each other. We discover that Henry hates it when I absentmindedly click my spoon against my teeth while reading the paper at breakfast. We agree that it is okay for me to listen to Joni Mitchell and it is okay for Henry to listen to The Shags as long as the other person isn’t around. We figure out that Henry should do all the cooking and I should be in charge of laundry and neither of us is willing to vacuum so We hire a cleaning service.


We fall into a routine. Henry works Tuesdays through Saturdays at the Newberry. He gets up at 7:30 and starts the coffee, then throws on his running clothes and goes for a run. When he gets back he showers and dresses, and I stagger out of bed and chat with him while he fixes breakfast. After we eat, he brushes his teeth and speeds out the door to catch the El, and I go back to bed and doze for an hour or so.


When I get up again the apartment is quiet. I take a bath and comb my hair and put on my work clothes. I pour myself another cup of coffee, and I walk into the back bedroom which is my studio, and I close the door.


I am having a hard time, in my tiny back bedroom studio, in the beginning of my married life. The space that I can call mine, that isn’t full of Henry, is so small that my ideas have become small. I am like a caterpillar in a cocoon of paper; all around me are sketches for sculptures, small drawings that seem like moths fluttering against the windows, beating their wings to escape from this tiny space. I make maquettes, tiny sculptures that are rehearsals for huge sculptures. Every day the ideas come more reluctantly, as though they know I will starve them and stunt their growth. At night I dream about color, about submerging my arms into vats of paper fiber. I dream about miniature gardens I can’t set foot in because I am a giantess.


The compelling thing about making art—or making anything, I suppose—is the moment when the vaporous, insubstantial idea becomes a solid there, a thing, a substance in a world of substances. Circe, Nimbue, Artemis, Athena, all the old sorceresses: they must have known the feeling as they transformed mere men into fabulous creatures, stole the secrets of the magicians, disposed armies: ah, look, there it is, the new thing. Call it a swine, a war, a laurel tree. Call it art. The magic I can make is small magic now, deferred magic. Every day I


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work, but nothing ever materializes. I feel like Penelope, weaving and unweaving.


And what of Henry, my Odysseus? Henry is an artist of another sort, a disappearing artist. Our life together in this too-small apartment is punctuated by Henry’s small absences. Sometimes he disappears unobtrusively;


I might be walking from the kitchen into the hall and find a pile of clothing on the floor. I might get out of bed in the morning and find the shower running and no one in it. Sometimes it’s frightening. I am working in my studio one afternoon when I hear someone moaning outside my door; when I open it I find Henry on his hands and knees, naked, in the hall, bleeding heavily from his head. He opens his eyes, sees me, and vanishes. Sometimes I wake up in the night and Henry is gone. In the morning he will tell me where he’s been, the way other husbands might tell their wives a dream they had: “I was in the Selzer Library in the dark, in 1989.” Or: “I was chased by a German sheperd across somebody’s backyard and had to climb a tree.” Or: “I was standing in the rain near my parents’ apartment, listening to my mother sing.” I am waiting for Henry to tell me that he has seen me as a child, but so far this hasn’t happened. When I was a child I looked forward to seeing Henry. Every visit was an event. Now every absence is a nonevent, a subtraction, an adventure I will hear about when my adventurer materializes at my feet, bleeding or whistling, smiling or shaking. Now I am afraid when he is gone.



HENRY: When you live with a woman you learn something every day. So far I have learned that long hair will clog up the shower drain before you can say “Liquid-Plumr”; that it is not advisable to clip something out of the newspaper before your wife has read it, even if the newspaper in question is a week old; that I am the only person in our two-person household who can eat the same thing for dinner three nights in a row without pouting; and that headphones were invented to preserve spouses from each other’s musical excesses. (How can Clare listen to Cheap Trick? Why does she like The Eagles? I’ll never know, because she gets all defensive when I ask her. How can it be that the woman I love doesn’t want to listen to Musique du Garrot et de la Farraille?) The hardest lesson is Clare’s solitude. Sometimes I come home and Clare seems kind of irritated; I’ve interrupted some train of thought, broken into the dreamy silence of her day. Sometimes I see an expression on Clare’s face that is like a closed door. She has gone inside the room of her mind and is sitting there knitting or something. I’ve discovered that Clare likes to be alone. But when I return from time traveling she is always relieved to see me.


When the woman you live with is an artist, every day is a surprise. Clare has turned the second bedroom into a wonder cabinet, full of small sculptures and drawings pinned up on every inch of wall space. There are coils of wire and rolls of paper tucked into shelves and drawers. The sculptures remind me of kites, or model airplanes. I say this to Clare one evening, standing in the doorway of her studio in my suit and tie, home from work, about to begin making dinner, and she throws one at me; it flies surprisingly well, and soon we are


The Time Traveler’s Wife Audrey Niffenegger



standing at opposite ends of the hall, tossing tiny sculptures at each other, testing their aerodynamics. The next day I come home to find that Clare has created a flock of paper and wire birds, which are hanging from the ceiling in the living room. A week later our bedroom windows are full of abstract blue translucent shapes that the sun throws across the room onto the walls, making a sky for the bird shapes Clare has painted there. It’s beautiful.


The next evening I’m standing in the doorway of Clare’s studio, watching her finish drawing a thicket of black lines around a little red bird. Suddenly I see Clare, in her small room, closed in by all her stuff, and I realize that she’s trying to say something, and I know what I have to do.


Wednesday, April 13, 1994 (Clare is 22, Henry is 30)


CLARE: I hear Henry’s key in the front door and I come out of the studio as he walks in. To my surprise he’s carrying a television set. We don’t own a TV because Henry can’t watch it and I can’t be bothered to watch by myself. The TV is an old, small, dusty black and white set with a broken antennae.


“Hi, honey, I’m home,” says Henry, setting the TV on the dining room table. “Ugh, it’s filthy” I say. “Did you find it in the alley?”


Henry looks offended. “I bought it at the Unique. Ten bucks.” “Why?”


“There’s a program on tonight that I thought we should watch.”


“But—” I can’t imagine what show would make Henry risk time traveling. “It’s okay, I won’t sit and stare at it. I want you to see this.”


“Oh. What?” I’m so out of touch with what’s on television. “It’s a surprise. It’s on at eight.”


The TV sits on the floor of the dining room while we eat dinner. Henry refuses to answer any questions about it, and makes a point of teasing me by asking what I would do if I had a huge studio.


“What does it matter? I have a closet. Maybe I’ll take up origami.” “Come on, seriously”


“I don’t know.” I twirl linguine onto my fork. “I would make every maquette one hundred times bigger. I’d draw on ten-foot-by-ten-foot pieces of cotton rag paper. I would wear roller skates to get from one end of the studio to the other. I’d set up huge vats, and a Japanese


The Time Traveler’s Wife Audrey Niffenegger



drying system, and a ten-pound Reina beater....” I’m captivated by my mental image of this imaginary studio, but then I remember my real studio, and I shrug. “Oh well. Maybe someday.” We get by okay on Henry’s salary and the interest on my trust fund, but to afford a real studio I would have to get a job, and then I wouldn’t have any time to spend in the studio. It’s a Catch-22. All my artist friends are starving for money or time or both. Charisse is designing computer software by day and making art at night. She and Gomez are getting married next month. “What should we get the Gomezes for a wedding present?”


“Huh? Oh, I dunno. Can’t we just give them all those espresso machines we got?” “We traded those in for the microwave and the bread-making machine.”


“Oh, yeah. Hey, it’s almost eight. Grab your coffee, let’s go sit in the living room.” Henry pushes back his chair and hoists the television, and I carry both our cups of coffee into the living room. He sets the set on the coffee table and after messing around with an extension cord and fussing with the knobs we sit on the couch watching a waterbed commercial on Channel 9. It looks like it’s snowing in the waterbed showroom. “Damn,” says Henry, peeking at the screen. “It worked better in the Unique.” The logo for the Illinois Lottery flashes on the screen. Henry digs in his pants pocket and hands me a small white piece of paper. “Hold this.” It’s a lottery ticket.


“My god. You didn’t—”


“Shh. Watch.” With great fanfare, the Lottery officials, serious men in suits, announce the numbers on the randomly chosen ping pong balls that pop one by one into position on the screen. 43,2, 26,51,10,11. Of course they match the numbers on the ticket in my hand. The Lottery men congratulate us. We have just won eight million dollars.


Henry clicks off the TV. He smiles. “Neat trick, huh?”


“I don’t know what to say.” Henry realizes that I am not jumping for joy.


“Say, ‘Thank you, darling, for providing the bucks we need to buy a house.’ That would work for me.”


“But—Henry—it’s not real.”


“Sure it is. That’s a real lottery ticket. If you take it to Katz’s Deli, Minnie will give you a big hug and the State of Illinois will write you a real check.”


“But you knew.”


“Sure. Of course. It was just a matter of looking it up in tomorrow’s Tribune.” “We can’t...it’s cheating.”


Henry smacks himself dramatically on the forehead. “How silly of me. I completely forgot that you’re supposed to buy tickets without having the slightest idea what the numbers will be. Well, we can fix it.” He disappears down the hall into the kitchen and returns with a box of matches. He lights a match and holds the ticket up to it.



The Time Traveler’s Wife Audrey Niffenegger





Henry blows out the match. “It doesn’t matter, Clare. We could win the lottery every week for the next year if we felt like it. So if you have a problem with it, it’s no big deal.” The ticket is a little singed on one corner. Henry sits next to me on the couch. “Tell you what. Why don’t you just hang on to this, and if you feel like cashing it we will, and if you decide to give it to the first homeless person you meet you could do that—”


“No fair.” “What’s no fair?”


“You can’t just leave me with this huge responsibility.”


“Well, I’m perfectly happy either way. So if you think we’re cheating the State of Illinois out of the money they’ve scammed from hard-working suckers, then let’s just forget about it. I’m sure we can think of some other way to get you a bigger studio.”


Oh. A bigger studio. It dawns on me, stupid me, that Henry could win the lottery anytime at all; that he has never bothered to do so because it’s not normal; that he has decided to set aside his fanatical dedication to living like a normal person so I can have a studio big enough to roller-skate across; that I am being an ingrate.


“Clare? Earth to Clare....” “Thank you,” I say, too abruptly.


Henry raises his eyebrows. “Does that mean we’re going to cash in that ticket?” “I don’t know. It means ‘Thank you.’”


“You’re welcome.” There is an uncomfortable silence. “Hey, I wonder what’s on TV?” “Snow.”


Henry laughs, stands up, and pulls me off the couch. “Come on, let’s go spend our ill-gotten gains.”


“Where are we going?”


“I dunno.” Henry opens the hall closet, hands me my jacket. “Hey, let’s buy Gomez and Charisse a car for their wedding.”


“I think they gave us wine glasses.” We are galumphing down the stairs. Outside it’s a perfect spring night. We stand on the sidewalk in front of our apartment building, and Henry takes my hand, and I look at him, and I raise our joined hands and Henry twirls me around and soon we’re dancing down Belle Plaine Avenue, no music but the sound of cars whooshing by and our own laughter, and the smell of cherry blossoms that fall like snow on the sidewalk as we dance underneath the trees.



The Time Traveler’s Wife Audrey Niffenegger



Wednesday, May 18, 1994 (Clare is 22, Henry is 30)


CLARE: We are attempting to buy a house. Shopping for houses is amazing. People who would never invite you into their homes under any other circumstances open their doors wide, allow you to peer into their closets, pass judgment on their wallpaper, ask pointed questions about their gutters.


Henry and I have very different ways of looking at houses. I walk through slowly, consider the woodwork, the appliances, ask questions about the furnace, check for water damage in the basement. Henry just walks directly to the back of the house, peers out the back window, and shakes his head at me. Our realtor, Carol, thinks he is a lunatic. I tell her he is a gardening fanatic. After a whole day of this, we are driving home from Carol’s office and I decide to inquire about the method in Henry’s madness.


“What the hell,” I ask, politely, “are you doing?”


Henry looks sheepish. “Well, I wasn’t sure if you wanted to know this, but I’ve been in our home-to-be. I don’t know when, but I was—will be— there on a beautiful autumn day, late afternoon. I stood at a window at the back of the house, next to that little marble topped table you got from your grandmother, and looked out over the backyard into the window of a brick building which seemed to be your studio. You were pulling sheets of paper back there. They were blue. You wore a yellow bandanna to keep your hair back, and a green sweater and your usual rubber apron and all that. There’s a grape arbor in the yard. I was there for about two minutes. So I’m just trying to duplicate that view, and when I do I figure that’s our house.”


“Jeez. Why didn’t you mention it? Now I feel silly.”


“Oh, no. Don’t. I just thought you would enjoy doing it the regular way. I mean, you seemed so thorough, and you read all those books about how to do it, and I thought you wanted to, you know, shop, and not have it be inevitable.”


Somebody has to ask about termites, and asbestos, and dry rot, and sump pumps...”


“Exactly. So let us continue as we are, and surely we will arrive separately at our mutual conclusion.”


This does eventually happen, although there are a couple tense moments before then. I find myself entranced with a white elephant in East Roger’s Park, a dreadful neighborhood at the northern perimeter of the city. It’s a mansion, a Victorian monster big enough for a family of twelve and their servants. I know even before I ask that it’s not our house; Henry is appalled by it even before we get in the front door. The backyard is a parking lot for a huge drug store. The inside has the bones of a truly beautiful house; high ceilings, fireplaces with marble mantels, ornate woodwork— “Please,” I wheedle. “It’s so incredible.”


“Yeah, incredible is the word. We’d be raped and pillaged once a week m this thing. Plus


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it needs total rehab, wiring, plumbing, new furnace, probably a new roof.... It’s just not it.” His voice is final, the voice of one who has seen the future, and has no plans to mess with it. I sulk for a couple days after that. Henry takes me out for sushi.


“Tchotchka. Amorta. Heart of my heart. Speak to me.” “I’m not not speaking to you.”


“I know. But you’re sulking. And I would rather not be sulked at, especially for speaking common sense.”


The waitress arrives, and we hurriedly consult our menus. I don’t want to bicker in Katsu, my favorite sushi restaurant, a place we eat at a lot. I reflect that Henry is counting on this, in addition to the intrinsic happiness of sushi, to placate me. We order goma-ae, hijiki, futomaki, kappamaki, and an impressive array of raw things on rice rectangles. Kiko, the waitress, disappears with our order.


“I’m not mad at you.” This is only sort of true.


Henry raises one eyebrow. “Okay. Good. What’s wrong, then?”


“Are you absolutely sure this place you were in is our house? What if you’re wrong and we turn down something really great just because it doesn’t have the right view of the backyard?”


“It had an awful lot of our stuff in it to be anything but our house. I grant you that it might not be our first house—I wasn’t close enough to you to see how old you were. I thought you were pretty young, but maybe you were just well-preserved. But I swear to you that it’s really nice, and won’t it be great to have a studio in the back like that?”


I sigh. “Yeah. It will. God. I wish you could videotape some of your excursions. I would love to see this place. Couldn’t you have looked at the address, while you were at it?”


“Sorry. It was just a quickie.”


Sometimes I would give anything to open up Henry’s brain and look at his memory like a movie. I remember when I first learned to use a computer; I was fourteen and Mark was trying to teach me to draw on his Macintosh. After about ten minutes I wanted to push my hands through the screen and get at the real thing in there, whatever it was. I like to do things directly, touch the textures, see the colors. House shopping with Henry is making me crazy. It’s like driving one of those awful toy remote control cars. I always drive them into walls. On purpose.


“Henry. Would you mind if I went house hunting by myself for a while?” “No, I guess not.” He seems a little hurt. “If you really want to.”


“Well, we’re going to end up in this place anyway, right? I mean, it won’t change anything.”



The Time Traveler’s Wife Audrey Niffenegger



“True. Yeah, don’t mind me. But try not to fall for any more hellholes, okay?”


I finally find it about a month and twenty or so houses later. It’s on Ainslie, in Lincoln Square, a red brick bungalow built in 1926. Carol pops open the key box and wrestles with the lock, and as the door opens I have an overwhelming sensation of something fitting... I walk right through to the back window, peer out at the backyard, and there’s my future studio, and there’s the grape arbor and as I turn around Carol looks at me inquisitively and I say, “We’ll buy it.”


She is more than a bit surprised. “Don’t you want to see the rest of the house? What about your husband?”


“Oh, he’s already seen it. But yeah, sure, let’s see the house.”


Saturday, July 9, 1994 (Henry is 31, Clare is 23)


HENRY: Today was Moving Day. All day it was hot; the movers’ shirts stuck to them as they walked up the stairs of our apartment this morning, smiling because they figured a two-bedroom apartment would be no big deal and they’d be done before lunch time. Their smiles fell when they stood in our living room and saw Clare’s heavy Victorian furniture and my seventy-eight boxes of books. Now it’s dark and Clare and I are wandering through the house, touching the walls, running our hands over the cherry windowsills. Our bare feet slap the wood floors. We run water into the claw-footed bathtub, turn the burners of the heavy Universal stove on and off. The windows are naked; we leave the lights off and street light pours over the empty fireplace through dusty glass. Clare moves from room to room, caressing her house, our house. I follow her, watching as she opens closets, windows, cabinets. She stands on tiptoe in the dining room, touches the etched-glass light fixture with a fingertip. Then she takes off her shirt. I run my tongue over her breasts. The house envelops us, watches us, contemplates us as we make love in it for the first time, the first of many times, and afterward, as we lie spent on the bare floor surrounded by boxes, I feel that we have found our home.


Sunday, August 28, 1994 (Clare is 23, Henry is 31)


CLARE: It’s a humid sticky hot Sunday afternoon, and Henry, Gomez, and I are at large in Evanston. We spent the morning at Lighthouse Beach, playing in Lake Michigan and roasting ourselves. Gomez wanted to be buried in the sand, so Henry and I obliged. We ate our picnic, and napped. Now we are walking down the shady side of Church Street, licking


The Time Traveler’s Wife Audrey Niffenegger



Orangsicles, groggy with sun.


“Clare, your hair is full of sand,” says Henry. I stop and lean over and beat my hair like a carpet with my hand. A whole beach falls out of it.


“My ears are full of sand. And my unmentionables ” Gomez says.


“I’ll be glad to whack you in the head, but you will have to do the rest yourself,” I say. A small breeze blows up and we hold our bodies out to it. I coil my hair onto the top of my head and immediately feel better.


“What shall we do next?” Gomez inquires. Henry and I exchange glances. “Bookman’s Alley” we chant in unison.


Gomez groans. “Oh, God. Not a bookstore. Lord, Lady, have mercy on your humble servant—”


“Bookman’s Alley it is, then ” Henry says blithely.


“Just promise me we won’t spend more than, oh, say, three hours...” “I think they close at five” I tell him, “and it’s already 2:30.”


“You could go have a beer,” says Henry. “I thought Evanston was dry.”


“No, I think they changed it. If you can prove you’re not a member of the YMCA you can have a beer.”


“I’ll come with you. All for one and one for all.” We turn onto Sherman, walk past what used to be Marshall Field’s and is now a sneaker outlet store, past what used to be the Varsity Theater and is now a Gap. We turn into the alley that runs between the florist’s and the shoe repair shop and lo and behold, it’s Bookman’s Alley. I push the door open and we troop into the dim cool shop as though we are tumbling into the past.


Roger is sitting behind his little untidy desk chatting with a ruddy white-haired gentleman about something to do with chamber music. He smiles when he sees us. “Clare, I’ve got something you will like,” he says. Henry makes a beeline for the back of the store where all the printing and bibliophilic stuff is. Gomez meanders around looking at the weird little objects that are tucked into the various sections: a saddle in Westerns, a deerstalker’s cap in Mysteries. He takes a gumdrop from the immense bowl in the Children’s section, not realizing that those gumdrops have been there for years and you can hurt yourself on them. The book Roger has for me is a Dutch catalog of decorative papers with real sample papers tipped in. I can see immediately that it’s a find, so I lay it on the table by the desk, to start the pile of things I want. Then I begin to peruse the shelves dreamily, inhaling the deep dusty smell of paper, glue, old carpets and wood. I see Henry sitting on the floor in the Art section with something open on his lap. He’s sunburned, and his hair stands up every which way. I’m glad he cut it. He looks more like himself to me now, with the short hair. As I watch him


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he puts his hand up to twirl a piece of it around his finger, realizes it’s too short to do that, and scratches his ear. I want to touch him, run my hands through his funny sticking-up hair, but I turn and burrow into the Travel section instead.



HENRY: Clare is standing in the main room by a huge stack of new arrivals. Roger doesn’t really like people fiddling with unpriced stuff, but I’ve noticed that he’ll let Clare do pretty much whatever she wants in his store. She has her head bent over a small red book. Her hair is trying to escape from the coil on her head, and one strap of her sundress is hanging off her shoulder, exposing a bit of her bathing suit. This is so poignant, so powerful, that I urgently need to walk over to her, touch her, possibly, if no one is looking, bite her, but at the same time I don’t want this moment to end, and suddenly I notice Gomez, who is standing in the Mystery section looking at Clare with an expression that so exactly mirrors my own feelings that I am forced to see—.


At this moment, Clare looks up at me and says, “Henry, look, it’s Pompeii.” She holds out the tiny book of picture postcards, and something in her voice says, See, I have chosen you. I walk to her, put my arm around her shoulders, straighten the fallen strap. When I look up a second later, Gomez has turned his back on us and is intently surveying the Agatha Christies.


Sunday, January 15, 1995 (Clare is 23, Henry is 31)


CLARE: I am washing dishes and Henry is dicing green peppers. The sun is setting very pinkly over the January snow in our backyard on this early Sunday evening, and we are making chili and singing Yellow Submarine: In the town where I was born Lived a man who sailed to sea...


Onions hiss in the pan on the stove. As we sing And our friends are all on board I suddenly hear my voice floating alone and I turn and Henry’s clothes lie in a heap, the knife is on the kitchen floor. Half of a pepper sways slightly on the cutting board.


I turn off the heat and cover the onions. I sit down next to the pile of clothes and scoop them up, still warm from Henry’s body, and sit until all their warmth is from my body, holding them. Then I get up and go into our bedroom, fold the clothes neatly and place them on our bed. Then I continue making dinner as best I can, and eat by myself, waiting and wondering.


Friday, February 3, 1995 (Clare is 23, Henry is 31, and 39)


The Time Traveler’s Wife Audrey Niffenegger


CLARE: Gomez and Charisse and Henry and I are sitting around our dining room table playing Modern Capitalist Mind-Fuck. It’s a game Gomez and Charisse have invented. We play it with a Monopoly set. It involves answering questions, getting points, accumulating money, and exploiting your fellow players. It’s Gomez’s turn. He shakes the dice, gets a six, and lands on Community Chest. He draws a card.


“Okay, everybody. What modern technological invention would you deep-six for the good of society?”


“Television,” I say.


“Fabric softener,” says Charisse.


“Motion detectors,” says Henry vehemently. “And I say gunpowder.”


“That’s hardly modern ” I object. “Okay. The assembly line.”


“You don’t get two answers,” says Henry.


“Sure I do. What kind of a lame-ass answer is ‘motion detectors,’ anyway?”


“I keep getting ratted on by the motion detectors in the stacks at the Newberry. Twice this week I’ve ended up in the stacks after hours, and as soon as I show up the guard is upstairs checking it out. It’s driving me nuts.”


“I don’t think the proletariat would be affected much by the de-invention of motion sensors. Clare and I each get ten points for correct answers, Charisse gets five points for creativity, and Henry gets to go backward three spaces for valuing the needs of the individual over the collective good.”


“That puts me back on Go. Give me $200.00, Banker.” Charisse gives Henry his money. “Oops,” says Gomez. I smile at him. It’s my turn. I roll a four.


“Park Place. I’ll buy it.” In order to buy anything I must correctly answer a question. Henry draws from the Chance pile.


“Whom would you prefer to have dinner with and why: Adam Smith, Karl Marx, Rosa Luxembourg, Alan Greenspan?”






“Most interesting death.” Henry, Charisse, and Gomez confer and agree that I can buy Park Place. I give Charisse my money and she

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