Henry Watterson half-listened to the television on in the other room so that he wouldn’t feel completely alone as he stared out the window and watched the traffic on Genesee Street.  He wasn’t paying attention to anything in particular, he never did these days. This had been his distracted routine since the funeral.

He heard the person on the television say something that snapped his head around. A man with a sophisticated English accent had just made a statement that jarred Henry out of his chair and made him run to the screen. He grabbed the remote and backed up the program to hear it again.

“It has been theorized that a black hole contains all time.”

He hit rewind again to hear it for a third time.

Henry’s face flushed with excitement and his chest hurt as if he hadn’t breathed in months. He was thrilled by the possibility of the theory being true. He wanted it to be true because if a black hole did contain all time, then somewhere in the depths of the infinite darkness of the black hole’s eternity, she was still alive.

“She” was Sara McCleary, his only girlfriend, the only girl that could be his girlfriend. Henry fell somewhere on the “spectrum” and so did Sara. Somehow their spectrums crossed at just the right point that made them compatible and combined they almost made one complete, normal person. She didn’t mind that Henry couldn’t look at her when he talked or that he remembered everything. Every word, detail and exact time of every event in his life. Other girls ran from Henry while Sara had been drawn in closer. She twirled her hair and washed her hands thirty times a day in sets of three washings. Henry didn’t mind that at all and liked the smell of the disinfectant soap, which was a plus.

Their parents weren’t happy that they lived together in the apartment over the florist shop but were happy that Henry and Sara were each able to find someone. Henry felt that the odds against their meeting were so astronomical, that it couldn’t be repeated. That is why this theory about black holes had given him a small spark of hope that someone, someday, would be able to find a way to tap into the time trapped in space. If they could, Henry would be able to lock Sara in the apartment so she wouldn’t eat the sushi.

Henry hated sushi even before it killed Sara. He hated the thought of sushi. Who ate raw fish? They had to be crazy, was all he could conclude when he first found out what sushi was. Did someone in Japan on the spectrum have such a strong fear of cooking utensils that they ate the fish raw and liked it? He didn’t know and didn’t want to know.

Sara loved Sushi which was strange for someone so afraid of germs, but it was a germ, a flesh-eating bacterium actually, that was her demise. She contracted it from the sushi and all the hand washing in the world, along with weeks of intravenous antibiotics couldn’t help. He knew she was doomed when she lost all ten of her fingers and she began washing invisible hands thirty times a day in sets of three. She began to lose additional body parts in succession until she was devoid of appendages and finally devoid of life.

Henry asked why they didn’t have all the parts to put into her casket. He asked everyone from the hospital that came to the wake and then the employees of the funeral home.  He stared at was left of Sara. The casket was surrounded by the flowers he bought from the florist shop they lived over. He just stood there and looked at her for a long time, unable to speak when his mother asked him if he was okay.

He was unable to speak for the next year, four months and two days until he heard the man with the distinguished English accent on the television say that a black hole contained all eternity.

From that point he couldn’t stop talking. He called everyone he knew to see if they had seen the television program so he could find out more about the theory of black holes and see how close they were to tapping into the time inside. His friends and family were so happy that Henry was talking that they didn’t listen to his questions about black holes. Since it had been so long since he had spoken, he only got to the “L’s” in his address book before he lost his voice.

He held Sara’s picture and mouthed “I will find you, I promise.”

In the morning he took the bus to Best Buy and asked so many questions about computers, laptops and the Internet that he was working with his fifth salesman before he decided what he should buy.

It took him an hour on twenty-three minutes on the phone with the cable company to hook into the Internet. He didn’t count the time of the first three calls, where he was mysteriously disconnected as he talked about the theory of time in black holes. On the fourth call he thought it would be a better strategy to just ask how to connect to the Internet.

When he hung up the phone it was there, the world wide web. The thought of the world being connected to his apartment over the flower shop was frightening but he knew it was the only way to find Sara. He clicked into the search box on Google as the lady from the cable company had instructed him and with one shaky finger typed in “Do black holes contain all time?”

It was dark outside when he finished reading through just one page of the results that came up from the search. An entire notebook was filled with information from the sites and another notebook had ten pages of more questions.  Henry was exhausted and thought he would look at one more page before going to bed. That page was from the channel that ran the program that had sent him on this mission. He clicked on the video and watched the entire program. He now had the name of scientist at MIT that put forth the theory, Henry Mason, PhD.

Henry was very happy that he was also named Henry, the odds of them both having the same name were astronomical. He Googled “Henry Mason, MIT,” hit enter and there he was, smiling from the screen in a picture next to his “Curriculum Vitea” and his email address.

The cable company had twenty-four-hour customer service and because Henry was so focused and excited about the prospect of writing to Professor Mason, it only took him fifteen minutes to get the instructions on how to set up an email account, most of the time spent on the concept of how to choose an email address. In the end Henry took the third suggestion from Gmail.

Henry clicked on “Compose” and typed in Professor Mason’s address, put “Find Sara” in the subject line and then began typing.

Henry told Dr. Mason the entire story of how he met Sara, how she died and how he needed his help to find the time when she was still alive in the time contained in a black hole.

It was light outside when he finally hit send.

He stared at his inbox waiting for Dr. Mason to respond. There were emails from eHarmony, low cost life insurance and many other solicitations, but nothing from MIT. After three days of waiting Henry started his research again, considering it a better use of his time while he waited for a response.

A week later he clicked on a website that had the first page of a research paper from a researcher at Cal Tech but he couldn’t access the rest of the information. He found page after page of websites after adding “research papers” to his search, with hundreds of results, none of which he could access.

Henry took the bus to the public library and showed the librarian the websites that he wanted to access.

“Those are research papers and dissertations. Are you sure you want to read those?” she said giving Henry the “are you crazy?” look. “This looks like pretty high-level stuff.”

“Yes please,” Henry said with a forced smile and eye contact that his mother taught him to do as the “normal” response.

“You can get access to these at a college library, but you probably will have to be a registered student.”

Henry never considered going to college but if that was what he had to do to read all this work then that is what he would do. He took the bus to the community college and walked up to the information kiosk. A young lady named Veronica was very helpful and walked Henry through the entire registration process. He signed up for classes he had no intention of going to and when she finally printed out his library access sign on and password Henry had a real smile without forcing his facial muscles. He was staring at the piece of paper that represented a huge step toward finding Sara when she took his picture for his ID. Veronica gave up trying to get Henry to look into the camera.

The next eight months were spent reading everything he could get from the online libraries. He ignored all the letters about failing his classes and continued his research. One research paper led to ten others he found in the citations. He struggled with some of the mathematics, so for the next semester he registered for a calculus class. The instructor was a little miffed that Henry asked questions about the math in the research and not the work from class. But he humored Henry and helped him get through the equations when Henry told him about how he wanted to capture time in a black hole.

When a year had passed since he emailed Dr. Mason, Henry and still no response, he asked Veronica at the information kiosk what he should do to get him to respond.

“Did you send him a follow up email?” Veronica asked.

Henry never considered that approach.

“Boston is only a couple hours away,” she continued, “just go see him.”

Henry bought a roundtrip bus ticket to Boston and four hours later he was walking on the MIT campus, towards the McNair Physics Building and Dr, Mason’s office.

He wandered through the labyrinth of classrooms and offices until he found Dr. Mason’s and knocked on the door. He knocked again and the door remained closed. Henry thought that Dr. Mason didn’t not respond to emails or knocks, would he answer questions?

Henry stood in the hallway trying to weigh his options on what to do next. An older woman with glasses on a chain around her neck walked up to him. She seemed relieved and happy to see him but Henry was certain he had never met her before.

“Finally, you’re here. You are the research assistant Dr. Mason has been waiting for, aren’t you?” she asked.

“Yes, I am here for the research,” Henry answered trying to smile and look her in the eye.

“Dr. Mason has been working out of his house, he needs you right away, come into my office and I’ll get you his address.”

Henry followed the directions to Dr. Mason’s house and knocked on the door without expecting an answer. He was about to knock again when the door opened. He recognized Dr. Mason from the television program that started him on his quest.

“Hello, Dr. Mason, I am here for the research on black holes.”

“Great, c’mon in, I’ve been waiting for you. You have been through all the research at Cal Tech? Where did you do your doctorate again? I’m so glad you’re here, I need so much help. I can’t even get through my email.”

Henry was confused by all the questions and didn’t know which one to answer so he tried to answer them in one sentence.

“Yes, Cal Tech, I’ve read all the research and desperately want to find all the time captured in a black hole.”

“Good, let’s get to work and find all that time.”

Henry smiled and looked up into the sky, “I’m coming Sara, see you soon.”

THE END

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Photo by Smithsonian Institution