A Journey into the Past

Joe Lanzon

It was the evening of the 10th of June of the year 2013. Just a week before my 77th birthday. I felt tired, maybe because of the heat of the day or because of the long walk I had just made along the new Dock No 1 waterfront.  Or maybe it was my old age. Whatever it was, I felt weary and needed a rest. Immediately I entered home, I collapsed on the armchair. My heavy eyes soon closed and I was in the marvelous world of dreams …………….

…………….. I opened the gate of the garden, stepped slowly inside and found myself in a large open space which appeared to be a beehive of activity. On close scrutiny, I recognized it to be the large square outside old city gate in Valletta. The old three-arched gate stood behind me. 

I moved forward. There were too many people moving about, some entering the City, others going out of it. The bus terminus was busy with the old different-coloured buses transferring people to and from the outlaying towns and villages. I noted that the people close to me wore old fashioned clothes and, despite it being summer, none of them wore T-shirts or the kind of clothes we usually wear at this time of the year. Most men wore light white straw hats or caps and the majority of women wore black drab clothes. What is this?

I also saw several horse-drawn ‘karrozzini’, all doing a roaring trade, filled up with people going towards Floriana and beyond. It was evident that these were not tourists but Maltese going about their daily business. On my right I saw a man in the corner selling newspapers. I went up to him and bought a copy of the ‘Times of Malta’. I scanned the front page briefly. There was news that the luxury ship ‘Queen Mary’ had made its maiden voyage and had arrived in New York on 1 June and that Italy had annexed Etiophia after its forces had occupied its capital Addis Ababa.  I also noticed that the style of its presentation was different to the one I am used to. And, more strangely, the news stories were definitely not about the subjects I was reading about yesterday or the days before. Then, at the top right hand side of the paper, I saw the date – 10th June 1936! What is this? 

My mind was in a whirl. As I looked around me I was thinking of what this might be. The only explanation I could find was that when I had opened the magic garden gate I must have been transported 77 years back in time. Amazing! I had read about ‘Star Gate’, the ‘Time Machine’, ‘black holes’ in space, time travelers and time warps. I was always intrigued by the scientist’s theory that if one were to travel at a speed exceeding that of light, then one would travel back or forward in time. Was this what had happened to me? Was the garden gate my ‘Star Gate?

At least I was at a place I knew well but at a time when my birth was one week away! I racked my brain to decide what to do in such strange circumstances. I recalled my mother saying that she and my father lived in Strada Buongiorno in Bormla during their early years of marriage. They would be the only people I know, even though they would not know me. Well, not yet! Not for another week at least! I decided to go and find them. 

I took a green bus to Bormla. The city was familiar to me although very different from the Bormla I left only a few hours ago. Of course, this area around the dockyard was still in its pre-war state, of which I had only a bare recollection.  I sought Strada Buongiorno, took the steps upward to No 15 and saw my parent’s house. I remember this house after it was reconstructed following its destruction by German bombs during the Second World War. What shall I do? What shall I say? These were the only people who could help me, maybe let me stay with them until I sort things out. But who shall I say I am?  If I tell the truth they would certainly not believe me. And I would not blame them. 

I used to have a very good rapport with my father.  I would bare my soul to him, tell him the truth. I knew that he was well-read so maybe he could have come across some science–fiction article on time travelling. The problem was that I was 77 years old and he was just 29! My story would be hard to believe. I thought, however, that I could convince him of who I really was.

The door was open but the ‘ante-porta’ was closed. With trepidation I knocked and waited. Nobody answered. I knocked again a little harder. A young woman came and opened the ‘ante-porta’. She must be my mother! She looked at me, an old man, dressed somewhat different from normal. “What do you want?” she asked me in a gentle sort of way. Of course she did not recognize me. How could she? I did not exist yet! But I was sure that she was my mother. I recognized her from the old photos I have of her in my album. “Is Guzeppi in please? I am his friend and would like to speak to him.”  I enquired.

She went inside and called my father who came immediately. “Hello”, he said, “who are you?” “Can we talk privately for moment please?” I pleaded hoping that he would not refuse me.  I remember that my father was always a kind and gentle man, ready to help anybody who needed his assistance. Even many years after his death in 1961, people who realized that I was his son, would recall incidents when he had helped them in one way or another. They had spoken so highly of him that I felt so proud to be his son. 

“Yes, yes, come in.” he said. We sat down on the armchairs in the sitting room. I remember that he himself had made all the furniture in the house. Although in actual fact I was his son, to anybody who could see us then, it looked more that I was his father or grandfather! “I have to recount a story which, I know, is so strange that it is hard for you to believe. But I pray that you believe me because I am saying the truth.” I said anxiously. 

He looked at me, smiled as he often used to do, patted me on my knee and said. “I’m listening, I’m curious after what you have just said”, he replied. There, in the house I recall so well, I opened my heart to my father, telling him that, despite my aged appearance, I was actually his own son; that through some unexplained method of time-travelling I have been transported from the year 2013 to 1936; that in actual fact at that very moment in time I was not yet born!

My mother came into the room to see if we needed anything. A two-year old child, a boy, was with her. He must be my elder brother John I realized. I also noticed that she was pregnant. That must be me inside her, just another week before I am born and enter this world. Dad told her that it’s all right, we do not need anything and she left us again to be alone. “It’s so far- fetched, so unbelievable” he said. “But strange things happen and I believe your story”, he continued. 

I was relieved at last. My father had accepted me as his son. He believed me. But, he said, that it would be best if we do not tell this strange story to my mother. For one thing, it would be difficult for her to believe the story. And for another thing, it would be a shock for her which would not be advisable in her present state of very-advanced pregnancy. 

Dad accepted to accommodate me with the family for the time being. I was delighted and relieved. After a week, when Mum was ready to give birth, the midwife was called. I sat with my father and brother downstairs in the outer room while the midwife was assisting my mother to give birth. My father looked at me and smiled. It is a strange feeling. My father, still in his prime of life and I am an old man. 

Then we heard a baby crying and the midwife telling father that he has another baby boy. My father and I looked at each other. I got up, shook hands with him and said, “I have just been born, there cannot be two of me at the same time, now I have to leave and find the gate which will take me back to 2013.” Dad and I had tears in our eyes as we hugged each other. “Take care son” he said “take care!” Then he darted upstairs to my mother’s room where my birth had just taken place. 

………………………….. Then I woke up from my sleep, rubbed my eyes with my back hand and looked around me. I was back to where I had started before the adventure into the past where I had met my father, mother and brother. And where I just nearly met myself!