“Spock, I believe… I’m in love with Edith Keeler.”
He knew the words were coming. He had seen them written on Jim’s face for days now, growing ever stronger. Pity, he thought, that I can read you like an open book, and every ending I read is distasteful for both of us.
The Captain was like a little boy, in love with the stars all over again. And he was also like a grown man, in love with love itself.
I could have been as prophetic as she is, thought Spock. But I was not born in 1930 on Earth, so who shall ever know? I could have been a beautiful young woman, too, instead of a half-Vulcan male. I could have been her.
But I am not.
What is the difference between us?
He played through the tapes over and over again, looking for some way to discern the future. But predictions are hard. Newspapers cannot always be read clearly. Words and people seem to flow together into poorly-made inferences. Spock does not speculate, in general. Yet for the sake of Edith-who-could-have-been-Spock, or perhaps for Spock-who-might-have-loved-like-Edith, he engaged in the practice.
Could he begrudge her the presence of her “young man,” as she had taken to calling Kirk? Hardly. You are selfish, Spock told himself when he managed a few minutes of meditation. And you are a hypocrite. Admire her for her intelligence, admire the man who you wish would love intelligence, and ask that the man you admire not admire her? Illogical, Spock, First Officer. Illogical, half-breed-in-love.
And if her lips were more enticing to Captain James T. Kirk of the USS Enterprise than Spock’s painstaking circuits, one could hardly blame him. Why should the oath Spock had made to himself require physical consecration, in any case?
You? She said, eyes alight with supernovae and Earth flowers and things Spock couldn’t have. At his side. Defined by him.
(Take him for granted; he will never disappoint you. Tease him, don’t worry; he will never leave you, nor will he believe you. You lose nothing. Confide in him. He will never burden you with confidences in exchange. Risk him. He will never blame you, even as he dies.)
Had Spock been a human, the implication would have stirred anger. As it was, he searched his mind and could find none. There was only sadness. Do Vulcans feel pain more acutely when they are unable to surpress it? Is that the price we pay for the control of violence: that the two most base emotions, pleasure and pain, are able to drive us to madness?
It was lucky that platinum was in short supply on planet Earth, or perhaps unlucky. Otherwise Spock might have altered the course of his own history more than he knew. For his future was buried on the tapes along with the futures of everyone else, if only he had bothered to look. A millisecond too far in time had been played—not because the Guardian makes mistakes, but because it makes predictions based on what it knows of the world. And it always gives one prophecy to those who care to look for it.
Jim has said the word “love” too many times, Spock realizes. I should be glad that he never says it to me. Let it mean something to her, at least—she has not heard him say it before.
I could have been ignorant like her. Ignorance is an easy property to have, if difficult to attain once it is lost. What divides us but experience?
Experience and death, the Guardian tells him, if only he would listen. Experience and action. You live a life Edith would have died to live.
“He knows, Doctor. He knows.”
But she lives a moment he would have died to live. What is a life compared to a moment of being beloved by Jim Kirk? What is a life lived behind a badge in comparison to a death died in front of a car, if only Jim Kirk will cry for you?
It could have gone like this: in the early morning Spock flips through the annals of history on his tiny tricorder screen, the buttons lit by the glow of frustrating circuits overloading again. In that split second he sees the headline: Vulcan Starfleet Officer Returns From The Dead, Enterprise’s ‘Golden Admiral’ To Stand Trial, and the picture of the burning Enterprise taken from the Klingon ship. The burning Enterprise. He puts his tools down and puts a hand over his mouth.
He leaves it there until dawn, when Jim walks in and finds his emotionless first officer staring at nothing, nothing at all, Captain.
But instead it went like this: Spock was tired, and had no platinum, and had enough to worry about with Jim and Edith and McCoy and just making it through tomorrow. And so he turned the tricorder off.
(Would life have been better the other way? One can be right at the wrong time.)
On board the Enterprise they hold a private funeral for Edith. Spock sits on one side of the chess board and Jim sits on the other, and they consecrate her death over a game which Spock loses. No one speaks her name, but the next day she’s still dead—more permanently so, it seems, than before.
That night Spock makes a new vow. He will live the life that Edith Keeler would have died to live. Clever Edith. Human Edith. Edith-who-might-have-been-Spock.
They’re all one and the same, after all, those who love Jim Kirk and are loved in return. They’re all just one person in a myriad of forms. Each could have been the other.
“Edith, I believe… I’m in love with Spock.”
She knew those words were coming. She had seen them written on Jim’s face for days now. Just because he didn’t say them doesn’t matter. Edith had an eye for possible tomorrows.
Spock holds a private ceremony for her each year on the anniversary of her death, as they experienced it. One year, he will tell Jim the truth. Jim, there is no “believe”. I am in love with you.
And then Edith will rest easy in her ancient grave.