The Time Traveler's Wife
by Audrey Niffenegger
The Time Traveler's Wife Book 1, Chapter 1 Summary
How It All Goes Down
First Date, One
- Saturday, October 26 (Henry is 28, Clare is 20)
- At the Newberry Library, Clare seeks the help of a librarian for her a project in art history class, and finds herself face-to-face with Henry. She acts overjoyed to see him, much to Henry's embarrassment because he doesn't remember her. As he's trying to figure out what is going on, Clare explains to him that she has known him since she was a little girl. She struggles with the fact that all her memories mean nothing to him, and she hopes to be able to convince him to have dinner with her. Henry accepts, mostly out of curiosity over why this "luminous creature" acts like he's her "personal Jesus" (1.1.7-8).
- Henry cleans his messy bachelor pad because he plans on inviting Clare up after dinner. During their conversation over dinner at Beau Thai restaurant, Henry realizes that Clare knows him very well. She explains to him that she first saw him when she was a six-year-old girl, out on a meadow at Lake Michigan, not far from her family home. At the time, she was a bit shocked because he appeared buck naked (since he can't take anything with him on his travels). She then shows him a diary where she noted all the dates he visited her. As Clare rattles on about the details of the time they have already spent together, from when she was a little girl, to a teenager, to a young woman, with her family and, oh yes, the times she hid him in the house, Henry feels completely overwhelmed. He begs her to pretend that this is a normal first date between two normal people and Clare indulges his request.
- We learn that Clare studies papermaking at the Art Institute of Chicago. Most of her work is related to birds, because they express longing for her. She grew up at the Abshire family residence "Meadowlark House" in a small town called South Haven. Her family is kind of traditional and "posh," as she puts it. Her twenty-two-year-old brother Mark is becoming a lawyer, just like her father Philip. Her seventeen-year-old sister Alicia is an aspiring cellist. Clare remains close-mouthed about her mother Lucille.
- It's Henry turn for the formal introduction: he grew up in Chicago and his family isn't posh. His father, Richard DeTamble, plays the violin for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and his mother, Annette DeTamble, is a rather famous opera singer.
- After dinner, Henry invites Clare up to his place. On the way, Henry buys some alcohol and Clare reminds him that Dr. Kendrick advised him to not drink. Henry has no clue what she means so she explains that Dr. Kendrick is his doctor in the future and that the man will discover why people are Chrono-Impaired – the clinical term for Henry's time-hopping condition. Henry says never mind.
- At Henry's apartment, they kiss. Clare's kiss feels very familiar to Henry, "a kiss born of long association, and I wonder just exactly we've been doing in this meadow of Clare's, but I push the thought away." For some reason, very much unlike him, Henry wants to take time to enjoy this beautiful stranger he just met. Clare, on the other hand, reminds him that she has been anticipating this moment for years. As such, she insists that they make love right then and there, and so they do.
- Getting ready in the bathroom the next morning, Clare discovers some woman's toiletries. She's hurt at first, but then contents herself with the fact that whoever this woman is, "she's Henry's past, but Clare is his future" (1.1.120). When Henry realizes that Clare must have gotten wind of her contender; he comforts her that they've been over with for a long time. Clare admits that Henry's present version is more selfish than the forty-year-old man she met in the meadow. Henry pleads with her that, if she sticks with him, that more mature man is bound to appear. Sooner or later. They make love again. When Clare asks Henry why his future self never told him about her, he says that he makes a rule of trying to live like a normal person.
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