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Science Fiction Friendship Romance

"Tell me again how we got here?" I’m struggling to make a fire so we can cook some coffee. And Kim definitely needs some coffee. And as a result, so do I.

"You wanted to do something we both wouldn't like. To get out of our comfort zones. Well, and here we are, at great lake Titicaca. But not at a tropical resort, oh no. We're in Bolivia right?"

"I think so, yeah." I mumble, trying to focus on the fire but failing spectacularly. Yes, this was my idea and my idea alone. I knew Kim wanted to see the world, and I wanted to show them the world. And to keep myself from getting to comfortable in my life, I tend to do things on vacation which aren’t exactly comfortable. Though, usually that means going to some resort or fancy hotel and do uncomfortable things from there, like sky diving or rafting down a waterfall or two. This time I chose backpacking. Because they told me about their vacations on camping sites in Scandinavia.

It’s a lie that these light weighted camping matrasses are comfortable.

It’s a lie that making fire is easy.

It’s also a lie that vacations are the ultimate relationship tests.

“We got fire! Can you…” I don’t have to finish my sentence, they already move over and places the kettle on the fire. I feel their head on my shoulder and smile.

“You are always able to start a fire.”

“You make it sound like it’s a bad thing.”

“Sometimes it is.”

“I only burnt down a house once.” I argue.

“And you handed me a fire to burn down my own bridges.”

And here we are again. Kim left everything behind in order to be with me. It was their own choice, I never asked them to do that. But they wanted to start all over. A new life, away from their demons and obstacles they built in the course of their life. They were knocking down walls when we met. I admired their strength. They admired my sense of independence. It was something they strived for. Never mind they were already very much independent already. But not enough, according to their own set of rules.

We were seeing each other for a couple of months now. And I decided to take them on this trip, which I wouldn’t have taken on my own or with my friends. But I did with them. And now I wonder why.

“I hate it when you say that.”

“I’m thankful that you did.”

“Hmmm.”

“Hmmm what?” they say. I can’t answer that. All I knew was that suddenly I had enough of feeling like I was the one who cut them off from the safe life they used to have. There was no need for them to move to Cape Town. Sure, I live there. But I’m hardly there. I’m a traveler. I need to see and taste the world. I need to feel the rush to be on the move. Meet other people. And to be on my own for days, if not weeks, if I felt like that’s what I need. I felt locked up right now.

“I’m going for a walk.” I mumble and get up not waiting for a reply. I hear them argue about having a coffee first and that I should take care. I need to go. I don’t walk, I run. I’m running. I have no idea where to. No idea where I am heading and how long I am running for. I just have to. It’s what I’m doing all my life. Running.

A bright light between the trees distracts me. I stop and look at it. It feels like it’s pulling me towards it and without thinking I walk towards it. The closer I come, the more it looks like a portal. A portal which I’ve only seen in science fiction movies or games. I always judged the people in movies walking towards it, stepping into it and getting in a lot of trouble because they did. Here I was stretching out my arm and touch the portal. It doesn’t burn. I step into it.

“Daddy, daddy! You’re home!” A kid aged about 6 years old runs towards me. I look around me. I’m in a garden with huge white walls surrounding it. I hear the door of a car slam. The kid jumps up and down next to a car and he is being picked up by who I assume must be his father.

“Tell me Nelson, have you been good today?”

“Of course I have! I helped mommy doing groceries!”

“So we have a lot of cookies now?”

The kid called Nelson laughs. They don’t seem to notice I’m here, in their garden. Before I can even start to think about where I am, I recognize the father. I freeze. The father, that’s me. He’s wearing a very nice and expensive looking suit and his head is shaved. But that’s definitely me. But how? And where?

He, or I, puts Nelson down and they walk inside the house. It’s a big house. It’s a mansion really. They keep the door on the porch open and I decide to walk towards it. While I do I look around me and try to figure out where I am. Am I dreaming? Did I trip while running and am I in a coma? Is that what that portal was?

I step into the house and it looks like a colonial mansion. Why would I decide to live in a colonial mansion? Nelson is now on a very large sofa which personally I wouldn’t have picked out myself and is reading a book. At least he’s being raised well. I hear voices and follow them into the kitchen.

Is that Kim?

Kim is wearing a pony tail but that isn’t by far the weirdest thing. They’re wearing a nice floral dress. Decent and yet a bit sexy. I see the father walking towards them, lifting them up and placing them to sit on the sink. Kim’s laughing in a way I have never heard them laugh.

“So, tell me, my sexy husband, how was your day?”

“Hard. But I don’t mind because I know who I’m doing it for. Everything for my family. For all of us.”

He places a hand on their stomach. Indeed, they appear to be pregnant. Kim? Pregnant? Me? Married?

I know that our first time wasn’t exactly what other people would call romantic. Before reaching for the condoms, I asked them if they were sure and that there were certain things that would never happen between us. Like getting married or even living together. Too many times have my relationships taken that turn and too many times I ended up in a terrible break up because the other one couldn’t bare the fact that ‘they’d never really have me’, as the conclusion usually was. I felt completely the opposite. I was done with that so I had made the decision to let anyone know just as quickly as possible. It might not have been the most convenient moment for most, but Kim wasn’t bothered.

“Maybe it’s a good moment to inform you that I’ll never have babies. Simply because I don’t want to and I don’t think our world is suitable for kids.”

We had a very passionate first night together.

But here I am staring at us as a married couple, living together with a second kid on the way. What is this place?

“Tell me about your big success today, my sweet provider.” 

“They believed it! They believed all of it! My client gets his settlement and we get a large share of that. I could convince them that the jerry can wasn’t used to start the fire, no, it was already there because he had just changed the oil of his car, like a good citizen. Oh, you should have seen the opposition, they hated me, all of them. But we won.”

“My little sexy con artist.”

I have to turn away, as they passionately started to kiss him. And he, shamefully pulling them closer to him. I can hear his zipper and they start to giggle. It sounds fake. And then I think, dudes, your kid is sitting right there, you can’t… I turn around and I see they, we, hell I don’t know anymore. These two are having sex on the kitchen sink, after he tells a story about I assume insurance fraud, while their kid is sitting just a few meters away from them. Where are our manners?

I walk away and explore the house. It’s filled with family photos and rewards belonging to this alternative me. It’s also filled with art and artifacts that look particularly rich and are anything but my taste. Our taste really. I walk upstairs on these ridiculous fancy stairs. It’s all extremely colonial and I wonder which one of us has decided on this.

I find my office. It’s huge. Apparently I’m a very successful lawyer. There’s even newspaper articles on the wall writing about my successes. It’s not the finest of cases. Apparently I helped a mass polluter in polluting some more and helping another company to cause more poverty. It doesn’t take long before I realize I’m a monster.

I’m caught up in my own thoughts and haven’t heard how someone entered the room. It’s me. And I can see myself and I’m not even freaked out. I am.

“So, couldn’t bare seeing yourself having sex with your wife?”

“You can see me?”

“I can. They others can’t. Thank Jesus. Kim would definitely try to run away with you.”

“They would?”

“She hates this life. She hates herself. And it’s my fault. I picked her up when she was feeling down, conflicted with life and herself. I told her I’d take care of her. I had no idea what that meant. I bribed and lied myself through jobs and look at me now. You’ve read the articles just like all the others before you.”

“Others?”

“I thought that in order to make it in life, to be happy and to make other people happy, is to provide. To do it according to the book. Have her at home, make money. No matter how. Sell your soul for a piece of happiness. Do what they tell you. How do you live your life?”

I look at myself, in the nice suit. I look unhappy. “Ahhh… I… Well, I developed an app and sold it. First I thought a nice house and nice car and a hot chick at my site would make me happy. But it didn’t. Eventually I sold my house and car. With the money I decided to roam the world. Running away from the poverty I grew up in. I have a base though, an apartment in Cape Town. This… this is Cape Town right?”

I nod. “Have you met Kim yet?” Now I nod. “Is she happy?”

“Sh… They is. I hope. We don’t know each other that long. Not as long as you do.”

“It’s time for you to go. It’s funny, always when I try to find out what really makes her happy, you disappear.”

I feel how something is pulling me and I turn around. A portal has appeared. I briefly wonder what would happen if I don’t walk through it.

“I’d have to kill you. I already buried myself once. I really don’t fancy doing it again if you don’t mind. Go.”

I have so many questions but I do what I tell myself to do.

Kim is sitting at the lake. The fire is still burning, albeit it low. The portal brought me right to where I ran away from. I look at them. They’re wearing cargo pants and a t-shirt, their hair is short and a faded green. I wonder whether brown is their natural hair colour. They turn around.

“Hey, I haven’t heard you…” They speak soft, there’s a tone of sadness in their voice.

I think of rich, lawyer me. He wanted to make his Kim happy, he failed. Was I doing the same thing? “Are… are you happy?”

A soft smile appears on their face and they pat next to them on the sand. I sit next to them and they start talking. “Just look at this lake, how gorgeous this is. We’re in the middle of nowhere. In Bolivia. I never thought I’d go here. I never thought I’d leave Europe. And here I am. Next to an incredible handsome and beautiful human being.”

“But, are you happy?”

“Why shouldn’t I be?”

“Because all I want is for you to be happy. I want to show you how wonderful and beautiful the world is. I drag you to places. I don’t even know if you want that, I never asked. Maybe I’m trying too hard.” Rich lawyer me definitely was.

“The only person responsible for my happiness is me. My only problem is that I don’t know what makes me happy, I know what wouldn’t make me happy. Being trapped in a marriage for instance. For that is what society dictates us to do.”

“You don’t know that.” They didn’t but I did. I wouldn’t make them happy. They look at me and laughs.

“Like you are living the life society wants you to.”

“I got lucky.”

“You made choices in life. Some that weren’t so great and you learned. That’s what I like about you. You try and you go from there. I never did that. Until I met you. I decided to ditch everything and allow myself to fall in love with this wanderer. It’s the best decision I ever made. It’s not that I let you decide what I do now. Moving to Cape Town was my decision and mine alone. You were even more against it than my friends. I knew that it was a risk, trying to find a job, a place to stay, that we could break up. But well, I could go from there. But, I don’t want to lose you. I hope you don’t want to break up… Not here.”

“I want you to move out of your apartment.”

“What?”

“It’s shitty. You deserve better.” Careful now. Think of rich lawyer me. Don’t push it. Don’t push it.

“It may be shitty, but it’s mine. What’s going on?”

I feel tears burning behind my eyes. Do I let them go and show weakness, or do I swallow them away like I always have? I look at them. I can’t help it, I let my tears run and tell them about the portal and what I saw. The conversation I had myself. And how uneasy everything made me feel. They listen without saying a single word. Only their face tells me what they may be thinking.

“So, there are indeed multiverses and that other you has met several of himself?”

“And killed one of them for whatever reason. He was so different from me, but we had one thing in common. We both wanted to make you happy.”

“I’m glad I’m living in the multiverse where you succeed. I hope I give the same thing back.”

“Yeah, you do. I know I feel smothered quickly but that’s not your fault. Move in with me. The place is big enough, you can have your own space. Like I’m at home that often…”

“Let’s survive this vacation together first.” They say jokingly. “Seriously, I think I have to come to terms with of what you saw. And you as well.”

“Do you like it here?” I ask. I still feel I dragged them to the end of the world without asking.

“Kevin, you can take me to the shittiest place on Earth, you will still make sure it’s awesome. I need to be more thankful for what I got. This whole making my own choices is pretty new to me. But, worth it. Right?”

“Absolutely. Next stop a luxury resort at the Copa Cabana?”

“Yeah!”

Life is what you make of it. Your own values and needs are important. Of course you can assume what the other person values in life and act to it, thinking you’re making them happy. But what if it doesn’t make yourself happy? Can you provide happiness if you live in misery? And is the given path we get in life the right one for everyone? Rich lawyer me didn’t make the right choices and made his wife miserable. I hope for his and Kim’s sake that one day he meets one of us who is able to tell him what he should do. I hope it’s not too late. I’m glad it’s not too late for me. And if Kim doesn’t move in with me, well, it’s their choice. But know you can. Anything is possible, anywhere.

May 04, 2023 13:24

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