Anchors No More #22: When Now Met NeverJun 16, 2014
Holly removed her jacket and pulled on a thick green sweater. Gary was still taking off his shoes, leaning against the wall by the door. Feeling his eyes upon her as she combed her hair briskly with her fingers, Holly asked, “What?” and he just shook his head and looked away.
He threw his shoes in the corner, relaxed against the wall and slowly said, “The first day I came to work with you in the lab, do you remember what you said?”
She chuckled and she sat on her couch, fluffing her pillow, “Yes,” she said, “you never let me forget it.” She leaned back a little and pulled a blanket up over her knees. “According to the perhaps questionable mythology of one Doctor Gary Neff, I ignored him for five minutes as I completed entering data. Then I turned to him, did not smile, and said with obvious malicious intent, ‘I don’t like working with people. No one ever lasts.’ And then I went back to work and left you standing there holding your brown bagged turkey sandwich and your question-filled tongue.” She shot him a superior look, challenging him with good-natured defiance.
He approved, nodding his head and smiling as he walked over to his couch and sat, “First of all,” he began, “it was leftover chicken, and second, I only had one question and it was, ‘Could you please tell me where my desk is?’” He leaned back and covered himself with his blanket, pleading mockingly to the sky, “Oh, please help me, Lord, my partner, she’s beautiful but she has these slight megalomaniacal tendencies. Like I had nothing better to do than ask you a million questions.”
She laughed and brought the blanket up to her neck, “Did you?” she asked.
He thought a second, telling her, “That’s not the point.” They shared a small laugh before a pause in the moment caught and silence fell.
They both tried to sleep, staring at the ceiling then closing their eyes and staring at the inside of their eyelids, tossing back and forth, turning over and then back over. Holly finally sat up, a thought nagging at her too deeply to be ignored any longer. “We have to talk about it,” she said, “I just… I think we need to talk about it.”
“What?” he asked, already knowing. He’d been dodging the question for a couple days now, putting off the conversation and doing his best to keep Holly from having the chance to raise it. But he knew the time for delay was over.
He rolled over to face her, “There’s nothing to talk about, it’s all too fast. Between our arrival and the instant the ‘past-you’ hits the button, the time frame is too short. It’s too quick for you to stop your finger’s forward momentum.” He sat up, energized by the subject, “Something has to push you and hope your finger misses. I’m the only something to do that. I have to dive forward, get some momentum going here before I flash out and hope that it’s effective when I flash back in, and that’s not even mentioning the complete atomic annihilation of both chambers within another picosecond. There’s no question, Holly, there’s nothing to talk about. I’m going back and I’m going back alone.”
“We go back together,” she said sternly, “It needs both of us. We started this together, we end it together.”
He shook his head, a scowl spreading across his face, “That’s ridiculous. You know it. We need you here to make sure nothing goes wrong on this end.” He wanted to stand, but he didn’t want his restlessness to be misconstrued as an invitation to escalate their argument. He kept his seat and his calm, wringing his hands together and concluding, “I do it alone.”
“You’re crazy,” she argued, “you need me there. Anything I do to affect the motion of my body can only help. We’re talking about flashes of an instant and I have to somehow deviate the forward thrust of my fingertip by a minimum of four millimeters to even have a chance of not successfully hitting the button. Every bit of help doing that is necessary.”
He knew she was probably right, but he certainly didn’t want to admit it. He shook his head and sunk a little into his bed, “I don’t think it’s a good idea, but maybe,” he said, “I think you’d be better off staying here and making sure nothing happens. Help Daniel and those guys.”
“I don’t need your protection,” she suddenly said, “I need you to realize what we’re doing. What matters is that we do this right.” She stood up, infuriated now, “You need to think less about me and more about getting it right.”
What, he thought, “What?” he said. He sat back up, “That’s all I’ve been thinking about from day one. Since the first day you showed me your damn notebook. All I’ve done was to help insure it succeeds and right now is not any different. I don’t want you in there when it happens because I think it’s unnecessary to the success of the plan, it’s just you wanting to take on some misguided responsibility for all of it.”
“No,” she remonstrated, “you don’t want me to go because you have some deep-seated need to act like a protective mother hen when what you need to be is rational and objective about the larger picture.”
“I’m trying to protect you because I love you,” Gary blurted out sharply, “and I don’t want it to happen to you.” He paused, realizing what he had just said, realizing that she was staring at him with a frozen expression of shocked anger. He stammered, “Well, I mean, of course I love you, you’ve been my colleague and best friend for a few years now, I mean, right, we love each other, we’re friends, we’re… stuff.”
She wanted to respond but couldn’t, unable to kick start her brain. He removed the blanket from his legs and swung his feet to the floor, sitting upright and trying to read Holly’s expression. “And sure, I’ll admit that, yeah, the fact that I don’t want to see you atomically obliterated did enter my mind, but it did not effect my deliberation or conclusion.”
She wasn’t sure if she bought his story, but she let it be, knowing that she was not really angry, only tired and stressed. “We’ll talk about it later,” she said waiting a few seconds to see if he would respond. When he didn’t, she lay back down and curled up under the blanket. After a while she softly said, “You know we can’t let our feelings get in the way of what we have to do, right?”
Gary glanced at her before looking back to the floor, “I know,” was all he said, wanting to say more, wanting to argue, but not finding any useful purpose for prolonging this particular dialog other than blowing off some steam. Still, it was difficult to remain silent because he knew as much as she did that ‘later’ would not be coming, that any chance for a meaningful conversation would only be occurring now. Truly now or never. The time for deliberation had slipped away, was slipping further still, with every heartbeat, with every quiet second that passed as they turned dark and sad thoughts over and over again in their minds.
© David Edward Wagner 2014. All Rights Reserved.