N is for Nebulous
Nebulous as defined by Merriam Webster: not clear, difficult to see, understand, describe, etc. . .
“Nebulous nebulous nebulously fabulous nebulous!” Joel proclaimed waving an empty whiskey glass at the TV. They were watching something about quantum somethings. It was the only thing on that wasn’t reality TV or in French. Normally he could sit and read or watch things about quantum things for hours, he had a feeling he might know quite a lot about it actually, , but right now he couldn’t figure out what the word after quantum was supposed to be or what it might actually mean.
“There isn’t a nebulous” Sara turned her petite oval head towards him, tucking her feet under her bum as she did so. “I think you’ve had enough don’t you?” Joel was pouring more Jack’s into his glass and managing to splash a good deal on the white duvet.
“No. NO there is a nebulous thing there.” He pointed at the TV where a professor, made to look cool by the stylist, was outlining something nonsensical on a blackboard. “What would you do if you could see the universe end?” Joel looked at Sara, but found her face was blurry.
Sara twisted a lock of her russet hair in her middle finger. “See it end? Well wouldn’t I be died and not seeing anything at all?”
“Not necessarily. What if before it ended you slipped into some parallel universe where it didn’t end, but there was a window left behind that you could watch this universe end through, but you’re still alive you see, and so is everyone else, just they’re not the same and you’re not the same and life isn’t the same, but you know you’re alive and you’re kinda the same. It’s totally possible” He waved a hand in the direction of the TV.
“Well I think I would find you and clobber you over the head with a brick for making the universe end.” Sara got up from the bed and walked to the sliding glass doors and opened the beige curtains.
“Hey who said I ended it?” Joel’s eyes focused on Sara and the window and the view of the Seine.
“You did end it Joel. You know for a physicist you are as dumb as a rock.” She turned cross armed towards him and glared. Joel couldn’t help staring at her tits under her white blouse and noticing how her bum looked so plump and slap-able in the tight black pencil skirt.
“Joel stop looking at my tits. I am not sleeping with you tonight, nor is the white blouse an invitation to look at my tits. The white blouse is supposed to look classy you know, or sophisticated, or something appropriate to a 30 year old aspiring CEO who used to be dating what some claim to be the best theoretical physicist of our generation until he broke up with me” Her hands were on her hips now.
“I’d rather be clobbered by you in a parallel universe than anyone else. I’d get a great view of your tits while you did me in.” He gave her a sideways smile and raised his glass waveringly in her direction. Sara shrugged her shoulders in a way that meant to Joel she might sleep with him after all.
“What are we doing here? It’s Christmas Eve and we’re in a hotel room in Paris with no tree and no presents and no plans. I mean it’s not the best solution is it.” Sara said as she went to the wardrobe and began to change.
Joel, sitting cross legged on the bed, watched her back as she disrobed. His tongue licking his lips as he thought about Sara, and more whiskey, which had somehow disappeared from his glass, and something quantum, and Christmas. “I need to get it together.” he said to himself.
“I know” Sara’s voice was muffled by the pajamas she was pulling on, red with perky penguins in Santa hats dancing all over it.
“Those aren’t very CEO are they now.” Joel commented with a gleam in his eye.
“Aspiring, I said aspiring.” Sara went into the bathroom and closed the door. Joel could hear the tub filling up.
Joel stood, almost falling back onto the bed, he walked shakily to the balcony, and fell into a chair. The cold night breeze slapping his cheeks as he listened to the sound of a boat moving thru the river below.
He knew something had happened he just couldn’t remember what. Something quantum? No he dismissed that thought as too impossible at the current time. Something more normal? Perhaps. His mind drifted to a particular Christmas his family had visited Uncle Dave in Orlando. He must have been 8 or 9. It had been so sunny, they’d gone to the beach on Christmas day, his present had been a bucket and shovel, and he’d built a Borg Cube out of sand. His parents thought it was a castle.
Sara found Joel, eyes closed, with a soft smile on his lips. His whiskey glass was tucked carefully in his hands, on top of his crotch, in case the last drop of Jack’s escaped. She knew him well enough to know he was not actually asleep, just drifting to the places he’d go without her in his mind. So many of them, and so often. She stood above him, looking at his black curls and the cut of his jaw, wondering if he even knew what was real anymore, if he ever had.
“Your tits are real.” he said not opening his eyes.
“I gathered that you knew that.” Sara replied. “That is annoying.”
“You don’t think I know what it is you think about me? I am, what was it now, what some claim to be the best theoretical physicist of our generation, that includes mind reading you now. Parallel universes and all that jazz.” He started humming “All That Jazz”, still not opening his eyes.
“I don’t understand your love of show tunes.” Sara sighed. “Do you know what happened Joel, do you know why we’re in Paris?” Sara said softly, looking a bit lost and silly to Joel in those pajamas as he sneak a glance at her from under his eyelids.
“Do I want too?” he replied.
“You know I hate it when you answer a question with a question. No you don’t want too, but you need too. You can’t choose to ignore reality because you don’t like it, that’s not how it works.” Sara’s face had tightened as she spoke and Joel could tell that tears might be in his future. That didn’t work for his plans for her tits.
“Why not? If I want to live in a different reality that suits me better why can’t I? And if I want to pick and choose bits from here and bits from there why can’t I? If it keeps me cheerful what’s the harm?”
“They’re dead Joel. Dead. There was a car crash, you were driving. An eighteen wheeler lost control and hit you on the way to Dave’s for Thanksgiving. You were the only survivor; your parents weren’t wearing seatbelts. It doesn’t matter what reality you choose or don’t choose they are as dead in all of them as they are in this one. Running away to Paris and forgetting its Christmas and forgetting your friends and forgetting your work and forgetting about me is not a good solution.”
“Why not?” Joel was staring at the empty glass, swishing the melting ice around. “There’s a nebulous in here you know. I bet if I jumped in it I’d be in a parallel universe.” He looked up at her giving her a lop- sided grin.
Sara knelt next to him and took his hand in her hands. “I love you Joel. It’s ok that you love your work more than me. It’s ok that we don’t get to see each other that much. I mean I have my goals too you know. It’s ok that you spend so much time in your head. I get it, you need to think, it’s how you are. The moments when you are with me, when you focus on me, those moments ,they are just, they are just magic. You know. Total fucking magic. And I love those moments and I love you in those moments. I can totally deal with all the rest of the fucking shit for those moments. But Joel I can’t deal with you forgetting me. I can’t deal with you not being in my life and breaking up with me. I can’t deal with you erasing me from the reality that you choose to live in. I want to be with you in that reality, whichever one it is.”
Joel looked into her eyes and tried to see past the blue gray irises to her synapses to her wiring. He softly stroked her pale cheek and her curly hair. He gently kissed her on the mouth and pulled her up onto him.
“I . .” he started over. “I got you a Christmas present. Do you want it? I mean it’s right here” he tapped his pocket.
“It’s not Christmas yet”
“Well it’s after midnight that means it is.” Joel pulled a keychain out of his pocket and handed it to her. Sara’s face fell.
“It’s the Eiffel tower.” Joel said quickly. “I thought we could go there and have dinner or something. I mean that’s the sort of thing people do that are a couple right?”
Sara nodded her head.
“I came to Paris once when I was a teenager, with my parents. It was a present for doing well in school that year. And we went to this shop by the Eiffel Tour and I bought it as a souvenir. And my Dad said, he said: You know why the Eiffel Tower is special Joel. It’s special because a man made something reality that wasn’t reality before. It may not look like much now, but it was a new reality at the time. And that was it, that was it for me, Paris and new realities. And I came back because I thought well it’s a nice reality and Sara has always said she wanted to come to Paris, and it would be a nice reality for her too.”
“That’s true.” She gazed out over the Seine at the city lights.
“Well see in this reality I made you come.” Joel smiled up at her.
“You made me chase you, you could have asked.” She retorted.
“I did. You said no and broke up with me.”
“I know, but I thought you were running away, not running too. And you broke up with me.”
“No I didn’t. You came though, didn’t you.” Joel repeated.
“Yes I came.” Joel watched her brow crease and her nose wrinkle as she stared at the water for a long while. “You are impossible Joel” Sara turned to him and kissed him slowly. She got up, pressing her hands hard against his chest as she did so. “I think I’ll take these things off.” She gave him a long glance as she started unbuttoning the pajama top and then walked inside.
Joel got up, dropping and shattering the whiskey glass in the process. He stared at the shards of glass forming a cluster at his feet for a few moments and then went inside.