Daniel loves Rose. He believes this has always been the case, ever since they met in college years ago at a volunteer event to clean up the local park. But Daniel doesn’t realize I can see in five dimensions. He doesn’t know I can see that for a 13 month period immediately after college and another 18 month period in his mid-20’s he was very much out of love with Rose — and those are just the two most prominent times. Still, he’s mostly correct: when I look at the whole of his lifespan the intensity of those two years in college when he and Rose were closest is what immediately draws my eye, her glow leaving an incandescent trail through the subsequent years of his life.
I tell Daniel it’s great that he knows he loves her, that self knowledge is the key to self-mastery, but he just laughs in a bitter way.
“It’s too late for me, Steve,” he says. Steve is the human name I’ve chosen. I ask him why.
“It’s too late because we’re too old now. Our timing was never right.”
I struggle to understand concepts like this because to me time is just another space to look around in. I can see us having this conversation here and I can see him and Rose on their first date eating ice cream near the campus quad and I can see him dying in a car accident and to me it is all one picture, one shape. But Daniel doesn’t see this: for him some parts can never be seen again, other parts he has yet to see.
“But now she’s married,” he says. “They have kids. She’ll never leave.”
“You should tell her how you feel,” I say to him. I state this more as an observation than an entreaty; I know he won’t.
He shakes his head and scratches the stubble on his chin. “Why did she have to marry that guy?” he asks, his disdainful voice on the verge of breaking. “He’s so boring. He’s not right for her. I should have told her how I felt all those years ago.”
He’s referring to her wedding five years ago. He’d been devastated to receive her invitation announcing her engagement to a management consultant he’d only met once, and I watch him at age 29 sitting there with the wedding invite in one hand and his phone in another, debating whether to call her immediately, call her and profess his undying love, and I watch as he instead throws the card away and calls Julia, the girl he is then seeing, and impulsively asks her to go to Hawaii with him. He and Julia are married within six months and divorced within sixteen. He doesn’t go to Rose’s wedding — he pleads a nonexistent conflict — and neglects to even give a gift until a panicked guilt several months later causes him to send an overpriced tea set from Japan.
“It’d be foolish to tell her now,” he mutters. “I don’t want to look like a sad sack.” We both choose not to acknowledge the dishonesty of this statement. It’s hard to see him feeling so hopeless, so trapped in his linear life, but I suppose I shouldn’t hold that against someone who can’t transcend space-time.
I want to help Daniel move on so I try another tack.
“Daniel,” I say. “In a way you and Rose are always together.”
He snorts. “What do you mean?”
“Imagine you’re looking at a space that represents everything that is possible,” I say. “Your life and everything you experience in it is a shape within that space. A unique pattern that embodies you.”
“A pattern of regret,” he spits. Regret is something I can’t see clearly so I decide it’s best not to go down that route with him.
“That pattern is you,” I continue. “It’s your unique life. And Rose is part of it. She’s always visible. Most of her shows up in one part — earlier, as you would say — but she’s left impressions throughout. All the times you’ve seen her, or talked to her, or thought about her.” He still looks distraught, his eyes darting back and forth anxiously.
“You will always be a part of her pattern too,” I say. “She thinks about you often.” He sits up at this, begins breathing more steadily. “She will think about you after you are gone. And she will think about you in the moments before her own death.”
He is silent for a few moments, then nods. “So our patterns will always be tangled up together. In love, right?”
I examine his pattern again, then I look at hers. Who am I to judge?
“In love,” I repeat back to him.
“Okay,” he says. He takes a deep breath, starts the car and we head for his next destination.
Chris Lee writes and works in tech in New York City. His fiction has appeared previously on his hard drive and select cloud storage services.