About A Boy – CROSSIN(G)ENRES
Memories of love
Work was tense.
Robert had called me in and laid down the law regarding intellectual property. It was the kind of day that made me ask why I’m even working when I could have rested on my laurels and retired to a nice place in the country ten years ago. I closed the door and breathed in the dusty scent of the hallway. I caught myself looking forlorn in the mirror. The eco bulb cast a warts ‘n’ all light on my face. Grey. Grey hair, grey skin, grey bags under the eyes, grey thoughts, grey man. A sickly congealing grey set to make me fade into nothing. I needed my boy.
“I need my boy,” I called out in the hallway.
“In here,” came the voice from the lounge.
I picked up the glasses from the hallway table. The ones he says make me look ‘super-dilfy’. I love the way he talks.
As I opened the door I heard the clunk of a nerf gun trigger. I snapped my head to the left, as usual, and the dart sailed past me, silently hitting the wall. Maybe today I should have let him hit me, I thought to myself. It’s not like I’d feel it.
“Hi, honey. I’m home,” I said.
“Had a good day?”
I kept my eyes on the ceiling projector at the end of the room. I couldn’t meet his.
“We need a chat,” I said, trying to sound casual.
“Uh oh, you’re not going to dump me are you?” His tone was jokey and I fell back into the routine of our exchanges.
“Who else would have me,” I said, looking at him, at those eyes — deep rich coffee-black eyes, framed by brown curls flowing down past cheekbones that held up a wide, uninhibited smile.
“Then what is it?”
I saw it for a second, his smile dropped a little. His eyes flickered. Fear. My courage melted. I smiled
“Nothing, it’s nothing. I just want my boy.”
“Hmmm… come sit,” he said, patting the space on the sofa next to him. “I know exactly how to cheer you up.”
As I sat down, he straddled me and we kissed. I kept my eyes open, of course. I love to study the curves of his face as it moves in front of me. I marvel at the mathematical perfection of the contours that render him beautiful. He drew back and smiled.
“Better now?” he asked.
“A bit, yeah.”
The mobile on the desk buzzed.
“Ignore it,” he said decisively. “Undo your fly. I can see it’s going to take more than a kiss.”
I did, while he took off his top and stripped down to his crisp white briefs.
He positioned himself between my legs and smiled patiently.
Reality crashed in. I tried to push it back. I focused on his muscular shoulders, on the tattoo that I dared him to get on his twenty-first birthday. A love heart still bright red, still sharp and stretched over muscle. I glanced at mine faded and limp. I am faded. I am limp. I saw a foolish old man trying to get it up for a beautiful mirage.
I snatched off my glasses and rubbed my eyes. I couldn’t bear to look at him anymore. A blast of rage coursed through me. A hundred needling thoughts. I was angry with myself and angry with him, whoever he was now. Why did he have to want the fucking pineapple?
I put my glasses back on and tucked myself in.
“What’s the matter, baby?” he asked, looking worried.
It was a natural, logical response to the situation. He should look worried. It didn’t mean he was. It didn’t indicate anything. But then I remembered what Robin had said at the meeting.
“This is a massive deal. It’s something big. It needs shutting down until we’re sure of the implications.”
“We’ve been through so much, me and you,” I said.
“Fuck yeah. You and me are unstoppable.”
“More than you know. Remember back when you got sick?”
“And my prince was at my side the whole time. Holding my hand every treatment. If I hadn’t had you there to come back for. I might of died that night. You brought me back.”
Suddenly I was back at the bedside. Holding his hand, staring into his lifeless eyes, hopelessly searching for the light in them. An arrogant little boy refusing to accept a universal truth that would crush him.
“Remember yesterday when I offered to make you a fruit salad? You asked for pineapple. Why did you? You hate pineapple with a passion.”
“Okay, weird question,” he said. There was something in his voice that betrayed that fear lurking underneath, “I just wanted to try something new, I suppose. Is that a problem?”
“Oh, you have no idea how much of a problem that is.” I said.
He grinned, confused.
“How old are you?” I asked.
“When did we get together?”
“When I was eighteen.”
“How old was I?”
“Nineteen. What is this? Did I forget our anniversary?”
“No, it’s impossible for you to forget that. How old am I?”
“Look at my face, you know it’s older than that. You tell me I’m a dilf. Twenty-four-year-olds aren’t dilfs.”
“Try and ask the questions.” I said. I was being cruel. I was just so angry, how could he be so stupid? Because I made him that way.
“What questions? What are you talking about?” He sounded angry now.
“You know.” I replied calmly.
“Why? How? Why do you keep looking older? Why do I never feel it when we touch?” His eyes dart around the room for a moment then he smiles.
“When you think about how that doesn’t make sense, you can’t quite keep all the facts in your head together, can you? Then just when it feels like it’s too much, this wave of calm comes over you and all those doubts disappear?”
“I was with you every step of the way. I did bring you back. But I couldn’t love you enough to pull you back that night. You died. Our lives just beginning. And you fucking died on me. I wouldn’t accept that. Remember me then? I never let anything stop me. I archived you. Every WhatsApp, email, insta pic, facebook, timelines, likes — every little digital trace of you. And I studied and I graduated and I waited.”
“I was with you at the graduation. We booked a bridal suite and pretended we were just married. It one of the best nights of my life. Stop it, please.”
“What did we do the next day? How did we get there? Did we drive, catch the train a coach?”
“I. Can’t. Remember,” he said, clamping his fists on either side of his head.
“Because the information is missing. I never coded a next day. I just gave you enough not to doubt all this.”
“In here it’s 2019. Out there, in the hallway, in the world, it’s 2061. I waited. Quantum computing. Enough speed and power and complexity to bring you back. My boy, just the way he was. My side project. Work have been watching, but they weren’t expecting anything major to come of it. But each time I activated you, you were rendered even better than the last. More real, more him. I had you back. But then you chose the pineapple.”
“This is too… I don’t want you to talk this way.”
“You understand though? The pineapple isn’t a pineapple. You’re not him, you never were really. But that choice? You went against the data. They want to study you. The thing that made the choice. I don’t think I want them to do that. I don’t think you would want that. I know he wouldn’t.”
I looked at him. A single tear rolled down his cheek. He understood. The blocks on his reasoning must have been deleted.
“How will I go?” he asked quietly. Will it be like a switch flipping or will I fade?”
“Fade, I think. As the code deletes.” A tear escaped my eye too.
“Am I agreeing to this because you coded me to or because I want it?”
“I don’t know anymore.”
The phone on my desk rang. I went over to it. It was Amanda at the lab. She’d agreed to help. She asked if I was ready to say goodbye. “Yes, ready,” I told her, looking at my boy.
“No, stop!” he said, “I’ve changed my mind. Please.”
I held his hand until he faded to nothing.
This piece is part of the short fiction challenge of the LGBTQ Fiction Project, hosted on Crossin(G)enres. This week’s theme is “May December Magic.”