Reader’s Short Story – Parallel Universe
by Kseniia Gridneva
READER'S SHORT STORY
We are sitting together but apart, each on their own side of the swing. There is a space between us close enough for a hand to reach out. Oh, how I want to do this. Sit there, as if time doesn’t exist, holding your hand, not looking at each other that would be too much. Seeing your eyes is too much. We talk, we talk about you, what made you so kind, so sad, so you. We talk about me, why I am leaving soon but not why staying seems like such a dream, like something I would do in another universe.
You move down to the ground, neck exposed, even more, the curve of your chin, your smile, I can see you better now. We talk, we laugh, we reminisce about things that were, things that could have been. I think I say something to tip you off. I can’t look at you, I feel my heart jump to my throat and my face turning red. Why do I even drink, why do I stay when I know this will happen? I guess I wanna take the chance: I want to have this night, I want to see you, without worries or half-truths. You say that you know my situation, that you are not expecting anything, you smile, you reassure. It takes me a second, I say the word I will come to regret. No.
WHY DO I EVEN DRINK, WHY DO I STAY WHEN I KNOW THIS WILL HAPPEN? I GUESS I WANNA TAKE THE CHANCE: I WANT TO HAVE THIS NIGHT
You get up, go to the spin, or do I point it out first? You ask me to sit and you spin me, sitting opposite me, stilltalking. What are we talking about? I don’t know, it’s a blur now, I am focusing on the fact that I could just stand up and sit next to you. Sit next to you while asking to warm me up, it’s cold, I am finally noticing the chill. I don’t do this. We talk about the people we know and people we don’t. I think I preach about being happy with yourself. I believe in it, just not for myself. But I believe in it for you, I think you can. You are in a good place.
I think this is when the saviour in me wakes up. I want to help, I will do anything, just ask. But you don’t, I don’t know if you feel the storm coming or you are lost in your own thoughts, your own feelings. You tell me of the next day, you tell me you need to go soon. Important things ahead. I don’t think, I just ask you to stay a bit longer with me, please. If I let you go now, the night is gone, you are gone, the moment between us is gone. I can almost see myself far far away in a different universe stand up and hug you and ask for a kiss. I don’t quite catch the response, but I applaud myself. I did it there, somewhere, where I am more selfish.
Instead, I smile, you sigh, laugh and go for a slide. I can’t not follow, your smile is contagious, your laughter sits somewhere in between my ribs. You slide. I go after you, but you stand up before we hit, shame, accidents like this are what this night is made of. It’s hard not to ask for more. More chances to be with you. Like when we were standing next to each other in the bar, I could still feel the heat of your body, or when we danced, your hand still glowing on my skin. I think I try to say something, give you a sign, ask you to forget the outside, keep the now in, please.
I CURSE THE PARALLEL UNIVERSE WHERE I AM SO BRAVE, WHERE I SHOW NOT TELL
Here you say you need to go, and I know it’s true, the real world is here. The night is no longer in control, light is coming out, I am dangerously sober. You say you never stayed till the light came back, I smile, you are welcome. Here you go for a hug, I think it lasts more than it is considered friendly, just what we are. I am okay with it, I am relishing it, but then reason comes in, knocks on my brain, asks me to let you go. Here another half a second when I see myself turn my face to meet yours, my lips touch yours, I can almost taste, feel. Then we let go, I curse parallel universe where I am so brave, where I show not tell.
I see us both smile, sad, is it disappointment in your smile? We walk in opposite directions, after a couple of steps I turn back, you are walking away. I wait for you to turn, maybe if you do we both can understand what we want? But you continue walking. Another second and I think of following you, grabbing your hand, seeing your confused eyebrows and then kissing you myself. Come on come on come on. I don’t. I know somewhere through the cold space and hot stars another version of me does it. I feel her reach out to you. I don’t know how it ends, because I do not follow.
I walk away, I do the only thing I can, I text you, I say thank you, I enjoyed our time. How much was it? Not enough. But if I did any of itwould it ever be enough? I just needed that moment, it was beautiful but selfish, I gave you a choice that I didn’t even announce. And now I just hope that I made the right one myself. Mature one, a kind one, we deserve something kind. I wish only to know that you will not forget me. That you will carry this night with you. You will remember it fondly, like the parallel universe that never happened here with us.
NorthernLife July/August 2022.