Sayonara Universe

The astronaut had no qualms with being away from his family or his friends, nor his dog Kapuchin. In fact, it was a tranquil and relaxing prospect, being stranded in space. Nothing but rocks and darkness and light. He'd had quite a long while to reflect on his life, how pointless it all seemed. Years. For years he had been training to… pretty much drift aimlessly through space. Of course there were buttons, and coordinates, gadgets that needed manuals the size of War and Peace. But other than that, ninety percent of this journey was floating around while twiddling his thumbs up his ass, and writing in his journal, waiting for shit to happen. Maybe that's what he wanted. For something to happen.

Then.

It finally dawned on him. What his best friend meant.

His best friend. She was a raunchy girl with a bad attitude and a list of terrible habits that stretched from Nevada to Arkansas. Much more than that, she talked as if her education had ended around second grade. It was her way of spiting the world. Maybe. Because interiorly, she was as deep as the Grand Canyon—his friends and other men had said so, too, but they meant it in an entirely different way that he hated to hear about every single time the topic came up. She was a suburban belle, more bored than the average child from a happy family. And he, from middle class utopia, had met her—well, he forgot where. At first, it was meant to be a fling. She'd said so herself.

"It was supposed to be just a fling, Leonard." She blew a puff of smoke at the ceiling. She always called him by his whole name.

"What is it now, then?" Leonard was a little more than timid and soft-spoken, and not much more than that.

"Well." She turned on her stomach, the contours of her back softly blending in with the sheets. "You're really bad at sex. So it's safe to say there's a possibility we could be friends."

That was possibly her way of telling him he was of no use to her. At least, it's what he presumed. But she continued to talk:

"Well, actually. I'd really like it if we were. That'd be pretty swell."

"You wouldn't be able to carry a decent conversation," Leonard tactfully said. He shrugged on a shirt.

She let out a laugh akin to a hyena's. Her fangs were barred. She let smoke pour out of her facial orifices like tides of fog. She turned on her side, propping her head up on a palm and an elbow, smiling smugly.

As an afterthought: "You look smart as a rocket scientist. But I don't think you could hack it,"

"What good would a scientist be at talking?"

"Exactly." He hopped into his pants.

"No, what I mean is—they're introverted as hell—"

"Introverted. Big word. Ten points for you,"

"And more than that. They're socially inept and usually have speech impediments."

"Impressive words."

"They've spent too much time researching things to rip them away from taking social responsibility. It's even more of a perfect escape than becoming a hermit in the mountains. And you get paid more." She nodded curtly. "Both types mumble incoherencies, anyway. Except that a scientist gets paid for his outlandish conjectures."

Leonard looked at her incredulously. She was already trying to suppress her laughter. She was a goddess in beggar's clothes. He climbed back into bed, kissing her tenderly. "Am I a good kisser, at least?"

"If you'll admit I could carry a conversation—"

"We're only trying to indulge each other with our mouths—"

"Then admit it." Her tone was demanding, raspy.

Under her dominatrix control, he grinned like an idiot, unrelenting.

She stood her ground, too.

It was implied that they both found each other as good company. One, being an outstanding conversationalist, and the other, a mind-blowing kisser. All their understandings were this way. Loud, but unassuming. Gentle, but full of deceptive, peevish words.

Leonard floated through space. He felt the weightlessness of his thoughts—as if they had no substance. And yet, his heart was heavy. The reflections were abiding. His feelings were cliché, but rented out to something deeper and more hurtful. Ah, regret. Much like a black hole. He mused as he saw it. From his window it looked like a swirling speck. He was forewarned not to get too close to any black holes he happened to spot. Imploding must feel like a mental break down.

If his regret was a black hole, he had sucked a whole world into himself that couldn't satisfy him. New friends, a beautiful wife, three children just like their mother, a dog that was not only faithful, but exhibited all the anthropomorphic qualities of a crude saint. It was sickening. Maybe it wouldn't have been sickening if this was the only world he knew. But he knew something much uglier and much more wonderful. The memories had long ago dammed up inside of him. He wondered if there was an end to it all. Maybe it was just like space. Never-ending. He clouded over his desolate thoughts with a few "space bars," as he liked to call them, twirling one and making it spin quickly across the cabin.

"Hey, Johnny. Do you want some mashed taters?"

"As long as you mean food. And not my balls," Johnny smirked and went back to reading his "comics."

Leonard hated his innuendos. They weren't funny. But for his own amusement, he laughed and air-somersaulted after his food, snatching it as he bumped his nose against the window, staring at the black hole as they slowly (though, in all actuality, quickly) flew past it. He got oil on the glass and smudged it away. He stopped balling his fist and stared vacantly.

He was standing with her in front of a clothing store with winter clothing displayed in the window.

"It's summer, for Chrissake," she spat. She tried to light her cigarette, even cupping her hand over the flame, but the summer gusts kept putting it out.

Leonard cupped it for her with both hands.

"Thanks,"

"Uh-huh."

They both resumed staring at the winter clothes.

"See, Leonard, that's why I want to get the hell out of here. You were lucky you were born in a normal family and a normal district and went to a normal school. Everyone in my town's completely—fucked up."

He swiveled his attention to her. With lazy, sleepy eyes he made his rebuttal, "My ma cheated, left my dad to take care of me and Paul and Sara. He eventually shot himself and left us with our uncle. Paul got a job because our uncle didn't see a use in education. It made Sara cry. So Paul got a job. Hasn't gotten around to getting his college degree ever since."

She looked at him with a bewildered expression, "Leonard…"

"You didn't know."

"You never told me," she said more crossly.

"It wasn't important."

"Goddamnit, Leonard. Jesus Christ." She was pacing the Boulevard, making a scene.

Leonard shoved his hands into his pockets.

"You son of a bitch. I've been sitting here spouting off my cynicisms and all this shit—why didn't you stop me, you fuckbag?"

"Why should I?" he asked softly.

Old ladies with their dogs and mothers with their children crossed the street to conveniently avoid his best friend's tantrum.

"Well, because. There's always been a mutual understanding. I mean, it's always been a given. I know the important shit about you, you know the important shit about me—"

"That you're a good conversationalist and I'm a good kisser?"

"No. Don't get smart with me, Leonard. And stop smiling." She scowled. "It's what friends do. They know shit, they avoid shit, so why didn't you tell me shit?"

He shrugged.

She yelled, taking her cigarette out of her mouth and stomping at it with her heel, allowing her rage to sizzle as hot as the asphalt, "Leonard, I don't want to be with him anymore. Take me away from this shit hole! Let's go somewhere new, Leonard. Take me to a new state or a new country or something." She began to cry. "Let's just get the hell out of here. You're the only person I know. And I don't even really know you. You're my only friend, I want to get to know you… let's get the fuck out of here, okay?"

Leonard nodded his consent. He barely had any money. He promised Sara he would come right back after his "vacation" and give her back all of her birthday savings. He packed a few books, some clean pairs of underwear, other things that no longer had any importance. He didn't want to do it. He didn't really want to aid his best friend in running away from her reality. But she always got what she wanted. At least, in all instances except one…

They boarded the train. She was smiling again. She was holding Leonard's arm and talking about the future. She then looked up at him. "Are you sad? Why are you sad, Leonard?"

"I'm not sad," he told her earnestly.

"Maybe it's just your eyes, then. Did I ever tell you they were a nice color?"

"No."

"Well, okay, then," she said, taking her suitcase and shoving it in the top compartment. They sat in silence in their booth until they made it to the next state. She was humming, drumming her fingertips on her lap. She looked as if she wanted to comment on the scenery, but she didn't. She seemed restive and interior. Leonard customarily watched her like a vigilant sentinel. But she said nothing, so the ride was very quiet.

The majesty of the mountains whizzing by went un-praised.

"Leonard, I'm tired. Let's get a cheap hotel or motel to crash in. It's two in the morning. I'm tired of sight-seeing."

He consented and mustered what he could. He figured he would have to get a job some time soon. In about a month, they would run out of money. She had a lot of cash on her, but at the rate they were going, he couldn't expect them to live much on her lavish expenditures.

She slowly took off her shoes, slowly shrugged off her coat, slowly took down her hair, and crashed into bed. "Leonard. Come here. Stop sitting in that chair and make me feel like a woman. Don't look so shy about it, all you have to do is hold me."

It's what she wanted, so he did so. But he couldn't help but feel she wanted more…

"Leonard." She nestled her face into his chest. "You smell great. Thank you for coming with me."

He responded by caressing her shoulder as he held her tighter.

"You make me feel safe."

"I'm a comfort zone."

"No, you aren't," she yawned. It was a fake yawn.

Her mind was probably busy mulling over things.

"I just want you to accept things the way they are. I won't mind even if you did say so—"

"But you're not, okay?" She looked up at him with an agitated, reddening face. "You're not a comfort zone."

Leonard hadn't been trying to fish for an argument or some ground-breaking self-discoveries. He was only trying to be frank. He thought it would be healthy and beneficial to tell her it was okay to be frank, as well. But he seemed to touch down on something uncharted, sensitive and deeply pressing.

"You are not a comfort zone." She wrestled out of his embrace. "You are so stupid. All you do is act like one—I thought it was because you pitied yourself, but it wasn't that at all. Then I thought it was because you pitied me, but it's not that, either. I know you don't want to be here. But why are you here, Leonard?"

It struck him, finally. He knew what she wanted.

"Why, Leonard? I dragged you away from a secure future. All I do is tell you how to run your life, and I depreciate you with all my ungratefulness and insecurity—why are you here?"

"What do you want me to say?" His scarf was ravenously ripped away from him. Her tiny hands were peeling off his clothes. "I'm bad at sex—"

"Shut up, I was lying."

He stared at her, wide-eyed, devastated, and only partially flattered.

"Your sex makes my toes curl and my heart jump, but I…" She was trailing a wet slop of kisses all over his face. "All of you makes all of me feel selfish. I want you all for myself." Her red hair draped over her face, tangled like fishnets. Her breathing was hoarse, violent. She couldn't manage to get at his lips as she pelted him with kisses. He kept tossing and turning his head in different directions.

"Leonard—please."

Such small, simple truths can open a whole new world of awareness. And pain. And feelings he wasn't ready for. He knew what she wanted.

"Leonard—you've been with me for years. Just…"

She had been waiting…

"Just tell me you love me. Then I'll go back home, I promise. I'll finish college." She was crying hard, slamming her fists against his bare chest.

He was looking off and away, out the window at the smog and tops of buildings. This hotel was too expensive.

"Leonard!"

His eyes slowly traced his way to hers.

She was quivering with anger, repression, anxiety, frustration: "Just say it."

… she'd been waiting for something to happen. And, he…

He grabbed her hands. He kissed them. He hadn't been intimate with her since that very first time they met. He hadn't touched her sultry skin, kissed her kissable lips, explored that chasm that made him ache with longing. But he did now. With more passion and energy invested in every motion than he had ever invested in his own future. He had no words. He was a mute, awkwardly explaining abstract concepts with hand motions, swiftness of sighs, grunts, inciting screams.

So it went unexplained, but implied. Like all else. But it wasn't good enough this time.

All the rest was history after she left. All she wanted was words to fall back on. But he never said them. No matter how loving he was with every meaningless tidbit of conversation, or how fond every look he gave her, every action tender and delicate on her account—she was waiting for Something To Happen. Something big. Something cataclysmic.

Something apocalyptic.

Something the size of Texas. Something that could demolish, kill, recreate.

Like that big star heading straight for them. Everything was white-out bright.

She took his love making and enjoyed it, reveled in it until her black hole of a personality decided it needed more. Only a simple declaration. One that, 'till now, Leonard wondered why he withheld it from her.

Pride?

Fear.

Yes, fear. He could traverse across a galaxy and not make it back. He wasn't afraid of it. He didn't really care if he died this very moment. His wife would find some other nice, well-to-do who would readily take her in. He couldn't care less.

He was empty, drawing in worlds he wasn't ready for. He had been a lone star with only one inhabitant who made him happy. Even if he didn't smile, he was always happy—

"Why didn't I tell her?"

Leonard didn't notice Johnny staring. He didn't notice Johnny screaming, clutching for things, trying to swim away through the air into an escape pod.

"I could have told her. I would've been a poor mechanic, but I would've been happy. Now it just feels like I'm… wanting things to happen. Is that what it does?"

It was hot, but Leonard felt as cold as winter.

For years he'd been waiting for something to happen. And finally something was.

Leonard smiled, and welcomed it with relief, his stormy eyes drunkenly soaking in the hot, white light that bathed the shuttle cabin.

Sayonara, Universe.