Flash Fiction: Sharing Stephen

“I can’t believe you went out with Bob!” Lisa said, but it wasn’t really about Bob. It was never really about Bob. In fact, there had been about a million Bobs since Stephen. Lisa still missed Stephen, and the gaping emptiness he had left in the world around all of them, but specifically in her world.

“I don’t even know why I tell you anything,” replied Kat, sighing loudly for emphasis. For her it wasn’t about Bob either, but really about what Bob represented – change. The entirety of her adult life had been spent chasing shiny guys like Stephen – all flash and no real substance. But Bob, well, Bob was steady, if unremarkable. “Why couldn’t one guy have the whole package?” she often asked herself, but she never asked Lisa.

That’s because Lisa was madly in love with Stephen, as shiny and as unsubstantial as he was. Kat knew it ever since that Dave Matthews concert, when Lisa seemed all aloof, like she didn’t really care for Kat’s new boyfriend. It was Lisa’s tell, the sideways glances, the way she ignored him unless he was speaking directly to her – so obvious. But she would have denied it to her grave, liking Stephen, wanting to be more than just his girlfriend’s best friend, which is why Kat never pressed her on it. What was the point? It was like everything else between them, just below the surface but never explicitly stated.

“You tell me everything because you know I live vicariously through your relationships,” said Lisa. Which was true enough. She herself hadn’t had a date since no one knew when because she kept everything buried inside. In fact, Kat had come to realize that throughout most of their friendship she was always the one to do the majority of the sharing. If only she had shared Stephen.

But it wouldn’t end up mattering, the sharing of Stephen, because he inexplicably broke up with her, as reticent as he was to admit it was her fault. Yet she knew it had to be her, her inability to be what he needed, what he craved in a partner. Either that or he was too immature to see what she really had to offer. Of course by then she had grown distant as she always did when things got too serious. That’s why there had been a series of Bobs before Stephen, why there would be a series of Bobs after him, and why she really wished she had an answer to her many issues.

“I tell you everything because you’re the closest I’ve ever had to a therapist,” Kat answered, realizing it was true only as the words tumbled from her lips, realizing why it really hadn’t worked with Stephen. To her he had been all flash, but to Lisa he might have been something special. Lord knew she needed something to hold onto other than the dregs her friend had always given her.

“Damn straight!” said Lisa, emphatically. “But Bob? Really?”

Sam

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Flight Plan

“The mechanics of flight are as such: study the planned trajectory, map out a flight plan, lift off from the ground… and hope you don’t fall.” ~Anonymous

Time just moves on, but we are the same people we’ve always been, even if sometimes we surprise people and/or surprise ourselves. I know that’s true for me. I have tendencies, and for better or for worse, these tendencies are my default setting. So when I branch out, when I really stretch my wings, I realize I can fly, but I know I should take a snapshot, a mental picture, because odds are I won’t fly again.

Sometimes life is like that, when things work out perfectly, or as perfectly as they possibly can, given the factors that impinge upon our best performance. There are times in my life when I’ve felt like I was more than the sum of my parts, but those times are hazy, like I’m seeing them through a film. I recognize that it was me then, that I did those things, but they were so beyond what I’m normally capable of that my brain decided to shade them in sepia tones.

Flight actually scares me, to be honest. There’s something about being so far above solid ground that makes me as nervous as a sheep about to be shorn. The size of the airplane itself creates the disbelief that I’m not safe hurtling miles above the ground in something so heavy. While my sentient brain understands the properties that make this possible, my lizard brain fights against the notion to the bitter end. Every time I’ve flown I’ve been desperately afraid of plummeting to my death…

But the idea of flying, well, that’s incredible. The Superman kind of flying — just one person, high above it all, utterly in control — that moves me. Of course I’ve never considered myself brave like Superman, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound (of course, being able to fly, is pretty obvious). I’ve never thought I was capable of more than I’ve done before. That’s why when amazing things happen in my life I’m always shocked, flummoxed, blown away by it all. Because I’m no Superman, but once in a while I’ve been able to fly.

I’m convinced, just like Shakespeare, that the world is really one big stage, that I’m one of the actors who occasionally gets a line that ultimately defines me in the eyes of the audience for the entirety of the play. Everyone around me is also waiting for their lines, hopeful that theirs will be as definitive as mine just happened to be. Then the next play goes on, and I have no lines. Life is cyclical like that, and I try to hang on to the lines I manage to claim as my own. If I believe I am, then I actually am. Sometimes I stand in the wings with my arms outstretched because I am a tree. It is what it is.

Of course on stage there are wires that hoist actors up when it’s their time to ascend, that allow us to simulate flight, but we know they’re there. We know we’re not really doing it on our own, yet it doesn’t matter when we’re in the air. It’s how I feel when things go right for me, because I’m not the only one responsible for it, because I’m never flying all alone. I think that’s how it is for pretty much everyone, but I can only speak for myself. The wind beneath my wings, and all that. I appreciate everyone who supports me, who helps me to realize my potential, and I hope I’m able to do that for them as well.

I got a new job. I still can’t believe it. It’s been far too long, I’ve been stuck in neutral, and I hadn’t even dared to hope, not after so much time. But I never gave up. I never went through the motions. I guess I just felt like it wasn’t going to happen for me no matter how hard I tried. Yet I kept trying. I kept trying my hardest because I can’t ever just stand still. I’ve never been able to settle when I felt like there was more for me out there.

So I’m up in the air. I’m shocked. I’m flummoxed. I’m blown away by it all. When I got the call that said the job was mine, if I was still interested, and I held my breath because I’ve always been interested. Then I said “Yes!” and it was what I thought it must have felt like if I had been proposed to by the love of my life. “Yes!” I said, yet I still didn’t dare to hope. I studied my planned trajectory. I mapped out a flight plan. I lifted off from the ground…

and I hoped I wouldn’t fall. I’m still hoping.

Sam

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