A month passed by and soon the three of us were hanging out all the time. We went to house parties and attended art galleries, drank white wine and smoked weed. Emily really liked Jose, so much that she asked him to be her boyfriend. I didn’t get jealous easily, but when Jose and I were paddling in a rowboat at Accotink Park and he told me she wanted to date him, I couldn’t help but give him a confused and sad face. As though, it should have been me, instead of Emily. Jose continued to paddle, harder this time, and looked out into the horizon smeared with blues and purples. I tapped his kneecap with my hand and stared at him, knowing he could never be mine. He put his arm around me and pulled me in closer, and kissed me on the lips. I felt such an enormous warmth sparking up from that kiss. We wrapped our bodies around one another, enveloping and grasping ourselves, so much, that the rowboat tipped over and fell into the lake, the water splashing around us as we wandered into a tender embrace.
Sean looked over at Bryan and patted him on the shoulder. “My condolences,” he said, as he lit a cigarette and smoked it. He was beginning to sympathize even more with Bryan, but at the same time, he didn’t know what exactly to say in order to comfort him. All he knew was listening seemed to help.
Matt V came over to Sean’s townhouse, dressed in a cardigan, khakis, and blue tennis shoes, and pulled up a chair next to the raggedy couch lined up against the front porch’s window, giving a handshake to Sean, and almost failed to see the bearded man sitting next to him, carrying a heart-shaped piece of wood snug in his arms. He’d known Sean since they were kids in the fourth grade and could always depend on him for support and encouragement in times of misery and anguish. So now, as he looked at the bearded man who was drinking a beer, Matt sensed Sean was giving him some help. He cracked open a beer as well, sat back in his seat, and tried to make a strong impression when the bearded man motioned towards him and asked him, “Where you from?” He told him, “D.C,” but really he lived closed to Alexandria, VA, thinking little details which were muddled every now and then didn’t really matter. The bearded man smiled and said, his girlfriend Abigail grew up outside of D.C. He seemed to relax, his shoulders drawing back, and said, “My name’s Bryan.”
“Matt,” Matt said, pinching tobacco from a zip lock bag and dropping it into a thin, clear piece of paper. “How do you know Sean?” he asked, as light snow began to fall to the ground.
Bryan chuckled and putting his hands behind his head, leaned back and said, “Sean pretty much saved me. Found me in an alleyway in the back of this coffee shop.” He laughed and shook his head. “You’re probably wondering what I’m doing with this piece of wood, wondering why I’m carrying it around with me like a scab on my skin.”
“In all honesty, I’m curious,” Matt said, rolling marijuana into the joint to make a spliff. He set it ablaze with a pink lighter, puffed on it slowly, and then blew smoke out.
“Well we took a trip once to Maryland. Went to Potomac, a scenic area rich with parks and forests. She was piss drunk from downing three bottles of Merlot when we’d visited wine country. Plus, Abigail felt exhausted from the hiking. So, we rested under the shade of a magnificent oak tree and shared affection in the middle of the afternoon as the birds chirped and flapped their wings and the foxes growled and trotted across the grassy plain. I took a pocket knife, pushed my hand forward, and carved her name and then my name in the thick wood of the tree, as Abigail told, “Have I ever told you where I’m from.” “Yes you have, you’re from Northern VA,” I told her with a smile on my face. Abigail put her head on my shoulder and shut her eyes, and said in a quiet and sure voice, “Bryan, I’m not from here.”
Bryan dipped his head down and sucked in a deep breath of air, taking his time between his words, as the snow grew heavier in weight and larger in size, dropping from the sky in the hundreds while the joint was passed around the three men who looked lost and fatigued. He took a hit from the joint and lightly laughed and said, “I thought she was just fucking with me, like she was just playing a game. Messing with my head for kicks. But she wasn’t fabricating some character in a story. She really wasn’t from Northern VA.”
“Where was she from?” Matt asked, moving his chair closer to the couch.
Sean smoked the joint and put his chin in his hand. He looked restless, but engaged as well. Matt wondered if his friend wanted to nod off and sleep. He seemed interested in the story though, but he couldn’t know for sure. How could you ever know what someone else is thinking? The human face is a safe to the mind, and no combination could ever open it fully.
“Japan Station No. 1,” she said. “I’m from the future.”
The winter snow began to cover the porch floor, a deep wave of cold rushing around the three men, as Matt’s mouth dropped and the ash on his joint fell on his shoe, the words, ‘the future,’ imprinting into his memory.
A half-crescent moon glowed from a short distance, spreading its bright light onto Japan Station No. 1—a revolving satellite structure complete with multiple solar panels and space shuttle loading platforms—as the large, industrial aircraft moved and maneuvered slowly around the shattered asteroids and stardust debris. CJ sat in the first mate’s chair, turned the steering wheel from one side to the other and took a glance at a wrinkled photograph of his sister Abigail: a lovely, emerald-eyed; soft and gentle face, black haired woman who wore a flowing sundress, black sunglasses, and ballet shoes, blowing a raspberry and holding her middle-finger up. He listened to Ryuichi Sakamoto’s “Rain,” holding a sigh, while the stars shined brilliantly out in the thick blackness of space, and wondered when he would ever see his older sister, wondered if she had made it to Earth, a place he’d only heard about in bedtime stories and late-night TV programs. He used to send her messages on the radio communications system, speaking into the microphone, his ear-buds in, as he asked her about her new life, on an old planet. It had been nearly a year since, Abigail and him had built a gray time-capsule machine, launching her from Japan Station No. 1 into a black hole in the past-life galaxy, where Earth resided and thrived under the cosmos and the light of the sun.
CJ put the ship on cruise-control, got up from his chair, and left the main bay, and headed towards the kitchen. He opened the fridge, took out some tuna fish, slices of American Cheese, bread, a container of mayo, lettuce, tomato, onions. He placed the ingredients on top of the counter and began stacking the vegetables on the tuna, fitting in the cheese on each piece of bread. After he made the sandwich, CJ turned on the cooking range, put a frying pan on the top, the flames burning, as the tuna and cheese melted on the bread.
CJ ate his tuna melt in silence, at a circular table covered with a linen cloth, and looked over at Tori who was sitting at the far end of the bench, dressed in an astronaut’s suit, and eating a bowl of red cream pasta. His hands began to shudder and sweat as Tori approached him and grinned, showing her white teeth. She sat down next to him, only a couple of inches away from his restless leg. When she reached out touch his shoulder, CJ felt anxious and a great wave of feeling washed inside him. “Can you pass the salt?” she asked in a kind and playful voice.
He leaned over to his right, grabbed the salt shaker, and passed it to her. “Of course,” he said, drumming his fingers across the table. He watched as Tori shook the salt all over the pasta. Then, she picked up her fork and scooped up some noodles. She pulled the zipper down on her astronaut suit until her black blouse showed and a silver necklace was revealed. Tori took a bite of her pasta, red sauce spilling onto the tablecloth, and smiled.
“Ugh,” Tori said and groaned.
“Something wrong?” CJ asked, knowing his concern showed in his voice.
“I’m so clumsy, even in space,” Tori said, chuckling.
CJ laughed and nodded in agreement. “Maybe just a bit,” he said, as she picked up a water bottle and took a swig.
“Don’t you hate it up here sometimes?” Tori asked, dropping her fork into her bowl and fishing out more pasta.
As CJ wiped his mouth with his napkin, he shook his head, knowing full well he loved being in space, no matter how lonely and empty it seemed, couldn’t imagine living elsewhere, in another unexplored place, far away from Japan Station No. 1. He’d grown up at St. Thomas, an upper middle-class neighborhood packed with tall identical-looking Victorian houses and foreign blue hovercrafts. He used to live there for years, only a few minutes from Earth’s moon, but when the meteor shower spread across the galaxy, it devoured the space cities and towns and neighborhoods, relocating its residents. His family and him moved away before the moon exploded into thousands of pieces. They traveled upstream through the temple of the past, finding shelter at Japan Station No. 1, the biggest and most sophisticated city-starship in outer space. But CJ didn’t tell any of these memories to Tori. He thought she wouldn’t understand his past, wouldn’t know where to begin to relate. Instead, he said, “What you hate, is loved by someone else.” He finished his tuna-melt, picked up his plate, and washed it under the the cold water in the sink.
“CJ, where did Abigail go?” Tori asked him.
CJ turned around and looked at her. “Earth,” he said, drying his hands on a paper towel white as snowflakes.
Andy Tran is a young professional working and living in the Washington DC metro area. His work has been featured in The Virginia. Normal, Defenestration Magazine, and Calliope, and currently at Queens Mob Teahouse. He's a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University, and he has a degree in English.