The Vanishing Mediator

Having fun on the internet.

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An Easily-Distracted Tale by Chris/0

Samantha brought in lemonade for both me and Alex. I imagine it’s nice to have a girlfriend who casually supports one’s video game habits.

Ah, a wonderful sip of cool, refreshing—

“Um, is my glass meant to be empty?” I asked.

She crossed her arms. “When you have a girlfriend of your own, you can have her get you lemonade.”

The statement had a certain level of fairness, so I couldn’t get up the energy to protest against it.

Seemingly unsatisfied with my lack of response, she pressed on. “And do you know where those glasses came from?”

“The kitchen?”

“Before that.”

I tipped mine over and read the bottom. “Vietnam?”

“You’re an idiot,” she spat.

After whacking Tim upside the head, she exited for the kitchen again.

Alex started to laugh, then abruptly stopped. “Hey why am I laughing? You acted like an idiot, and I’m the one who got hit.”

“Objection, your honor.” I said. “I gave perfectly accurate answers to her questions. Knowledge correlates negatively with idiocy.”

“You’re thinking in terms of intelligence. I’m speaking from the perspective of wisdom. As in, it wasn’t very wise to crack wise with her.”

“2x combo!”

“Yes, yes,” he dismissed, “I am the greatest. The point she was trying to push is that the glasses come from her parents’ house. That our relationship is becoming serious enough that they’re buying us things to furnish a home with.”

“Serious between the two of you, or serious as reported by her to them?” I asked, pointedly.

Alex hemmed for a moment, then hawed for a moment further. “It’s… Yeah, it’s more the latter, I’ll admit. But, y’know, it’s all right. It’s a good relationship. I mean, it’s a good relationship. No, that’s not what I’m trying—”

“As opposed to a bad relationship,” I commiserated. “It’s both ‘all right’ and ‘healthy.’”

“Lord knows I’ve been in bad relationships…”

He totally had. There was something about his personality that attracted overbearing women, and there was something about his personality that was attracted to overbearing women. But there’s more to a successful relationship than sexual compatibility (or so the theory goes), so every one so far had ended in some spectacular flameout.

Keyed cars, graffiti, vengeful presents, mail fraud… Oh, the fun that was had. And I was often considered acceptable collateral damage. Which was fine.

I guess.

Maybe.

Well, it made life interesting, at least. Also, it taught me a valuable lesson on reading the quadrants of the hot–crazy scale, and at what depth “too crazy to be worth it” begins.

Presumably there’s an equivalent stud–douchebag scale in the minds of women. Despite a genetic inability to judge the former part of that balance, I know the rough percentage of men who are douchebags. Presumably, a similar percentage of women are genuinely crazy-in-the-vernacular. My point is: I’m not trying to paint with a broad brush, Alex was just a crazy magnet.

Hm. That’s not a bad phrase.

“I think you’re some kind of crazy magnet,” I said, testing it out.

“You think I’m crazy?” He paused the game out of reflex.

“No, I think you’re a magnet for crazy.” Four out of ten; see me after class.

“Oh.”

“But I find Samantha quite bearable,” I admitted.

“On its face, that statement seems underwhelming, but I understand what you mean, given my history.” He resumed playing. “I’m sorry that she seems not to like you. She actually does, but she sometimes gives in to just a touch of paranoia.”

“Paranoia?” I asked, not encouraged.

“Maybe just noia. The fear is unfounded, but it’s not to the level of actual-literal paranoia, I guess.”

I endeavored to manifest a facial expression that would summarize my confusion.

I must have succeeded, as he went on. “You know how in movies, someone will get a girlfriend, but he’ll spend all his time with his buds when he starts to take the relationship for granted? That’s the kind of thing going on in Samantha’s head. She fears that without something else to occupy your time, we’ll act out that scenario. It’s a fear borne of preserving the relationship, at least, so that’s acceptable.”

“Did she tell you all that?”

“Not directly. But, I mean, have you seen her DVD library?”

“When would I have?”

“Anyway, the point that I’m now trying to push is that my relationship will be happier if you are in a happy relationship. I consider any actions on my part toward that end to be win–win.”

“All right,” I said, pointing at the television screen. “Hook me up with her.”

“Who? Ulala?”

“Yeah, I mean, look at her. She’s got moves like I’ve never seen.”

Alex laughed. “Dude, she’s got moves like you wouldn’t comprehend. She dances everywhere; it’s like walking to her. I guess she runs in the second game sometimes, though.”

“I would not begrudge her that.”

“No, nor would I. And she’s a reporter. Pretty good money in that.” He puffed up his chest. “You’ve chosen well, my son.”

“Yeah,” I said, “but a space reporter. What would my parents think of me marrying a foreigner? I’d have to emigrate. Or, wait. Is America part of space?”

“If you wanted know if you were a space citizen, it would depend on what kind of citizenship system space has established. Here on Earth, there are two main social policies: jus soli and jus sanguinis. Jus soli is Latin for ‘right of soil.’ It refers to granting citizenship to any person born within the territory of the political state in question. Born in France, for example? Félicitations, mon ami, you are now a citizen of the Republic!

Jus sanguinis, on the other hand, is ‘right of blood.’ Under this policy, where you are born is inconsequential; citizenship is granted by having at least one parent who is already a citizen. Or it can even go back farther than parenthood. Before 2000, if you could document German heritage in your bloodline—however far back—then you could be granted German citizenship.

“Anyway,” he continued, “I posit that in this enlightened future, everyone would be considered a citizen of space, so you wouldn’t have an issue.”

“And it must be enlightened,” I said. “They solve all their problems with dancing. Would that we lived in such a world.”

Alex looked unconvinced. “But you can’t dance.”

“If I lived in space, I could!”

“I… I have no counterargument to that. You are the winner, now and forever.”

“Yes, yes,” I dismissed, “I am the greatest. And now I’m going to drink your lemonade.”

“Well, don’t spill any. You’re dressed pretty nice; let’s try to keep it that way until tonight.”

“What’s tonight?”

Alex put the controller down. “You, I, Samantha, and a mystery lady are going on a half-blind double date tonight. So… Don’t look like a slob.”

I was shocked. “I get no say in this, huh?”

“Nope,” Samantha said, re-entering from the kitchen. “You’re going to go, and you’re going to have fun. That’s an order.”

I turned to Alex. “Since when does she out-rank me?”

He only shrugged.

“Well, fine,” I said. “But I’m gonna need a lot more lemonade.”