by: Chad D. Christy
Lucinda had reluctantly agreed to put her rach into passive mode for the day. It’s not like she needed it, but she was comforted by the fact that she was in constant contact with 6.8 billion people. She’d never really considered whether it was the idea of being part of the collective consciousness of humanity that she enjoyed, or if it was the sense of anonymity granted by joining the cacophony of voices crying out to be noticed. Really, she just wanted to check her messages and update her feed, but she’d made a promise to her friend and she wanted to keep it.
Just ahead of her on the trail, Edgar led the way down the hillside. Edgar never used his rach. Never updated his feed. Never logged any of his experiences at all—or at least not into public space. She’d asked him once if she could see something from his bio, fully ready to open her own private data, but he’d told her he didn’t use it. “I used to use it,” he’d said, “but I haven’t thought about it in years. All that’s there are the rambling musing of a seven year old kid who no longer exists.” He’d said it without a smile; no indication that he’d been joking. She wasn’t quite sure at the time what he had meant, but she was beginning to understand his thought process.
The path leveled out down by the bank of a river. It was well-worn, no trace of vegetation on the foot-trod dirt. To her left, a slope of green grass dropped off into the rapidly flowing water. Wild flowers grew sporadically throughout the stretch, and Lucy watched the bees dart between them, gathering pollen or whatever bees do on flowers. Silently, Lucy initiated a search string to find out about the life process of bees, then stopped—mentally and physically.
“Eddie,” she said, “would it be alright if I took a picture?” She wanted to remember to investigate later.
“Sure?” he replied questioningly.
“I won’t link it,” she explained, “I just want a reminder to look something up later.”
Edgar smiled and nodded. “What are you thinking about?”
“Bees? What about them?”
“Like what are they doing when they land on flowers? I know they gather pollen, but for what?”
“Well,” Edgar began, “they gather pollen, carrying it along their bodies and legs. They have these hairs that pollen sticks to, you see. Then, when they get back to the hive, its used in the process of making honey.”
“How do they do that?”
“Well, in short, they eat it and throw it back up partially digested.”
Lucinda wrinkled her nose, equating honey to every time she’d been nauseous.
Edgar giggled a bit and stifled it quickly. “You didn’t know?”
“Well,” Lucinda thought back through her experiences. It would be so much easier to just search her feed, but there was her promise again. “I think I remember learning something about it,” she admitted, “but I don’t remember very clearly. Did you just look that up?”
Edgar shook his head. “Remembered it. I learned that back in primary.”
Lucinda was surprised, but knew she shouldn’t have been. Edgar had explained his theory to her a long time ago: the more you rely on your rach to access information, the less you learn. His viewpoint was, if you had constant access to the library of the world’s knowledge, you never had to think about anything, and when you stopped using your brain to figure things out, your brain just stopped working. “You might be able to find the answer to any problem, but you still don’t know anything.” He had been speaking pluralistically, but she remembered being offended. Was that strange? She couldn’t remember anything about bees, but she could recall in perfect detail the time her friend had hurt her feelings.
Lucinda smiled instead of frowning and pointed to the creature of interest. She captured the image and tagged it for retrieval at a later time. “It’s fascinating.”
“They are,” Edgar said, “no matter how long you watch them.”
Lucinda started walking along the path again, Edgar falling in beside her. “Why is it that watching other people work is so entertaining? I don’t mean accountants, but people that actually work. You know, work work.”
“Is this still about bees?”
Lucinda smiled and said, “No, just a tangent.”
“Might be the same reason, though,” he guessed.
“Same as bees? Why’s that? Do you mean because we don’t really understand the experience? Like some sort of social divide?”
“No, but that’s interesting, isn’t it? Sure, we work, but we don’t really know what it is to work for a living. You know, work work.”
Lucinda shoved Edgar lightly, “Don’t be a jerk!”
“What?” Edgar stepped back into the path.
“You’re making fun of me,” she scolded.
“Who? Me?” Edgar laughed.
“You think you’ve got the world figured out, don’t you?” Without warning, Lucinda sped ahead, leaving just enough of her anger behind to tip Edgar off to trouble.
“What?” he cried after her, stopping to watch her storm off. “Lucy!”
Edgar never saw himself as condescending; it was never an intentional process. Sometimes it was a joke at the wrong time or to the wrong person. Sometimes it was a mis-worded explanation or question. Most of the time Edgar was told it wasn’t what he said, but the way that he said it. Which he saw as an explanation by people who were mad that didn’t know why they were mad. But he had learned not to say that. He’d said it once.
“Lucy, I’m sorry,” he called after her, picking up his pace to catch up.
“For what?” she asked, looking back over her shoulder.
“For making you upset.”
She hmphed and walked faster.
“Wha—oh, come on.” His clever response had no impact. Edgar stopped and watched her walk away from him, then turned his attention to the river. He’d catch up with her later at the end of the trail if not sooner. He’d find her standing by the railing that overlooked the waterfall.
He imagined her standing there with her back to the trail, stark still and staring down over the cliff’s edge, watching the water cascade and crash into the pool below. In his mind, her arms were crossed over her chest, expressing her desire to be left alone. One foot would be half-stepped in front of the other, knee slightly bent. Her hair would shine with blonde sparkles where the sunlight cut through the mottled shadow of foliage. She would hear him approach, but pretend not to.
Edgar would embrace her, his arms encircling her body as she leaned back against his chest. She’d let her head fall back onto his shoulder and he’d whisper “I’m sorry” and they’d stay there, watching the sunset. When they left, it would be hand in hand, the way he’d been hoping for so long. And there’d be no need to say anything more, because they would both know this was the way it was meant to be.
Edgar couldn’t put into words what “this” was or what precisely he meant by “it,” but he knew the happy ending in his heart. Reality, as it does, intruded on his fantasy, though. As Edgar crested the rise into the viewing area, he saw Lucinda sitting on the railing, casting a chill gaze at him. In a story, Edgar should have shivered, but he didn’t feel quite that melodramatic. Besides, it was way too hot.
Ignoring her eyes as best he could, he sat down next to her. An elegant speech passed through his mind: words refined and graceful, a master oration to bridge the chasm of silence that lay between them. But Edgar lacked the courage to speak, afraid that his ineptitude would cost him a dear friend.
He sat next to her. Ten minutes went by before he said, “I’m no good at apologies.”
Lucinda glanced at him, her pale blue eyes stopping further words. She watched the leaves move in the wind and he stared at the ground. Well, at her shoes. Hiking shoes with a rugged tread but without the ankle support of a boot. White ankle socks. Smooth, tanned legs. A small scar on the inside of her left calf from where she’d been bit by a dog when she was eight years old. The simple curve of her bent knee and a splach of dirt on her right thigh.
“Are you checking me out?” Lucinda asked, making Edgar jump.
“No, I–” burning cheeks revealed his lie. He swallowed hard and said, “I’m sorry.”
“For what?” she asked him again.
“Um,” Edgar hesitated. “For, uh, staring at you?”
“Is that all?”
Edgar looked at her, studied her face, tried to find a clue that would let him know what she wanted him to say.
“Lucy, I don’t want you to be mad at me,” he said.
She smirked. “I don’t want to be mad at you.”
“Then why are you?”
“Why are you apologizing?”
“Because I hurt you and you’re my friend,” he explained simply. “I’m a jerk.”
“You are a jerk,” she smiled, apparently accepting his apologies, “but unintentionally.”
Edgar wasn’t sure where he stood, so he kept his mouth shut.
Two breaths later, Lucinda said, “I’m sorry, too. I forget that your head and mouth don’t always sync. I shouldn’t have gotten upset.” She hopped off the fence and brushed off her shorts.
“Do you forgive me?” she asked.
“Always,” he said. “Always, before you even ask.”
Copyright © 2012 Chad D. Christy
All rights reserved.