KYSO Flash
Knock-Your-Socks-Off Art and Literature
Issue 1: Fall 2014
Flash Fiction: 784 words

Quantum Love

by Claude Clayton Smith

What to make of it? Without having seen him in fifty years she’d come up to him at his niece’s wedding—in the presence of his wife, no less—to confess that, all those fifty years ago, he’d been her first mad adolescent love. The revelation had stunned him because, just as remarkably, all those fifty years ago, she had been his first mad adolescent love. But what to make of it now?

After college—he assumed she’d been to college although he didn’t know where—she’d made a fortune in international finance, had an office in Dubai, then lost it all in the crash of 2008. She’d married, divorced, and taken a foreign lover half her age by the name of Raoul. She’d gained weight—who hadn’t?—but there was still something about her that made him tremble after all these years.

She was his sister-in-law’s cousin and he’d only encountered her twice a year when they were kids in Connecticut—at a Christmas gathering so crowded he could only stare at her from across the room, and an annual Fourth of July picnic hosted by her parents, to which his own family was always somehow invited. It would take an hour to get there, although it wasn’t far, in those years before I-95 even existed. And once there, in the large back yard, he’d find her immersed in a wild game of kickball with siblings, cousins and friends, then she’d sit apart, aloof and alone, dewy beads of perspiration on her forehead and upper lip, a damp spot on her tee shirt between her budding breasts. They’d gone to separate high schools, then lost touch for fifty years, and he couldn’t understand why her frank admission thrilled him so—besides the fact that it might have changed his life.

Her frank admission seemed more like fate than coincidence. He’d been following the “The Fabric of the Cosmos” on PBS while reading books by Stephen Hawking—A Brief History of Time and The Universe in a Nutshell—and suddenly, as his head swirled with fanciful theories of quantum mechanics, multiple universes and alternate lives, he was certain that, light-years ago, somewhere in the warp and woof of outer space, he had married his sister-in-law’s cousin on the front porch of a supernova. It was a mad idea, to be sure, but on the night of his niece’s wedding he dreamed of her, a dream so different from the anxiety-laden, medication-induced dreams he’d suffered for years due to bedtime doses of several drugs prescribed for a variety of tedious age-related illnesses. The strange chemistry of this evening “cocktail” caused lurid and distorted dreamscapes the instant he lost consciousness, enveloping him in surreal surroundings—often in foreign countries—where he stood alone in central train stations, confused by imminent arrivals and departures, without knowing, when the train doors whooshed open and travelers crowded off, whether to get on or stay put. Or the setting was a quasi-familiar university campus, distorted by time so that he no longer could find his own classroom, where students awaited a lecture he hadn’t prepared or where he himself would be taking an exam for which he hadn’t studied, in a class he hadn’t attended all semester, for which he imagined answers that were implausible and ludicrous, to questions crucial to obtaining his doctorate, which, as he reassured himself upon waking in a sweat, had been conferred upon him years ago. Such cauchemars had plagued him for decades. He simply couldn’t remember his last good dream.

But now there was this:

He was with her on a couch in someone’s living room, with a picture-window view of a Long Island Sound sunset. They were young again—now nineteen or twenty—and the sunset didn’t matter, wrapped as they were in each other’s arms, legs entwined, her head on his chest as he wound ringlets of her hair around his finger, warm in the knowledge that they would eventually make love. But for the moment all that mattered was the greater knowledge that they were secure in each other, in having found each other, that there was no need or reason to get off this couch. Ever. The moment was strikingly post-coital in its pleasure, but even as he dreamed it he knew he must awake from it. There were those other fifty years to be accounted for.

The following night, while his wife slept soundly beside him, he turned “cold turkey,” slipping out of the familiar reality of their queen-size bed to empty his vials of drugs into the toilet and watch them swirl in a whirlpool as he flushed them away.

After which he never dreamed again.

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