Your Better Half

Interviewer: Tell me about your first time.

A: Am I allowed to talk about drugs?

I: Yes.

A: It was better than drugs. It was better than everything. It was full, and total, and just so right. Everything about it, perfect. Can I talk about the weepies?

I: Yes.

A: The first time they plug you in, you never want to leave. And not just because they tell you your first disconnect is going to be the worst, that a few, a very few, but still, a few, people have died from the shock of it. Imagine your swimming in an infinitely warm, safe pool, and they throw in a shark. That’s not even it though. What’s the worst is that you know you’ve just signed up to be an addict. Your life revolves around this connection, this machine now. The job is secondary, what’s important is keeping this connection alive, feeding this feeling. I can really talk about this stuff?

I: Yes. Tell me more about your first time.

A: Well. I’d been in training for, for, uh, five years? at that point, and to be honest I was sure everybody was hyping the whole thing up. But then my bunkmate, H**** got called up, and whoosh just like that I didn’t see her for a month, she just disappeared in the Academy ratmaze. I got scared for her, got scared for what I had signed up for, wanted to quit. I was going to run away. I knew a place in the Northern Territories that I thought could sustain me for a few years, then I’d figure out what to do.

I: You didn’t trust the Academy?

A: Now look, I’ve seen some slinky ass shit while I’ve been here, but I’ve grown up here, this is my home, this is everything I know. My family, my friends, my whole world is tied up in this…being a pilot was and is my everything. I didn’t consider it lightly.

I: But you did consider it. Decide on it.

A: Yes. It got to be too much, too real when H**** ghosted out. I had just finished packing my bag when an entry was requested at my door. I shoved my bag under my bunk and checked the view screen. I nearly jumped out of my skin.

I: It was the Academy Police?

A: No. It was H****. She was back. She looked frail, pale, fragile. But she was there. I didn’t let her go for a solid twenty minutes. I just broke down on her shoulder. She looked so weak, but I just burst on her. I didn’t realize how pent-up I’d gotten.

I: She’d completed her meeting.

A: Yes, she survived the weepies. Except where most lasted a week, hers had dragged on for a month. She told me all about it, about how wonderful her meeting had been, how awful the separation. How truly, truly awful. She described it in intimate detail, the rapture, the severing, the long fall into depression. How each day grew worse and worse, with no sign of reprieve in sight. And then it had ended. Like a rubber band stretched tighter and tighter, and tighter, until a magician makes it disappear.

I: But the sadness remains.

A: Yes. Because you have the self-awareness to know you’re boned. Well and truly. Because you’re in the cycle now. There is no getting out. If you go too long without joining, you’ll wither and die. There is no getting out, there is no emergency stop, there are no brakes. It’s well and truly on.

I: But you still went through with it. Knowing this.

A: Well after H**** had bared her heart and soul to me, and after she told me, “Look, A**, you don’t have to do this. They’ll let you go. But you should do it! Mine was as bad as it gets, and I’m here telling you, ‘You should do it!’.” I mean, when your best friend tells you that, I mean. I trust her with my everything. It didn’t take me any time to decide. To do it. I was called up that night, and I went.

I: And your experience.

A: Everything she said and more. So much more, that you can’t fit into words. And she was right. It was worth it. Years on and I don’t regret my decision. Haven’t once in all this time.

I: Thank you for your service Pilot.

A: Thank you.

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