He laid bare, his energy spent between disheveled sheets made raw in the brine of sweat and breath. She emerged from the fabric cocoon, getting up to drink her glass of water set on the other side of the room. The window, open to the city night, presented sapphire blue moonlight past curtains that were animated by the breeze. He examined the curls of her dark hair and the curves of her back and hips. As perfect as they were and as perfect as she was in this carefully planned night, he still nursed a clenching hunger.
She turned to meet his eyes and waited for the words forming behind them. “What did you think?” he asked. She sat at the edge of the bed and replied with a smile, “what does thought have to do with it?” He smiled back, but that smile softened: “are you happy?” She met him on the covers, lying back down and sending her hand up to stroke his shoulder. “Why wouldn’t I be?” she queried.
“Do you feel like… I know you and that you know me? Completely? Honestly?” he continued. She searched for the point, not quite concerned, but engaged. “Yes,” she assured him, “you know me; I haven’t held anything from you.” He looked to the window and smelled the night air still hovering and touring the room. “I know,” he said.
“If I could be closer to you…” he half-whispered into the ceiling, “maybe…” “Are you thinking about the future?” she wondered aloud. He sighed out a short laugh as the next line came to him, “what’s thought have to do with it?” “I’m serious,” she declared, “I want to know if something’s wrong. Are you happy?”
Happy. A slippery thing—it hates being noticed. It hates sticking around. Joy, fun, laughter: all are spent as they come. Contentment, satisfaction, meaning: those are the things that last—houses among tents, trees among flowers. He had fun tonight, but who’s to say the same things would be fun tomorrow? What’s sustainable about this picture? What’s worth drawing out into a life? His hunger churned. It’s a blessing to know what one wants, he thought.
Being with her there, the way her soft, soothing voice sounded as it danced through his head, the way her witty kind of humor made him feel young and in his prime, the way her eyes inspired visions of a paradise he could reach, the way the build of her tender, vibrant features became the goddess sum of woman parts: again, as perfect as it all was, it wasn’t quite his sort of perfect… not yet. Not until the love he felt for a woman was naturally inescapable would it be perfect, marked by permanence and transcendence—far beyond the limits of mere reality.
He closed his eyes and the night air lost its scent, the moonlight slipped away, the sheets evaporated, and the drying sweat on his body sapped out into the void. His consciousness wavered in the taking-on of tasks, working in tandem with the miracle of science he’d been living in—the computerized system by which one defined their own worlds and inhabited them. It was virtual reality drawn out to its pinnacle. This artificial reality was indistinguishable, only knowable through remembering the circumstances by which one entered it. The facility which housed the system began as a vacation spot for the rich and powerful, but was recently open to a broader public. The system became both popular and infamous very quickly.
There were those in the real world that’d call him a hedonist, a deluded puppet of his own inane desires, nothing more than a drain on resources. They are proud of knowing nothing about the mind, he’d bitterly supposed. What is the goal of all good dreams, of all morality, of all things worth reaching for? It may be this, here, now: transcendence, paradise, Heaven, the all and absolute good. Even if the system is a means to an end… it works.
But what good is perfection to an imperfect mind? Boring: that’s what it is. He could’ve allowed the system to reach inside and pull out exactly what he wanted and all he could ever want. He could have it right now without even thinking of it, but no. One needs a goal, right? His goal was to find it all himself—self-discovery by the exploration of desire within the system. It’s how he found his ideal career, home, and income level; now it would allow him to find his soul mate. Soon all of these things would be discovered and would converge into a tailored existence; he could feel it all proceeding. He could feel it all being actualized. The dream was alive.
After spending so much time playing the cruel game of life, it used to feel like cheating to have all of this and more. But you can’t win that game if you don’t cheat.
He opened his eyes to the party before him. It was quintessentially classy—gold and red, slow music and sensual waltzes, velvet elegance and conversations with intelligence. He was standing clean, dry, and warm in his gray suit. A glass of wine rested in his right hand, just now lowered from his lips and their exultant sip. The aftertaste was still circling his tongue, full and divine. Most of the other party-goers, tightly wound on the dance-floor around him, weaved and wandered past in their embraces. The blonde at the bar spotted him before he remembered why he was there. They smiled at the same time and he absorbed the moment spent walking to her. She was perfect.