Lee drove the Lexus SUV toward town. At the first red light, the 2002 model year RX300 showed its age, sputtering and stalling out.
Karen turned to Lee. “Didn’t you say it was the Ocpam gas that caused this?”
Lee nodded, restarting the engine.
“Then why did you just refill the tank with Ocpam?”
Lee shrugged. “Convenience.”
He shifted the SUV out of park as the light turned green while at the same time trying to calculate the number of days until 6th May 2050, the date Lee had estimated that our species would declare Mars colonisation a total success.
“After we eat, would you like to go dancing?”
Karen sat silently, looking forward. Why did he persist on wanting to dance when he knew her thoughts on the matter?
Lee did know.
Lee wanted to remain friends with his wife with whom he’d shared decades of domestic middle class life. They had patiently grown their investments and wages to put them in the top 3% of income earners globally, able to take trips around the world, afford high quality healthcare, and eat out frequently.
Lee was, at heart, a wondering wanderer, often walking away from parties with friends or business meetings when he needed to explore a thought trail that might feed his creative bent, writing and dancing.
Karen thought that his love for dancing had attracted him to people who thought he should divorce Karen.
“You know what I feel about them. I don’t want to dance. I want us to go home and watch Dancing With The Stars. But I’d like to shop for a companion cat for Papier before we get home.”
They ate dinner at a BBQ restaurant offering free pie to celebrate its 62nd anniversary.
Lee drove them home.
“I’m going to dance but only stay for the lessons.”
Karen frowned. She knew he wouldn’t stay just for the first lesson but sometimes he did only stay a brief time when either his crowd anxiety kicked in or he got a wild hair and walked away.
“Why don’t we stop and look at the cats in the pet store?”
Lee looked at his watch. “Well, if I leave now I’ll just get to the start of the dance lesson on time.”
Three hours later she texted Lee: “Just staying for the first lesson? I want a new cat because I’m very lonely.”
Although the dance class was thirty minutes away, Lee happened to return home only five minutes after Karen sent the text, reading the text as he walked inside the house — a thought had occurred to him and he had left his friends at the dance group without saying a word, saving him the heartache of saying farewell.
He wondered what was the price of the middle class comfort he had, less than five years from full retirement, in comparison to being himself, the person who craved attention, especially the one-to-one attention of dancing, but who also craved time being alone writing?
And how did all of this tie in to the Canus Minor group he had joined as a youth but never completed the adult Canus Major training?
What is love, he constantly asked himself, and how can he separate his love for the characters he wrote about from his love for real people, humans with broken hearts who loved him as much as he did them?
Did all of this get human lifeform equivalents to Mars?
He was raised to be a leader, setting examples for others to follow — what example was he trying to set and for whom?
What was it worth to be himself 100% of the time in public? And did he have to be as crazy publicly as his thoughts were?