He opens the door and enters the office, ushering in a gust of crisp autumn air that smells of fresh rainfall. Our eyes lock. With a steady gait, he strides toward me, wearing a bright smile and confident gaze. We are the same height, the same build, the same in many ways. His skin is a shade darker than mine. I wonder how else we are different.
I’ve seen him before. We’ve spoken, but I don’t really know him. We don’t work on the same projects. Our paths typically cross in the men’s room where all communication, even a furtive glance is forbidden.
I stand in the office kitchen with coffee in hand, shaking off the haze of Monday morning.
“Hey,” he says as he approaches.
“Hey,” I say in return.
He stands beside me at a comfortable distance for interaction without either of us invading personal space. I see the silver band across his ring finger, he sees the silver band across mine. Anticipation heightens.
I need to think of something to say. Something casual, not work-related. Topics float through the air and I give chase. Before I can catch one, his lips part.
“Did you see the game?” A glimmer of hope flashes in his eyes.
Game? What game? What sport?
My heart races. My mind panics in search for an answer. It’s fall. Football season. Must be football. But I still don’t know who played, who won or what was the score. Can’t name a single player. Don’t even know the rules. All the possibilities of everything this relationship could be, they all hinge on my answer to this simple question. But I don’t have an answer.
“No, I didn’t.”
His brow furrows in confusion. “Were you working this weekend?”
It’s going worse than expected. The concept of someone not watching ‘the game’ is so foreign, he assumes it was against my will. It’s not a decision any sane man could make. We’re both married. Our wives might have a common interest. We could… double date. But only if, only if.
I look down with shame in my eyes. “I don’t watch football.”
In an instant, everything changes. His face contorts and the hope extinguishes in his eyes. For a fleeting moment, our souls connected before being torn apart. This could have forged a meaningful connection. It could have led to a bromance.
Desperation churns in his eyes. He holds out hope. “Did you catch The Walking Dead?”
Fear turns to desolation. He stands in the threshold, blocking my only route of escape. If there were a window large enough, I would jump and plummet ten stories. But I can’t look away from his deep brown eyes.
“I’m a season behind. I haven’t watched any TV this year.”
In the distance, a door slams. The whir of the refrigerator deafens me. His face sinks.
Ask something else! Anything else!
There is so much more to me, to who I am. I’m more than just what I do or don’t watch on TV. Ask me about my theories on parallel universes. Ask me—
“So what do you do in the evenings?”
That’s it! I take a deep breath and square my shoulders. “I write.”
He blinks. Twice. “Oh. Cool.” He turns and walks away, down a lonely gray corridor, and out of my life.
We still work together, we still make polite greetings and interactions. But heartbreak lurks beneath congeniality. What could have been, never can be.
It’s football season, and I am not a football fan.
Another coworker enters the kitchen. His name is Chuck or something.
“Hey,” he says. “We’re doing an office fantasy football league. You in?”
Am I in? Yes! I’m into exploring the depths of my soul. I’m into creating and destroying universes. I’m into seeing the world through the eyes of many.
Chuck stares and waits for an answer. He has a fantasy of swapping large men with other large men to create hybrid teams that can battle other hybrid teams in simulation, based on numbers from reality. He wishes to create an alternate reality, like me.
I have a fantasy, too. One where my character, the nature of my being is sought. Not by the color of my jersey or the glow of my television. But for the glow in my eyes, he does not care.
I reach into my blazer and withdraw a gun.
Chuck’s eyes widen in shock. I point the barrel between his eyes. He holds up his hands. His mouth opens to yell.
“I have a fantasy, too.” I squeeze the trigger.
The life fleets from Chuck’s eyes. Blood and smoke emit from the third eye in his forehead as he falls to the ground. The scent of smoke crests the air, the taste of death grazes my tongue. At this moment, I transform from a man to a god.
In the distance, screams. Cries.
The gun is heavy in my hand, but I never question what I’ve done. I point the gun toward myself, stare into the dark oblivion of the barrel.
It ends as it must. There is no place in this world for a non-football fan.
Cold metal nuzzles against my temple. I pull the trigger.
Why do I do it? Because I can do whatever I want.
This is my world. This is fiction, motherfuckers.