“You’d think they’d have gone with something in the same time zone.”
I looked over at the man standing next to me. Here we were, two strangers at the opening ceremonies for one of the greatest technological coups of our time. Apparently it gives everyone a license to talk with everyone. I just wanted to witness this feat of modern engineering first hand. I gave a non-committal grunt. It’s not that I had an issue with talking to him per se. I just didn’t want to. He didn’t take the hint.
“I mean. They could have gone New York to Miami. That would have been just as impressive,” he said. He shuffled on his feet. I caught him glancing at me out of the corner of my eye. He was waiting for me to respond. If I stayed quiet he might-
“You got business in El Ay?” he asked. If I stayed quiet, he might change his tactics. That’s what I was going to say before he interrupted my thoughts. Not that he might take the hint. Of course he wouldn’t take the hint. And of course he would have the most obnoxious way of saying the abbreviated form of Los Angeles. Couldn’t he see that I wasn’t there to socialize?
“I’m going to visit family,” he continued. “My daughter actually. I haven’t seen her since her she and her mom went out to El Ay.” There was that obnoxious pronunciation again. By this point it was all I could do not to cringe. I kept my mouth shut. He kept talking. “Her mother, heh, she went out there to become an actress. Never did get a gig. They’ve got more actresses in El Ay than we have rats here in New York. Am I right?” He waited for me to respond again. “Course I’m right. That didn’t stop my girl’s mom though. She went out there. Said she was gonna make it big. She said there’d be more opportunities for my daughter there too. Said I worked too much. Maybe I did. But it was only to provide for them. But you know how it is, right?” Finally they’d cut the ribbon. It’s enough to get my erstwhile companion to stop talking for a minute and start clapping. We’re pretty far back, but we can see the line for Portal 1 – N.Y. to L.A. start to shuffle in anticipation as the big round disc powers up and the portal opens. Portal 2 – L.A. to N.Y. powers up at roughly the same time. Through each of the portals we can see crowds almost as large as our own, despite the hour in L.A. It’s everyone’s opportunity to be a part of history, I guess. As the line starts moving slowly, ever so slowly, my companion begins talking again.
“You want to see a picture of my little girl?” he asks, and without even waiting for me to confirm he whips out his wallet. I don’t care what anyone says. Everyone thinks there kid is cute. Everyone thinks there kid is a gift. It’s hardwired into them. Some sort of survival instinct for the propagation of the species. One little kid looks as much like another to me. I know it’s not what the guy wants to hear though. He’ll keep waving that little wallet sized photo in front of my face until I respond though.
“Cute,” I say. I’m trying to keep it short and sweet. Maybe the line will pick up enough that he’ll stop talking. The line doesn’t speed up. He puts away his wallet. Blessedly, he’s silent for a couple minutes. Maybe he’s run out of words to-
“Course, that’s an old photo. About ten years old, to be honest. Don’t have any more recent ones. Her mother won’t talk to me at all anymore. Not since we split up. It’s just hard, the way things happened. The way everything works out. You got any family of your own?” I can tell by the way he asks the question that it’s more rhetorical than one of a pressing interest in my own family situation. It suits me just fine except for the fact that his mouth plows on faster than the line we’re in. “If you do man, you gotta.” He pauses, he must love his ex-wife and little girl, because he’s tearing up. He swallows deep. It’s very uncomfortable. “You gotta let ’em know you love ’em man. Don’t let a single day go by without telling ’em that.”
We’re getting closer to the portal now. He’s shut up. He’s pulled out his wallet and gotten his ticket ready. I ready my ticket also. He seems more beat down where as he was excited, almost optimistic. I’m actually starting to feel bad for the guy. Maybe I should talk to him more. Maybe he’s got nerves about crossing nearly twenty eight hundred miles in the time it takes to bat an eye. Eventually portals like these will be in all major cities, maybe even some of the smaller ones. It’ll eventually be ho hum. I guess he’s right to be a little nervous. I feel sympathy for the man. I feel bad that I didn’t really talk to him.
We walk through the portal. It’s hard to describe the way that felt. Halfway between wading through a pool of warm water and slogging through pudding, I guess. My traveling companion looks about the way that I felt. We get put through the ringer by the medical and arrival personnel. Standard protocol for this time of travel until it becomes more normal. More regulated. Eventually were out walking to the side walk. My once talkative companion has sunken into silence.
“Hey. Have a good visit with your daughter. She’s lucky that you could make this trip out to see her.” I say to him. He looks up. There are definitely tears in his eyes. He just nods and starts walking. It wasn’t until the next day that I understood why he was so talkative. I was in town for a funeral, you see. The next day when I was at the cemetery I saw my travel companion again. It sunk in then why he only had that one photo that was ten years old.
Apropos of: This Prompt