22 February 2013

"The Space Between"

PREVIOUSLY: "Funny Story"

By Curtis C. Chen

"How's your migraine?" Barrett asked.

"Better." Liz shifted in her armchair. It should have concerned her that Doctor Sawhney had a ready supply of placebo pills on board, but she could see where they'd come in handy with elderly hypochondriacs. "How was your thing?"

"Pretty awesome," Barrett lilted. "I'm editing the video now. You are going to be so impressed."

Liz closed her book and watched Barrett fiddle with his laptop for a while. She looked around the ship's library. It was about half full of other passengers relaxing with books, drinks, games, or just with each other.

"How do you do it?" Liz asked.

Barrett looked up from his computer. "Well, first I import the video from my camera—"

"Not that." Liz smacked his shoulder with her book. "How are you so happy all the time? I've never seen you upset or even irritated. Other people get depressed; why don't you?"

"I get depressed. Were you there when we watched Titanic?"

"I'm serious."

He nodded and closed his laptop. "Okay, this is going to sound dumb, but... every morning, when I wake up, I tell myself I'm going to be happy, that it's going to be a good day."

"That's it?" Liz squinted at him. "That actually works?"

"That's just the first step," Barrett said. "Look, I'm not saying this would work for you, since your job's a lot more stressful than mine—"

"I'm not asking for advice," Liz said. "I just want to understand. I want..." She looked away. "I want to know more about you."

Barrett gave her a lopsided grin. "Well, at least you didn't say 'we need to talk.'"

Liz shook her head. "Okay, you wake up, it's going to be a good day. What next?"

"I just keep telling myself it's a good day," he said. "No matter what happens, no matter how bad or how difficult things get, I remind myself how lucky I am. I'm healthy, I have clean water and plentiful food, I have a rewarding career and wonderful friends." He smiled at her. "I'm a very lucky man. And that makes me happy."

Liz thought about all the times she'd been infuriated by Barrett's apparent obliviousness. He wasn't actually clueless, she realized. His optimism was a monumental effort in the face of all the evil and hardship in the world.

Liz saw pain and suffering every day in the ICU. She couldn't just ignore the darkness by focusing on how she was mitigating it. It wasn't enough to light her one candle.

But maybe Barrett could help her. If she asked, he'd rattle off a list of things she should be happy about. And he'd do it in such a friendly, reasonable way, she would have to believe him.

Maybe that would be enough.

She leaned over and kissed him.

"I'm glad we came on this cruise," she said.

"Me too."

"You know what we should do later?" Liz grinned. "Karaoke."

Barrett made a face. "I thought you wanted me to be happy."

The book made a satisfying thump against his forehead.


Photo Credit: Grufnik via Compfight cc