“New World Love,” by Rory Fleming

Aug 20th, 2013 | By | Category: Fiction, Prose

When the world’s fuel infrastructure fully switched over from oil to “love,” people who once could not afford to drive (or buy) cars were zipping along the abandoned highways.  Government agents confiscated the old pollution machines from the driveways.  Those who neglected their children, spouses, and friends were stuck.  Applications in the mail arrived, offering bailouts.  They told us that you could apply for “love stamps,” suspected by skeptics to be Xanax or unfortunate tattoos.  People on the outskirts that were born unloved, lived without love, and could not believe in the word to begin with were as crazy as those who once doubted the energy crisis.  When I heard the news, I called my parents.  They didn’t answer.  Then I saw them drive by my window in a Lustang convertible.  I knew that thing wasn’t burning any fossil fuels.

My car was stuck on the driveway for the first couple of days until the HOA complained and special agents removed it.  One of the officers shouted to me through an open window.

“Hey, you in there?  We’re getting rid of your car.  You’ll be happier!”

I didn’t want them to take it, but complaining was pointless.  Let them do it, I thought, it was out of gas anyway.  I slinked back to my desktop and typed something about the fuel mandate in the search bar.  The first hit was a site titled “New World Love.”  It looked like a forum.  I searched through different sections of the main page, like the one titled “How to survive on your government’s care package,” which I assumed meant the bailout.  One could apparently apply for a temporary love car, but I hadn’t gotten my mail for days.  I hadn’t even left the house.

I signed up for an account on the site.  It asked for a valid email address which I had one of, then for a variety of personal minutiae I didn’t feel comfortable sharing.  Who cared if I liked white men or black?  Before I could shame myself for subscribing, I was bombarded with messages.

The first read: Hey listen, I see you’re also from [name of city redacted], do you want to find a landmark to walk halfway to?  It shouldn’t take too long to meet, maybe 45 minutes if we do it this way.  Please, I know you probably understand (I have to get back to work too).

Within seconds, another seven followed.  I responded only to the first:  Yeah, let’s do this bullshit.  I GPS-ed your location on my phone.  How does Panoptix Video Café sound?  We can meet up and watch a movie over lunch.

Immediately, the guy responded, Yes.  I forgot to ask his name but I would recognize him.  I saved his profile picture on my phone and ran out the door.  I didn’t even have to dress up.  We both wanted the same thing.

I arrived in 20 flat.  He wasn’t there yet.  I ordered a latte and was offered the daily movie menu.  I read the sticky note on the top of the laminated sheet:  “To commemorate the coming of a new age, Dr. Larry Steinberg has been asked to assemble his filmic inspirations.  Enjoy!”  They were all obscure 90s anime titles.  Intergalactic Space Station of Funk and LoveLovesteelThe Motor of our Hearts that Summer.  Prophecies of one man’s choosing.  I found a free screening table and looked over the movie I had just chosen—Lovesteel.  As I was loading it, I felt a tap at my shoulder.

“Ah!  There you are.”

I turned around, loaded his likeness onto my phone and compared his actual face with it.

“Mark, I take it?  Have a seat.  The movie’s starting.”

After the opening credits, in which characters walked with determined faces toward the screen, superimposed against giant robots of all designs and colors flying through the stars, a teenage boy sat in his room fiddling with an electronic gadget.  It was telling.  He would be the one to save the world, but not without help.  We watched him as he went to school to be made fun of, arrived at home to have his grandfather berate him over not responsibly choosing the career path of the men in the family, and went to sleep dreaming of a woman’s touch.

“So this is what he was thinking when he changed the world,” Mark mused.

I nodded in agreement.  I also knew how this was going to play out.  The boy would discover the girl of his dreams, who would be piloting a robot for a paramilitary organization fighting against the corrupt ruling power.  He would try to win her heart, and in the process discover everything about himself he could have imagined, and even that which he couldn’t.  He would, in this process, become a man.

“It is love that makes a man become a man,” I said aloud, reflecting upon the vague profundity of the film.

Mark nudged in close.  I glanced at his face—a grimace—he didn’t even know me.  The touch wasn’t wholly unwelcome, until I felt his fingers tug on my bra strap.  I blushed.

“This is a public place, you know.”

“Shall we go home then?”  He asked.

The answer was yes.  We paid and departed.  I led him along on the still-sunny sidewalks of our summer city, my daisy dress waving in the wind.  We were without a vehicle but I knew it felt like half the time it took, walking back with a lover.  We ran through the still-open door and up the stairs into the bedroom, flinging each other’s clothes off onto the floor.  We made out until I glanced toward the window.   There was a person rustling there, in the trees.  I pushed Mark off me and put a finger to my lips.  I tiptoed over to the window and kept my body out of plain view.  Then I peeked my head out and searched.  No sign of humans.  I opened the window and I heard a thud on the ground, with the tree still swaying, back and ever forth.

I looked down.  It was Dr. Steinburg.  I recognized him from TV.

He brushed off his slacks with his hands and looked up.  His zipper was undone.  I grabbed my cell phone from the table to call the police.

“Hold the phone!  I am sorry,” he said.

I placed it back on the table, but cautiously.  I kept my hand on it.

“What do you want?  You can get in big trouble, you know.”

“I’m sorry,” he panted, “It’s—just—that budding love is like porn for me.  I can’t not exist in the cracks of people’s most intimate moments.  I am sorry,” he said again.

I knew if I let him go, he would probably do it again.  But some part of me felt sorry for him.

“There are movies for this.  I know it’s probably not enough, but just try.  Statistically, the vast majority of humans on this planet are not going to become intimately involved with you.  And they have a right to choose who to share with.”

He was tearing up.  Graciously, I hoped, or maybe just because I was freeing him.  Either way, he left.  Mark lied naked on my bed in wait.  I returned to him for an afternoon dose of joy.  A refilling of the tank, so to speak.  Then he left.  He messaged me, saying he would like to do this again.  I called the local car dealership and scheduled a delivery for later that afternoon.

In the shower, now alone, I felt the residue of love pour over me and into the drain.  It was like got a layer of oil on me at the gas station and now had to wash it off.  Except it wasn’t inconvenient.  This, I didn’t mind.  The doorbell rang as I was drying off.  I threw on my pink bathrobe and ran downstairs to get the door.  It was a guy from the car dealership.

“We got your new Londa Starcross in the driveway.  Here’s the payment plan,” he said, handing over a clipboard, “we need you to sign off on your relationship before we’re done here.”

The paper listed Mark and I as a new couple.  It told of a device I would plug into the cigarette lighter to channel my feelings.  I signed on all the dotted lines.  The man walked away and drove in his own vehicle back to the shop.  I wondered how he was generating his feelings—how consistently, how strongly.  I thought of Dr. Steinburg and what he was doing felt less weird to me.  There were things I wanted to know, wanted to understand, but there was no real way to ask, only a way to see.  It was like gas after all, in that it will run out, until we find something sustainable.  But maybe I could get to work today with just this.


Defenestration-Rory FlemingRory Fleming is a student of law and words, floating in the contradiction between rigidity and dream worlds.  He did not invent the question mark, though it would be interesting to tattoo one on his forehead.  Check out more of his work at mehuggingspacecarrion.wordpress.com.

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