Unconditional Love

Author : J.D. Rice

I sit across the table from him, listening as he talks about work, about how frustrated he’s become with his newest project. His voice is even and firm, almost business-like, despite this being the first date night we’ve had in months. I nod my head and take a sip of wine, waiting for my turn to talk. I tell him what Susie’s teacher said about her report card, how she’s the best in the class. He smiles and says how proud he is of her. The silence hangs for a moment or two, before we start talking about how we don’t get out enough, how we really ought to do this more often. After another sips of wine, the quiet sets in.

We’re drifting apart again. We both feel it.

I confess my feelings to one of my girlfriends a few days later.

“You just need a little adjustment,” she says. “Just a minor change, and things will feel fresh again. Trust me.”

It’s the third adjustment we’ve had in two years. I’ve heard of people having as many as fifty in that time. The lines at the clinic are always so long, and the air is so cold tonight. We left the kids with the sitter. As flecks of snow slowly collect on our shoulders, he puts his arm around me, and I feel the warmth of his body like it’s something new. In just a few hours, I’ll feel like this all the time.

The procedure is less daunting this time. I’m less concerned about the sensors and pins, the probes that prickle slightly as they pierce my skull. The doctor smiles at me in a familiar way, telling me how well I’m doing, reminding me to stay calm as the changes take place. The truth is that it’s impossible to not stay calm. The drugs make sure of that.

I come out looking the same, thinking the same, even feeling the same, once the drugs wear off. We both do. But deep down we are different, different in the ways that only count when you’ve known each other as long as we have. Suddenly you prefer vanilla ice cream rather than chocolate. Or you wake up loving jazz. Or maybe you find yourself trying new things in bed. Your personality is changed in just the slightest way, and only those close to you, only those looking for that little change of pace, will notice.

We walk home hand in hand, ignoring the cold, excited to be living a new life. The children are asleep when we enter the house. The sitter leaves with her pay and, surprisingly, we do not make love as we have after the past two adjustments. Somehow, snuggling under the covers is what feels right. In a short time, I feel his breathing slow. Meanwhile, I lie in bed awake, content with the changes that have once again come upon me, content with the idea that they will soon be necessary once again. But most of all, I am content knowing that my husband will always love me, just the way I am.

6 Comments

  1. Irene

    Disturbing yet compelling. Nicely done.

  2. Jae

    Disturbingly prescient.

    Takes the desperate need to abrogate responsibility to a whole new level.

  3. xdhz8

    Excellent blend of the very human with a very possible “tomorrow.”

  4. SimonJM

    That has disturbing undertones, overtones and an-and-out-tones! Delightfully creepy concept wrapped up in very pretty paper – good work!

  5. danielhelman

    Interesting premise. I like the story very much, and imagine that it would do well being included in a book about relationships. I think you ought to try to submit it so that it can be read by a larger audience…. Nice work!

  6. blue

    Disturbing, yet logical, extrapolation of our quest for the ideal relationship. So much more efficient than messy old marriage counselling…

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