“It’s not that you’re boring,” John protested, even though it was. He hated conversations like this, and they always seemed to happen to him. This was his third uncomfortable breakup in as many months.

“Then what is it?” Lila demanded, her pout twitching on the edge between anger and tears. John sighed. He’d seen this one before.

“I just, well, I’ve got other things to worry about in my life, you know?” John turned his head away and fiddled with the miniature joystick on his day planner. He’d had a portable version of Exatz World IV custom-installed so that he could play it while waiting for the train to work. Lila slapped his hand away.

“You mean like that game? Don’t touch that thing when you’re around me, Jonathan! I mean it!” Lila’s eyes were sparking and her pout increased, screwing up her face in a most unattractive manner. “Is that what this is all about? Did you meet some girl online? Are you cheating on me?”

“No!” John protested in exasperation. “You can’t cheat on somebody with a video game, damn it! They just have much better writers than whoever came up with your life.”

“What do you mean, writers?” Lila was aghast. “John, this is real life. There are no writers! There is no script! Get your head out of the clouds!”

“I’m sick of real life, okay?” John snapped, sitting up from his customary slouch and glaring at Lila. “Nothing changes! All the girls are the same, all the places are the same, all the stuff that happens is boring and predictable. It’s all sugar and no spice. There’s no… no… conflict! No heroism! You can’t be a man in real life!”

“John, you are really starting to scare me. Are you even listening to yourself?” Lila stared at John as if he’d grown two heads. “That ‘sugar’ is called peace! The world finally gets itself into some sense of order and you’re complaining?” She threw up her hands in disgust. “You are the most disrespectful man I’ve ever known. What would your father say if he could hear you now?”

“At least my father was a man!” John snapped. “He got to fight for what he believed in. He had a hero’s death.”

“What he believed in was a peaceful world for his son. You’re disgraceful.”

“Get out of here!” John grabbed a cushion from the couch behind him and threw it angrily in Lila’s direction. He had had enough. Everything she said was exactly what he’d predicted. It was a good thing this wasn’t a script, because John would have marched right up to the writers and given them a piece of his mind.

Lila gritted her teeth and clenched her fists. “Your father would be ashamed of you,” she said, voice trembling, then turned on her heel and slammed the door behind her. John sighed. In all honesty, he was relieved that she was gone.

Turning to his console, John sank back into his comfortable, slouched position with a groan of contentment. It only took a single keystroke to call up the world of heroes and villains, of struggles and escapes and creativity. It was easier than breathing to slough off the peace that his father had fought for in the war to end all wars. As he fitted his goggles over his eyes, John prepared to lose himself in an earlier time.