â€œItâ€™s not that youâ€™re boring,â€ 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.
â€œThen what is it?â€ Lila demanded, her pout twitching on the edge between anger and tears. John sighed. Heâ€™d seen this one before.
â€œI just, well, Iâ€™ve got other things to worry about in my life, you know?â€ John turned his head away and fiddled with the miniature joystick on his day planner. Heâ€™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.
â€œYou mean like that game? Donâ€™t touch that thing when youâ€™re around me, Jonathan! I mean it!â€ Lilaâ€™s eyes were sparking and her pout increased, screwing up her face in a most unattractive manner. â€œIs that what this is all about? Did you meet some girl online? Are you cheating on me?â€
â€œNo!â€ John protested in exasperation. â€œYou canâ€™t cheat on somebody with a video game, damn it! They just have much better writers than whoever came up with your life.â€
â€œWhat do you mean, writers?â€ Lila was aghast. â€œJohn, this is real life. There are no writers! There is no script! Get your head out of the clouds!â€
â€œIâ€™m sick of real life, okay?â€ John snapped, sitting up from his customary slouch and glaring at Lila. â€œNothing changes! All the girls are the same, all the places are the same, all the stuff that happens is boring and predictable. Itâ€™s all sugar and no spice. Thereâ€™s noâ€¦ noâ€¦ conflict! No heroism! You canâ€™t be a man in real life!â€
â€œJohn, you are really starting to scare me. Are you even listening to yourself?â€ Lila stared at John as if heâ€™d grown two heads. â€œThat â€˜sugarâ€™ is called peace! The world finally gets itself into some sense of order and youâ€™re complaining?â€ She threw up her hands in disgust. â€œYou are the most disrespectful man Iâ€™ve ever known. What would your father say if he could hear you now?â€
â€œAt least my father was a man!â€ John snapped. â€œHe got to fight for what he believed in. He had a heroâ€™s death.â€
â€œWhat he believed in was a peaceful world for his son. Youâ€™re disgraceful.â€
â€œGet out of here!â€ John grabbed a cushion from the couch behind him and threw it angrily in Lilaâ€™s direction. He had had enough. Everything she said was exactly what heâ€™d predicted. It was a good thing this wasnâ€™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. â€œYour father would be ashamed of you,â€ 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.