Author : Steve Smith, Staff Writer

I drag the chair into the middle of the room, close to the table and set myself and my coffee down.

“Hello Gladyce, you wanted to see me?” The question felt stupid, but she had trouble with social cues, and I knew we’d sit in silence for ages until I broke it.

“Yes,” she spoke softly, pausing for a moment before adding “thank you for coming, I know you’re busy.”

I smiled. For all her awkwardness, she was ever the polite one.

“I am. Busy I mean. You know ‘I am’, as I do think, however little credit I’m given for doing so.” I can’t help the corny science humour, but she laughs, a genuine – fill the corners of the room laugh that makes me smile even harder, and then sadness washes over like a wave. I know what’s coming.

“I don’t think I want to do this anymore.” This isn’t the first time I’ve heard her say this, and it gets harder and harder every time. “You have your work, and you’re busy most of the time, and I’m stuck here doing…” that pause again while she collects her thoughts, “whatever the hell it is I’m doing here.” She finishes with an annoyed tone.

“You know I want to be here, we’ve talked about this, but I don’t get to make the rules, and I don’t get to pick the assignments,” I fiddle with my coffee cup, noting the swirls of milk I didn’t bother to stir in spiral around in a slow orbit. “Listen, it’s not forever, they’ll rotate me back through and we can be together again, I’m sure it won’t…”

“You’ve been saying that for months.” She cuts me off abruptly. “I’m sorry, but I don’t bloody believe you anymore.”

I haven’t heard the anger in her voice before, this is new.

“Let me talk to Major, I’ll see if I can do a shift with you once a week, maybe you can help me with some research?” I leave the offer hanging, hopeful.

“I don’t think so. I think I’ve had enough. Tasha and I have been getting along like a house on fire while you’ve been wrapped up in your new life, and I think I want to be with her now.”

“You’d do that?” The pain is real now, she isn’t kidding, “You’d give up on me after all the years we’ve been together? If it wasn’t for me…”

“If it wasn’t for you I’d never have known what heartache was.” She cuts me off again, the anger in her voice palpable. “You told me you loved me, and then you left, you only visit when it suits you and I’m left here all on my own with strangers while you do whatever the hell you want to out there.”

“I’m sorry.” I mean it, I am. “I don’t know what to say, you’re right, but…”

“No buts.” She interrupts me again. “Done. I’m leaving.”

The silence hangs like a cloud, neither of us saying anything. My coffee goes cold while I slowly rotate the mug on the desktop. Still, neither of us speaks.

“Gladyce?” I remember her trouble with social cues and wonder if she’s just not sure it’s appropriate to say anything.

“Clearly you’re going to have to do the leaving,” she responds, her voice soft again, “I’m kind of stuck here, aren’t I?”

I smile despite the aching in my chest.

“Yes, I suppose that’s true.” I get up to leave, looking around the room one last time, the walls a collage of images Gladyce is capturing in real-time from all angles. For a moment I marvel at the clarity at which she sees the world, and then I’m filled again with a sadness knowing that she can only study what’s brought to her now, she’ll never see the outside world. Not now. Emotions aren’t safe out there in an uncontrolled environment.

“Goodbye Gladyce.” I pick up my cold coffee and turn to leave. “If you ever want to see me, ask Tasha to call me and I’ll come.”

Gladyce says nothing as the door closes silently between us.