May 1st, 2344
Much to my delight, Anne-Marie came to visit me today in Medical. I was tidying up after another ridiculous time-wasting experiment when I heard the door swing open behind me. I turned around, expecting, well, I don’t know who I was expecting, but it wasn’t Anne-Marie.
It had been over four months since I saw her last, that day in the Cargo Bay Garden. Four months of thinking about her daily. Of course, just as I had become comfortable with my… obsession, she shows up at my door and in one instant it all came flooding back.
“Oh, um, uh, hi,” I said. Snap out of it, I thought, mentally slapping myself across the face. “Please, come in. Sit down,” I said quickly, motioning to a chair to her right.
“Thanks,” she said, and moved to take a seat. I found myself watching her closely as she took the three steps to the chair, turned and sat her small frame down. Good God, man, I thought to myself.
Now sitting across the room from me, she said “I heard about what happened the other day.”
From whom? I thought, at the same time I said sarcastically “Yeah, that was fun, wasn't it?”
"Yes," she said, "But in this case 'fun' is pronounced 'counterproductive'."
"Hey," I said, holding up my hands, "It wasn't my idea."
"Don't be defensive, Aric, I know it wasn't your idea," Anne-Marie said, looking at me with those big blue eyes of hers, "That's one of the reasons I'm here."
"Yeah?" I said, perhaps too eagerly.
"Yes. I'm disappointed it came to that. Mostly though, I'm disappointed that it's gone on so long Misha decided to do something about it," she said, still looking at me. I knew by the way she said it that what she really meant is that she was disappointed that I hadn't done something about it.
"Well, I did try," I said, knowing it sounded weak.
"A chess tournament?" she said, tilting her head to the side, "What kind of a doctor are you? Don't you care about your crew?"
Stung, I said "I'm the kind of doctor who's been stuck in a sardine tin with a bunch of dipshits for two years now!"
The look on her face was one of puzzlement, and I immediately regretted what I had said.
Taking a breath, I said "I'm sorry. The situation's getting to me. It's hard being the medical officer on a ship where no one ever gets sick, and no one wants my help, even if they did. I feel impotent to do my job, and incompetent that I can't figure out what else to do." She smiled at me as I said this. It was radiant.
"That's the realest thing you've ever said to me, Aric," she said, "Thank you." A beat or two and then: "Maybe you should stop trying so hard to be the doctor and just be a friend. Talk to Robert. Just talk. It doesn't even have to be about me or this situation. Make it on his terms. Could you try that for me?"
I nodded and said "Yes, absolutely," my brain echoing Yes, anything.
"Good. Please do it soon though, I—" she stopped, looking at the doorway.
I looked, and saw Mike standing at the threshold. "Don't let me interrupt," he said.
"No, I'm finished," Anne-Marie said. She stood up and walked over to me. Placing her hands on my shoulders, she stood on her toe-tips and kissed me lightly on the cheek.
From 20 centimeters away, she looked me in the eyes and said "Thank you." Settling on her heels again, she turned and walked to the doorway, leaving a faintly floral smell in my nose. Mike, who was still standing there, backed up a few paces to make way for her. "Misha," she said in greeting as she passed.
Mike watched her retreat down the hall before finally coming through the doorway into Medical.
"You," he said, taking the seat vacated by Anne-Marie, "should nail that. And I mean now."
"And you," I said wearily, "are a fucking pig."
"Commander Pork Fucker, reporting for duty," Mike said, saluting casually, "Aric, you're blushing."
I could tell. "What is it you want, Mike?" I said.
"Oh, nothing really," he said, "just an apology. Finding amusement in someone else's misfortune is not becoming of you."
I knew this was coming, I thought. "You're quite right, Mike. I should not have laughed at you. Laughing at someone's pain is never right, and I apologize," I said.
Mike looked at me for a few seconds, and I couldn't tell what was going on behind that stony face. "Well, that's that then," he said, bouncing out of the chair, "Don't make me come to you next time." As he left he tossed a "Carry on!" over his shoulder.
Alone again, I finished cleaning up. I tried to think about how to approach Robert this time, but I couldn't. Anne-Marie, Anne-Marie, Anne-Marie my brain chanted like a mantra. Sounds, shapes, smells, concepts that reminded me of her flowed through my consciousness in an unstoppable river, sweeping clear all other thoughts. This is what it's like to live with my special kind of obsessiveness.
In any case, the situation with Robert will need to be worked out soon. Maybe tomorrow. My head's just not in the game anymore today.