Different Worlds

I look up from my phone to find that April has that hurt expression on her face. It’s an expression I’ve been seeing more and more, lately. She said something. A question? What did she say? Better ask.

“Sorry, what did you say?”

She doesn’t answer straight away, but takes a sip of wine, her eyes hardening above the rim of the glass. It’s her second, even though we just sat down a few minutes ago. I drop my gaze back to my phone and scroll through my timeline, absently. Here, at least, the past is never really gone. It stretches back, and back, and back, a ribbon of words and images and time-frozen smiles. What did Einstein say? The distinction between past, present and…

April is speaking. “I said, are you on Facebook again?” Her voice is flat. Controlled.

“Oh, yeah. Just for a minute. Stephen Hawking has just died.” I thought that might buy me some leeway. When Bowie died, she cried, and I was very supportive.

“That’s why you’re ignoring me? You’re never off that thing.” She picks up the menu and drops it on my plate and says, “Choose something. I’m having the garlic chicken.”

I put the phone facedown on the table and flip open the menu and run my eye down the list of mains. I don’t really see them. I’m thinking about the ineluctable gravity of black holes, and how they pull you in, and how hard it is to escape, but maybe, just maybe, you get spat out and find yourself in another place or in a different time. In the past, perhaps, where things could be different. The menu. Concentrate. What’s risotto? Is that the one with the mushrooms? My hand twitches towards my phone, to google it.