Can it really work? Especially when the distance between us is so great…
WRITTEN BY SUSAN SARAPUK
The first time I saw Pete, I was in a water taxi speeding towards Venice. Someone’s rucksack hit me in the face.
“I’m so sorry.” A young man with eyes as blue as the lagoon turned to apologise.
“That’s OK.” I smiled.
“I’m Pete.” He introduced himself.
“I’m Shelley. Are you on holiday too?”
“I’m here for work. I’m an engineer,” he said. “We’re trying to figure out how to stop Venice sinking.”
“I’m a microbiologist,” I said, excited to meet a fellow scientist. “I’m here on holiday, to look at churches and art.”
It wasn’t much of a conversation and the taxi soon reached our destination.
“Would you like some company?” he asked spontaneously.
We spent my whole holiday together and I felt like I’d known him forever.
“I’d like to keep seeing you,” he said as we spent our last night walking along the lamplit water’s edge. “But I’m seconded here for the next six months.”
“And I fly to the States on Tuesday.”
“I guess there’s always Skype.”
“Long distance relationships can work,” I agreed.
As we kissed each other I knew this was something special, that distance would never be able to keep us apart.
Pete managed to come to America six months later.
“I’ve just been offered a great position with the European Space Agency,” he said. “I can’t turn it down. Come to Europe with me.”
“My research has reached a critical level,” I said. “I can’t leave now.”
“So what are we going to do?”
“There’s always Skype.”
We looked at each other with a mixture of agony and ecstasy.
“We could go on like this for years,” Pete said despondently.
I lay my head on his shoulder as we gazed out over the Grand Canyon. The rock was rosy pink in the fading sun. It felt like we were on opposite sides of the canyon.
I didn’t know what the solution was, except to meet up when we could and snatch those moments of perfect love. How could two people so made for each other never seem able to meet and make it work?
When I Skyped Pete and told him about my new job, he was delighted.
“So we’re both working on the same project from opposite ends,” he said. He looked thoughtful for a moment. “Do you think you might get a transfer here?”
“Or maybe you could come here,” I said hopefully.
“If neither of us can move we’ll see even less of each other.”
We were silent for a while.
“Still, we’ve got three days next month,” he said.
I smiled. We signed off and I closed my laptop.
Our times together may have been short but they were always wonderful.
“Perhaps if we’d married and always been together our relationship would be more humdrum,” I speculated as we sat on the shores of Lake Lucerne. The water was icy green, the surrounding mountains spectacular.
“We will one day though, won’t we?” Pete turned to look at me. “We’ll have kids.”
One of us would have to make the compromise.
I heard about Helen from one of Pete’s colleagues. “She and Pete would make a great couple but he hasn’t got around to asking her out yet.”
Evidently, the colleague didn’t know who I was.
On the last night of my visit I said to Pete, “Maybe you could fall in love with someone else, marry them and have kids.”
He cupped my face gently in his hands.
“It’s only you,” he said. “We can manage this long distance relationship.”
I look out of the window to see the red planet looming large as we prepare to enter orbit.
It’s eighteen months since we left earth.
I spoke with Pete last night but it’s hard to have a conversation when the signal takes so long to travel the distance. He wished me all the best for the landing. I know he’s sad that I got chosen above him for the first manned mission to Mars.
I’ve thought about it a lot; it’s time to let him go, to give him a chance with someone else.
Once we land, we can’t leave until we’ve made the fuel for the return journey. Who knows how long that will take?
Long distance relationships can work… but some distances are further than others.
We’re sharing another intriguing sci-fi themed short story from our archives every Monday and Thursday throughout November. Watch out for the next one!