Part six of ‘The man who dated his RL boss (without her knowing it).’
They went to a forest sim and walked together to a wild flower meadow. They sat on a bench positioned in a shaft of spring sunlight.
“Don’t go getting too attached to me, Romeo,” she told him again. “I don’t do metaverse relationships.”
“You got hurt?” he asked her.
“I did not get hurt,” she replied. “It’s because I don’t do metaverse relationships that I did not get hurt.”
“Wait,” he said. “You never had a Second Life relationship?”
“Is that such a hard thing to believe?”
“Actually yes,” he replied. “Though now that I’m actually hearing myself say that I’m wondering why.”
“Second Life intimacy touches people,” she said. “It moves them. It makes them feel things they think they’ve never felt before. But it isn’t love. Love is far more than sex.”
“You make sex sound like it’s just an ingredient.”
“But that’s exactly what it is. Laughter is another ingredient: we all love to laugh and we love it even more when we can laugh with someone, but who would say that laughter is any more than a single part of love? Who would doubt that love can ultimately exist without it? I adore sex. I adore laughter. But they are not love by themselves.”
“So what we had last night was…?”
“An amazing night together. One I hope we’ll each of us remember many years from now.”
That slightly abrasive edge he’d read to her tone the previous night was gone now. He wondered if he’d just been imagining it.
“You know,” he said, “I can live with that framing very happily. I do hope though that it’s not the only amazing night we have together.”
“If you genuinely can live with that framing very happily then I can pretty much guarantee that it won’t be.”
“Then I hereby give notice that I’m genuinely happy about that.”
“Be careful,” she warned him. “This is you ticking the box to say you’ve read the terms and conditions.”
“You may consider that box ticked,” he told her. He was of course lying, and he knew it even then.
“Why is it that enjoying sunsets in SL doesn’t make me more likely to spend time in RL enjoying them?” she asked him.
“Because real life sunsets aren’t as nice?” he suggested, his arm around her.
“How could that possibly be so?”
“Because we play no role in creating them?”
“Are you suggesting that we only fully appreciate that which we create?”
“Who is the ‘we’ in the sentence referring to?”
“People. Human beings. Who did you think it was?”
“I wondered if you meant us specifically. You and me.”
“Alright then, suppose that.”
“Is that such an outlandish proposal, that some might prefer the imitation to the real thing?”
“When you put it like that, I suppose not. That’s the essence of art, right?”
“Is art just an imitation of real life? Surely it’s more than that.”
“You’re right, it is,” she said. “I’m confusing myself.”
“That’s what happens when you start trying to tie down art.”
“Is that what we’re trying to do?”
“It all depends,” he said, “on whether you think landscapes like this in the virtual world are art or not.”
“I don’t know, and it doesn’t bother me that I don’t know.”
He laughed. “AKA I don’t know and I don’t care.”
“It’s not that I don’t care,” she said quickly. “It’s more that I don’t mind. I don’t mind if it is art and I don’t mind if it isn’t. And I don’t mind that one person might think one thing and another person might think something else.”
“Everything has to be defined,” he stated.
“Without definitions, everyone would be all mixed up on their arses and their elbows.”
“Only in those circumstances where definitions are required.”
“Where are they not required?”
“Where they’re not required.”
“They’re not required where they’re not required?”
“Yes,” she said.
“That doesn’t bother you?”
“Circular reasoning? It bothers me enormously when it’s used to defend an obsolete or discriminatory practice. It bothers me a good deal less when it’s used as a shortcut through all the bullshit debate around what is and what isn’t a bonafide form of aesthetic pleasure or pursuit.”
“Aren’t you the one who three minutes ago defined the essence of art as an imitation of a real thing?”
“And look at the difficulty that’s got me into.”
“Aren’t you the one who asked why SL sunsets don’t make you enjoy RL sunsets more?”
“Aren’t you the one who reframed that as a problem of art?
“I didn’t say it was a problem of art,” he retorted. “In any case, aren’t you the one who keeps a gratitude diary?”
“What of it?”
“Wouldn’t someone who keeps a gratitude diary… I dunno… appreciate stuff like that more?”
“You’re saying I’m not a true appreciator?”
“You’re saying I’m an under-appreciator?”
“You’re saying someone who makes a habit of expressing their appreciation of things should therefore appreciate all things? Is that it?”
“Ok,” he said. “Fair enough. I get the point you’re making. But we’re not talking about any sort of acquired taste or niche area of gratitude. We’re not talking about the appreciation of Marmite or post-war brutalist concrete architecture. We’re talking about sunsets.”
“At no point did I ever actually say I don’t like or appreciate sunsets in RL. I simply asked why it is that I don’t seek them out there more, given that I enjoy them in SL.”
“Perhaps it’s because in here you get to appreciate them with someone.”
“If you’d only said that in the first place,” she said, “we’d have saved ourselves so much bother.”
Want to read another story by me set in SL? I’ve also serialised ‘The man who had an affair with his wife’ – the first part is here (scroll down past the text on NaNoWriMo to get to it).