Jeremy called it a curse. But every woman he met thought his gift was an amazing part of his existence. Really, Jeremy’s ability was the only thing that made him worthwhile, at least that’s what one would think just by listening to the women swoon over him. “So romantic, I hope I’m bright enough.” “Such a beautiful spirit in him.” “To see love is to know love.”
Every morning before leaving his house, Jeremy would perform his regimented routine, carefully pieced together over many weeks by his family physician, Phyllis Pharmington. (She knew the irony of her own name, but used it as a tool to acquire more patients.) One set of slow blinks over three minutes, followed by six seconds of rapid blink reps, finishing with a 20-second glare at a specially designed UV light projected from the ceiling. Jeremy showered in carefully filtered, highly acidic H2O, engineered specifically for him by Phyllis and her students at Harvard. He dressed himself in the same outfit each day, of which he had twenty sets: blue button-down collared shirts, gray slacks, black wingtip shoes — no socks, no belt, no jacket. No flashy colors to offset his self-treatments.
Heat irritated Jeremy, which was unfortunate in the warm Florida climate. His thinly tailored shirts, custom-made by a retired fabric technician downtown who also cobbled together the specially crafted wingtip shoes lined with cotton, failed to serve as a natural coolant. His pores were tiny, such that sweat was near to impossible. Jeremy’s slacks were standard, bought off the line direct from the warehouse in the eastern Fashion District, powerful with the stench of underpaid labor and the exhausted sweat of children.
Jeremy knew the pants were made by children because of the soft pink glow which wafted out of the fabric as he put them on in the morning. It took five minutes, on an ordinary day, for the pink hue to fade altogether. Nevertheless, each morning he was struck by a certain melancholic demeanor knowing that the Structure was waiting outside his walls. They knew enough not to goad him out of his home faster than he was ready to on his own. Any break in routine could be harmful to his abilities, and therefore detrimental to the daily experiments.
Wrapped around his head were crude sunglasses similar to those his grandfather would wear when heading to the Bocce court. Black, thick-rimmed, heavily tinted. Daytime quickly became night, and the red glow of the land surrounding Jeremy would fade to a pale blue, almost gray, much to his pleasure. Jeremy was envied by his neighbors and friends, even his family, as soon as he’d landed home one year ago. At the time, he was a worldwide sensation, a hero four years in the making. But no one else would ever know what he’d gone through, and no one would feel what he’d ended up with, the heightened senses, the glaring invasion on his eyesight for now and ever. On days like this, with the red and pink hues clouding his vision despite all attempts to thwart the ailments, Jeremy wished he could go back to Mars.
His driveway was twenty feet long and barely wide enough for his tiny two-passenger car, a gift from an ever grateful government and citizenry. There was no lawn to speak of, as the dark green of normal grass would contrast and distort his depth perception, making him dizzy and sick enough to faint. The sky was an unfortunate overcast today, bright and white with not a hint of blue or dark gray stormclouds in site. Sunset was the best time for Jeremy. It was the only time of day he could remove his glasses and look upon his home planet with a relaxing stare, seeing things as they were meant to be seen in pink light, without the haze and aura of infected corneas.
After nightfall, the red aura would come back full force. The more tired Jeremy became, the louder the saturation of red. Sometimes he would encounter a person, either within the Structure or just on the other side of the street, staring back at him with a meticulous gaze. He would satisfy their curiosity and step closer, turning slowly like a model on the catwalk, while they would whisper softly, searching to see him the way that he could see them: surrounded by a red aura, mostly solid and sometimes sparkling, that breathed with life as their hearts raced, breathing intensified.
It happened again today, but this time, it was in the morning. Jeremy was about to climb into the vehicle provided by the Structure, when he heard a yell, a call from a soothing voice across the street. “Hey sailor!”
A nickname he hadn’t heard shouted in years, not since he’d ran from graduation right onto the boat which sat in the docks. He’d been in love, then, the only time in his life that he could recall having felt the emotion. Not even his family had deserved such treatment from his heart.
Jeremy stared through the dimness of his sunglasses at the woman across the street. Beautiful despite the shade from her umbrella. It was just starting to rain in his part of the Structure, but clearly her side was in a downpour. Her red hair was matted to her cheeks and her pale skin was radiant despite the tint of his glasses and the faint pink hue penetrating his gaze. As he stepped towards her, the pink hue grew into a bright red glare, glistening and sparkling. He almost cursed his ability then, but when she stepped towards him in return, he embraced it.
Her blue eyes shone through as clear as those days in high school when they would sit under the bright lights at the airport, watching each plane land and kissing every time they touched the runway. “Hey flyer,” he responded when he’d reached the end of his driveway. He noted that she’d stopped at the curb across the street, and realized that he’d have to make up the rest of the distance between them if they were to be standing any closer.
He walked just up to the glass, and tapped it with his fingertips. “Guess it’s pretty solid.”
“Solid and ripe for breaking,” she responded. She smiled, her lips embraced by two parenthesis out of the lines that had aged her face, ever gracefully, ever present. Jeremy missed this small fact about his fellow humans, the imperfections that came with age, the biological changes everyone faced as the years wore on. He never experienced them, not since his flight to and from Mars those years ago.
He would never completely regret his mission and the impact he’d brought with him to the colony and then back to earth. It was a necessary function that he return, but he felt left out being the only human to ever make the round trip to the colony and back again. It was as though the rest of the inhabitants were either afraid to face the future on earth — the years that had passed left little room for communication to family and friends — or they were afraid of the impact on their bodies that the reversal of atmospheres would induce.
Despite his own fears, Jeremy had faced it all with a bravado and inner peace of which colonists and those on earth would never truly admit to being jealous. He’d landed safely and healthy in both locations, back on earth with a new appreciation for moods, emotions, and senses.
He stared at Diana with anticipation, and then performed an act that frightened himself. He removed his sunglasses — something that would never have been recommended by Pharmington — and looked at her, the red aura sparkling and growing around her. Amazingly, the pinkish hues which would normally cloud the rest of his vision was brushed away, crowded out by the red glow around Diana.
“It’s good to see you.”