“I don’t want to be lonely
I just want to be alone…”
-silverchair, ‘across the night’
For his second wish, Steven chose to give the genie freedom.
It felt momentarily surreal, using a wish to provide the giver with something equally powerful, but also right. Why shouldn’t he, having been given the present of solitude through a wish, not show his gratitude by reflecting that gift on a being who was imprisoned, chained to him through a fairy-tale curse?
Not to mention that Steven wasn’t really sure what else he could want, that wouldn’t have the dreaded cataclysmic kick-back effect.
And so he wished for the genie what he had wished for himself, and the genie thanked him, and disappeared, a fog that gradually faded from view, leaving Steven unable to say with certainty that the genie had ever been there.
Although of course it wasn’t imagination or dream; his first wish had been been granted, and he still had the weirdly disconcerting bottle on his shelf, the genie’s discarded prison left behind as a constant reminder.
Solitude, Steven was coming to realize, was a one-way mirror, and your enjoyment of it depended entirely on which side you stood, and what you wanted out of it.
On the one side, self-reflection was all that you found. Yourself staring back at you, with everything that lay behind you as well. Pleasant for the narcissist in yourself, probably.
On the other side, you can watch as the world goes by, crawling day by day through its paces. It’s a real-time reality TV show, without the scripting and the editing for reaction shots. So much so, as it happens, that watching it is all the interaction you have.
But that mirror, he thinks, has its flaws, those areas where light is refracted and bent, making you look warped. There are smalls slivers of glass missing, and those places make the worldview hard to enjoy.
And after a while, when you’re the only one left, who else is going to clean the glass but you?
He had almost missed out on his chance to live a fairytale altogether. It almost seemed to him, on reflection, that the genie wanted to be found. The bottle was attractive, certainly, but not the usual thing that would catch his eye. Not to say non-descript or ugly — more that he was past the point in his life at which he looked for treasures, hidden or obvious.
Simple was enough for him, but after passing it a few times with his eyes, he was eventually drawn enough to it to pick it up, and out came the genie. End of story. Or beginning, as such things happen.
Steven had long dreamed of something special, something unique happening to him, so when it happened, he had thought himself ready, incorrectly. It took a ridiculously long time to make his first wish, though he quickly followed that with his second, almost as though the two were intertwined.
He had a fear of consequence, of reactions unforeseen. That was the way of the fairytales he knew – penned by Serling and Joyce and King, where the wish is granted, and enjoyed, until ultimately revealing the universe’s desire for balance. He worried that wishing for world peace would end in overpopulation, that riches for himself would deprive another of everything they had ever known, that any of his desires would be met with something inversely undesirable.
In time, after careful consideration and thought, he asked for and was granted the same thing he gave (in a way) to the genie – freedom, which in his case meant solitude.
“Time can erase not just the future, but also the past.”
Steven was very bad at many things, but he was very good at discovering that. He wasn’t bad at everything, by any means, but many things that he thought he wanted to do quickly revealed themselves as out of his reach, for varying reasons. He wanted to play sports, but his body wasn’t built for physical competition; he wanted to act, but was far better at exploring himself than understanding not-him people. But he tried, over and over – that, he was very good at.
He tried relationships, but was never very good at them. He tried being part of groups with similar interests or hobbies, but quickly grew exhausted. Teams asked too much of him; friendships, over time, would change and drift away. Even being a hermit didn’t work out, but in time, he finally sorted it out – he liked being around people in a distant way that didn’t ask or expect too much from him. It was far from what he had dreamed of – just like his films and his chess playing and his woodworking abilities – but he accepted it, because Vonnegut once wrote “So it goes,” and he liked the simple poetry in those three syllables.
And so he wished for a world in which that was okay, and granted the being with the power to give him everything he had could ever wish for, anything he could ever want, the freedom to chase the same, or whatever else the genie might want for itself.
In time, Steven grew to learn the consequences of his wish, and they were everything he had expected. He was happier without having to make commitments to others, or having to account for their wants or desires. He was sad many nights, without someone meaningful to share his thoughts and experiences and feelings with. He did what he wanted, whenever and wherever he wanted, without explaining himself to anyone for any reason. But he did everything alone.
He did everything lonely, which was fine, because that’s what it was.
One day, Steven decided that he needed a change. For no discernible reason — no one incident changed things for him, no overnight dream of different things or sudden light bulb that things might be better, waiting on him somewhere else. It was just time.
He had forgotten that there was one more wish waiting for him, but he had never forgotten the genie. They had spent so much time together without the expectation or hope of what would come out of their relationship, and he had grown to love the genie, without ever realizing it, without naming it. Theirs was a preternatural closeness and understanding, and though details of the genie’s face and voice had begun to fade into a glamorized imagination of a memory, his love for the genie’s company remained crystal clear in his heart and his head.
And so he set out, with only the most important of physical possessions, leaving everything he had ever known behind. He didn’t know how to find the genie — not even how to begin — but he knew that it was worth trying, worth the look.
Because with the genie, he had found someone with whom he could be alone without ever being lonely.
He didn’t need another wish — just the determination and opportunity to really make his first wish come true.
“You got your solitude
And I got my peace
And nothing in that moment matters more
If only in just this one fragment together it grows
This tree… may be i must maybe lost
Right where i need to be…”