“But that’s what people do.” Jane turned her attention back to Wings, but this time saw the face not of a hesitant young girl from Mississippi, but rather a woman full confident of her words. “Any relationship you’re in, that changes you, even if just a little.” Wings now rose from her chair. “Brad weren’t trying to force nothing on you. He was going to change, just as much as you.”
Jane smiled weakly. “Don’t think Brad’s changed a bit in the three years I’ve known him. Have a feeling he weren’t about to change, if we’d gotten married.”
There was a sadness to Wings’ sigh, almost a resignation. Wings had liked Brad, thought he was good for her. “How’s work?” Jane was glad to hear her friend change the subject. “You going for that promotion?”
“It’s not a promotion.” Jane raised the bottle to her lips again, before remembering that she had just emptied it. “It’d be a job change, from CAD to engineer.” She ran her hand back over her scalp, her thin hair parting from her face. “There’s these classes Gary keeps wanting me to take, on drainage. Always told him that my days of sitting in a classroom were done, listening to some professor who doesn’t know anything about how the world really works try to tell me how to do my job.” She put the bottle down on a plastic table. “But now that I can do my course work online — I don’t know, been thinking about it more.”
“See?” Wings had turned to her, a smile on her face as broad and bright as a crescent moon on a cloudless night. “This world we got, with our computers and the Internet and everything, it ain’t so bad after all, is it?”
Jane rose from her chair. “Never said this was a bad world, just different.” She swept her right arm across the balcony, her reach extending out past the alleway onto the bright lights of the Chicago skyline. “The world I remember, it weren’t no bad world neither. You could get around easier than we do here. Streets were cleaner, so was the air.” She turned back to Wings, pulled her smart phone out of her pocket. “But no, we didn’t have these things. And they are pretty cool. Anything you want to know — like how to sign up for that class Gary wants me take — using this, I can find that out in a couple minutes.” She put her phone back into her pocket. “But what I don’t understand is, why can’t there be both? If we can be all space-age with telecom, why can’t we get all sci-fi with our transportation too? And in the world I remember — guess I should say used to remember, or think I remembered — just because we had stuff like Unirail, that shouldn’t mean we had to be stuck with rotary phones. I mean we didn’t think about stuff like that, but now that I’m here — I just don’t see why it has to be one or the other.”
Wings rose, taking Jane’s empty beer bottle from the plastic table as she stood next to her older yet shorter friend. She held the bottle up to Jane. “Need another?”
Jane waved her off. “I’ll be in, in a minute.” A moment later Wings had walked through the screen and kitchen doors, back into her apartment, leaving Jane alone again on the wooden balcony above the building’s back alley.