A Simple Problem By Lia Lewine

The blonde Young Adult, Maya Flowers, gains friendship and romance with when I use an “enchanting introduction” to say hello. While she knows my friend, we have never met. I mentally thank my friend for bringing the two of us together on his birthday. Of course, we have

not gotten to know each other yet. I just see her long, wavy blonde hair; her crop top and leg- gings that frame her abs; the way that her monochrome eyes dominate her features. Her bangs

never move. The part of her hair stays, framing her eyes the ideal amount. I am grateful to be able to say hello. I assume I say my name to her, or something similar. Roses appear above her head and

rain down towards her face. It is my high level of charisma that enables me to have such a cine- matic way of introducing myself. The roses disappear before they hit the floor. Maya Flowers

bats her matte hands at her equally smooth face. Her eyebrows go up in a witty surprise: both our level of “friendship” and “romance” increases. As I “flirt” with her, she leans towards my face, her head teetering over her heels. I “Get to Know” her, and she gives me a speech bubble about a tan fist with its thumb up. The sound of

gibberish emanates from her mouth. We both laugh. Both our level of friendship, and of ro- mance, improves. She is happy. I think about how her full name is the name of someone I al- ready know from another life.

I try and figure out how else I can make our level of romance increase. I understand that she is too beautiful to have as a mere friend. I give her a “Pick-Up Line.” A pink heart appears

over her head with a plus sign. She bats at her solid mass of chest-length hair. Her hair does not move. I “Flirt” with her again. I look at my options for what I can do next. My list of options says that I am free to try and have our “First Kiss.” An emoji of a pink heart with a smaller pink heart echoing in its shadow is depicted next to the option. I choose “First Kiss.” Dramatic music plays. We both lean in and give one another a small peck. Our level of romance increases. Now I can “kiss” her without having to worry if she will refuse. I “kiss” her five times. Each kiss is more deep and intense than the last. Before each kiss, we both tilt our heads in the

same way as we did before the last kiss. We both look up at each other and smile with an identical expression as if we both think that kissing is the best possible thing to do with one another—

as if it wasn’t only my idea for us to perform this interaction. With every kiss, our level of romance increases. Still, our lips never quite touch. Our lips only caress the same blank space.

I give her an “Embrace.” A thought bubble emerges above my head of shiny, glossy red lips. I imagine how much the girl loves turning her face and lunging (but never quite coming into contact) with my mouth. I hug her close. I choose the interaction, “Offer Rose.” A rose mysteriously appears behind my back. She

takes the rose. Our level of romance increases. After she takes the rose, and sniffs it with

appreciation, the flower disappears. Our level of romance increases.

Around the options to “Kiss,” “Embrace,” “Ask If Single,” “Hold Hands,” and give a “Passionate Kiss,” are the actions “Woo Hoo” and “Try for Baby.” A photo heart engulfed in purple, crimson flames appear next to each one of the options. The heart has bulging cartoon eyes. With its red tongue sticking out from its black pit of a mouth, I can only assume that the

figure is trying to imitate someone who is trying to be a part of some k. “Woo Hoo” and “Try for Baby” are the only two kinds of sex that exist. The two kinds must be separated. The word “sex” never appears. I have tried to have sex enough to know. Instead, I choose “Try for Baby.” I do not think at all about the implication of what it means to “Try for Baby.” There is no option that says, “Have Sex Without A Condom Like an Idiot.” All I know is that this girl is beautiful enough to “Have Sex Without A Condom Like an Idiot.” I want to feel how the flaming heart next to the option suggests. I whisper unintelligible words in Maya’s ear. Maya Flowers is excited at the opportunity to deflower our (five-minute) relationship. We both shout something in an excited tone and raise our fists. Our level of romance increases. Our romantic relationship is now at its peak. We are almost at the maximum level of romance with one another. Meanwhile, people are still milling around our friend’s kitchen, waiting for our friend to blow out the candles on her cake. No one turns their head to look at our recent flirtation. It is a party. They are listening to pop songs with gibberish for lyrics. They are gathered around the cake; its candles already lit up on top of the chocolate frosting smeared with rainbow sprinkles. No wax drips down the side of the candle. There is no rush. The birthday girl is talking to a friend from college, a friend that is not Maya, but that knows Maya. The birthday girl is enjoying being at her party with her guests. She does not notice when Maya and I scamper down the hall. Maya follows me into our friend’s room. We walk to opposite sides of the bed, turning to face one another. In sync, we both spin around in a blur of motion. When we are facing each

other again, she is in a lacy blue bra with matching lacy blue underwear. I am in my usual night- wear of a gray t-shirt and boxers with an obnoxious pattern (in this case, a cacophony of giant

hearts on a blank white background). We give one another a mischievous look. We both are ex- cited to have sex that is not called sex.

Simultaneously, we climb under the covers of our friend’s double bed. The outlines of our bodies form lumps under the otherwise smooth surface. Romantic music begins to play over the pop gibberish, booming from an invisible source. The romance music has no words. “Woo Hoo!” each of our voices call out at some point as we “Try for Baby.” What each of our bodies is doing

is unclear. Under the blankets, our outlines come together and come move apart. Random appendages peek out from underneath. One of us grabs a pillow and brings it under the covers. A

foot peeks out beneath the fabric. Over the movement of our lumps, roses float over the surface of the bed. Pink fireworks shoot out from them the space above the two of us. Huge red hearts accompany the fireworks. When it is over, we both nap next to each other on the bed. Small “zzzs” move in a lazy animation above our heads. But we do not fall asleep. After less than a minute of languishing, we get up, spin around, and return to our party attire. She is in her white crop top and shiny black leggings. I am wearing a black t-shirt and dark jeans. It is the fanciest each of us ever decides to dress. As we amble back down the hall, our friend is in the midst of blowing out her birthday candles. There is still no sign of wax dripping down from the frames and onto the frosting. Her other friends are surrounding the table where the cake is lit, the candles wavering by an even, steadied amount. The friends spin noisemakers that appear in their hands at the proper moment. Maya and I join them. We throw rainbow confetti into the air. It appears in our hands without

explanation and disappears before it hits the hardwood floors. Our friend blows out the candles. They are extinguished all at once. Smoke lolls towards the ceiling and dissipates. The friend spins around in a blur of motion. When she emerges, she looks about the same. Her blue knit dress is unchanged. If you look closely at her face, you can see that there are new lines that formed int eh crease of her eyes. There are predictions of wrinkles on the forehead of her matte face. Other than that, she is the same. With no gained skill, and no inherited new character traits, she transformed for a Young Adult to an Adult. The party continues. A couple of people “Chat” with one another, while others stand and let the pop gibberish blast the air around them. At an unannounced time, each guest decides to go home. Messages pop up. Each guest says that they should “head out.” Maya Flowers’ message matches that of every other generic guest. She does not approach me again before she walks out the door. I stay. I am already home. When I scroll to see our level of relationship, it is clear that in addition to being my friend, the other girl living in the apartment is my girlfriend. I “Chat” with

my girlfriend. We eat slices of leftover of cake while watching the Romance Channel. My girl- friend likes the romance channel. She and I “Snuggle” after we finish off our plates. I give her a

“Kiss” before going to sleep. Our lips do not touch. Before I spin back into my sleepwear, I do not tell her about my interactions with Maya Flowers. There is no interaction that reads, “Tell Girlfriend You’re a Cheating Asshole Who Knocked Up One of Your Best Friends.” Under “Mean...,” there is an interaction that reads, “Break Up,” accompanied by an emoji of a heart breaking in even pieces. I do not choose this interaction.

I believe I do not need to break my girlfriend’s heart. I fall asleep. In this world, what I’ve done is a simple problem.

The next morning, my girlfriend invites Maya over to make tacos and watch TV. A per- fect bump has already formed over her former abs. There is no interaction for Maya that reads,

“Tell Your Best Friend Her Boyfriend Knocked You Up.” Instead, there is only “Share Big News.” That news is that she is pregnant. My girlfriend is not given the option “Demand to Know Who the Father Is.” Instead, she cheers and claps her hands. She is happy for Maya and her future baby. There is no option about whether to have the future baby or not have the future baby. There will be a future baby. The two of them eat tacos and watch TV. I play BlicBlock on the computer in the bedroom until Maya decides to leave.

When I come to the kitchen, I choose to “Woo Hoo” with my girlfriend. Our level of ro- mance increases. Getting to “Woo Hoo” looks almost the same as “Try for Baby.” After I emerge

from my lump from under the covers, I go to sleep. “Zzzs” amble lazily into oblivion. Three days after meeting her, Maya calls me saying that her baby was born: our baby, I guess. But I don’t have to do anything to be a part of its life. I do automatically become “friends” with the supposed infant. Our biological relationship is sufficient enough to form an emotional attachment. Maya continues to come over for taco night with my girlfriend. My girlfriend somehow finds out about the child being mine. Or if she does, she does not care. There is no “Tell Friend About Illicit Child” option. Instead, Maya just chooses to sit on the couch with my girlfriend and “Ask About Day.”

This is when the world dies. Or, I concede, my laptop. With the screen gone dark from a lack of battery, there is nothing emanating light except for my phone: my phone. I am back to being the girlfriend. Maya Flowers has more to think about than eating tacos and watching the

Romance Channel. There are no written options for what to say or do. She is not a Sim in a pre- programmed world.

In the light of my phone screen is a message from my former self—a version with more chest hair and lips that taste like mint tic-tacs poured on top of whiskey. The phone dings. “?” the bubble reads. I need to respond.

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