I awoke with a jolt in an area that I had never seen before. It looked like something outside of Firefly episode or even a darkly themed Star Trek episode. It appeared to be some kind of restaurant with tables and chairs, but everything is covered in a chrome-like reflective surface. In the middle of the restaurant was a bar. Sitting at the bar were three men: one dressed as a cowboy, one dressed as an astronaut, and the third dressed as a medieval warrior or some shit. I dunno, I was never really into geek stuff, at last not as much as Lacey was. The lady serving at the bar, however, looked off. She seemed like any other human, but she had a certain glow or tint that made her look different. Outside of the windows, it looked like the sky shows they showed at the Planetarium where I worked, except real.
“Where the fuck am I?” I shouted.
“Please no swearing in the bar!” shouted the serving lady.
“This is a bar?” I asked back.
“Well, what the fuck does it look like?” she replied.
“You just said ‘no swearing.’” I said.
“Yeah, well I own this place, so I can make and break my own rules. Do you want a fucking drink or not?” she retorted.
“Might as well.” I said. I had woken up in weirder places, at least this one was indoors and I could get food and drinks.
I got up and began to make my way towards the bar. I took a seat in one of the empty chairs. My dark brown skin created a contrast to the bright silver color all around the bar.
“What’s your name?” she asked.
“Ada.” I replied.
“Nice name, though it seems pretty feminine.” She replied.
“That’s why I picked it. I figured it would go well with the changes I’m making in my life.” I replied.
“What changes?” she asked.
I don’t respond.
“There’s no judgment here. I’ve seen all sorts of humans and aliens with all sorts of backgrounds and stories. I respect your decision to not tell me, but I’m here to listen.” She says. I ignored the fact that she used the term “alien.” I figured maybe she was just uncultured and didn’t know that “illegal immigrants” were humans too.
“Well, I might as well start talking about it now. I’m starting hormone replacement therapy next week. I’m starting my journey to look on the outside like the woman I am on the inside.” I said, probably fumbling up the words in the right way to say what exactly hormone therapy would give me.
“Congratulations Ada! I assume you use female pronouns?” she asked.
“Yes, I do.” I replied.
“Then I will regard you as such. I am the Queen of Drinky Things! What would you like to drink?” she asked.
“What do you have?” I asked.
“You probably want something from Earth…” The Queen said. I had never heard that phrase before, but I let it go. She began looking around her stash of mixers and flavors. She pulled out a bottle and some olives with blue cheese in them.
“How about a Dirty Martini?” the Queen asked. My heart dropped. That was Lacey’s favorite drink. Right down to the blue cheese stuck in the olives.
“Sure.” I said, doing my best to keep a calm façade.
“Coming right up.” The Queen said.
The Queen began her work making my drink. While waiting, I overheard the conversation between the cowboy, the astronaut, and the medieval warrior. They were each talking about their adventures in something called “The Portals.”
“You won’t believe how cool it was! I got to ride a horse and take down the bad guys at high noon! I was even made sheriff of the town!” said the cowboy.
“Yeah, well, I got to fight off an invading horde of zombies and win the heart of the princess.” said the Medieval Warrior.
“You think that’s great! I got to shoot a bunch of lasers at aliens while Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin took their first steps on the moon. There is no way you can top that.” said the astronaut.
They continued their stories trying to one-up each other on which one was ‘most epic’ when I noticed a blood stain on my long sleeved shirt. I pulled it up and saw that a new razor cut was bleeding. I remembered going into the employee bathroom after work, pulling out one of my razors from home, and looking for a spot on my arm that didn’t have any scarring over it. That explains why I passed out, I thought; must’ve dug deeper this time. The Queen came back over with my drink and gave out a yelp.
“Are you okay!? Do you need a bandage?” she asked.
“No. Unfortunately, I’m allergic to the adhesive in band-aids.” I said.
“Surely we can get you something.” she replies. She pulls out a small gadget that looks similar to a walky-talky out from under the bar.
“Bar to Medical Bay! Come in Medical Bay!” she screamed.
“Geez. Chill. This is medical bay. What is it, My Queen?” said the person over the gadget.
“There’s a woman here bleeding at the bar and she’s allergic to the adhesive in Earth bandages.” said the Queen.
“Okay, sending over a Neptunian bandage wrap now.” said the person over the gadget.
“Thank you.” said the Queen. In that moment, something appeared right next the drink the table. No sound, no teleportation glow, nothing. It was just there. It appeared to be a purple cloth of some kind.
“Here we go. I’ll just tie it around the cut.” she said. She grabbed the cloth and very gently tied it around my arm. The cloth was incredibly soft and felt fantastic.
“There we go. Now why were you bleeding?” she asked.
“I’d rather not talk about it.” I said.
“Are you sure?” she asked.
“Yes, I am sure. It’s my problem to deal with.” I said rather angrily.
“Okay, sorry. Boundaries respected. Here’s your drink.” said the Queen. She went to go tend to the other patrons. I felt bad. I didn’t want to be snippy with her, but you don’t just say ‘hey, yeah, I cut myself because I feel numb all the time and I just want to feel something’ to someone. They’ll think you’re weird. Not like, normal people weird, but dangerous to yourself and the people around you weird. Plus, while I can articulate it now, I don’t think I would’ve been able to give a concise answer then. In any case, we left it at that and the subject was not brought up again. I took a sip of the drink. It was the best Dirty Martini I had ever had, but it burned going down as I thought of Lacey. I thought of her and I was instantly filled with regret and what my regular therapist referred to as ‘survivor’s guilt.’ After the Queen had finished with the other patrons, she went back to her mixers.
“Hey, Queen of Drinky Things?” I asked, hoping to get her attention.
“Yes, Ada, what is it?” she replied.
“I was wondering about the Portals.” I said. The Queen stops what she’s doing with the mixers and comes over to me.
“What about the Portals?” she said.
“I heard the dude in the astronaut suit talking about going to the moon landing in the past. Do the portals take you back through time?” I asked, hopefully.
“Depends on what you mean by time. Are you trying to go back to specific point in your past to right a wrong you committed that cost someone else greatly?” she asked.
“That’s… one way to phrase it.” I said.
“It is possible, but I don’t allow people to go through the portals for that. It might mess up the space time continuum.” she said.
“But it would save Lacey’s life!” I screamed.
“But it might kill a thousand others.” she said.
“I don’t care about those others, I care about Lacey!” I screamed louder. The Queen didn’t budge. I realized that there was no way I could go back and save my fiancé. I sat back down. I felt tears begin to form in my eyes.
“They can, however, take you to an alternate universe where Lacey is still alive.” said the Queen. I could feel hope return to my body.
“Really?! I can see my fiancé again?!” I said.
“Briefly. You won’t be able to stay there forever. But yes, you would be able to see her again.” she said.
“Great! Awesome! What Portal do I go through!? Where do I go?” I started.
“Easy, Ada. Let me grab the right key.” The Queen said. The Queen left to go grab a key for the Portal. I kept telling myself to not get excited, but my body resisted. I had been hoping beyond hope that I would get to see Lacey again, to hug her, kiss her, cherish her. The Queen came back with the key.
“Here you go.” she said. “Go to the door in the back of the room. Put the key in the lock. Turn the key, then open the door and walk on through. I’ll meet you there.”
“Okay, cool.” I said. She didn’t follow me as I walked to the door, so I wasn’t sure how she would ‘meet me there’, but I didn’t care. I turned the key in the lock and went through the portal. The actual portal itself was a blur, but I arrived on top of a small grassy hill in a very vacant park. The hill had one large bush and then a giant tree next to it. I remembered it well; it was the exact same hill that I proposed to Lacey on. I looked to my left and there was the Queen, though instead of wearing her serving clothes, she was dressed like a park ranger. I went over to her.
“Where’s Lacey?” I asked, impatiently.
“All in good time. The Portals wouldn’t just drop you on an empty hill, especially since they brought you to the bar.” The Queen said.
“Brought me to the bar?” I asked.
“Yes. How else do you think you got there? Spaceship? Ha. Early 21st Century Earth didn’t have that technology yet. You should know that as a Planetarium guard.” she said.
“How did you know I was…” I started.
“The Portals told me.” she said.
“Oh, they just told you.” I retorted.
“Yes. How else do you think I became the keeper of the portal keys?” she replied.
“So, you’re like Hagrid from the Harry Potter series. ‘The Keeper of the Keys and Grounds of the Portals.’” I said, referencing the only piece of fantasy I knew even remotely well.
“I guess that’s one way to think about it. I usually don’t compare myself with fictional characters.” The Queen said. “But I’m getting off topic. Your fiancé should be here any minute, so we should find a place to hide.”
“Find a place to hide? The whole point was so I could see her.” I shouted.
“Yes, if she were coming alone. But she isn’t and I don’t want the other person to see you.” The Queen said. She pulled me with her and we ducked behind the bush. I peeked through the leaves as I saw Lacey come up the hill with another woman. Lacey looked just as gorgeous as always with her sparkling brown eyes and her gorgeous floral printed hijab. Her tye-dye dress, that I saw her tye-dye herself, hung beautifully on her brown body. She was never a skinny woman, always around a size 22 to size 26 depending on the store, but she always was beautiful. She even still was wearing the necklace I gave her; a replica of the Elvenstar necklace from The Lord of the Rings. I was so busy looking at her that it took me a second to notice that the woman next to her was me. Well, a more feminine appearing version of me. This Ada had already started on hormone replacement therapy and you could see the results. Lacey had a picnic basket in her hand and they sat down and began to eat sandwiches and drink white wine. Lacey and that Ada kept laughing at each other’s jokes and enjoying each other’s company as they ate their meals. I felt tears begin to well up in my eyes again.
“What’s wrong?” asked the Queen.
“It’s just… why can’t that be my universe?” I asked in tears.
“Each universe has its own rules. May I ask how Lacey died?” said the Queen.
“It was my fault.” I said. “We had gone out drinking. I had been going through a really shitty part of my life, so I was drinking way more than usual. I refused to call a cab or get on a bus, so I made Lacey sit in the passenger seat while we drove home. We lived just few miles away from the bar; I thought it would be fine. But then I turned too far left and we crashed into the side of a parked car. Lacey died immediately. I didn’t realize it, or I didn’t want to, I don’t know anymore. But I stumbled out of the car and passed out on the road. I woke up in a hospital attached to an IV. The nurse came in to check on me and gave me the news about Lacey. I spent the night crying.”
“That’s horrible.” said the Queen.
“I couldn’t even go to her funeral. Her parents didn’t approve of me. They didn’t care that she was a lesbian, but they said it was my fault for her death, though to their credit they didn’t press charges. They’re not wrong. It is my fault that she’s dead. I shouldn’t have gone drinking and I definitely shouldn’t have made us drive home. The day after the funeral I went to her grave and put some poinsettias on it. Poinsettias were her favorite flower, despite being a Muslim and not celebrating Christmas. I went home, but I was still hurting. I wanted to feel something else. So I picked up a razor for the first time since Lacey helped me through my relapse and I cut in to my arm.” I said. There was a long pause.
“Look, that Ada is leaving. This is your chance. I’ll run down and go make sure that she’s distracted.” The Queen spoke.
“But what if I say something she’s not supposed to know?” I asked.
“The Portals will make sure that any detail you reveal doesn’t stick in the brain after you’re gone. You’re not from this universe, so your vocal frequencies are different. Anything you’ve said will evaporate from her memory after you’ve left. Now go, you don’t have much time!” said the Queen.
“But she doesn’t know that my Lacey died in a car crash!” I screamed.
“I don’t have the answers to everything; I just hold the keys! The portals will make it work and will let you talk to the Lacey that you know because that is why they fucking brought you here, okay?! Now go, before other Ada gets back.” shouted the Queen. And with that, the Queen of Drinky Things, dressed as a park ranger, ran off to go distract other me from coming back so I could get some one-on-one time with my fiancé thanks to some portals that brought me here. That scenario is really ridiculous when you think about it. In any case, I walked up to Lacey sitting there on the picnic blanket. She looked up at me and she smiled.
“Hello Ada. It’s been awhile.” Lacey said. I wanted to hug her and kiss her and apologize, but I held off.
“Hi Lacey. May I sit down next to you?” I asked.
“Of course. You can always sit next to me, my love.” she said. I could feel my heart flutter at those words as I sat down. “So, what seems to be troubling you?” She looked down at my arm at Neptunian bandage. “My love, you’ve been cutting yourself again.”
“I’m so sorry, Lacey!” I sobbed. I couldn’t hold it back anymore. “I shouldn’t have forced you into that car! I shouldn’t have been drinking as much I was. I didn’t mean for you to die! I didn’t mean to kill you! I’m so sorry! It’s been so lonely and hard without you! I don’t know what I’m doing or where I’m going or anything anymore!” I paused. “And now I’m making it all about me! You’re the one who died! You’re the one who should be screaming at me about how I’m a murderer and a bitch and a drunkard!”
“But I won’t.” she replied. Lacey then put her arms around me and I cried into her shoulder. There was a long pause. “What’s done is done.”
“But I killed you. Why don’t you hate me?! Aren’t you angry with me?” I sobbed.
“I am angry at you. But I also love you and am concerned for you. At the moment, that emotion is winning out over the anger.” Lacey replied.
“But I’m am murderer. I murdered you!” I cried.
“Even my murderer shouldn’t cut themselves.” she said. “I don’t care if you’re trying to feel something or if you’re punishing yourself for my death, it has to stop.”
“It’s not that easy Lacey.” I said.
“I helped you through it last time. Remember when we came up with that list of things to do instead of cutting?” she asked.
“Yes, but you were there to help me through it. And I still cut during our relationship.” I said.
“But your breaks in between each cut were getting longer and longer. That’s improvement.” she said. “Cutting is an addiction, like alcohol or smoking. It doesn’t just get better after one night.” I couldn’t speak anymore. I just cried.
“I noticed you put Poinsettias on my grave.” she said. “Thank you for remembering my favorite flower.” I continued to cry into her shoulder. It was all I could do.
“Ada?” Lacey asked.
“Yes Lacey?” I said.
“Promise me something.” she said.
“Anything!” I replied.
“Promise me that you’ll work to stop cutting, that you’ll follow through on your hormone replacement therapy, and that if you fall in love with someone else, you have no reservations about dating them, okay?” asked Lacey.
“What?” I asked back.
“I’m serious. If someone else comes into your life, don’t let me stop you.” she said. “Don’t hide this part of your life from them, I want you to be honest, but if they accept you as you are, flaws and all, don’t turn that away.”
“I won’t.” I said. “I promise on all three counts.”
“Good.” Lacey replied. I just lay there and cried. After a while, the Queen came running back up the hill.
“Ada, we have to go! Other Ada is on her way back.” screamed the Queen.
“Okay” I said. I got up and looked back at Lacey, tears still streaming down my face. “I love you Lacey.”
“I love you too Ada.” she replied. “Now go!”
I ran and followed the Queen back through the Portal we came through. We arrived back in the bar. The Queen led me back to the table and I finished off the Dirty Martini with all of the olives.
“Hey, Queen of Drinky Things? Do you have a knife I can borrow?” I asked. The Queen gave me a look. “It’s for carving in metal, I promise.” The Queen went over to her stash of tools and got a knife. She brought it over to me.
“The safest area to carve will be right next to the wall where the Portal door is.” she said.
“Thank you.” I replied. I walked over and used the knife to carve in a heart on the wall. Inside the heart, I carved in the words “Ada Loves Lacey.” When I was done, I gave the knife back to the Queen.
“I figured that would be a better tribute than asking you to name a drink after her.” I said.
“I dunno, I may start calling Dirty Martinis ‘Laceys’ of my own accord.” The Queen replied.
“How did you know… oh, the Portals told you.” I said.
“Yeah. It’s interesting how selective they are with their information.” The Queen said.
“How about another ‘Lacey’, Queen?” I asked.
“You got it.” she said. After a couple more dirty martinis, The Queen gave me the key that would let me go home. I walked through the portal and I appeared back at my apartment, right in my bedroom to be exact. I crawled into bed and fell asleep. To this day, I don’t know if what had happened to me was a dream, all I know is that it definitely felt real. It’s been nine months since my visit to that bar, and three months since I last cut myself. I might cut myself again, as relapses do happen, but six months is the longest I have gone without cutting without Lacey, so that’s something. I’m starting to see changes thanks to the hormone replacement therapy. My breasts are starting to grow and form and my body hair has become much thinner and easier to handle. It feels so good to finally be in a body that feels comfortable to be in. I don’t think I’m ready to date anyone just yet, but there is this cute Lakota genderfluid babe, they refer to themself as ‘Two-Spirit’, working at the Planetarium food court. I may, after I know their name and preferred pronouns, ask them out for coffee after I get off my shift. I still miss Lacey and I will never forgive myself for what I did to her, but I’m going to try and be a better person because of it and because I know that’s what she would’ve wanted. I hope that experience wasn’t a dream. I’d love to see the Queen of Drinky Things again. I guess it all depends on what the Portals want. Well, I’m thankful that they wanted to help me.