Friday, July 26, 2019

Microstory 1155: Jai Quelen

When Jai Quelen was in the United States Army, he was always looking out for his fellow soldiers. Of course he did this in the physical sense, because he had a duty to do so, but he went beyond that, and protected their ethical standing. He was always concerned with filling out reports properly, and making sure the reality of a given situation was fully understood by those who were not there to witness it. This could have been annoying to them, but he wasn’t overbearing or nitpicky—he was a true advocate—so they were grateful for him. After he had served, he began college, and worked towards his undergraduate degree in Philosophy, with a focus on Ethics. Shortly before graduation, he was asked to participate in a presentation at a local middle school, to show kids that military service wasn’t only about guns and bombs. An eighth grader there named Cassidy Long took a liking to him, though of course, it was literally just a middle school crush. The feelings were not at all reciprocated, and in fact, Jai didn’t even notice she wasn’t really interested in service. He didn’t think much of it; meeting a 13-year-old when he was in his mid-20s, but he nearly killed himself when he encountered her again barely four years later—after she turned 18, and started working as a stripper—and developed feelings. He had moved on with his life by attending law school, earning his J.D. Degree, and then landing a job at Veterans Affairs. He wasn’t just surprised to see Cassidy again, but also that he recognized her. The age difference alone would have been enough to make him uncomfortable, but the fact that he knew her when she was so young was enough to push him over the edge. He had his service weapon against his temple when his roommate came home early, and got him some help. He spent a year in a mental health facility before he felt well enough to reenter the world. As it turned out, his attraction towards Cassidy was the least of his worries, and his counselors encouraged him to accept the fact that everyone who is at one point 18 years old was, at another point, also 13 years old. He moved on with his life yet again, deciding that the best thing to do was go back to school, and try to earn his PhD. Fate intervened once more, however, when he and Cassidy crossed paths a third and fourth time. He saw her in the grocery store, while she later noticed him in line for concessions at the movie theatre. They only learned of the coincidence when she connected with him on social media, and engaged him in conversation. Through all of this, Jai’s primary problem was loneliness. He was never that close with his family, and they did not approve of his career choices, which was how he ended up in Lawrence, Kansas in the first place. He finally let go of his hangups, and the two of them entered into a nonsexual exclusive relationship. They were living together, sharing rent and chores, and even sleeping in the same bed together, but they were not having sex. The nature of their unconventional relationship made things quite difficult for him when Cassidy disappeared from their temporary hotel room without a trace. Fortunately, that old roommate happened to be a practicing lawyer named Kyle K. Stanley.

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