Despite studying fiction undergrad, I mostly write personal essays these days (kind of like how no one does anything related to their undergraduate major), but occasionally, the mood hits, and I write a short story. (My alter ego Melody Bell is fiction, of course, but she feels more like a performance than a piece of writing.) Anyway, here’s a short story I wrote.
Sometimes when she opened a present she imagined that he loved her.
She, an elegant, composed woman with witty stories to tell, and he, a graceful athlete well informed about events of the day. They would host the loveliest dinner parties with champagne and conversation well into the wee hours.
Too bad there was no one she wanted to talk to ’til the wee hours, let alone at 3 in the afternoon. And there was no “him”; there hadn’t been, not for a long time.
She was forgetting him, to the point that he was becoming make believe.
“Thank you, Tina,” she said to her coworker, pulling the new David Sedaris book out of thick red paper.
“I know you like The Moth,” Tina said.
“That was so thoughtful,” she replied, wishing she were home alone finishing the last season of Veronica Mars.
“Well, happy birthday,” Tina said, leaving her cubicle.
“You too,” she said; then, blushing – “I mean, thanks.”
Tina smiled and made her exit down the thinly carpeted hallway, her flip-flops smacking against her feet.
Our culture is dying, she thought, as she moved across her Tweetdeck dashboard like a trapeze artist, like a telephone operator, replying and RTing and favoriting like a maestro. It was what she was best at: Moving while standing still. Connecting while disconnected.
She had gotten her company’s Twitter following to over 7,000 in the past year, up from 1,500 when she started.
She clicked on a link that someone she was following had shared – the latest rant from a popular blogger. She was sympathetic to the cause, but sometimes it felt like all these writers were swimming in a fish bowl, blogging about their reflections.
“Must-read!”, she typed.
She turned around. It was Patrick, standing at the opening to her cubicle, holding out a white paper bag.
“I got you a cronut.”
“I know they aren’t a thing anymore, but, whatever, they’re good.”
“You going out later, or?”
“We might go to Splitty’s.”
She ate the cronut. The sugar made her optimistic.
“Hey,” she IM’d to Tina.
“’Sup,” Tina replied.
She had nine tabs open in her browser now, the maestro at work, swooping and surfing, cutting and pasting, sharing.
She’d gotten three favorites in the last hour.
She was riding high.
That night, after drinks at Splitty’s, she and Patrick went back to her place and had drunk, fun, totally invigorating sex. He was surprisingly good at it.
At the bar he’d drawn her a gorilla on a napkin. Now she lay in bed, looking at it, while his pale body slept beside her. His tshirt, boxers, shorts, sandals and bike helmet were in a pile by the door.
She wondered if they could have dinner parties together.
Inspired, she slipped quietly out of bed, stepping carefully over her cat, and went to put on her bra and dress from the day before. Patrick woke up.
“Did you, um, did you sleep well?”
“Yeah. What time is it?”
She checked her phone.
He stretched, and yawned, then sat up straight.
“Let’s get breakfast.”
“Cool. Can you hand me my clothes?”
Just then, she loved him.
“I wasn’t sneaking out, just then. I was gonna get us cronuts.”
He smiled, and reached for her.
The next week, they arrived at the office, holding hands.
“You guys are gross,” Tina said.
They smiled sheepishly.
The maestro ascended to her throne. That day she got 43 favorites and 22 RTs. And then, the pièce de resistance: Aaron Paul started following them.
She got a promotion. She was the social media manager, now.
Her boss told her she should hire someone to do the tweeting, so she could focus on strategy.
She had never hired anyone before. She’d never even interviewed anyone.
She hired June, who had built the following for her own blog to over 250,000 pageviews a week. She was huge on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram. She was brimming with ideas.
To celebrate June’s first week, they all went out to Splitty’s.
A year later, she was packing her things.
“I can’t believe you’re leaving me,” Tina said. Tina had been promoted to director of content strategy, and was wearing high heels.
“We aren’t leaving you,” she said. “We’re having an adventure.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Tina said.
“Did Alex tell you we already have 2,000 Twitter followers?”, Patrick asked, as he hoisted a box.
“Actually, babe – it’s up to 2,300.”
“That’s my girl.”
“Where are you going first?” June asked.
“Vietnam,” she said.
“That’s so awesome,” June said.
“I hate you,” Tina said.
“I hate you too,” she said, and they hugged.
The next morning, she and Patrick sat on the plane. All of their worldly belongings were in the suitcases in the overhead compartment and the backpacks under the seats in front of them. Tucked into the inside zipper pocket of her backpack: The drawing of a gorilla that he’d made her that night at Splitty’s.
The plane started to move. They held each other’s hands.
The maestro was ready to launch.