You forgot to take your medication so things go wrong. No,you didn’t barricade yourself fighting off police, but thoughts of suicide re-emerge. Those thoughts of insecurity occur. Those thoughts of uselessness, and those thoughts of thoughts, and about thoughts that are dangerous. First do no harm to yourself—to others.
Back to your psychiatrist, who scolds you, says, this is not an emergency. You wait for his next move. An increase? A new prescription? Are there any medicines to help you remember to not forget your medications? You look at the camera where the virtual meeting is taking place. The psychiatrist is frozen and the tea kettle has been sounding off for five minutes.
When that chaos ends there are changes. It’s in the future. You will soon be able to get out of your isolated shell. Inside you are dying. Your father’s brain is dying somewhere in another state. He had dementia so there is an excuse for it.
You’re both completely alone.
You thought you could stop the sun from rising. That would be easy, but cowardly. Try it out, the psychiatrist says.
How You Met Your Husband
You believe in faith, and that everything happens for a reason, so that guy at the end of the bar you’ve never met before—he is there because you are going to marry him. His clothes are working man rugged, but he is not. The thing you do is ignore him. It’s messed up, but it’s instinctual. You don’t want to walk over there, nor do you want him to come to you. That would ruin everything.
His friends have arrived and are throwing money at you—flirting. You know after years working as a bartender, tipping is a lazy way to flirt. Customers are like animals involved in some weird mating ritual, but instead of doing territorial things, or a scent release, even charging you, smashing their skulls into yours, then throw bills on the ground, at your feet, after they’ve paid you fifteen dollars for their drinks. More of that where that came from baby, when do you get off?
The guy at the end of the bar does not do that. He has ordered, after 45 minutes of ignoring him, a Budweiser. A simple, stupid Budweiser. Then he motions with his hand for you to move because you’re blocking the view of the Rangers-Red Wing game, and it burns you. In fact, your last boyfriend noticed that before you said anything in anger, your face would turn red, but your ears would be redder. He said you were like a fire igniting, the steam whistle in Bugs Bunny cartoons when they blow, the metal twisted and red. It is only after that the color returns like bare branches after fall foliage.
Well, speaking of assholes, you don’t reach down, or dare bend over to pick up the tens and twenties off the spongy rubber mat, which smells more like rancid fruit the closer you get to your money. It’s intentional so they can catch a good view of your black-panted server butt, or even worse, their way tohumiliation: You are prey or predator, dominated or aggressed upon. It is pure hell in the animal world.
That is why you are acting that way for him. You were walking onto your shift, saw him and begged your friend to stay. “I can’t be serving him!” you shout, as your friend looks at you like you were crazy.
“Look,” Linda said. “I’m meeting a current boyfriend so I’m not taking a double shift so you can…I don’t know, Bev, so you can do, whatever you think you are doing. Fick that, I’m leaving.” How to change curse words is another thing you had to change for this job. Everything is recorded.
“Hey, I was the one who got you this job,” you say. “youowe me!” as it all makes sense, and it’s not just a Hail Mary pass. She should work a double because you know how it is going to play out. All the pieces are in place, but she has decided to not play along, leaving you there to work your shift, and to ignore your future husband. You know it seems crazy, but to you, you’ve never known anything stronger than the feeling you are having right now.
So you work the shift. Capture or be preyed upon, prayer answered or not answered. God,.the bar is busy now, peekinglike the top of a bell curve. On the way down, the friends of his leave drunk with empty wallets. You always thought that customers should just dump their wallets out on their way in., but seems, everyone there is playing it the other way, like a long painful yearning. Like those autumn leaves resting on a lawn that are blown away, the crowd thins out, and it is last call. Thetarget has had only one Budweiser all night. His hockey gameended three hours ago, and it’s quiet. All you can hear is your chest thumping, in your ear canal, his ice-blue eyes the enginepowering it, the hairs on his arms, with his thick wave of his hair are its battery. If he’s waiting, but you’re not bringing the bill, while knowing your behavior is bad enough for termination by complaint. You think you are standing, looking in his direction, but distance seems to be pulling and refracting between the two of you, as you feel you are standing cemented to the ground, when in fact you are walking toward him.
“I’ve waited,” you tell him, seeing his work shirt expandingand deflate, taking in the Universe, then letting it out, “I’ve been waiting as well,” he says. You lean toward him to reply. Your face is less than two feet away.
Wesley was fresh from bouncing around the internet, when he texted his friend Lindy to tell her he had decided to bring poking back.
“Remember when?” he added.
Lindy always thought that poking was strange until she first met her first eventual husband that way.
“Fine. Go ahead,” she said, “but don’t let me say I told you so after you realize it’s 2020.”
“It’s the pandemic and people need to be poked!” was his reply.
Wesley had come to this conclusion when logged into social media that morning. He had quit ten months ago, after watching a documentary about why he should quit that platform. He couldn’t ever call them by their name either, even when asked if he was on Facebook, he would just answer, “No, I am not on social media.” Today he was back because he was bored, but there was a notification that he had been poked over three years ago by someone he didn’t know, and if he would like to poke them back.
Wesley was all-in. He returned the poke, and waited. Nothing. That’s when he texted Lindy, then weakened after a few when she said to just call her.
“It’s like pre-historic Tinder, Tinder,” he said. If you poke someone and they poke back it’s like a match, except no swiping.””
“Swiper, no swiping,” Lindy said.
“Look,” he added. “Those Tinder folks made big bucks. I can too, by bring poking back, and there’s a world of possibilities. I mean an app, just for poking.”
“But this already exists,” Lindy said. “Also it exists in a way that sometimes, even on Facebook, a poke is just a poke, or just a hello, rather than, you know, a poke.”
“If you match on Tinder it’s just a match. It’s not a fuck.”
“Especially, not with you…”
“Shut up,” he said.
Wesley went back that night to find people he’d want to poke. In the morning there were messages.
Seriously, a red haired woman one-word replied.
Just trying to bring poking back he wrote back.
Ugh, she messaged…then unfriended and blocked. He wondered how to reinvent this as socially acceptable. He went to old poking history, and poked them all. By morning he had been unfriended 15 more times, and blocked five times. There was one message which said, Creepy.
You poked me first, he replied.
Yeah in 2003
There was also a message from the social media platform informing him his poking privileges had been revoked indefinitely. What??? He appealed. He wrote quickly and concisely in his appeal to Facebook and defined what a poke meant today vs. in 2003. He gave them his plan to come up with a socially acceptable poking app. He went on to describe the success of Tinder and Bumble, and how their own dating app, Datebook, was failing. He even brought up how a poke could open conversation and bring the world closer together.
Wesley logged in every ten minutes to see if his poking ability had been restored. The sun had begun to sink low in the sky until it was under his blinds on his windows. Nothing. At midnight he decided to give it one last try. When he tried to log in he was directed to a page, indicating: The account associated with this e-mail no longer exists.
He was pissed. Seething even more a month later, Facebook announced to the world that they were introducing their new Pokebook app, which would be automatically installed in all of their platforms, with special new poking emojis. “Fuck Facebook,” Wesley yelled. He thought that nearly every time the Face-word came up. Wesley’s phone buzzed. A text from Lindy.
Timothy Gager is the author of sixteen books of fiction and poetry. His latest, 2020 Poems is his ninth of poetry, and was an Amazon #1 Bestseller in five categories. Timothy hosted the successful Dire Literary Series in Cambridge, Massachusetts from 2001 to 2018, and as a virtual series starting in 2020. Timothy was the co-founder of The Somerville News Writers Festival. He has had over 600 works of fiction and poetry published, of which seventeen have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. His work also has been nominated for a Massachusetts Book Award, The Best of the Web, The Best Small Fictions Anthology and has been read on National Public Radio.
Timothy is the Fiction Editor of The Wilderness House Literary Review, and the founding co-editor of The Heat City Literary Review. A graduate of the University of Delaware, Timothy lives in Dedham, Massachusetts with some fish and two rabbits, and he is employed as a social worker. He is currently seeking representation for his third novel, Joe the Salamander, a semi-finalist for The Holland Prize.