Here is part 1 of a short story I’m working on that seems to have taken on a life of its own.
This morning started like every other morning except for my having to go to work. For one reason or another my tablet, which I relied on to project myself in daily meetings, gave up on me when I turned off the snooze. I say “gave up” on me because that is the most appropriate phase I can muster. It didn’t quit, or break, or even die. The screen went a deep magenta. Across the screen the words “time’s up” sat, nonchalant, unassuming.
As with any computer-based technology, I did what any owner would do–tear the battery out and cause a soft reset. Unfortunately, upon turning it back on, the same soft magenta showed with the same soft message. Odd for sure. Part of me was still tankful not to receive the same tired blue screen of death. Damn computers. Can’t live with them, can’t live with out them.
My cell phone still worked. So I called ahead to say i would be in today. No one answered. I left a message with my business partner.
After showering and shaving, I heard a muffled incoming text message. It was my wife. If you want to make dinner plans with me, you have to show up. I read this aloud back to my phone and my irritatingly dysfunctional tablet. I read it again. Weird. I didn’t make dinner plans. She’s probably cheating on me and texted the wrong man.
Half not wanting to start an awkward conversation but mostly just not caring, I tossed my cell onto the bed and finished my morning routine. I had to go to work after all. Just wished she wouldn’t bring me into the mix, accidentally or otherwise. Of course I loved her. And always will. However, we rarely see each other because of our conflicting schedules. I could hardly hold it against her for seeking companionship elsewhere, though I miss her much.
My coffee was ready per the preset on my appliance app on my cell. Good thing my tablet and cell are synced up together. Otherwise I’d be late to work and grouchy.
While brushing my teeth, my free hand thumbed through the options on my cell until I found my Auto-Start app. Living in upper Michigan made this little auto car starter app absolutely invaluable. Coffee in hand, cell in pocket, tablet still mocking me on my nightstand, I jogged to my waiting car. I turned on the radio. One positive: driving to work allowed me to catch up on some local programming. Earlier podcasts ,of course, via my cloud podcast playlists.
There were no strange happenings at work when I got there. Thrown off a little with having to be there rather than via the Web, otherwise things just went. My company desktop recognized me immediately though I barley remembered it. I typed up my reports. Meetings went on as scheduled. Though, in the back of my mind, I couldn’t dislodge that text from my wife.
Who was it? Did she realize she mis-sent it? Would we still have that awkward conversation I was trying to avoid?
In hopes of calming the voice in my head, I pulled out my cell to read her text again. Why, I don’t know. No body knows why they stare at something they can’t get out of their head. Perhaps it’s hope of finding answers, or a mute button for the mind. Perhaps it’s more masochistic.
Why does a man stare into the window of an unrequited lover’s window? Is he day dreaming, inserting himself into her life? Is he attempting to work up the courage in hopes that placing himself so close she saw him and his want, his puppy dog eyes, come running out and embrace him in realized love? Having found myself in just such positions in my past, one would assume I was capable of answering such questions. As it is, I cannot.
When I peered down where my wife’s text should have been, there at the top of the long list of archived texts, mostly from colleagues, it was not there. I stopped listening to Mark’s marketing presentation.
I know I didn’t erase it. My thumb began flipping through conversation upon conversation. Nothing.
Immediately I thought, “All the better. No need to concern myself with such trivialities. After all, we haven’t spoken in weeks, maybe longer.” Then that nagging worm crept back into my stomach like a bad bottle of Tequila. Talking or not, we’re still married. She’s still cheating. How dare she? I haven’t cheated. All my urges were satisfied with Internet porn like any self-respecting loyal spouse.
And who the hell is this other man?
I flicked through my apps opening one that synced my cell with her’s. Being married had some bonuses, if only useful during times like these. Her call history should show who this other man was. But it didn’t. Just my name, over and over. All the way down. Impossible, I thought. These call histories are individualized. Only I can delete calls viewable on my cell. Switching to my map app, I saw she was at one of her favorite shopping centers across town. Unassuming enough, right? Zooming in showed me a grocery store, a few hair salons, a sandwich shop, and a gym. If she were cheating, she’s probably at the gym, or buying new shoes.
Mark flicked my ear letting me know he was irritated I had not noticed his meeting was over. As everyone around me ruffled their way to the exit, another text came through. Rather than look like I texted the entire meeting, I shoved my cell back in my pocket. Whatever was there would have to wait until later.
“Hey,” another flick to my ear. That one hurt. “Glad you could join us, physically at least.”
“What? Oh, yeah. Well, it’s just…My tablet was acting up this morning. Just threw my whole day,” I said, hoping to sound at ease. Mark gave me an odd look, almost comforting or concerned.
“I bet that really screwed your day.”
I was in no mood to retort such comments, concerned or not.
“Plus, I’m not feeling too well. Excuse me.” I gathered myself and left the conference room. Trying to look sick, but feeling ill, I read the last text, “You better be there this time.” Be there. Be there? Be where? That was it.
I picked up my pace to the nearest bathroom stall flipping through my messages one by one to find her first text. Gone. It was nowhere in my cell. Where the hell could it have gone? I didn’t erase it. Flipping back to the beginning for her most recent text it too disappeared. I ripped the battery out to reset it as well. It started to seriously irritate me that it appeared both my main devices were giving up on me. Damn technology.
Turning it back on solved no problems. Instead it gave me time to stew about this other man. The man that my wife now had thrown in my face twice in a matter of a few hours. If I could just figure out who this other person was I would feel better, I assured myself.
I thumbed through my other text conversations in hopes of finding other missing texts. If one disappeared, others must have done the same. My efforts were fruitless. Nothing appeared out of place, but I couldn’t remember one conversation from the other. That’s why I had a cell to archive my messages, so I don’t have to remember conversations. I could just flip through old ones and be reminded of what I said, of what others said to me.
Then I thought, “I’ll just wait until tonight when she’s to meet with this man and I’ll catch her in the act. I’ll find out who she’s seeing. She’ll wish she never started seeing anyone.”
The rest of my day dragged. My desktop kept me at the office well passed the time I wanted to be there. Luckily for me, though, it was synced up to my tablet. The tablet might not have let me use it this morning, but it was still syncing to my desktop. All my presentations, reports, were accessible even if I had to stay in this drab place.
Little work was accomplished. I couldn’t get those damn texts out of my head. Over and over they replayed in my head like tickers on some nightly newscast. Gone from my cell maybe. But they were stapled to my memory. I couldn’t shake them no matter how hard I tried, and I did try.
When it finally came time for me to leave work, I did. My wife was on my mind. This other man was on my mind. I auto started my car, collected my belongings, and headed for the door. It was in the elevator when I realized that, passing Mark’s desk, he wished me luck. I jogged passed him with other things on my mind. Nothing registered until my eyes stared back at me in the chrome elevator door. What an odd comment. What an odd day.
I stopped at the house briefly to shower off the anxiety that had collected on my skin. One tap of an app and the front door unlocked. No key necessary anymore. Another, the shower started. Preset to a comfortable 103.5 degrees, I turned the water heater down to 78 for a more exhilarating cleansing.
Waiting for the alarm letting me know the water’s temperature plateaued, I checked my tablet. It still showed a pale magenta but the words I saw this morning were no longer there. Turning it off and on again brought it to life this time. It worked. This made me decide to try my cell again. Still no texts from my wife. Everything was in its proper place again. Perhaps this was all in my head. Perhaps I never actually received those texts. I’ve read about people thinking they hear their cells ring only to find out it’s in their mind. Similar reports exist of people feeling their cell vibrate in their pocket only to find not only had their phone not rung, but that their cell was across the room in a jacket pocket. It’s more plausible I imagined those texts, my tablet rebelling just a figment of my subconscious. It’s not that great a leap from hearing your cell ring to feeling your phone vibrate on silent to seeing your phone produce texts that inevitably never existed.
Certain this was the case, half certain I heard the shower alarm, I showered. No washing, just standing there, letting the lukewarm water whittle away at those festering negative thoughts.
Refreshed, ready to follow my wife to her now not-so-secret date, I ticked through my cell again. Still nothing there.
Then another text came. Or at least I thought one did. It showed for only a moment before it too disappeared into the clouded ether. But I was ready for it. It read, “You’re weird but whatever. 6PM.” I didn’t know what was going on with my tablet or my cell or my wife’s ill-sent texts but I did know I only had 30 minutes to get to wherever my wife was going for her date.
Her GPS coordinates brought me to a bustling coffee shop in our city’s center. It didn’t smell or look like fast food as many do now. So, it attracts lots of patrons hoping to appear more cultured and refined than they truly are. Thus far, I’ve done everything to avoid such places. Here I found myself seeking it out. And why would she want to come here. We talked about these places when we first met. She felt as I did. Yet here she was, somewhere in here, making nice with some new man.
I ordered something expensive and impossible to repeat five times fast so as not to draw attention to my venture. Like a predator, alert one’s pray and there is no dinner. With so many people crowding the place, it took until I actually got my drink before I found her. Sitting in the far corner, staring down into her tablet. Whoever he was, he wasn’t with her yet. I held back in wait.
No one looked familiar yet. Our lives were so separate now, I could not place her with any person at all, not even me. Who she was seeing escaped me completely. I never introduced her to any of my colleagues directly, nor did she introduce me to any of hers’. However, our social networking lives were so well connected, we had access to each other’s colleagues’ profile pages. Then again, we each compiled hundreds of ‘friends’. Thumbing through some of her male friends on my cell, it was like searching for a specific brush stroke in a wall mural. Her new love probably flowered at her workplace. There was a good chance I never saw this man before and will not notice this man until he sat beside her.
A pang tugged at my sternum. This was the first my eyes enjoyed her presence, what with our busy, conflicting schedules and all. All I wanted to do was run up, give her a hug, tell her how much I missed her. As it was, my jealousy gave me strength to hold back.
The time, exactly 6:30 P.M. according to my cell. My eyes shot around from face to face. No one walked toward here. No one looked familiar except the beautiful woman slipping away from me. Figuring I missed him, I looked back at my wife. She was still alone, but she laughed out loud at her tablet. I smiled painfully. She looked so happy. Just then Mark walked looking lost. Then his gaze found her.
That’s when it hit me. That look of concern wasn’t concern at all. Not for me anyway. Mark concerned himself with whether or not I was going to find out about him and my wife. He knew at any moment I would figure it out. She may have even told him of her mishap in texts.
The next segment of time escapes me. One moment an Epiphany shot through my skull. The next moment Mark and I struggled in the parking lot. The first words I remembered was “What the hell do you think you’re doing?” Of course these words confused me since they belonged to me. I was the cheated. He was the aggressor. Play with fire and get burned. Added anger in his arrogant question, I left him bloody but otherwise just fine in that parking lot. Let him explain his bloody nose and shiner to her.