Autofill A Heart

“How do you have so little nostalgia? How can you be so emotionless about the past?” she asks as he reluctantly makes the arrangements for their anniversary dinner, which he decides to do after enough needling. Women could be worse than heroin, in that sense.

“It’s probably why I’m more successful than you.”

“You’re ‘successful’? How? Please enlighten me.”

“I don’t let what other people think affect me. Not even you.”

That was a scary thought for Hazel (named so, tritely, for her eyes) to hear. That Julian could so effortlessly leave her (which was what she took away from such a comment) was a thought that paralyzed her. Left her in a cold sweat as she was forced to grapple with the notion that she might be giving the supplest years of her twenties to someone who wouldn’t, in turn, give her the courtesy of sticking around as repayment for her choosing him, out of all the flaccid men in the world, to showcase her youth to as only skin can.

Increasingly, however, Julian had started talking out of turn, most especially for a man living in the post-#MeToo era. It was like he refused to acknowledge that a seismic cultural shift had occurred. That he had built a bomb shelter in his mind to protect him from any modern notions like women “castrating” before killing all men was becoming increasingly vexatious to Hazel, who was starting to wonder at her very overtly unnecessary dependency on him for validation and meaning in her life.

They were coming upon their three-year anniversary, still that crucial moment when heteronormative couples must take a harsh look at the time they’ve spent in the relationship and gauge whether or not it’s worth continuing down the path of least resistance (that is to say, monogamy). Hazel had looked much closer than she wanted to on the evening they chose to celebrate it by going to a quintessentially overpriced restaurant in Lower Manhattan, where the cost of an appetizer alone was $25. Alas, to prove one’s love in the post-bartering epoch, it needed to be shown in monetary terms–most particularly in America, where love’s weight was best measured and expressed by literal currency.

The only person that has ever glared at Hazel with as much disgust when she gets drunk as Julian does is her father. It’s almost as though she unwittingly sought out Julian as a means to further corroborate the narrative she has told herself her entire life as a result of her father’s disapproval for her “predilection.” She wants to disappoint, gets off on it at this juncture. It’s easier and more fulfilling than defying expectations. So it is that she orders another and another and another glass of red wine at the dinner while Julian puts on his best charade, attempting to wax poetic about how far they’ve come as a couple and how much he “really cares” about her.

The next morning, when Hazel awakens, she has no memory of how she has ended up on her best friend’s couch in the East Village or why. But she knows that it is indicative of some ill portent soon to be revealed. If not by her friend, then in a text message from Julian explaining it all.

She groans as she rolls over to see the judgmental cat, overly stuffed from its recent peckings at a constantly stocked bowl, which, of course, reads “Lucifer” on it. Aria’s favorite movie was Cinderella, after all, and she had to pay homage to it whenever and wherever she could. Even in the quotidian aspects of her life, where she had yet for her Prince Charming to find her, ergo metaphorically slip on the glass slipper.

In addition to Lucifer staring at Hazel, so, too, is the text she predicted would be awaiting her from Julian, which states tersely, “After your behavior last night, I seriously question our future together. Seeing you in that way, which I have so often, was finally too much to bear in an establishment like that. You’ve humiliated me for the last time.”

Hazel rolled her eyes and groaned. “Jesus, they’re all so fucking sensitive. Like anyone’s gonna remember what the fuck I did last night so long as we bought enough entrees and tipped twenty percent.” But it was just as she finished muttering this to herself that she caught a headline from a local rag that somebody had posted on Facebook, the nexus of all unwanted information, yet still the place that millennials go crawling back to time and time again. “Woman Disrobes During Anniversary Dinner” was the title of the article, which was mainly composed of a video (that’s the new journalism, in the end) of Hazel standing up from the table, taking her dress off and dancing around the other patrons naked with her wine in hand screaming, “Happy anniversary to me!” Mortified, she closed the tab and stared at the ceiling before going to Aria’s computer to log into her email and attempt to apologize to Julian. Aria, by this time, had bounced to her corporate filth job in the Financial District where she worked as an account manager for some sort of account Hazel could never quite ascertain the nature of. Such was the vagueness of work done in the Financial District. Hazel, herself of the “self-employed” variety that so many Brooklynites proudly declared themselves to be of late, was not eager to check what her inbox might contain from her own oppressor, instead clicking on the “Compose” button immediately so that she wouldn’t have to look too carefully at any “urgent” demands being made of her.

The new Gmail autofilling in her thoughts is making it difficult for her to think. One supposes that’s what they want, right? The collective lobotomy that has been centuries in the making. It’s just that it won’t lobotomize Julian enough to make him forget how foolishly she acted. But was it really all that foolish, or just so because she was a woman who was supposed to “act right?” Iggy Pop never had to deal with this shit. Renege on his antics. And while, no, Hazel was not a rock star, shouldn’t she be viewed as such in the eyes of the one who supposedly loved her? It was this thought that kept her from composing her intended apology email, instead surrendering to her hangover, which was urging her to go downstairs and pop into the bagel shop next door for a fix that might quell the drum and bass chorus in her head right now. In addition to any thoughts of pandering to an irrelevant species. When she got back, she noticed that Gmail had autofilled an entire heartfelt message for her, somehow intuited from the events of last night that it must have miraculously picked up on from the sheer virtue of being near her (proximity is all technology needs to know you, no?).

Biting into the bagel with gusto, she thought, “Fuck it,” and hit “Send.” Maybe monogamy was antiquated, but so was waking up in the East Village with no idea what happened the previous night.

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