Over the course of a month, I’m posting a short novella titled We Almost Had It which traces the friendships and romances of a group of thirty-something social media managers in Seattle as they try to figure out what a fulfilling life looks like in the digital age. The story was inspired by Shopping Is a Feeling, an album released by former Gastbys American Dream guitarist Bobby Darling under the moniker What What What. Click here to go back to the third chapter, “Outdated Mode”, or here to start the story over at the beginning.
The entirety of Alex’s apartment is dark, not a single light or appliance or device turned on, save for a small glowing rectangle that hovers above the couch. Alex’s face is lit by the iridescent glow, his eyes hidden by the reflections in his glasses, tiny mirrored images scrolling down and swiping past.
At last he finds what he is looking for and what he is afraid to see because of the pain it might incite: a picture of Kelli and himself, both of them looking younger but him most of all, because he was a child then even when he should have been a man. In the photo, his frame is still lanky and gangly, his hair long and foppish and covering thick, wide sideburns. He grins with the oblivious innocence of childhood. Kelli, though, is stunning. She’s beautiful, a young woman on the edge of an unforeseen future that will not unfold as she would have expected. But the years will preserve her beauty even as other things are lost.
What did she ever see in me, he wonders as he stares at the photo. Then he stops those thoughts before they can overwhelm him, before they can suffocate him, as he knows they surely will. He sighs and thinks not of what was but of what might have been. Shit, he thinks. We almost had it.
He stares, fixated, at the old Kelli, the young Kelli, the Kelli of the past who has long since disappeared not beyond recall but beyond reach. And then he sees her in his mind’s eye as she was today, still buoyant and gorgeous, strong and full of life, and he wonders what these last years have been like for her and if she too has had to bury the past just to stay afloat, just to keep breathing.
I wonder if it fucks with you, too, he thinks. And then he thinks that thought over and over and over again in a tiny glowing rectangle of light as the inevitable darkness lingers all around, ready to close in and swallow him with the slightest touch.
Click here for the fifth chapter of We Almost Had It, “Unexpectedly Average.”