It all begins with a simple post.
Scrolling through his newsfeed to burn time, Elliot passes pictures of family and friends. Hour-to-hour updates on daily life. Random musings, which people deemed witty enough to post until the second after they hit ‘Post,’ when they quickly realized it was funnier in their head, but still didn’t delete because that felt too embarrassing. He likes them anyways, if for nothing else than the chuckles of disbelief they bring from him.
The Student Union, hoping to spread some happiness in the midst of midterms, is hosting a Taco Tuesday Fiesta.
When he sees it, Elliot doesn’t give a whole lot of thought to it—not beyond that he could really go for one of the walking tacos his high school had served. He longed for the days where he’d pack a Fritos bag with ground beef, lettuce, shredded cheese, and a massive dollop of sour cream; sit ‘round the lunch table with his buddies; and stuff his mouth with forkfuls of portable taco from a silver-lined handheld pocket.
Now, college had taken the boys their separate ways, and he had fewer friends here than Tom Hanks stranded on a desert island. At least Tom had Wilson—although, at times, Elliot’s roommate Sam can be as inanimate as volleyball.
But, he could still have a taco, and satisfying even a portion of his craving for home is better than none of it. Dragging his cursor over the post, he clicks “Interested.” Maybe I’ll even make some friends there, a voice in his head says. Oh God, his mom’s taken up residency in his mind.
He doesn’t intend to circle back to the post. Like all the others, it should get pushed down into the Facebook oblivion, only returning for reminders or a “This day three years ago” kind of flashback.
However, when Elliot reopens his laptop in procrastination, the post has resurfaced, and the mountain of comments underneath it makes him understand why. In a matter of 3 hours, the post has become the university’s virtual swath of scorched earth. Some person, who Elliot envisions as a creepy, elfish creature typing from the shady comfort of a bridge’s underside, decided to reply with a rant of anti-immigration rhetoric.
Quickly, the original comments of excitement disappeared under those claiming the school was trying to force a pro-immigration stance down their throats, and others proclaiming the need for acceptance and amnesty. Racist. Snowflake. Complete and utter devolvement.
The thread was headache inducing—at least for Elliot who couldn’t peel his eyes away from the taco-caused disaster. “What the hell?” he breaths at least once a minute, which is about how long it takes him to find a new level of repugnancy. Even Sam, who thus far has paid him as much attention as a child does to the lines of a coloring book, begins to shoot him confused looks.
Then, in the midst of all the vitriol, his eyes catch on standalone comment:
This time he laughs out loud at the witty—although apparently ignored from the zero likes it’s received—voice of reason named Rosie Connolly.
“Are you okay?” Sam asks him, his eyebrows so far up his forehead, they disappear behind his shelf of hair, making it look as though they’ve been waxed off.
“Yeah, sorry. Funny,” Elliot says with a wave to his screen. Over his keyboard, Elliot’s fingers are poised to type. While there are quite a few intolerant comments he’d like to reply to on this thread, doing so would just be adding more kerosene to a fire that needs to be doused. This one is a small extinguisher, and as a lover of puns, there’s no way he can let it pass him by.
Right? Everyone needs to be na-cho angry. Much to his dismay, there’s no nacho emoji, so he goes with a cowboy who, with the right amount of squint, could be wearing a sombrero. 🤠
He hits post, and just like his fellow social media friends, immediately regrets it, thinking it was indeed funnier in his head. Not that he’s surprised. The mom in his brain would think his thought was a gem.
Two minutes later, a ping turns his regret to ashes, from which happiness rises.
That’s it. He’s in love with this Rosie person. Or, okay, probably just a crush. Or maybe it was just a platonic crush, where all he wanted was a friend. He’ll figure it out.
It takes him longer to come up with a second reply, but when he finally does, the letters appear on his screen in rapid fire. “There’s one solution. No one responds. If you don’t reply, no one can get jalapeño business.”
As soon as he sends it off, he hovers his cursor over Rosie’s name: undergrad at Preston University, chemistry major, periodic nerd. Her profile pic is of her on the roof of the Griffith Observatory beside a sign that reads: “TO TELESCOPE.” With her hands on her hips in a superhero stance, and a breeze blowing her brown curls back, she looks as if she’s ready to take off towards it.
The two make a couple more punny statements, before a notification bursts up at the corner of his screen. Rosie Connolly has sent you a friend request.
Like he’s going to do anything other than accept?
Once he does, a messenger box appears: “Sorry, I ran out of puns, and yes, I am disappointed in myself.”
He smiles, and he can’t deny the giddiness adrenaline rushing through his veins.
Don’t be. I’m out, too. I’m just glad you called the match before I did.
They continue the conversations, trading personal factoids as easily as he and his friends had exchanged Pokémon cards. He’s what he learns: like him, Rosie is a freshman, and in fact, only two dormitories down from him. She’s from a tiny town 200 miles away where her family and two brothers live. She loves the movie The Way, Way Back, and how the leaves crunch under feet in fall to become a stained glass window of oranges and red. They both enjoy the café’s chocolate-covered croissants, and detest the people who goof off in the library’s quiet section rather than going to the group study rooms.
It’s the most he’s learned about someone and told a person about himself since he arrived on campus a month and a half ago, and a couple hours in, he knows he doesn’t want this to be restricted to only the confines of keys and screen.
Are you going to Taco Tuesday? he asks and holds his breath as he watches the dots oscillate on her side of the window, before ballooning into text.
“I’ll be the one wearing the tiny sombrero.”
He grins. Olé.