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What if she was nice to me?

—“Eowan, 5” (transcribed from face to face conversation)

We play t-ball but she isn’t very nice to me. Sometimes she is. But not all the time.

 

What if you weren’t married to a woman and actually living in Leesburg?

—Me, 34 (a decade later, in my own words)

I wonder how many times you’ve done it. How many other “mes” there are out there. How many men you’ve met on the bus. If you get better at it each time. If you have a plan. If you have a pattern. If you write down our names. If you plot us on a map. If you use a code. If the internet has made things easier. If your wife knows. If your kids know. If I’m the only one who’s ever caught you. Or if getting caught was somehow the point.

 

What if I hadn’t already dated an Amanda?

—“Eric, 33” (transcribed and edited from recorded phone conversation)

I saw her in Harry’s, which is kind of a shit bar, but whatever. She was pretty, which obviously helped, but it was more than that. She looked, I dunno, amused and a little sad, I guess. Like a combo of “Why the fuck am I in this place,” and “I need to make an effort or I’ll never meet anyone.”

This might sound stupid, but I felt like I understood her. Because that’s how I feel A LOT of the time in bars. Alone and together and sort of waiting for a thing to happen to me. For life to happen to me. Fuck knows.

I guess I was the right amount of drunk to go over and talk to her instead of just standing on the edge of my huddle of friends, like I usually do. Problem is, Harry’s is fucking loud, so I didn’t hear her name after I told her mine. I offered to buy her a drink, but she said she’d already had two and that was her limit, but opened up a space next to her against the wall so I could lean.

You could tell she was cool. Like, really self-aware. Up front and shit. I said the thing to her about how she looked both amused and sad, and she laughed and told me I was wrong, but only about her feeling that way tonight. Something like “I do feel like that, other nights, though. Here but not here.”

We shout-talked for a while, maybe 20 minutes, before her friends came to get her because they were ready to go. She put her number in my phone and I texted her 5 minutes later.

Hey. Really great to meet you. I know this isn’t classy, but I didn’t actually catch your name. Harry’s is loud.

Ha. No worries. Harry’s IS loud. I’m Amanda.

Any name but Amanda, man. If it had been any fucking name but Amanda.

 

What if I never saw you in those purple pants?

—“Keisha, 27” (via Facebook Messenger)

Two weeks in.

He’s nice to me but not clingy.

Sex is good and things feel organic.

He’s not laugh-out-loud funny but extremely clever.

It’s going well.

There’s a pilot light in my chest.

He invites me to a party on Friday and comes to pick me up.

Wearing bright purple pants.

“Party pants?” I ask.

“My third favorite pants,” he tells me.

Then shows me pictures of his other favorites.

None of which are jeans.

All of which are purple.

 

What if you didn’t use the GPS every time we drove?  

—“Dan, 38” (via email, with minor edits for grammar)

It wasn’t JUST the GPS thing, but that had a lot to do with us breaking up.

Every time we got in the car, she’d turn it on. We could be going somewhere we’d been 10,000 times before, and she’d still turn it on. I could be driving and she would turn it on. “It just makes me feel more comfortable.” Even though she knew I hated it.

When she drove, she barely looked at the road. Had no clue where she was at any given time. Didn’t even know the major highways. BOOP BOOP BOOP then just follow the directions.

I get that I might be coming off like a nitpicking asshole, but the whole GPS thing felt like another example about she actively refused to make an effort to learn stuff. Not just how to get places. She didn’t know how to cook or hang a picture or reset the wireless password or file her taxes or pay for car insurance or fill out a rental application or put her résumé up on Indeed.

I guess I just got sick of doing things for her. Or listening to her talk to her parents, who would then drive down to help her do things she was perfectly capable of learning how to do herself. At the end of the day, she was super fucking smart. Smarter than me. So what the fucking fuck, right?

One more thing. I know this shouldn’t really matter, but on the GPS, she chose this really annoying robot with a British accent, which taps into that whole almost-insufferable Anglophile thing. No one should read Jane Austen THAT MUCH.

 

What if you didn’t hate that I liked Buffalo Wild Wings?

—“Emily, 24” (via Facebook Messenger with two edits for clarity)

he was one of those guys who thought he was smarter than everyone else in the room

lol in every room

but he was hot

so at least there was that?

we had been on 5 dates

and one day i went to BWW with Sam[antha]

and i snapped it

(he was following me [on snapchat])

and got all these texts like 5 min later

crazy stuff

like how he thought I was btter than that

and that it was really disappointing

and the first thing he found out about me that he didn’t like

i’m like confused

because it’s just fucking BWW

and a boneless chicken wing is NOT the end of the world

people eat at chain restaurants bro

get over it

plus I was mostly there to watch football

so i thought about it

and you know he wasn’t hot enough for me to want to deal

so i just said something like…

“we don’t know each other well enough for you to be this aggressive about my decisions”

which to his credit he didn’t argue or act any crazier

but he def didn’t apologize

so that was that

 

What if you learned to accept constructive feedback instead of trying to physically fight me on this bridge on our first non-sex date?

—“James, 43” (transcribed by hand from unrecorded phone conversation)

I’m not sure if this really needs backstory or explaining, and I’m not sorry that he assumed my being queeny meant I wouldn’t know how fight, and also, he hit me first, and also, there were witnesses, all of whom heard him call me “nigger,” so he can just go fuck himself and enjoy that fucking restraining order.

His name was Michael.

Print that. Make sure you print that.

Zach Straus

Zach Straus peaked at 15 and is mostly held together by masking tape.

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