Click me! Click me! It bursts with enthusiasm, like a waving red pirate flag, just begging to be undressed by my pointy arrow. Let me just relish in this moment. Here I go. Click. And…
Dear God. It can’t be. Not her. Not the ex-girlfriend.
On my wall by the bed is a fire alarm, a burglar alarm and of course, a little red box with a pull down handle, the Facebook notification alarm. I break the glass with my fist and I can hear the beep of the keypad. It automatically dials 911. An oxygen mask falls from the emergency kit. I flail about in my bed, gasp for air and clamp the mask on my face just before everything goes black.
Breathe. Just breathe. She doesn’t care about you anymore. She wants you to see how awesome her life is and how lonely you are. No, she’s the lonely one. She probably just broke up. She’s going backwards to past boyfriends, the logical first step.
“911, we received an alert through the F-book Notify App of an emotionally havoc-wreaking friend request.” The box in the wall speaks to me with that fake calm voice. I could be bleeding out and she talks like an airline stewardess. “Is this a true emergency?”
“Help! Her profile’s not private! It’s not private!” I scream. “The pictures, the memories! The memories, they burn!”
I can hear her type. I grip my chest and feel the clenching suffocation, a smothering fire which destroys all entrance of air and blocks rational thought to the frontal lobe. I can’t take it much longer. If help doesn’t come soon, I might accept the request. Then it would all be over.
My hand shakes. It wants to browse. It wants to browse those profile pics, but it can’t. I won’t let it. I thought I was safe from this. You never think you’re gonna be the one, right? And then you are. In an instant, it hits you in the face. Nostalgic tragedy. I only hope I’ll be alive when the ambulance gets here.
“Sir, Is the ex-girlfriend smiling in her picture?”
“Just answer the questions, sir. We need to determine the severity of your case. Is she posing? Does she looks slutty?”
No, she doesn’t! She looks innocent and approachable, like when we met, and she’s still wearing my sweatshirt!”
“Sir, I’m going to ask you to quietly take the computer from your lap, set it on the bed and bury your face in your hands. Don’t look at the screen, sir. I’ve dialed it in. A SWAT team is on the way.”
“Oh, please,” I sob, “please help me, why do I deserve this…I just started respecting myself as a man again and now this…”
“Just proceed to the fetal position, sir. I’ll talk you through this.”
I hear it, a low hum. I set the laptop on the bed and curl in the fetal position. The hum grows louder. The windows shake. Pennies vibrate from my dresser and fall to the floor. Gripped by fear I can only stare cross-eyed at the tears which run down my cheeks, and then the windows burst.
Glass shards decorate the floor like crystals of snow on a moonlit night. The door falls over like a playing card. The battering ram splinters the wood, shrapnel flies and six men in black combat gear form a perimeter around the bed.
“Victim secure,” the team leader speaks into a collar microphone, “Level 4 social media trauma, possible relationship hangover.”
A team member opens a black briefcase and extracts a laptop. On his screen I see program icons. Tweeter, Instagram, Pinterest, all the deadliest, most distracting programs. I know instantly these guys are an elite special unit, trained to withstand the psychological torture of internet gibberish, even J-date.
“Stay calm, bud, we’re gonna back you out of this nice and slow. So what’s your favorite sports team?”
Is he really going to try to calm me down with the casual questions thing? He can’t fool me. I know he knows I’m already gone.
“Just get me out of here, man.”
“Look away while I check her profile.” The team leader inspects the damage and slings commands into the keyboard. “Just as I feared. When I decrypt her profile privacy I can see she’s been posting vague song lyric statuses about missing someone from her past. It’s a Siren’s call. She wants to suck out your soul.”
I look up. “Tell me what I don’t know.”
The stern, chiseled Alpha leader turns to his comrade. “Call Joe and Leo immediately. We need to incept that she never existed.”
In walk Joseph-Gordon Levitt and Leonardo Dicaprio in suits with briefcases. Nods are given. Handshakes shook. Respect exchanged.
“We’ll take this from here,” says Leo.
“But you guys are just actors.”
“Nope,” Joe looks me in the eye. “Part time actors. Full time inceptionists.”
“What we’re going to do,” says Leo, “is give you a shot of positive media to counterbalance the trauma. We’re going to stream videos of Youtube kittens doing funny cute things and you’ll fall into a trance. Then we’ll go to work.”
The next thing I see is a laptop montage of the cutest, funniest little kitten critters smacking at balls, and falling in sinks, knocking over flowerpots, those little rascals. I don’t even feel Joe and Leo enter my subconscious.
Boom. Dream time.
I’m sitting in my green childhood sandbox. It’s bright and sunny, probably May and I’m not even in Kindergarten yet. I’ve got a shovel and a bucket and couldn’t be more content.
“You know where you are?”
“I’m in my childhood. This is where I lost my first tooth.”
“Was it a happy moment?”
It was the best moment. I got fifty cents for that tooth.”
“Was there a girl you loved in this moment?”
“Only my mother.”
Joe steps from behind a hanging white sheet. “That’s all that mattered.”
Joe types something in on a keypad and I switch scenes, like a slideshow of life.
I’m on the back porch of my best friend’s house. I’m six years old. I’m trading baseball cards with my friend. I give him three checklists for a Michael Jordan rookie card. You’re really ripping me off, I say. You got three for my one.
“You know where you are now?”
“I’m on my best friend’s back porch.”
Leo’s smoking a cigarette and my six year old lungs hiccup smoke. He takes a few more drags for dramatic effect and throws the nub in the bushes.
“Is he still your best friend?”
“Yes. For twenty years now.”
“Did your girlfriend have anything to do with your friendship?”
“Not a thing.”
Scene shifts again. I feel ecstatic nausea, like I ate a tub of cotton candy while swinging on a carousel, but I only want to throw up and hop back on.
I’m in a mangy row house basement with a low ceiling surrounded by a buffet of drunken friends, thumping music and raucous conversation. I’m playing pong. I’m winning. I have class at 7 a.m.
Leo finishes a keg stand and approaches me at the crowded table. “Where are you?”
“College!” I shout.
“Where’s your girlfriend?”
“I didn’t know her yet.”
“Remember these people?”
“Yeah, I don’t talk to them anymore.”
Joe steps on the other side of me. I feel like I’m being interrogated by the Men in Black.
“You don’t talk to them because you ditched them for a girl who forced you to sit through Dear Johnand The Notebook back to back. You’ve basically lost your soul.”
“Oh my goodness.” The realization hits me. “I’m one of those relationship guys.”
“Don’t worry.” Leo pats my shoulder and smokes what must be his sixth cigarette. “We’re here to make you a man again.”
Joe braces himself against the wall. Leo does the same. The walls begin to shake and crumble around me. The pong ball vibrates along the table and falls to the floor.
Leo smiles. “It’s the kick.”
An alarm clock beeps. I don’t even use an alarm clock. My room is empty. I’m drooling. Where are my blankets? Why is there a free promotional DVD of Looper on my pillow?
Whatever. I do what I do every morning. I reach for the laptop. I log onto the Facebook. The Facebook, she welcomes me with her glaring white screen and subtle uselessness. Ooh, a friend request.
I click. Who is this girl? She looks cute. Weird, that sweatshirt looks exactly like the one I used to have. Oh well, she seems like she could be cool. Click. Friend accepted. I’ll give it a day or two and see if this girl wants to hang out. Can’t hurt, right?