by Karen Kinley
Shit, another conference call, I think as I see the notification in my inbox. My boss is such a jerk. Why can’t he just send an email?
I close my laptop and drift into the kitchen for a snack. My third since breakfast. This working from home stinks. Well, not really. But it’s what I’m supposed to think as a self-respecting and fairly social 28-year-old. If I am being honest with myself, I actually love it. I can sleep in until nearly 8, get a quick shower, pull on sweats and a sensible blouse, and I’m all set. I check my Instagram and drink my coffee in peace instead of traffic, and then start work at 9. So far my day has been nonstop with pointless emails and tedious Zoom meetings.
My cat, Jimbo, yowls from the other room. Damn. I forgot his food again this morning. I pad into the dining room in my slippers. Jimbo glares at me, his bowl flipped in protest. I grab it and return to the kitchen. He weaves between my legs while I open a can of Fancy Feast.
Back at my laptop, I attempt to focus. My client needs a revised budget by the end of the day, and none of the vendors seem to be responding to my emails. I will undoubtedly have to call them, and I am trying to avoid that. I stall by pulling another bottle of Pellegrino from the fridge and filling my glass with fresh ice.
I spend a solid twenty minutes doing real work and then take another break, checking my Instagram again and playing two rounds of Solitaire on my phone. I hear the trash truck come down my street and go to the window to watch its mechanical claws pick up the large cans one after the other. Big government disposing of the sins of the masses. I stand at the window long after the truck has disappeared around the corner.
When I return to my desk in the makeshift office in the guest bedroom, Jimbo is parked on my chair. I shoo him off and sit. There are new 14 emails waiting. Oh great.
Later, after I’ve handled two more crises and tweaked the budget, I lean back and begin rubbing my neck. This quarantine has been especially difficult since Drew left. Who knew that when he packed up his gym equipment and moved out that it would be the last human contact I’d have for a while?
“I just don’t think we want the same things,” he had said, delivering the cliché with mock sincerity. Truthfully, it had been over with Drew for months before he left. He was more interested in himself than anyone else. And I wasn’t really interested in anybody at all. Work was occupying a lot of my time, my dad needed looking after, and most of the time, I just wanted to sleep. I didn’t have any energy left.
But ever since Drew departed, I’d been overly-conscious of being alone. And now, when everyone is being told to stay home, the “aloneness” is weighing heavily on my mind. I got brave last week and signed up for HeartSpark, but that’s as far as I got. I mean, at this point I can’t do much more than chat online with someone anyway. But that doesn’t stop me from unlocking my iPad and opening the dating app.
Gavin, 27, single, an attorney who likes the beach and wine-tasting.
Brad, 34, divorced, loves his 2 boys and can hold his own in the kitchen.
Tevar, 31, single, an aspiring novelist and physical therapist who’s into tai chi.
I keep looking. The options are endless. I don’t know who is more desperate. These men listing their qualifications as a potential mate like they are writing a catalog description? Or me…checking out random profiles and making immediate decisions based on a photo and personal quote.
Jimbo leaps up on the desk and rubs against my laptop screen, purring in his passive-aggressive way that means he wants some attention. I ignore him and keep reading.
Marcus, 36, separated, a radiologist with a passion for art and music.
Ryan, 29, single, a firefighter looking for a fellow adventurer.
The photos intrigue me. Half of them are in shadow. Some are out-of-focus. Several men are wearing sunglasses as if this gives them some kind of mysterious edge. I like to see a man’s eyes. They say a lot about the person behind them.
My cat, who has tolerated my neglect long enough, jumps on my lap and climbs across my iPad. He steps on the glass, sending a “wink” to Ryan, the firefighter. Shit! How do I undo this?
Jimbo is now in my face, purring loudly. I scratch him under his chin while looking for the “undo” button. I can’t find one.
Just as I am about to go to the Frequently Asked Questions to figure out how to remove a “wink,” I hear a chime and see that I have a private message in my HeartSpark inbox.
It’s from Ryan.
It reads: Hey, how r u? Saw your wink.
My heart leaps into my throat as I stare at the screen. My cat has returned to the desk and is now walking all over my laptop keyboard. There are random numbers filling up my spreadsheet columns. Then he plops down right on it, blocking the screen. I am sure he has wrecked half of my work this morning.
Another PM yanks my attention back to the iPad: I have to admit. This is all new to me. Joined yesterday.
Do I really want to get involved? I had no intention of contacting anyone right now. Work is keeping me busy, and dating is impossible with the lockdown in place.
R u there? I can see ur reading the messages. Then: Cold feet?
Not wanting to be rude, I type back: Sorry. My cat actually winked at you.
Paws across the iPad. I smile at my own joke.
Ah. Sounds like a bad movie title.
I laughed. Then typed: Yeah, I guess it does.
I miss movies.
His candor surprises me. Social distancing has certainly put a damper on many activities. Me too. I miss a lot of things.
This makes me think for a minute. Dinners out. Hanging with friends. Baseball.
A few seconds pass. Then: You like baseball?
Cool. I used to play in college.
My spreadsheet forgotten, I remove the cat from the keyboard and log into my HeartSpark account so I can inspect more of Ryan’s photos while I keep chatting on my iPad. His pics are flattering without bragging. No shirtless ones. No drunk ones, either. A few that look like vacation pics, and one with a large group of friends.
Ryan and I message back and forth for about an hour, then I beg off to get back to work. His next shift at the firehouse isn’t until Thursday, so we make a “date” to Facetime tonight after dinner. Good thing I actually showered today.
I carry the iPad into my bedroom and plug it in to charge. And I smile for the first time in what feels like weeks.
Maybe being quarantined has its benefits.
Well done, Jimbo. Well done.