In A Relationship
Daphne was still Facebook friends with her ex-boyfriend. She witnessed the moment that his status was updated. Sam was no longer Single. He was In a relationship.
In a relationship. In a relationship. In a relationship.
But not with her.
Though she had told herself repeatedly to stop, Daphne had been on his profile page, clicking on photos in his public photo gallery. He hadn’t taken them down: old photos of them together, Daphne and Sam, at the beach, singing Karaōke, drunk on a roof in Brooklyn. Looking at these photos provided Daphne with some small comfort.
There they were, still there, happy in love, out in the world for other people to see. They had been broken up for six months, which was a considerable period of time, but occasionally, they met to talk. Often, perhaps every third time, the last time had been three weeks ago, they had sex when they saw each other.
The status update even said who he was in a relationship with. Elena Holmstead. This was Sam’s new girlfriend. Not Daphne, but Elena. This had always been Daphne’s greatest fear and now it was official. In A Relationship.
While they were dating, Sam had said on more than one occasion that he wanted Daphne to be more like Elena. Or not like Elena herself, but someone like her. As a type. Sam wanted Daphne to be more ambitious, more outgoing. Wanted her to wear sexier clothing. He wanted her to be more. He had wanted her to be Elena Holmstead.
The green circle next to his name on the chat list was lit. Daphne knew that she shouldn’t. This had happened to her before, more than once, always when she was drunk. Sometimes, Sam ignored her but one night he came over — even though it was three in the morning — because he had been at a bar in the neighborhood, checking Facebook on his cellphone. She had given him a blowjob. He had spent the night.
Daphne was not young. She was thirty-eight years old. She was running out of time. And she loved him. She loved him. She hadn’t loved anybody else the way she loved him.
She opened a chat window.
“Hey,” she typed. “Congratulations.”
And she waited.
There was no response.
This happened, Daphne knew, with Facebook. You could open Facebook, and then walk away from the computer, and though you were doing dishes or taking a bath, your friends could see that green button by your name, still pronouncing you available to chat. But Sam had to still be there, on Facebook, because his relationship status had just changed. He had also just left a comment on a mutual friend’s post, praising a review the friend had published in Time Out magazine. Sam was obviously there and he was ignoring her.
Daphne had friends who could not stand it when she brought up Sam’s name. They said horrible things about him to her, the way he treated her, but that never made Daphne feel any better because she loved him. And she knew that Sam was not a horrible person. He was horrible only to her, because he could be. She was like this puppy dog he kept kicking in the mouth.
“I always thought you had a crush on Elena,” Daphne typed. “The whole time we were going out. You must be so happy.”
Going out, however, didn’t seem accurate. Because they had been a couple for more than three years. Three years. Daphne had wanted to marry Sam and he knew this. He had once said that it was something he would consider. Sam was the kind of man who genuinely wanted to get married and to have children, but it turned out that it was not with her.
It was a Sunday morning and Daphne was not drunk. She could not explain her behavior away with the tired excuse that she was drunk. Daphne was, in fact, hungover. She was drinking her third cup of coffee. She felt nauseous. A vivid image of Elena Holmstead in Sam’s bed flashed before her eyes. Daphne had bought all of Sam’s sheets. The ones he had had were too scratchy for her to sleep on. Now, Elena had slept on these sheets and maybe she had even praised him, a bachelor, for having such nice bedding. Daphne had slept with a twenty-eight-year old co-worker the night before. He had a girlfriend. Daphne was trying to move on; it simply was not going very well.
“You didn’t cheat on me with her, did you? While we were still a couple?”
That hadn’t occurred to Daphne before, because he had said, while breaking up with her, that there had never been anyone else, that that was not the reason why. But of course he could have been lying. All the parties she used to go to with Sam, Elena was always there. Single. Flirtatious. She always liked Sam. At one party, Elena had complimented Sam on something he had written, and another time, the silver tie he was wearing. Daphne got tired early, did not like to stay out late into the night. Unlike Sam and his friends, she was not an artist or a filmmaker or a writer. She had to wake up early and go to her job. Daphne was an editor at a monthly film magazine. It was a prestigious magazine but she was only a copy editor. She did not write the features in the magazine or the film reviews either. She produced copy and sometimes, for her DVD roundups, she was given a byline.
Daphne understood that it was important for Sam to go to parties and she used to go with him to as many of them as she could. She almost always left before he did, because she did not want to spoil his good time. Also, he was irritated with her if he had to leave early.
In a relationship. A relationship.
Three people had already clicked like on Sam’s status.
“I don’t know why it matters now,” Daphne typed. Daphne could type fast. The words felt good beneath her fingertips. “But I would feel a lot better to know that you didn’t start fucking Elena until after we broke up. That would make me feel better. If you didn’t start fucking her until after.”
Daphne paused. It wasn’t true. She could not feel much worse than she did at that moment. But she had liked typing that, liked the crudeness of the word fucking, as if that was all that it was, like what it had been the night before with Daphne and with her co-worker, nothing, except that her co-worker had been tender and sweet with her — and in love with somebody else. Sam was in a relationship with Elena Holmstead and there it was, posted on Facebook, for everyone to see.
It was already hard enough for Daphne to leave her apartment.
As Daphne sat on her bed, laptop on her lap, she watched as six more likes appeared on Sam’s new relationship status. Steven Jasper Baker liked it. Agatha Pena liked it. Even Sam’s mother liked it. She had never been fond of Daphne. Daphne had overheard his mother refer to her as bland; it had been on Thanksgiving, after the enormous meal, while Sam and his mother were making the coffee. Daphne bit her lip so hard that it started to bleed. She could not taste the chocolate mousse that was served for dessert.
Elena Holmstead also worked for Daphne’s magazine. She was not on staff, but she wrote a column. She had her picture published each month, above her column. She published her writing freelance, pretty much everywhere. She had appeared on CNN, debating the year’s Oscar nominations. Elena was too much of an egotist to be a good partner for Sam. They would drown each other out. Elena was friendly and charming, but she was friendly and charming with everyone. Daphne had once been eating lunch by herself at a Thai restaurant near the office. Elena had come into the restaurant, also alone, and because no other tables were open — Daphne was sure that was the only reason — Elena had joined her. She had been nice. They had laughed about something. Daphne had enjoyed the lunch. She had felt special, eating with Elena Holmstead, she had promised to lend her DVDs, and she did lend them to her. Only, she had never gotten them back. Now, Elena Holmstead, who could have had any guy, had stolen her boyfriend.
“I am writing,” Daphne typed. “I have started a screenplay. I could send it to you, if you want to read it. Because I am really writing, just like you wanted me to. Esteban has promised to read it when I am done.”
Esteban Smith was the co-worker she had just slept with at her office. He had the job, in fact, that she had wanted, a staff writer position that she had applied for.
Daphne was not working on a screenplay but if she needed to, she could write something quickly, just for Sam to see. She could prove to him that she was worthy of him. She did not doubt that she was. It was just that somehow, he did not know it. Still, Daphne wished that she had not lied to him. She did not need to stoop to lying.
Daphne clicked on Elena’s profile. Elena’s status had also changed. In a relationship. There it was. Confirmed. Elena was going to break Sam’s heart and then they would both be bereft. Daphne would take him back. There was no question about that. That was the thing. That was what Daphne could not flat out tell her concerned friends. She did not have any dignity. What was the point of that?
“Did you go to Steve’s party? Last night?” Daphne typed. “I wanted to, I was invited, you know, but I didn’t go because I didn’t want to make you uncomfortable. I don’t go to a lot of parties and panels and things because I know you are going to be there.”
The words popped up on the screen. Sam was there. He was writing to her. “You should go wherever you want to go. I should not get in your way.”
“You are there!!!!” Daphne typed. She immediately regretted the exclamation points. She knocked over her coffee cup and now there was coffee on her bedspread. But Sam was there with her, in a relationship with Elena, but chatting with Daphne, and so she did not move to clean it up.
“Yes,” Sam wrote. “I am here.”
Daphne could see him, his shoulders scrunched. She could hear his sigh. Often, the things Daphne did and said made him sigh.
“Congratulations about Elena,” Daphne typed.
“It’s not a big deal,” Sam responded.
“Well, it must be a big deal if you changed your status. You would not say you were in a relationship if you were just sleeping together. If you had just hooked up with Elena one night, you wouldn’t change your status for that. Am I right?”
“Daphne,” Sam typed. “This is just so inappropriate.”
“Is it?” Daphne typed. “Because you posted this here on Facebook, so you must have known that I would see it. You knew that. You do these things to hurt me.”
“Honestly, I did not think about it.”
“But I see everything you post on Facebook.”
“Oh, Daphne,” Sam typed. “That is not healthy.”
“I know.” Daphne nodded her head vehemently. “I am not healthy. I cannot eat, did you know that? I have lost ten pounds. I can fit into that red dress again. The one that you really like.”
There was silence. Sam did not respond.
“The red one?” Daphne typed. “I wore it on New Years. Remember?”
They were broken up on New Years, but they had had sex on the couch in front of the television anyway at a party at Steven Jasper Baker’s apartment. It had been about four in the morning and everyone else had gone home. Sam had said that maybe, in the new year, that they could talk about getting back together. That they would go to a movie.
“Where are you, Sam? Did you leave?”
Daphne felt a sort of panic, that Sam would just walk away from this chat without saying good-bye. That he was gone. She clicked back on Elena’s page. Elena was offline, but that didn’t mean anything. She might be in Sam’s bedroom right now. Jesus. Daphne could not take this. She could not take this.
“I don’t see how you could do this to me,” Daphne typed. “How could you do this to me? Don’t you care about me at all?”
“Daphne, Sam typed. “Daphne, I have a lot of things to do today, so I am logging off Facebook. Take care, ok?”
And then he was gone. The green light next to his name disappeared. Daphne hit F5 on his profile. Two more people had liked his status and another mutual friend had left a comment. Awesome!
Sam had clicked like on this comment.
So had Elena Holmstead.
First, Daphne unfriended the mutual friend. “Fuck you,” she said to the computer. “Fuck you,” she said to the mutual friend, and his smiling face. He was no longer her friend. All of those mutual friends, they were all going to pick Sam over her. They had thirty-two Facebook friends in common, including Sam’s mother. Daphne unfriended them all. She unfriended the co-worker she had had sex with the night before.
And then Daphne went back to Sam’s profile. To the photos. To her favorite photo of all the photos, still tagged, still there for Sam’s friends to see, Daphne and Sam on the beach, laughing, his hands around her waist, her hair in her face, a ray of sunlight illuminating them both. A wave had just come in, water was gently covering their feet. Daphne stared at the picture on her small laptop screen until she was dizzy. She would never be that happy again.
Daphne clicked the like button beneath the photo. She clicked like on every single photo of Sam and Daphne together and this made her feel better — as if she had, at least, proven something. And then, without hesitation, she unfriended Sam.
Immediately, Daphne wished she hadn’t done it.
Her hand hovered over the Add Friend button. But Daphne did, in fact, have some dignity, because she could not do it. Send a friend request. She hit F5 and confirmed what she already knew. The photos, the congratulatory comments on Sam’s status update, were gone. Sam was gone, though his rakish profile photo continued to smile at her, as cruel as ever. Daphne’s legs started to shake. She leaned over, arms circling around her laptop, and she pressed her legs into the bed until the shaking stopped. Daphne was hungry. She wanted to eat something. She wanted to eat something fried and disgusting. She sat there, alone on her bed, the laptop on her lap, perfectly balanced, unable to move.
Marcy Dermansky is the author of the novels Bad Marie and Twins. Bad Marie was a Barnes and Noble Fall Discover Great New Writers pick. Time Magazine pronounced Bad Marie “irresistible.” “Deliciously wicked,” proclaimed Slate. “Bad-ass,” said Esquire Magazine, naming Bad Marie one of the top novels of 2010. Marcy’s short fiction has been published widely in literal journals and anthologies, including Salon.com, FiveChapters, McSweeney’s, Indiana Review, Mississippi Review and Fifty-TwoStories. Find out more at her Website.