Marcy Dermansky

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.”

That’s stu­pid.”

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 TwinsBad 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’sIndiana Review, Mississippi Review and Fifty-TwoStories. Find out more at her Website.