by Austin Millet
Stan Willem of North Chicago was recently feeling the onset of ennui after yet another day of tech support at the large ISP help center where he works, and decided to indulge in an old pastime from his college days: personal monographic literature recounting minute poignant instances in his recent past. He recalled his past writings fondly, such as his sophomore year entry, “Monitors Reflecting on Your Glasses,” a piece describing a slight crush on his CS 125 partner whose true name he always withheld but referred to as “Laura.” Though single in his late 30s, a far-cry from a college-aged bachelor, Willem decided to try his hand at recapturing some of that creative fire, this time with a medium more public. A quick appraisal of his options led him to Craigslist’s Missed Connections section, in which users are encouraged to write on events spanning from passing crushes based on a seemingly meaningful smile, brief moments of eye contact on the train or missed opportuntites to “Shit on my face.” Willem cracked his knuckles and sat down, ready to write about such an encounter in his recent life.
Twenty minutes later, the screen still glaring a featureless white abyss into his eyes, Willem came to the stunning realization that at no point in the past five years had he ever even once considered himself to be on the same playing field as a woman in his general vicinity. He rode the L to and from work every day, giving him regular exposure to the type of environment that seemed to incubate such passing fancies, yet he could not remember a single instance of making eye contact with or catching a smile from a woman that he did not immediately rule out as too good or not good enough for him. Amazed, he vaguely recalled having attempted to catch the eye of a young woman he found attractive soon after he had moved into his current apartment, but that had been seven years and four months in the past. He remembered her glancing at him and immediately looking away when—he assumed—she noticed he was paying attention to her, and briefly considered writing on this occurrence, but soon abandoned the idea when he could not remember what she had been wearing, not to mention her hair color, approximate height, dress style, body build, facial features, or ethnic group, so it seemed more trouble than it was worth, especially considering how long ago the sighting had occurred.
It was while trying to recall what this pseudo-lost love was like that the idea of fictionalizing an event crossed Willem’s mind. Sure, it is pretty pathetic to imagine a dream girl, not to mention write about her as if she’s real, you’ve met her, and didn’t even ask her out, not to mention posting that writing to the internet. But Willem had set his mind to recapturing some of the magic that came from these kinds of writings from college, though admittedly those had all actually occurred. Not to be deterred, Willem created “Rebecca” and set about drawing a word picture describing her mistakenly entering the ISP help center where he worked before leaving, embarrassed at her own charming confusion, only to wind up on the very same L train as Willem that very evening. As Willem planned it, the two shared a meaningful silence thick with eye contact and shy smiles, as if each shared in on a private, intimate joke unknown to the rest of the unwashed passengers on the Red Line. Though he was tempted to skip ahead to this presupposed intensely intimate moment, Willem resolved to write chronologically, as he had in college, and set to work describing her entrance.
It was at about the four page mark, when Willem had finally finished detailing the charming way the tips of her breasts seemed to hover exactly twenty inches above and seven inches extended out from her belt-line, after cataloging the various endearing facial expressions she cycled rapidly through behind her stylish glasses as she walked into the ISP office, confused that the address she thought would lead her to her new job as executive sales manager of AnimeKingdom—one of Willem’s favorite publishers—would instead lead into what appeared to be an IT center, and just before zooming in on and describing for nearly a page the gorgeous way that her left ankle pivoted as she unsettlingly turned to leave, mortified at her ignorance in front of so dashing an ISP call center employee, momentarily pausing to pan up to the exceedingly meaningful glance she cast back as she left the office, that Willem felt what he had so far written rang a bit hollow. Not only was this woman a little too perfect, his descriptions relied heavily on total omniscience, an excellent example being his tangent describing her low-carb diet after no larger a clue as her perfectly proportioned waist line. He briefly considered toning it down slightly, perhaps limiting his description to the planned meaningful ride home on the L together, but soon decided it was not worth the effort of editing, and that no one—not even those on the internet—would believe it, and anonymity be damned, his delicate disposition could not take the prospect of his magnum opus making the Penthouse Forum seem plausible by comparison. Willem closed OpenOffice.org, not bothering to save his work, and placed his favorite Vivid Video DVD into the player, dripping a melancholy that made him feel even more vulgar than he already felt.