Everything Unfolds As It Was Meant To
Flow Chart Alt Text for Accessibility
The house you’ve been renting, on the outskirts of the small town you grew up in, is being sold. Do you:
a) Just find another place in town, maybe walking distance?
b) Strike out on an adventure, sending your resume to staffing agencies in the three closest large cities and move to whichever one calls first?
a. One day you will die as you lived, wondering if there is anything more.
b. The city ends up being New York. It could have been any city, towering spires of metal and glass. Do you date:
1) Temu, the security guard with huge diamond studs in both ears who dreams of owning a recording studio?
2) Bret, the junior investment banker from Connecticut who went to the same Ivy League school as his father and dreams of opening a school for impoverished children in Africa even though he’s never been to Africa?
3) Owen, the poet with stars in his eyes who moved into his grandmother’s rent-controlled apartment on the UWS when she got sick and has been dutifully sending the rent check in ever since, even though she would be 96 by now and has been dead for 9 years?1) You share a pocket-sized bottle of Hennessy on the Staten Island Ferry while the city lights twinkle behind you. When he texts you the next week, you’re busy, and he slides into the archives of time.
1) You share a pocket-sized bottle of Hennessy on the Staten Island Ferry while the city lights twinkle behind you. When he texts you the next week, you’re busy, and he slides into the archives of time.
2) LOL no you don’t.
3) Your first date is only coffee and you’re hyper-aware that you’re supposed to demand he take you to Nobu to show he’s serious but you don’t care, you’re new in town and don’t like sushi all that much, but then your second date is baguette-and-brie on a picnic blanket in Central Park and the afternoon date keeps going until dusk, when you find yourself on top of a rock outcropping and he’s such a good kisser and the rock is hard against your back as he leans down to your neck, your collarbone, and you wish you’d worn more revealing clothing so there would be more exposed skin for him to put his lips on.
After a couple of years, your boss offers you a promotion and transfer to the Princeton office. Do you:
a) Take it. The suburbs aren’t SO bad.
b) Drink so much in celebration at the office happy hour that evening that you embarrass yourself and the offer is rescinded.
c) Tell Owen that you’re thinking about it and then send an email from your phone at 2 a.m. to decline, after Owen has spent the evening convincing you to stay, for about an hour with talking and the rest with his body.
As you sit up in the dark, hovering over your 3-year-old who begged you not to leave, feeling his feverish forehead and praying for a negative COVID test result when you can call in the morning, do you:
1. Wish you’d moved into a bigger apartment years ago.
2. Feel a flutter in your tummy that tells you to take a pregnancy test after you kept screwing up your birth control pills when the days melted into each other, so you didn’t know if you’d taken it that day.
3. Sigh with relief when Owen gets up at 5 a.m. to write and comes in to relieve you so you can get some sleep instead.
4. Thank the heavens that you’re alive to do any of this at all.
5. All of the above.
Stephanie King is a past winner of the Quarterly West Novella Prize and the Lilith Short Fiction Prize, with stories also appearing in CutBank, Entropy, and Hobart. She received her MFA from Bennington and serves on the board of the Philadelphia Writers’ Conference. You can find her online at stephanieking.net or on Twitter @stephstephking.