by Matthew Hoch
I knew it would hurt her. She was becoming more attached with each romantic evening we shared. That was why it couldn’t be put off. That was why I sat in Think Coffee waiting for Emily to arrive, so I could break up with her.
Four months of dating had gone by with relative ease. Maybe it was too easy? Maybe it was a lack of drama? Lack of passion? It was hard to pinpoint the exact reason, but that feeling wasn’t there for me, and that was what mattered. She deserved the respect of a conversation.
The noise of Manhattan crept into the coffee shop as Emily opened the door. She wore a sun dress, brown boots, and a moonstone necklace. Her nose was pierced, and hanging between her two nostrils was a gold loop. God, those things looked hideous. How could I have ever dated a girl who wore that? It was a desperate attempt on her part to look edgy.
“Sam, hi, sorry for my tardiness,” Emily said, hugging me. She looked at me with her innocent brown eyes. I could tell she was falling in love. This wasn’t going to be easy. “You didn’t get a coffee?” I shook my head no. I wanted to make sure to purchase her coffee, as a gentlemanly parting gesture. “I’ll procure yours. My atonement for being late!” She skipped to the counter, turned and called back, “Americano, correct?” I nodded that she was.
Procure? Atonement? She was a Midwestern transplant who moved to New York City to be a writer and would crowbar thesaurus words into everyday conversation. Intentional or not, she made me feel uneducated even though I wasn’t. She even encouraged me to make vocabulary flashcards to improve my lexicon.
Emily came to the table, placed her coffee mug down, and handed me my drink.
“Thanks, babe.” Why did I have to say babe? Sometimes I made things harder than they needed to be.
“Work good? Still training that new hire?” she asked me, taking a sip.
“Yeah, yeah. Roger’s finally getting the hang of everything. Should be done training him in a day or two. Then I can go back to assisting Ashley, which is my preferred nominal workload.” I could see her eyes flicker when I said nominal.
I sipped my Americano, hoping for some caffeinated courage to help propel me into taking the necessary plunge. Bracing myself, I inhaled, bringing my shoulders up to my ears.
“So, Sam, I wanted to discuss something,” Emily told me before I could release my breath and say goodbye. I motioned for her to tell me what was on her mind. She shifted and fiddled with the stones in her necklace. Her nose ring horrifically swayed. “It’s been tremendous hanging out with you these recent months. And you’re about the most considerate man I’ve dated, which is why I feel like talking in person is a good idea, out of respect, but I don’t think we should continue seeing one another.” Her face scrunched in apology, like a child guilty of breaking the rules.
I sat back in my chair, the wood creaking beneath me. Instead of forming a response, I stuttered, “Why? What is it?” I asked. She was clearly falling for me, so I didn’t understand this sudden development.
“It’s nothing specific,” she sipped her drink again. “I just don’t feel that spark. I’ve enjoyed our time together, and it’s nothing about you or something you did. Just, if I’m not feeling it, I think it would be inequitable to both of us if we continued.”
My heart beat at a rapid pace. My lips felt dry. It had been a wondrous four months with fantastic conversation and passionate sex. How could she want to walk away from all that? “But we’ve had some pretty great nights, right?”
“Absolutely. I’m really sorry, Sam. You deserve to be with someone who is thinking ‘hell yeah’ and so do I.”
I’d never dated someone like her. She was edgy in a provocative way; she was brainy, always providing insight expressed with an uncanny eloquence. “What about all those books you wanted me to read?”
“You should still take a gander.” She got up, walked over to me, kissed me on the forehead, and turned back toward the door. “I’m sorry, Sam. Take care of yourself.” And then she was gone. I stared at the red lipstick she left pressed onto the white of her half-empty coffee mug. I breathed in the lavender of her perfume that still lingered in the air. That was all Emily left behind as she vanished out of my life.
I stifled tears, keeping them glued to my eyes. Looking around to make sure the staff wasn’t watching me, I escaped with my newly ex-girlfriend’s coffee mug in my hand.
When I returned home, I sat on my bed, hiding from my roommates, and sifted through her Instagram. It was the first time I truly appreciated how angelic Emily was. And there I was smiling, looking happy alongside her in a picture, something that was no longer attainable. While I clasped her coffee mug, tears flowed for the lover who discarded me.
I left a voicemail and sent a few texts imploring her to reconsider. We had too much potential to give up. Finally, she texted me back: Sam, please stop. It’s over.
Staring at her text, the sole light in my darkening room, I realized that I loved her. Overwhelmed, I decided there was nothing to do but drift into a mournful sleep.
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Matthew’s previous short fiction has appeared in The Bookends Review, Flash Fiction Magazine, Mulberry Fork Review, Sobotka Literary Magazine, Down in the Dirt Magazine, and Fiction on the Web. His most recent short film, I Would Kill for That, was recently selected at The Script Lab’s short of the week. He is an East Coast transplant living in LA.
9 thoughts on “Modern Love”
A twist, but, for me, not one that satisfies. The mistaken perception of Emily’s adoration implies Sam’s inflated egotism. What her rejection of Sam would stir up would not be not hitherto unrecognized love for Emily, but injury to his self esteem and perhaps rage at her.
I don’t see the twist .Everything was predictable to me. I agree it doesn’t satisfy. This story is not original. It’s bland. I have no writing background so take that for what it’s worth. My simple ignorant mid western rule is either thumbs up or thumbs down. Thumbs down.
Karma’s a bitch, I suppose.
This didn’t ring true to me. I’d think he’d be relieved at getting off the hook so easily. He might tell her he was glad to hear her say she wanted to break up, because he was feeling the same way, but realizing that he loved her? No. It’s too improbable. Sorry.
Well, Matthew, I’m going to disagree with the others. Though the “twist” was predictable, you wrote the scene well and I very much liked some of the lines, especially “would crowbar thesaurus words into everyday conversation” and “Improve my lexicon”. I thought the way you presented Sam’s transition from finding Emily distasteful to the hottest thing since sliced bread charming. One thumb up from me (and I’m a jaded reader).
I really enjoyed this story and can completely relate. It was well written and insightful.
I agree with CJ: well-written. I was charmed by the vocabulary “battle,” and it seemed to me human nature to want something when it’s being taken away no matter how you felt about it before. I also thought, however, along with CJ, that the twist was predictable. i’m wondering, what if there’d been a twist that was not predictable?
See, I saw this as comedy. The guy wants to dump the girl but when the table is turned he doesn’t like it. Good stuff.
What can i tell you. I’ve been there. Done that (sort of). So many suitors one can get blinded by the adoration. Wilted interest suddenly piqued when the expected phone call doesn’t come, etc. Big smile of recognition on my lips while reading the story. Perhaps others who came down so hard on this author have never experienced or needed the challenge. I totally related. And yes, i see it as a comedy and tragedy is the flip side! Although it calls for tightening, unlike some of the good men and women hastily tossed aside by some of us, this story is a keeper!