It had been a long day, but sleep would not come. The rest of the room remained dark while Ben sat up in bed, face bathed in blue light. Piles of clothing on the floor visible even in that dim hour. His thumb stroked the screen, vertically scrolling through image after image. The phone heavy in his hand.
He stopped to read the text beneath a picture of a young woman wearing a tight, strapless black dress and oversized black velvet rabbit ears. The woman's hair was a fiery red, not fire engine red, but like a real fire with hidden tones of oranges, yellows, and blues. Her pale skin appeared translucent in the daylight. Ben blinked away the illusion of being able to see a network of veins spread below her protruding collarbone.
She posed outdoors, reclining in a snowy landscape. He wondered how long she had to lie there in the cold for this one shot—her skin likely lightening by the minute until all that would be visible was a black dress against the white snow. The caption read: “Testing out my new Alice in Wonderland cosplay! #LateForAnImportantDate #BunnyEarsNoFears #ootd #brrr”.
Below the words, a string of cartoon rabbits glared at Ben. He tapped the picture twice in quick succession and a red—fire engine red this time—heart appeared then disappeared over the woman's body. For all the effort. She must have been freezing. He considered commenting with something to that effect but decided against it. That kind of stuff never came out right.
After several more scrolls down he stopped again at an acquaintance's picture. The man was at a restaurant, sandwiched between a little girl and an attractive woman; his dentist-bleached white teeth on display in a large grin. “Lunch with my too best girls!!!” Ben wasn't sure what the greater irritant was: the grammar error, the excessive exclamation marks, or that this visual equivalent of a glass of warm milk garnered 127 likes.
He tapped on the acquaintance's name in order to further evaluate. As he suspected, the man's collection of pictures relied heavily on the attractive woman and the little girl. Ben emitted a haughty 'ha' when comparing the images on the screen with the ones that littered his memory.
The man throwing up in a cab. The man declaring to a bar full of people that he loves cocaine. The man describing in lurid detail the first time he had sex with the attractive woman from the pictures. Cringing at that last thought, he looked at the man's followers: 205. Vanity pulled up the corners of his mouth into a smile, Ben had twice as many. In a final act of triumph, his finger blessed the “unfollow” button.
How many more such transgressors clogged his feed with fodder? A cursory glance confirmed the number of offenders high. Awash in a sea of badly-lit selfies, food porn, and unfunny memes, the same triumphant finger initiated a liberating “unfollow” spree. Swaths of content forever discarded without a sliver of regret or thought. The purge proved cleansing and the phone felt lighter in his hand, if not, then at least in his mind. The exercise had taxed the device and it needed to be resurrected.
Now in complete darkness, Ben struggled to find the lifesaving item on his nightstand. After knocking over two empty glasses, his hand finally locked onto the smooth cord and inserted it into the phone by feel alone. While waiting for a few minutes, he realized he could probably close his eyes and drift off. But he itched to finish what was started and so continued, with heightened speed, banishing those he deemed unworthy.
Only, the finger stopped.
Frozen, it hovered over a name, one he hadn't seen in a while. One he thought of often. Who retains ownership of a name once the original proprietor is no more?
Ben endured grief after the initial loss (over a year ago) and reached acceptance quicker than most—a testament to his abiding faith in Chaos Theory. On the device, he examined the images of lazy days and legendary nights. His own face stared back at him in a number of them. There was his face poised over a full and foamy pint. There was his face under a ridiculous hat. There was his face covered in mud, dust, and sweat.
The last post on the account featured a memorial service. Guests, clad in shades of black, circled an altar of white flowers on a sunny day in a sparsely wooded park. One appeared to address the others with a smile that did not extend to his eyes. Words below read: “grateful to all who came.” A lack of detail in the text created a thank-you note from beyond the grave. The result seemed intentional. Haunting.
Once again he hovered over the “unfollow” button. A thin black outline was all that separated action from white background. Yet, Ben could not bring himself to press it. What would it mean if he did? He could not—would not—condemn these images, this person who was not a person anymore, to the same fate as the others he discarded.
Exhausted, the finger retreated. Ben placed the phone on the nightstand and closed his eyes.
Veronica resides in Las Vegas where inspiration and humor abound. She writes flash fiction, short stories, articles, and essays. When she’s not writing, Veronica indulges in her other obsessions: food, martinis, Japan, and goofy socks. Find her at veronicaklash.com.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.