I opened up my Insta and saw her-the other woman.
"She has good hair, beautiful teeth and skin that sits perfectly between blizzard-white and over exposed-native," one co-worker noted.
"I believe the word your looking for is 'sun-kissed'" another co-worker agreed. "No sign of a tanning booth here."
I look again.
"Thanks, Jer, I really appreciate your affirming her tan," I say.
"Sorry, I'm only going off her face, I can't see her body."
"Don't worry," I tell him, "I'm sure it's as bouncy as her hair and as full (in all the right places) as her lips."
But it wasn't those things that bothered me. It was that I didn't see a shred of deception in her eyes. She seemed great. Awesome, even. Like I'd want to know her. Like she was a nice person. I hated her even more because of it. The man at her side, on the other hand, held enough duplicity for the both of them, and yet, I'm the one trying to find an escape route from everyone's pity.
To make matters worse, inside the photo of beaming what's-her-name, are tale-tale signs of affluence. Her french manicure, her Venti I-don't-give-a-crap-how-much-this-costs latte and her perfectly woven highlights, to say nothing of lashes that go on for days, were all understated, but still stated.
"Is he wearing a brand new watch that I've never seen?" I asked aloud.
Yes. Yes he is. The first three letters of which are R-O-L. Though their power couple look washed over me, it was the sign of hope in their eyes that cut my heart. Those were the faces of people who expected, planned and were the recipients of, a happy feature. A future I thought was mine. I worked for it just as hard. I wanted it just as bad. I deserved it as much as anyone, didn't I? Yet, day after day, I could be found sitting here, scrolling through their life in pictures.
My own future forecast was not as bright. It held the potential for many, many rainy days filled with bags of Cheetos, the largest container of coffee ice cream I could find, and cases of tequila. I imagine my yoga pants would surely need yoga pants by the end of my prolonged use of sick time. On the bright side, my dog will no longer need a groomer for the amount of petting he's receiving, and my blind cat, who perpetually walks into walls, will have a 24 hour nurse at her side helping her to her food dish. What's a little time off of work? And. I. Am. Sick. Sick of all I see.
Why can't I look away from the photos that update endlessly on my Instagram wall? Each one, coaxing me into another cheese curl. Photos with the power to steal away my energy for hanging out with friends. No matter. They're all busy posting how fun life is, anyway. Bon Voyage, Theresa! Have a great graduation, Laurie! Doctorate, huh? Wow. Congratulations Tom! Grandson number what?! But aren't you only 55?!
The photos, they beg me to keep investigating, searching for clues. But all I come up with is an indictment against myself, telling me I've wasted my entire life. I've never gone to Europe. I've never seen Hamilton. I don't get invited to The Bachelor finales (thank God!) Other couples I used to know are getting around town with him and her! Perhaps those same friends have turned off my posts altogether, or worse, unfriended me. Had I put up one too many cat videos to forgive? Did my dog not look cute enough when that butterfly landed on his head at the exact moment I went to take his photo?
"You've gotta move on!" friends tell me. "He's not worth it," they say. Yes. Yes. I know, I tell them. And then I look again the next day. There they are, him and her and their stupid trip to Alaska. Him and her, biking through Vail's cobblestone streets in the cool crisp air of spring. Him and her, kissing under a Maple tree as Autumn falls around their Patagonia-laden forms and their hipster beanies in Central Park. Most days, my grand adventure includes a trip to the bathroom scale where I complete the cycle of torture in realizing the "new and improved me" (work buddies call me) has become so much greater than it was a week ago.
But really, how does one move on from shattered dreams so perfectly pictured?
"This isn't you," one friend said as she looked at my third cat photo on Facebook. "You're not cat-centric. Your pets are just pets. I know you. You are a strong, reliable, power to be reckoned with. Get out there. Be the best you we all know and love."
I wish I could say she spurned me on like Rocky tackling his demons, but the reality is I've never wanted to punch her in the nose more than I did in that moment. What if the real me is someone who feels just as small as those perfectly tilted lenses, boca-lit photos makes me feel?
I log off my computer. I find my iPad and turn it off. I go to my cell and imagine logging out of all my social media accounts, a thing I've not done, well, ever. A breath of hope slips out of me with a sigh and suddenly, like a pink satin sash pulling me out of sinking sand, a smile creeps up my face. I eagerly search out each app, shutting off all notifications of any kind. Go tweet someone else, Twitter. Go DIY yourself Pinterest. Banishment to you black meta-verse. Shut the hell up, Insta.
Then, the piece de resistance, I shut down my cell. It sits in my palm like a loaded .45, black as death, but I toss it on my bed. I've listened to its voice to often. Been under it's inebriating smart-world influence too long.
I grab the leash from the hall closet and take Barney for the longest walk we've ever taken. We started this journey together and, by dog, we will rise to it together. No, I am not pet lady, nor will I ever be. I don't exist merely for my fury friends comfort. The woman I wanted to punch, had effectively punched me from my stupor. I have a dog, yes and I love him. I have a cat also and I love her too. I also loved HIM and that love was not returned. And yet, with or without them, I still have breath. I live. He doesn't define me. My pets don't define me. I define me, damn it. Not a photo, not a past. Not a person, not a pet. And that will be enough. I am enough.