48 comments

American Romance Friendship

I only get autophobia in the spring, or at least that’s what I tell people. It’s the season that’s printed on calendars with crooked lines but never seems to exist in this mustache of constellations and planets. There are specific step-by-step directions that I follow to rid myself of winter’s thick cardigan. 


  • To think of my life as this big chess metaphor, where I’m the queen of ivory and ravens like a grayscale film of an unvoiced war. If I’m the queen everyone else is a pawn so I’m not alone.
  • To hop-scotch into the day when I drive to visit him, like chalk peppered onto a dripping sidewalk.


His name is Haven and he belongs on a denture billboard beside the highway with that smile of his. His last name starts with an L or a K but it doesn’t matter to me. I only talk to him when my hairdryer is on or when I’m writing lists of relationships that bear the status of unavailable. 

We see each other twice a year, not always on the same date. With him chewing on an orange peel and me forgetting about the half-mermaid half-goat creature tattooed about his left hip. It’s a Capricorn sea-goat with strings of triangle patterns and horns that look like balloon art and could be twisted into a deformed puppy. 

I stopped dating two months ago and it’s driving me crazy. I tell myself it isn’t because of the way Haven laughs or how he used to kiss me when thunder burned scales of a dragon into the sky. Now, I’m having a hard time staying out of boredom’s way. I’ve made more lists but it won’t help anyone. 


  • When I’m lonely I’ll watch documentaries and pretend college did me any good with pencils tucked behind my ear.
  • When I’m lonely I’ll invite my neighbors over for a drink and a game of cards but I’ll only end up touching their wrinkled cheeks and talking about the faults of the queen of spades.
  • When I’m lonely I’ll sit in my bed with pastry crumbs and think about boys with the hint of strawberry toothpaste lingering in their breath and how they should fit into the unbreathing cages of a Polaroid picture.
  • When I’m lonely I’ll call Haven and I’ll meet him in a city.


And that’s exactly what I do. There is a rhyme and reason to why I’m driving down to Oakland at 8:30 in the morning but I couldn’t tell you. I blast ’90s music disguised by heavy lyrics and let the tail of my scarf swim through the wind. After a while I consider playing some Ed Sheeran because I know Haven likes him. But it’s all a waste of time so I focus on the railroads that skip parallelly and check my phone for missed texts. 

There aren’t any. Boredom is starting to take over so I think about pineapples that dance on the dashboards of cars, forever going back and forth like an annoying GIF. I make a mental list of things Haven would say if he had the decency to text me. After all, I’m driving an hour and a half to do some odd activity he’s planned for us. 


  • “It’s a date.”
  • “I love it, I love you.”
  • “The good old days.”


It’s these types of comments that shake me into sleepless nights under an empty moon and devouring all the contents of my mini fridge. We are only friends but have a rich history. I’d only dated him for the free meals and nights away from my scummy apartment. 

Polysemy is a single word to describe the comments. I watch Mickey Mouse cartoons on the weekends and do newspaper mache on Wednesdays but I’m not stupid. I know each text has multiple meanings and that Haven is trying to mess with my head. 

I arrive on time. The address is to an old building on the eastern side and has weeds sprouting at the toes of the pillars. Cracks in the pavement form hexagons like an old geometry quiz. At first I turn off the engine and think that I’ve arrived at the wrong place. 

But out of the corner of my eye I see Haven’s old white Toyota parked illegally on the sidewalk. He’s written outdated and inspirational quotes on it in Sharpie. Once he convinced me to do the same but all I wrote is “Write quotes on your car, said by Hayden,” just above the bumper in curly handwriting. 

Is it weird that I know every license plate to the car he’s ever had? Steady like the hard-edged print of a typewriter. 


  • R7Y KM0
  • XWF 198
  • G27 BE7


I pick at the scab on my forehead, creating moon craters in my skin, before gathering my purse and entering the building. Inside, it’s timeworn in every sense of the word. A greasy smell wafts from where dimming neon menus stipple the carpet and leather seats stay exhaling fluff onto the floor. 

To the left, there is a little restaurant that probably only serves hamburgers and french fries. It would be a problem because I’d be on a diet, but I let go of that when I let go of any romantic relationship with Haven. In front of me starts a smooth wooden floor that stretches about 150 feet into the distance. It almost looks new with its shiny peanut butter coat. On it, there stands people. 

Mostly people strapping velcro pads onto their elbows with pink hair and nose rings. Some of them wearing ponytails and others wearing collared shirts. But most importantly, behind them are large plastic balls, complete with clear cushions on the inside. And on the far end of the building, tall bowling pins stand eight feet high like skyscrapers under a jelly sky. 

There are some things I know and others I don’t. I don’t see Haven so I have to fill the time. 


  • Haven loves me?
  • I love Haven?
  • I want to be more than friends?
  • It's not actually spring yet?
  • Did he invite me to go human bowling?
  • What is human bowling?


“What’re you writing?” 

I look up to see him, walking from the restaurant, eyes twinkling and hands in his jacket pockets. He looks hunched like a stone statue in a storm. My lips twist, barely forming a half-smile. We don’t hug. 

“Nothing.” I hide my inked wrist in the safety of my sleeve. 

Haven has shaved his head since the last time. There is still some hair left, but it’s uneven, like running your head over unmowed grass in front of an abandoned house. I like it, but I miss his old hair that pastes to his face in ripples. 

I hook my arm through his, “So, human bowling?” 

He leads me back into the restaurant and places me at a booth. Laughter trickles out from behind his palm. “You recognize it?” 

“No, no,” I say, spreading my hands out on the table. It’s slimy and some brown guck gets stuck under my fingers. “I just guessed after seeing the pins and people with concussion pads.” 

Haven cracks his knuckles and sighs. “I’m sorry, okay? It’s been a new hobby of mine and I’ve been practicing it a lot. I just thought you’d want to try it.” 

The fluorescent lights flash in my eyes and mind spins like a merry-go-round. Haven really did bring me to go human bowling? I don’t even know what it is but I already hate it. 

A noise splinters deep in my throat. Kind of like a giggle but molded into something else. “It’s like I’m the only one trying at this relationship.” I’d rather be anywhere else so I dash out of the double doors and back into my locked car. There’s extra receipts in the compartments so I start scribbling. 


  • I’d rather be in my office at my apartment, imagining I’m working with my feet propped up on the desk and a generous amount of wine twirling in between my fingers.
  • I’d rather be the ace of spades in a red world, being bent in all directions.
  • I’d rather be at a dinner in the center of town, a horizon of candles prancing over melting wax, and Haven’s beautiful face in front of me.


Yet here I am, curled up in the passenger seat of my car, forcing crocodile tears out of my eyes. I’m about to take out the keys but Haven knocks softly on the window, his breath beating against it. I roll it down and face away. My head still feels like a balloon caught on a string. 

“I’m sorry,” he swallows, leaning his shoulders onto the side of the car. “I didn’t know that’s what you wanted.” 

“It’s fine,” I cleaned my face with the back of my hand, “I shouldn’t’ve overreacted.” I thought it was a date

Haven scratches the side of his face, the nails drawing skin into white lines. “I’m going to go back in and play a round of bowling. Come join me when you can, okay?” 

I nod, tangling tissues on the tips of my fingers and watching the box throw up more into my hand. He walks away, back into the building, his face down. 

Haven’s favorite hobbies:


  • Human bowling
  • Breaking hearts


This list stays in my pocket. For a few minutes I weigh my options. I don’t want to make Haven happy anymore. I want him to hurt as my clock clicks its tongue. I wonder absentmindedly if he knows the others in there. It seems to be some sort of gathering where every person is interested in a non-existent sport. 

I’ve made up my mind. I slip out my car and shut the door with a bang. The doors of the building open with a hiss, but suddenly I see him. He’s trapped in a plastic bubble like a hamster on a wheel, a smile dotted onto his chin. The teens grind their teeth and push him towards the pins. The pins stand like soldiers on the far end, tall and unmoving. 

My breath tries to wiggle in my throat. He knocks over eight out of ten pins. The people cheer, waving their arms in the air, and Haven gets right back up from the floor. He’s beaming. 

I can’t control myself and so I whistle. The sound vibrates against my teeth and echoes through the room. I exit yet again when everyone turns to see where the noise came from. Haven just wanted me to try it, his hobby, that he loves. I lay back into the leather seat of my car and think of the flip-flop inside my chest. 

And so I write him an explanation. 


  • I should’ve told you that I loved you from a distance.
  • I should’ve told you that I didn’t think it’d work out.
  • I should’ve told you that we shouldn’t see each other anymore.


I should’ve driven away a long time ago. And so I do. 

I only get fear of being alone in the spring, or at least that’s my lie. 

January 27, 2021 17:08

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48 comments

Scout Tahoe
17:10 Jan 27, 2021

Did you know I wrote 7 drafts before finally writing one I thought was okay? But it's not okay, it's terrible. Don't read it. Sorry I couldn't get it out sooner. I'll be catching up on missed stories soon. :)

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Salma Jarir
20:27 Jan 27, 2021

I think it was greaat ,don't overthink urself dear!!!

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Scout Tahoe
03:27 Jan 28, 2021

:)

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A.Dot Ram
06:34 Jan 29, 2021

No, I loved this! It hurt me.

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Scout Tahoe
14:20 Jan 29, 2021

Thank you, I'm very glad you liked it--not one of my best though. I hope you're posting today? I can't wait to read. :)

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A.Dot Ram
17:44 Jan 30, 2021

Thanks for saying this. It's part of the reason I ran away from home yesterday and wrote from my car in the fading sunlight, parked around the corner from the Indian restaurant where I picked up dinner, and ended up with just enough to go on Reedsy. Knowing someone wants to read it helps me write during tough weeks. This piece was not bad. I think the lists added an interesting rhythm and built the story. I got a little confused at the end, whether she was in the human bowling alley or her car (or the transition between), but the conflict yo...

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Scout Tahoe
18:02 Jan 30, 2021

Because that’s the reason I kicked off my shoes and hid under the covers of my bed. I tied shoe laces around my fingers and cursed myself for not writing. I thought of Anne in her sunshine car, eating Indian food, and learning to write until her hand aches. It’s a silly concept. I cannot wait to read. Saving time today.

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A.Dot Ram
18:35 Jan 30, 2021

So many times writing till my hand aches! Gotta do what's necessary.

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10:52 Jan 30, 2021

Wow.... I would love to read longer pieces by you! Your just.... fabulous in writing, never stop!

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Julie Ward
02:05 Jan 31, 2021

Your stories are always so mesmerising, Scout. This one reminds me - for some reason - of that show Mr. Robot. Just your freestyle way of describing things; dingy places, cars, lists, scribbles on pieces of paper, the strange, outsized hobby. I see all of it. It makes sense. It's sad and real and fantastical. It's not terrible, Scout. It's good. I felt the same way about my story this week - I posted it out of frustration, but at least it's posted. I've smoothed it out a bit and It's better now...ugh.

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Scout Tahoe
02:40 Jan 31, 2021

Yes, I feel like I feel it all the time. Thank you so much, Julie. I've read yours and will be commenting soon! So good.

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Waverley Stark
06:41 Feb 03, 2021

This was fantastic! The intro was what really hooked me, especially since I know what autophobia is; my cousin suffered from it for years. I thought the list thing was a really interesting way to write the story and keep it moving, and I was curious about your main character-- she seems so afraid of the world! You did an incredible job and the seven drafts were worth it.

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Scout Tahoe
14:16 Feb 03, 2021

Haha, I could disagree about the seven drafts, but thank you so much. :) Hopefully you'll be posting soon?

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Waverley Stark
08:23 Feb 04, 2021

Working on it. ;) Can't wait to see something new from you too.

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Scout Tahoe
14:12 Feb 04, 2021

Well, not anymore this week sadly. :)

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15:11 Feb 02, 2021

Nicely done! Two characters, each with their own agendas that conflict with one another. You allow them to remain authentic to themselves, each in their own little world and neither placating the other. This is a very gratifying cause for tension in the piece, because we understand where it is coming from and why it will not be resolved. All of which allows our focus to remain with the emotional arc of our protagonist/narrator, who uses fascinating language and relays unique and interesting details in a disjointed voice that surprises while...

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Scout Tahoe
04:10 Feb 03, 2021

Thank you. What a lovely comment.

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Enyi Nnabuihe
00:17 Jan 31, 2021

Oh my this was such an incredible read 🎗️💙

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Zilla Babbitt
23:30 Jan 30, 2021

I absolutely love the formats you use for your stories. They make everything so very unique and that makes me sit up and pay attention to what you have to say. As usual, vivid and beautiful and wistful. The ending echoes the beginning in a perfect way. I hope I see that shortlist or winning banner within a week on this. It would be greatly deserved.

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Scout Tahoe
16:47 Feb 06, 2021

Thank you!

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12:15 Jan 29, 2021

Hiii!!!! Please share my story "Snow Flower" with everyone you know here, I'd like to win the contest so I can buy something beautiful for my mother!

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N. N.
06:28 Jan 29, 2021

Ooh, I liked this a lot. It was really gripping, from the very first line, to the protagonist who inked lists onto her wrists. The way you connected the beginning to the ending-- there's something really deep about it, though I can't put my finger on it, yet. Love the title, too; sounds breathtakingly serene.

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Scout Tahoe
14:21 Jan 29, 2021

Thank you so much, Neha!

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Amaya .
01:57 Jan 29, 2021

Hey Scout! I was wondering if you could read my story and critique it really hard, because I'd value feedback from a writer like you if you have the time :) As for this story, I feel like the lists just brought that extra thing that made this so perfect. Good job on it, as always. I could go on forever with compliments for your writing, honestly Scout.

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Scout Tahoe
03:58 Jan 29, 2021

Hey, Thank you. Heading over now!

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Amaya .
04:46 Jan 29, 2021

I also forgot to tell you this, and also didn't feel the need to tell you because I'm sure you've gotten tons of comments before, but I love your imagery a lot. Especially in your last story, "Sole". The descriptions in the beginning were beautiful. How do you think of descriptions like that? Do they come naturally when your writing, or do they come at other times and you save them, whether in your brain or write it down somewhere?

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Scout Tahoe
14:16 Jan 29, 2021

Thank you! I actually do both, but mostly they just pop up for me. Yours are fantastic, you know.

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Amaya .
16:38 Jan 29, 2021

yeah i try to write down any i think of or store them somewhere in the scramble of words that is my brain thanks :)

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11:03 Jan 28, 2021

This is what I got from your story: Two friends. One has had her heart broken only recently but has feelings for the other. More like a distant love. The other, Haven, doesn't know that. They are just friends, right? In this piece, you can tell that there's hesitation in the lines. You can tell that the protag is tired of being in the background. She wants love but can't get it with him so running away might seem like the best option. The scene where she runs to her car and begins to cry didn't go too well with me. I'm taking this piece like...

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Scout Tahoe
14:14 Jan 28, 2021

I can take out the car scene if you want. It's not there to make her look weak, I just needed her to somehow be in her car for other things to happen. :) Thank you, Abi.

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Genevieve Taylor
04:24 Jan 28, 2021

Good job, as always :))) I really loved all the lists in this one, and it added so much to the story. Especially liked how you had her writing on her wrist. Thank you for this one, it really was wonderful to read.

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Scout Tahoe
04:28 Jan 28, 2021

Thank you so much!

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Maya W.
22:10 Jan 27, 2021

Hi Scout! So, I really liked this one, but found the format, while creative, a bit confusing. That's my only really critique, though. I could go on and on complimenting your writing, but I'm not gonna do that because you've heard it all before. So, just know you did an amazing job.

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Scout Tahoe
03:26 Jan 28, 2021

Hm, I don’t have much time. How should I fix it? Thank you.

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Maya W.
14:08 Jan 28, 2021

Honestly, I'm not sure. You might want to just leave it.

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Hey Scout! I actually think that the numbers in this story was pretty creative of you. The Latin numerals are a very nice touch to the story. Great job Scout! Always excited to read your stories! :)

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Scout Tahoe
18:01 Jan 27, 2021

:) Thank you.

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Of course, Scout. ;)

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. .
17:17 Jan 27, 2021

This was great!! I think the numbers were a little unruly and confusing, so maybe try to make that cleaner, but it was legit amazing.

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Scout Tahoe
17:18 Jan 27, 2021

Thanks! How should I fix the numbers?

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. .
17:24 Jan 27, 2021

You repeat a lot of numbers, so I would try to either indent the numbers to make it clearer which parts are lists and which aren't.

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Scout Tahoe
18:00 Jan 27, 2021

Okay!

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. .
18:05 Jan 27, 2021

:D

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Scout Tahoe
18:44 Jan 27, 2021

So I changed it....

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