Romance Fiction Contemporary

This story contains sensitive content

CW: This story is about a jealous, petty man with themes of stalking 

I’m on Instagram. She is too. I can see she’s online. I check her status probably ten times a day. When she’s online, I’m upset that she’s not there to look at me, pay attention to me. When she’s not online, I wonder what she’s doing. The mind can be quite creative when thinking of what a loved one is doing without them. 

She left me about six weeks ago. Apparently it’s because I’m too needy, too demanding of her and her time. It seems that “It’s because I love you” isn’t valid reasoning. Not for her anyway. Maybe she doesn’t want to be loved. 

I think the real reason is I’m too much of a nice guy. By nice guy, I mean nothing guy. There is nothing to me. I’ve got no edge. I don’t have any status. I’m not rich or charismatic. I’m slight in stature. I’ve never done anything that impressed anyone or made people take notice. I think she wants someone bolder, braver, a swashbuckler, a person of note. That’s not what I am. I just want someone to love. 

But then, just when I convince myself I’m the innocent party, the reality hits me again. I’m sitting here, staring at her Instagram again, like a stalker. I don’t feel like a stalker, but I’m behaving like one. I don’t think I’m the type of person to behave this way. But this is how I’m behaving. 

I don’t even know what I want from all this. I don’t want her back, that’s for sure. She’s gone, it was her decision, and that’s fine. I just feel like I need answers, closure. I need her to know that she was wrong. I can accept her leaving, but she needs to know that it was a mistake. The little green dot next to her profile picture is still there. She’s still online. It’s time to bring my idea to life. 

In the past, you had to impress people by word of mouth or chance sightings. If you had a new Rolex or a flash car, you’d have to wait for other people to see them. Now, that’s not the case. Now, you can shove it in the faces of everyone in an instant. It takes less than a minute to make an Instagram story about your new purchase, new body, new partner. Within seconds, hundreds of people can see your newfound glory.

For me, it’s not hundreds. I have 87 followers. If half of them see it, I’m happy. Well, not even that. There’s only one person I want to see, and it’s her. The 86 others can do what they like. I just need to show her that I’m better than she thought I was. 

I can feel the questions bubbling. I can hear invisible readers asking them. You want to know what I did to impress her. What change could a nothing person like me possibly make to impress a goddess like her? 

Have you ever been into someone’s terrible kitchen and thought less of them because of it? You go in, look around at their dated décor and lack of modern technology, and you judge them. They still make coffee using instant powder and a kettle? Poor them. They wash their dishes by hand as if it were the stone age? That must be hard. They buy bread from a supermarket rather than have a household machine do it for them? Oh, the unimaginable poverty. 

I am one of those people. My kitchen is terrible. The surfaces are an awful green colour as if covered in a thick coat of moss. Above them, covering the fat-stained wall, is disgusting pale orange tiling. The ceiling was once white but is no longer. I can’t describe what colour it is now. It’s just not white anymore. I have a small sink, which barely holds a single load of washing up. My fridge would be better suited to a hotel room than an adult’s living space. It does not even fill the space allotted for it in its nook. A kettle and some mismatched crockery, cutlery and utensils make up the rest of my kitchen arsenal. 

The kitchen I just described to you is a thing of the past. Today, I have upgraded it. The credit card that I never used is now over its limit. I am in debt. My local kitchen goods emporium, I am delighted to say, is significantly richer. 

I do not have a car. I never learned to drive. Perhaps that’s part of why she left me. She didn’t want to hang around with some bus-dwelling failure. I didn’t care. Nevertheless, I needed to receive my goods quickly. She needs to know that I’m somebody, somebody with a fancy kitchen. Not only does she need to know, she needs to know now, today. 

The store did delivery but not until next week. I called my local men with vans, but none were available at short notice. It was no bother. I would collect the goods myself.

What did I buy, you ask? I bought a new fridge. It’s a giant shining fridge freezer with a built-in ice dispenser and smart temperature controls that you can monitor through an app on your phone. I got a dishwasher. It’s a tabletop one because there’s no room elsewhere. Still, it’s an impressive contraption. No longer will I scrub dishes with a bacteria-ridden sponge. I purchased a coffee machine. Bean to cup. In-built milk-frothing technology. Barista-style coffee whenever I want it. I bought a bread-making machine. Thirty-seven different types of loaf at my fingertips each morning. The new pots and pans I bought have a lifetime guarantee. I will die before they do. 

How could anybody not be impressed by this? I am a loser no longer. No loser could ever have such a well-funded kitchen. Surely, they couldn’t. I have not been able to remedy the horrible green surface and orange tiles yet. Even they will look better when surrounded by my new contraptions. 

My only problem, as I mentioned, was transport. Getting the goods home was the final snag before my redemption in the mind of my loved one. Really, though, there was no snag. I went to a DIY store and bought a trolley. It was a high-quality sack truck. I would simply load my goods onto it, stacked nice and neatly, and drag the items up the hill two miles to my house. It was an impregnable plan, which also saved me on delivery costs. 

I was already sweating when I arrived at the kitchen emporium. Not an ideal start. The delightful shop assistant directed me to my goods, which had already been put to one side. 

“Would you like help loading them onto your trolley, sir?” she asked sweetly and politely.

“Do I look like I need help?” I retorted with an unnecessary lack of manners. Clearly, she thought I needed help. I obviously did not look like enough of a man to load my own fridge onto a sack truck. 

She remained polite, “No, it’s just the items you’ve bought are rather heavy. For safety, they normally take two people to lift.”

“That’s two normal people,” I said, “I’m not a normal person.”

She gave me a look that I felt indicated she already knew I was not a normal person. “Okay, well, you know where our staff are if you need anything.”

She took a step back but, to my surprise, didn’t leave. She stood and watched, waiting for the display of strength that I had promised. In short, I couldn’t lift the fridge by myself. I told myself that it was because my fingers couldn’t get any purchase on the slippery cardboard packaging. The truth was much more straightforward. I was too weak. I’ve had a gym membership for six years. My attendances are as infrequent as once a year. 

The girl watched and smirked slightly. I could tell what she was thinking. I dared not catch her gaze. The burning shame might have incinerated me. I think her amusement at my predicament must have turned into a humiliating pity. Because, without saying anything, she shuffled over to me and assisted me in loading the fridge onto the sack truck. We accomplished the task in no time at all. In an almost patronising fashion, she let me load the other items on and fasten them in place by myself, like a parent allowing their child complete a menial task for a sense of accomplishment. 

Nevertheless, I felt accomplished. Far from humiliated, my determination was back. The girl had helped me even though I had snarled at her not to. I felt like she understood me. She knew that I was not the swashbuckling man that others are. Yet, despite that, she felt compelled to complete that task with me. 

Perhaps I was looking at the situation in too much detail. After all, it was her job to help me load the items. But I had asked her not to, and she did anyway. It was obvious to me. This was the sort of girl who I wanted, not the girl who had left me just a few weeks before. 

“Excuse me,” I said to her after we finished the job, “I just wanted to say thank you. I didn’t want to ask for help. The fact that you helped anyway. Well, it’s just amazing.”

She shrugged, “We’d have got sued if you hurt yourself.”

She walked away to another customer and began to assist them as faithfully as she had assisted me. Of course, there was no humanity in the world, just the possibility of legal action. All kind acts these days must be to avoid legal action or to obtain material wealth. She had managed to do both. 

A new wave of determination washed over me. The brief idea that the world was caring and understanding had disappeared. The drive to become a dominant person, someone with status and importance, had returned. The drive had not brought strength with it. I remained too weak to manoeuvre the sack truck. 

I heaved and strained every muscle to tilt the trolley in my direction. I could feel the muscle fibres in my arms and back tearing. Good, I thought, this could be the start of a new muscular physique. I don’t know how it happened or how I managed to summon the strength, but after a good few minutes of pulling, the truck tipped over to a 45-degree angle, ready to be pulled home. 

One success often brings another. Once the truck had tipped, confidence in my strength returned. I started to drag the truck. At first, it almost trickled along. I took a step maybe every three seconds. But momentum was on my side. Blood flowed to my muscles, and I heaved the truck along. 

By the time I reached my home, I felt like a character from a Greek myth. People would be talking about my legendary exploits for years to come. I would be a beacon of masculinity, renowned for brawn. 

Throughout the early afternoon, I managed to unbox and assemble everything myself. It was all together. The fridge stood tall in its gap, which it filled almost proudly. The dishwasher reflected the sun, making the room brighter. The coffee machine was ready to make me the finest dark elixir. 

Having taken one quick trip out to purchase some coffee beans, I surveyed my creation with nothing but pride. How could she not regret leaving a man who had created all of this? I had proven to myself not just that she was wrong about me but that I was actually something different to what I always thought. I was a real man. Not a loser, not someone to be discarded.

I felt like I didn’t even need to show off my new kitchen. The accomplishment of putting it together was enough. I didn’t need validation from anyone, not least from her. 

But then, maybe it was not just about validation. Maybe it was about revenge, too. I didn’t need her to know she had made a mistake. I needed her to regret making it. She needed to be upset that she threw away a man with such a fantastic kitchen. Yes, I would still post my triumphant Instagram story. Why shouldn’t I?

I posted it a few hours ago now. It entailed me videoing myself taking milk out of the fridge, making a coffee using the machine, and then putting the empty mug in the dishwasher. I tagged it all with #newkitchen #baller. 

I waited for her to see it. I’ve been waiting for hours now. She’s been online almost the whole time. The green dot next to her face is mocking me. I know she is sitting at home, looking at Instagram. So why won’t she look at my story? Why won’t she take the time to catch up on what I’ve been doing? We were together for so long. Doesn’t she care? 

Yes, saying that now, that is the answer, isn’t it? She just doesn’t care. There is no revenge. She has no regret. For either to happen, she would need to care. 

August 05, 2022 10:29

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