Loneliness. It’s an implosion that starts maybe two inches above your belly button and then spreads through your ribcage. A black hole that hoovers you in, atom by atom, like in those outer space specials you watched when you were growing up. You’d plunk yourself in front of the TV each Saturday morning and dream of worlds you couldn’t see but still believed in. Mom brought you multivitamins and peeled grapefruit. She does that now, even though you’re grown.
Grown, but at home.
You wake up and you’re caving in on yourself. Receding into a pinprick. You crave human contact. Time for your daily social media scroll. Stroll? No, not stroll. Scroll. You slough off the bedspread and reach for the phone on your end table. Your portal. Its inky surface reflects your face. With a press of the homescreen it flickers to life and you’re through the looking-glass, just like Alice. You thumb the photos down, down, down. A toddler in a bow tie, eating food he’s too young to enjoy. Girls leaping on a beach, arms akimbo (you were one of them, once). A pregnant woman in Warrior II pose. A loving couple. They’re play-acting. You know this because he told you. You felt his words against your ear, sticky and slurry with merlot. That doesn’t matter. No one else knows their marriage is an ongoing piece of performance art. They’re just another couple to scroll through. Next, an outstretched cat on the floor of a convenience store. No, a bodega. It’s New York. They’re called bodegas in New York.
You should know.
You lived there.
There’s someone’s new shoes. You used to buy shoes like those, with names you couldn’t pronounce. If you can’t pronounce it, you probably can’t afford it, Mom used to say. Back then you could afford them, so you bought them. You shouldn’t have, at least not so many. There’s a video of your college roommate. She’s on the news and wearing a suit in a color that reminds you of Easter and first ladies (but not our new one). Chatting about her startup to a tech zine. She calls herself girlboss with a hashtag prefix. You called her a lightweight. But her startup got funding and yours did not, so she’s going viral and you moved back home.
Here comes the food! Your favorite. Korean-style spicy squid. Lemon curd tarts with raspberry sorbet. Truffle pizza. The hollowed (hallowed? No, hollowed) shell of a sea urchin, scraped clean of its golden bounty. Tacos! You love tacos (and transgressively so, especially given the current political climate). Your gut reminisces of smoky mole and carnitas and the tanginess of cotija cheese on a corn (never flour) tortilla. But your parents’ two-bed-three-bath Colonial is about twenty miles outside of Hartford, and there are no tacos here. They exist only through the window of your phonescreen, like the rest of them. And you cannot eat plastic.
Alexis Lamb was born in Florida, received her law degree from University of Texas, and has lived in Hong Kong, New York, Los Angeles, Austin TX, and (most recently) South Florida. She is a writer and corporate attorney whose nonfiction has been featured in ThoughtCatalog and Ms JD. She has never published a work of fiction. When not writing, Alexis enjoys travel, particularly to Asia (where her mother is from), and distance running.