Hey guys! It’s Annie again, back for our Friday column of The New Classics. Since my internship here at Art + Deco is coming to a close, I wanted to give you a more personal post. Today, I’ll bare my creative endeavors for you, and show you all a silly little short story I wrote about the horrors of Tinder going a little bit too far.
I don’t mean to call my own work a New Classic, necessarily, but more to question what that really means. To me, the New Classic title doesn’t have to do with being established or acclaimed in any way. It is about writing about the modern world, understanding it through a critical lens and illuminating disparity and discomfort in a way that helps a reader learn something new.
So, young writers, take this as a call to action — write, edit, get published! Writing is hard work, but a piece you are proud of is so gratifying. It is writers like you and I that will redefine a new generation of classic literature, so let’s put pen to paper. Let’s not focus on all the obstacles in our way. Let’s take creativity into our own hands and create something with humor, beauty, and gravitas.
And without further ado, here is a snippet of my own writing. Enjoy!
Mary spends her last moments in the office hunched over in a decrepit swivel chair swiping through Tinder. The faux leather of the seat wears thin, leaving scraps on the back of her sweater when she leans forward. She absently peels the pieces as she swipes left, then right, then left again.
It’s not that she’s looking for anything serious, she likes to clarify. It’s not that she’s lonely. It’s mostly just that she’s bored. It’s a new city, a big city, and she hasn’t been here for long. Something about swiping through all these anonymous faces makes it seem almost approachable. It seems quantifiable. It’s comforting, so she continues to swipe.
The next time Mary looks up, the clock reads 5:23, so she shuts down the app and packs her things. She rubs her spine as she exits the office, thinking, “I need to learn to sit up straighter.”
It begins to pour as soon as she steps outside, the gray skies a mirror to the concrete landscape. Mary reaches into her tote, fumbling around for her umbrella. As she wrestles it open, one of the spires breaks and snaps back down to poke her in the eye. She shouts and, by impulse, she presses her palm to the inflicted area.
A man jogging by trips over himself when he hears her high-pitched shriek. He wrings out the hem of his shirt as he approaches.
“Are you alright?”
“Yeah. Yeah, I’m fine.”
“Is it your eye?”
“Let me take a look.”
He guides her hand away from her brow, which is pink from the slap of the spire. He grazes his finger across her skin, then looks at her more closely, considering. “Hey, you look really familiar.”
“Yeah.” He thinks for a moment. “Yeah, I think we matched on Tinder.” She giggles, and he lets out a laugh in response. “Would you want to grab a drink?”
Her cheeks blush for a moment, but she’s busy, she reminds herself. “I don’t think I can tonight. I really have to get home.”
In an instant, his eyes blacken. He looks pale, more gaunt, and though Mary blames the change on a denser cloud’s obstruction of the sun, she does not believe herself. Something has rotted inside him.
She begins to back away when his spindly fingers latch onto her wrist. “Come on, baby. Let’s get a drink.” The words seep through his teeth, a hiss, a curse.
She pulls her hand back and sprints away, but he does not follow her. In fact, she doesn’t even see him standing there anymore. Continued on his jog, she thinks, or hopes.
Mary rounds the corner and ducks under the awning of a quaint little corner store. Sal’s, it’s called. She catches her breath, lets her knees bend a little, grips the straps of her bag with white knuckles. A little bell above the door jingles as someone walks out. When she looks up, Mary jolts at the sight of the mustachioed man beside her.
“Are you alright, miss?”
“Oh, I’m fine.”
“It’s really coming down out here.”
“Yeah, it’s been bad this week”
“Do you need an umbrella?” Before she can respond, he rushes inside. He grabs one off the shelf, then tears the price tag off as he holds it out for her.
“Are you Sal, then?” she asks, and he nods. “Lucky guess.”
“Yes. And you must be Mary.”
“Mary, isn’t it?”
“Yeah, I–” she breaks off. “Sorry, I don’t remember faces well. Have we met before?”
“No, not really.”
“I think we matched on Tinder.”
His eyes go black. Her face goes white. A bus rolls up beside them, screeching to drown out the man’s demand for a date. Mary’s eyes dart over and back, calculating, begging the road for an easy exit. Just before the man can reach out and grab her, Mary ducks out of his grasp. She slips onto the bus, and the doors slam shut as she turns her gaze outside the window. He’s gone, maybe back in the store, but before she can get a good look, the bus hauls off.
Mary walks down the center aisle, drawing her eyes past the faces in the seats beside her. Each one a man, ogling her, undressing her, looking all too familiarly into her eyes, or past them.
“Ooh, girl,” one of them howls. She darts her eyes away.
“You are one cute bitch,” another says, and the two men beside him snicker.
Leering stares follow her as she finds a place to stand. Her skin grows cold. It crawls as she feels the collective gaze upon her, watching her, hunting her. She begins to hear them whisper. She hears her name on their tongues.
“Mary. Mary, Mary, Mary.”
The whispers get louder. Her heart beats faster as the bus pummels down the road. She keeps her eyes to the ground as long as she can, but soon the buzzing of the men around her forces her attention. She looks up. Faces illuminated by blue light, all staring down, swiping. Right and left and right again, manically, in unison.
They all stop at once. They turn their phones to face her, but she dares not face them back. She yanks the wire down, begging to stop the bus, again and again until it screeches to a halt and the doors swing open. As she takes her first step down the stairs, the driver grabs her shoulder. She stops and swings her head around.
“Hey, you’ve got a real cute thing going. No wonder you got all those matches.”
She follows his gesture with her gaze, slowly turning to the hoard behind her. Each phone reflects her own face, framed and curated, haunting her. Her profile, in the hands of thirty men, abusive, filthy hands. In strangers’ hands. Black eyes and their faces grow thin.
She throws herself out the door, and lands with her knees on the sidewalk.
Mary picks herself up and sprints home. She can’t remember when she started to cry. Her tears begin to blend with the slap of the pouring rain, the sweat dripping down her neck. She stops at her door, letting her shoulder dig into the glass as she punches her code into the sparking keypad.
She runs into the stairwell, lugging her limbs up four flights of stairs. She throws herself up the top step and reaches into her pocket. Her trembling fingers can barely grip the key as she slides it in the lock.
The door beside her swings open. A man in flannel pajamas says, “Hey, neighbor!”
“You’re not my neighbor,” she hisses, fumbling the key and dropping it.
He grins. “Let me grab that for you.”
“No!” she wails, and stomps her foot on the key, narrowly missing his fingers beneath it.
The man grunts, and his hand snaps out to grip her neck. Fingers tighten, her breaths grow shallow. “That wasn’t very neighborly of you.” She trembles, his palm crushing her neck against the wall.
Then he looks closer. And with his mouth only inches from hers, he whispers, “Hey. Didn’t we match on Tinder?”
Her vision goes dark as she swings her knee into his groin. His hand releases as she shrieks and grabs the key from the floor. It slips into the lock and she throws herself through the door.
Silence. The chill of the steel walls runs down her spine. After a few breaths of normalcy, Mary turns on the lights, takes off her shoes, wonders what to make for dinner. As she scans the shelves of her refrigerator, she thinks to herself, “God, I need to delete my Tinder.”
I’m Annie, a recent UC Berkeley grad and publicity intern here at Art + Deco Agency. I’ll be your resident blogger, chatting with and about emerging voices in the literary industry and getting you started on your summer reading list. Catch me here every Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday!