Drunk Answering

He had a crush on my friend Sarah, though she couldn’t stand to be around him. He phoned one night when I was drunk and immediately accepted my completely insincere invitation to visit—meaning I spent the better part of a good weekend kicking myself whilst trying to distract him from the fact that he was being brutally rebuffed.

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Stipulations

The will the old woman left behind clearly specified that if any of the objects in her home were moved from the way in which she had originally positioned them, the museum established in her name would lose funding from her heirs and be dissolved. After the night of the art theft, the curators determined that if they hoped to keep the museum open, they had no choice but to leave the empty frames on the walls interspersed with the remaining works.

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Guilt

He gave up chocolate every year for lent. Often, he would spend his mornings feeling guilty without knowing why until he suddenly remembered a dream from the night before in which he’d shamelessly gorged on M&Ms or Godiva or brownies.

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Cheap Excuse

Aimee’s friend approached her months after the funeral, apologizing profusely: “I’m so sorry, because I wanted to be there for you, but I just couldn’t make myself go.” “Yeah,” Aimee replied coolly, “I didn’t really want to go, either.”

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Taste

Just once, he wanted to see a realistic, honest cooking show. The host would taste the final product and instead of always saying, “Uuuuuum—delicious,” they might every now and then say, “Well, it’s usually a bit better than that,” or “Hmm, that one’s a little off, but a tad less curry, and you’ll be fine.”

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Choices

She was tired of beating around the bush in a phone call that had lasted too long. Finally she told him, “Pick your choices, because you’re either insensitive and careless, a sadistic asshole or just afraid and embarrassed—but which one is it?”

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Peripheral

When was the first time I laid eyes on you and noticed? That last part is crucial, as I feel you were fluttering around me for awhile before I connected that sensation I was being watched with the exact pair of eyes that were watching me.

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Neurosis

She couldn’t stop going back over certain things she’d done—persecuting herself, and then forgiving herself again by turns. It felt as though she were free-falling through an abyss of self-analysis.

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Rugs

The doctor diagnosed him as being anxious about anxiety. “If there’s nothing to worry about,” she said, “you’ll worry about what to worry about, or wonder what it is you should be worrying about so you don’t get the rug pulled out from under you later.”

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Philosophy of Potential

These two things are at war: the desire to be settled, established, accomplished in life, the satisfaction of having realized one’s potential in life and then the fear of being trapped, having squandered that potential, or at least simple disgust at the structuring of life that you could only realize one of your potential selves; and then people make you feel so small because they think that’s who you are, your identity, when really you know you could’ve been so many things. You make possibility reality, and there’s comfort in that; but there’s also a sense of loss: what was dynamic has, in a way, become static.

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Old Habits

She had a tendency to learn about problems she couldn’t solve and stress herself out over them, and so she decided it was best to take on a job she didn’t really care about in order to decompress for awhile. The result was that she still got stressed—only now it was about things that were completely meaningless and absurd.

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Afterthought

Sometimes, with a warm kind of gratitude to no one and nothing in particular, I think to myself, “This is so comfortable!” But then I am haunted by the momentary afterthought that the comfort of this, for me, cannot last.

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Wishful Thinking

She knew the man who broke her heart would be at her best friend’s wedding, and she wished to God she could show up with a fabulous Romanian fiancé of obscure royal descent who would give her ex the evil eye and dance too close to her at the reception. An unfortunate booking accident at the local hotel would have them staying next door to each other, and the ex would toss and turn for several miserable hours trying to ignore the animal screams of ecstasy audible through the paper-thin walls.

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