“She liked him but didn’t know how to express it. There were days where they talked for hours, talked about nothing, and she enjoyed herself. He enjoyed himself, too. They never fell in love.”
TRIGGER WARNING: DEPICTIONS OF TELEVISED SALMON FISHING!
1. She liked him but didn’t know how to express it. There were days where they talked for hours, talked about nothing, and she enjoyed herself. He enjoyed himself, too. They never fell in love.
2. He didn’t want his friends to know that he had just discovered this one cool new band. What if they had discovered this band first? So when he talked to them, he acted as if he’d known about the band for years. His act wasn’t very convincing.
3. He worked across from her in the small office. He listened to her stories, laughed at her jokes, and let her cry on his shoulder. He was downsized; she married someone else.
4. Their marriage lasted for thirty years, but none of those years were particularly pleasant. The husband supposedly had a good job, but did he really? It seemed like they were always having money problems. The wife hated her husband and cheated on him. No one discovered her indiscretions. The husband didn’t hate his wife but cheated on her anyway. He was caught in the act by a private detective, and to this day his children think of him as a villain.
5. The young couple bought a dog together. The dog was too large for their apartment and caused them a lot of problems. They complained to their friends about the dog, complaints that annoyed their friends because the couple had brought this trouble on themselves. After a while, their friends stopped hanging out with them. By then they were an older couple and didn’t need friends as much. It wasn’t a big loss.
6. His best friend from middle school committed suicide last week. A note had been left behind, and in it the best friend explained that he had an unrequited crush on his old classmate. This made his best friend’s death more poignant, but not by as much as one might have expected.
7. A loud, obnoxious guy threw his arm around some other guy’s shoulder. He kept talking about something that didn’t make a lot of sense. The rest of the evening was ruined for that other guy, but the next day he won a sweepstakes so in all honesty it came out even.
8. The old car had sat in the garage, unused, for as long as anyone could remember. It was a collector’s item, which meant one couldn’t ever drive it. If it were to be driven so much as a single mile, it would lose all of its Kelley Blue Book value. At least that’s what the miser who owned the car thought, and his life was so sad and empty that no one begrudged him this point.
9. She moved into this hip neighborhood that she’d heard so much about. It had some trendy bars and a repertory theater. People smoked bidis and talked about how debased the culture had become. After a few months of living there, she had wearied of that lifestyle. She had also contracted a venereal disease, but it remains unclear whether those developments were related.
10. He figured that “coming out” would be a great way to revive his flagging music career. Nobody had mentioned his name for at least a decade, but he had once been a sex symbol so maybe this decision would turn a few heads. It didn’t, though, and what made it worse was that he wasn’t even gay.
11. It had taken him a long time to get to the top of the corporate hierarchy, and his suicide caught everybody by surprise. His wife and three children spent the rest of their lives talking about this event as if it were one of history’s greatest tragedies. Meanwhile, all sorts of other terrible things happened, things that were far worse than this man’s suicide, yet those four people never took notice of them.
12. He was a professional athlete who had sex with lots of different women, and after these dalliances came to light the media pilloried him. If an intrepid journalist had bothered to dig deeper, he or she would have discovered that the professional athlete had been molested by both of his parents. This piece of information never surfaced, which is often how it works in such complicated situations, and the professional athlete was laughed out of town.
13. The priest had led a blameless life and was ready to die. He had wanted to have children of his own, and not having them was his biggest regret. He concluded during his final moments that he had wasted his life, but don’t we all?
14. She was steaming mad when she found out that her favorite colleges had rejected her. She had applied to all of the top schools and her life depended on the outcome of this admissions process. She wound up attending a small state college, but continued to wear apparel emblazoned with the logos of those other, better schools. It never occurred to her that she hadn’t been smart enough to make the cut.
15. She was never out of a relationship, not even for a second. As soon as one guy needed to go, she had another one ready to take his place. She didn’t want to have any empty frames in her life, and who could blame her? Her childhood had been difficult and she was needy, so it happened that her heart was always broken, broken, broken.
16. He lived alone because he was afraid of other people. It was that simple, but he wouldn’t admit it to himself. Sometimes girls slept over, but they never got close to him. In one sense he was a catch, because he had everything going for him, but in another, more important sense he wasn’t, because he didn’t.
17. This one real wallflower of a sorority sister wanted to disappear. A career as a librarian got her halfway to that goal, but it wasn’t enough. One time, during some kind of personal pan pizza book-reading promotion, a news reporter interviewed her. She stammered out a few answers, then rushed home to watch the broadcast of her performance. What disappointment: On the small screen, tiny as life, she was still there.
18. The waitress had a tendency to fall for the wrong people—“bad boys” and the like. It didn’t matter if they were wrong for her, because it all felt so right. This was nonsense, yet it was nonsense that most people could understand. Nothing ever went right for her and she was consistently miserable, but at least she had a good excuse.
19. The teenager developed a strange kind of religious enthusiasm because he thought that religion held answers for him. Why had these bad things happened to him? Why did he cry himself to sleep at night? The more he read, the more he came to realize his insignificance. His modest pains and sacrifices paled in comparison the passions of the saints. Soon he knew that he didn’t matter, at least not to some distant and forgotten God, and that comforting notion allowed him to focus on the rest of his life.
Illustration by Zach Jordan, a university-trained comic artist based out of Columbus, Ohio. For information about commissioning an original piece from Zach, please visit his webpage or follow him on Facebook.