When I booted up my computer and opened the web browser, the last thing I expected to see was a Facebook friend request from my estranged father. It’s been 13 years since I rubbed my eyes and witnessed him dash out of my life, his silhouette sneaking across the streetlights and into the backseat of a yellow taxi. It’s wild how such a blur of a moment can be so vivid in my memory.
Honestly, what is he trying to accomplish here? A friend request. That’s rich. Is he attempting to make nice? Does he actually think that would work? I’m not holding a door open for half-hearted apologies and pitiful rivers of regrets. Or does he even have regrets?
Does he ever think about me? Well, I guess he had to be curious enough to search for me in the first place. So, maybe he does think about me. Does he want something from me? Is he checking in on me? Wondering what state I’m in? How my life has transpired? Is he trying to see which college I got accepted into but can’t afford?
What if I click ‘Accept’? Could this turn into one of those rare, happy stories with a Hallmark ending? We’ll be out to lunch, eating a burger, laughing as ketchup drips onto our t-shirts at the same time, maybe even catch up while catching a baseball game.
Probably not. Let’s do some investigating.
His profile is private. Because of course it is. It doesn’t even show his location. But, wait. Maybe I could accept the friend request, take a quick look around at his page, and then unfriend him. No, because he’ll still get the notification. Do I even want to know what he has going on? Did he flee the country? Could I run into him on the street one day? Do I have any half-siblings roaming around in the world?
Goddamnit, I look like him. As much as I’d like to deny any speck of a resemblance, I see it. The intense eyebrows, the shape of the nose, even the patchy way our mustaches grow.
My sweaty palm sits atop the computer mouse and the cursor hovers over the area, waiting for a command. I’m shaking. I look at the smiley frog pencil holder on the desk, as if it has some wisdom to offer up. You can’t click halfway. You either click or you don’t. I know this isn’t a nuclear situation, but I’m afraid of the fallout.
My mom walks into the room and glances at the computer screen.
“Who is that?” she asks.
I click ‘Decline’ and exit out of the window.
“Just a spambot,” I say.
Zach Murphy is a Hawaii-born writer with a background in cinema. His stories appear in Reed Magazine, Still Point Arts Quarterly, The Coachella Review, Maudlin House, Eastern Iowa Review, and Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine. His chapbook Tiny Universes (Selcouth Station Press) is available in paperback and ebook. He lives with his wonderful wife, Kelly, in St. Paul, Minnesota.