I met Gwen after a hard right swipe on Tinder.  Through Gwen I met Wren. Gwen and Wren live above and below each other in an overflowing apartment building four blocks from my home. 

Wren and I decide to go to the beach. I call up Dinah as I walk to Wren’s and invite her to join the trip, giving her our predicted coordinates (left of the lifeguard, towards the water; she knew the exact spot). Dinah dated my ex. Dinah ran into the same trouble as I had with said ex and left my ex, promptly contacting me so we could essentially talk shit about who was now our exIt was an indisputable bond.

Wren, Dinah, and I go to the beach. At the beach, Sarah stumbles upon us. If you ask me, Sarah and I went on exactly one date that lasted 13 hours, making out at the end over whiskeys neat. Neither of us will ever confirm or deny whether it was an actual date we went on or whether we just hung out a few hours too long. Of course we are still extremely cordial, if not overly cordial, with one another whenever we see each other, which now is quite often. 

Sarah joins us on the blanket as Dinah is telling of a date she went on with a new person she is very interested in, a rarity for Dinah. Sarah asks, oh is that RN? Dinah was baffled. It was. Sarah knew RN through their mutual friend Liza. Sarah, RN, and Liza are all playwrights. I had met Liza previous to Sarah and I going on our 13-hour disputable date. 

RN told Liza who told Sarah about Dinah. And because Dinah is a unique name and Sarah met Dinah when I invited Natalie over to Dinah’s roof for fireworks and Natalie also brought Sarah, Sarah instantly knew it was my Dinah.

 .

Next summer I move from this City and think thank God, a new pool of gays to rest in. I calculate that if I am at least 84 miles from you at all times my chances of running into you are X. Good odds.

I go to the farmers’ market and I touch all of the greens – the kales, broccolis, the peppers, the mint, the cucumbers. A vendor and I agree yes yes this town is so special and no no we would never move to the other side of the river. 

Suddenly there comes a hand on my shoulder, my name called out loud. When I turn it’s Liz. I went on two dates with Liz and she was so rude to our bartender that I deleted her number immediately upon home arrival. I say Liz! Hello! What are you doing here in this very small, very far away town from the larger, more obvious city we met in? And Liz says, I moved here two months ago! We should absolutely get together. We do a secret handshake and part ways, never to see each other again.

That summer is the summer I realize there is no escape. 

 

11 Comments

  1. Bud Smith

    Hahaha, Jesus! This one is like a bolt of lightning. I loved this piece so much, and the world and especially the characters who inhabit that world. You do so much here so economically. In the beginning of the piece I wondered if the names were just going to keep rhyming with Gwen so we would forever riff off that, Wren, Svenn, Lynn, on and on and on, but instead of doing that phonetically you showed the narrator on this escape route that is subverted at the farmer’s market, touching the vegetables and being so very happy in this specific town on this specific side of the river. “Suddenly there comes a hand on my shoulder, my name called out loud. When I turn it’s Liz. I went on two dates with Liz and she was so rude to our bartender that I deleted her number immediately upon home arrival. I say Liz! Hello! What are you doing here in this very small, very far away town from the larger, more obvious city we met in? And Liz says, I moved here two months ago! We should absolutely get together. We do a secret handshake and part ways, never to see each other again. That summer is the summer I realize there is no escape.”

    You’ve got to be kidding me, that is brilliant and that is so true and so heartbreaking. Everything is going to run this person down and they might as well lean into it. I don’t have many suggestions for this piece other than I thought there could be something that happens at the beach rather than just talking about what the situation is, like — one by one they all begin to drown but one by one they all swim out and attempt to save each other only to begin to drown together, a symbolic soup, a metaphorical mess. Of course this would be a beach with out lifeguards.

    But between this piece here and the one I read yesterday, I think you’re a major talent. Excited to read more of your work.

  2. Janelle Greco

    This is such a cool piece, K. I love how the tone shifts in the second half when the narrator is at the farmer’s market. I agree with Bud that I think I want something more to happen at the beach. Maybe just a few more lines? You don’t want to distinguish the characters here too much because they are almost all collectively one person–the person that the narrator keeps running into, which I think is part of the magic of this piece. Thank you for sharing!

  3. Samantha Mitchell

    K,
    I loved this piece. And I really connected with it, maybe because I’m a gay woman from a small town. Usually, when a small piece introduces a lot of characters off the bat, I get confused very easily and that distracts me from the rest of what’s going on. BUT here, this device works so well. The names are interesting, they belong to people who are caught in a tangled web of gay connections, and it’s a hard list to keep up with unless you’re in the know. It works perfectly to illustrate how this community has formed, how it operates, and why it has to operate as it does.

    The turn at the end, when the narrator moves across the river, to a smaller but new town, is just icing on the cake. Of course there’s no escape! You’d need to move to a bigger city, not a smaller one, for any chance of that – and even then you aren’t guaranteed anything. Plus, running into Liz at the farmer’s market? Of course that’s where this run-in would happen. Thanks for sharing this funny story.

  4. Taylor Grieshober

    K.,
    Oh man! Such good funny stuff here. Your opening line is exemplary of what a difference one simple word can make. Not a right swipe but a HARD right swipe. It transforms the sentence from something that we all do (or have done) passively into something sort of active and frantic and purposeful! I love it. And then there’s the rest of the story, where you precisely get at the milieu of a generation (gen z, y or x, who knows, but I’m assuming it’s one of those!) I just…related to this so hard, as someone in a small city where the dating pool is also small. And thank you for reminding me it’s been a while since I was in said dating pool because as I was writing this letter I had to google swiping right versus left to make sure I remembered the connotations correctly.

    All the names have this rolling dominoes, comedic effect which I love. The only thing is I did find myself wanting more Wren and maybe even a line or two more about Gwen. When the narrator gets to the beach, Wren disappears when Sarah and Dinah and the others come along. I love the details of the contested 13-hour date so much and I think it’d be cool to see a smidge more of that kind of specificity. I don’t mean to say it should be gimmicky, like it doesn’t need to happen with each new woman that’s mentioned, but maybe with one of them?

    This was a pure joy to read–I think it’s pretty close to done as is. Thanks for sharing!

    • Taylor Grieshober

      whoops just two more thoughts! LOVE LOVE LOVE the title and I suggest you end at “…never to see each other again”. We don’t need the last line–the sentiment is implied and there’s a kind of breathless quality to the story which makes an abrupt ending sort of perfect and surprising I think.

  5. Amy Barnes

    Love your storytelling, characters and pacing here. There’s something rhythmic in the wording — through Gwen I met Wren, is that an RN, each other again. It’s like the entire flash is full of rhyme-rhymes and slant rhymes. That opening description of where they live has such a wink in it — above and below. There is such a visual quality. You continue creating a sense of place and setting with the predicted coordinates, indisputable bond, Sarah stumbling into them, the 13 hour date, blanket date, 84 miles, the farmer’s market, phone numbers.

    By building on the numbers and the names throughout, you build the story and these relationships — a flash about six degrees of separation and the same degrees of closeness. That closing line is such a great way to express all of that.

    “That summer is the summer I realize there is no escape.”

    It feels even more poignant now when we’ve lost so many of those casual and more personal connections/opportunities to meet up on a beach or a blanket. The people we may have wanted to escape but now want to connect with.

  6. Lisa Moore

    I was struck by the effectiveness of the pacing right off the bat. you bring us into the community quickly and effectively. There’s a real emotional journey here. I laughed several times but your management of tone is masterful and I felt genuine anxiety when Liz shows up at the end.

  7. Neil Clark

    “I met Gwen after a hard right swipe on Tinder. Through Gwen I met Wren. Gwen and Wren live…” immediately drawn in by the fantastic rhythm created by just by the names and repetition. Nicely done!

    Same with the repetition of ‘ex’ in the next paragraph.

    And the rhythm continues on with the way you introduce all the characters. It’s really hard to get that right in flash fiction. The reader could feel overwhelmed in less capable hands, but not in this case.

    Really fun piece, K!

    (Also – Bud’s idea about the people soup – YES YES YES!)

  8. Cheryl Pappas

    K, this is so brilliant and funny. I never got tired of reading the connections before the shift to the new city (“a new pool of gays to rest in”!). I love, too, how the greens in the farmer’s market mirror the relationships between the women.

    The only thing I’d suggest is to delete the last sentence. We get it already!

    Well done!

  9. David O'Connor

    Love the first line and paragraph, I’m a sucker for word/sound-play, and here it anchors tone and story, nice! Also loves the way the names keep popping in and the subtle shifts in the narrator’s language–eg, we can neither confirm nor define–this piece catches much in just the right tone. Have you read much Lucia Berlin? Or Lori Ostlund? My only suggestion is I think the last line is unneeded, more a summation than addition. Great work!

  10. Martha Jackson Kaplan

    K– what a romp! I love the whispering circle quality of this no exit piece. I love that your characters live in their details, incidents, and repetitive acquaintances. Small world, almost no degrees of separation, no matter a new town. And Liz, so rude to the bartender, and the way you add the friendly surface conversation that belies that you never want to see her, then or again. Near perfect, may not need the last line, as others have noted. Congrats.

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