Friday 31 January 2020

Blue Check Seeds

by  Cindy Long  

tomato juice

A wedding in Versailles.
                No, not the legendary French palace, but a quaint 1920s Methodist church refashioned into an event venue in Versailles, Kentucky. Despite the lopsided comparison, it was lovelier than she had imagined, improving the ill-humor she’d carried with her since making the decision to attend at all.
                She was in her element as she posed for a selfie at the entry to the flower-festooned former church. Head up, eyes wide and bright. Yes. The picture was as she hoped, the caption carefully crafted in a way that would, in retrospect, underscore her calm bravery this day. Post.
                She climbed the steps and crossed the double-doored entry into the crowded vestibule. She stood looking at her phone, pleased to see the likes and comments on her just-added Instagram post rolling in.
                These were the moments she lived for. She couldn’t remember a time she wasn’t consumed with the desire to be a social media influencer; a time when she had not focused all of her energy on setting trends and ensuring that her life was staged to perfection. This attention to detail charmed her followers, and earned her new ones.
              The carefully curated boyfriends, for example, were invariably a perfect complement to her brand. They were accessories; smooth-skinned, tanned and adventurous men who loved her online presence as much as she did. And why not? Association with her only improved their own media luster – a glow that lingered even after the relationships ended.
              But to her frustration, the dream of online prominence had proved to be an elusive one. Despite her careful orchestrations, the fame she longed for remained just out of reach. And her friends’ milestones, like this wedding, were only painful reminders of that.
                Today, however, she was laying the groundwork for a guaranteed launch into the blue-check stratosphere – her brand anthem event!
                She was still deep in thought and focused on her phone when an unsightly pair of worn Sketchers came to a stop on the floor in front of her, as if waiting for her to move aside. She avoided looking up, or moving, but the disagreeable shoes didn’t budge. Move on, shoes. Move on.
                Composing her face into her best dismissive expression, she raised her eyes to a man (woman?) every bit as distasteful to look at as its footwear. Long, grey-streaked hair surrounding a genderless face with, she grudgingly admitted, surprisingly lovely eyes. This sweet-eyed gnome was holding a scruffy, presumably handmade, leather pouch.
                “Hey,” she said, keeping it cool and curt.
                “Hey,” the hippy replied. “I’m not sure where to put this,” holding up the pouch. “It’s a wedding present.”
                Good heavens! A drawstring pouch and a hippy? Were hippies even still a thing?
                “I don’t know,” she replied. “I’m guessing there’s a gift table somewhere.”
                She glanced left and right, feigning some effort to locate the elusive table. The vestibule was packed with guests waiting for the ceremony to begin. Why had this maybe-hippy chosen to accost her, during the courageous countdown to implementing her most amazing online content ever?
                “I’m not sure a gift table is the best place for this,” followed by a smile of Forrest Gump-like innocence.
                 “What is it?” She could have bitten her tongue off.
                “I grow heirloom tomatoes, and my gift to the young couple is a collection of seeds harvested from my plants. I’m afraid if I just leave them they won’t understand. I should have included a note.”
                Can’t this creature just move on and share its weird pouch-thingy and tacky shoes with someone else? Didn’t she have a million details to think through?
                “I’m here alone,” the seed-gifter offered.
                She didn’t respond to that, but while pretending to check her phone again she tipped it up a bit and surreptitiously took a photo. If this was a stalker situation there at least would be photo evidence. And then she noticed the smell. What was it? A musty, faintly citrusy aroma that was so unusual she wondered if infringement had its own scent.
                “Are we done here?” she snapped.
                But the creature stood its ground. It. Was. Infuriating.
                Just then, a wave of guests moved through the entry, including a few women she knew from college. Hugs and cheek-touches were exchanged, though she was careful not to smudge her make-up. Selfies were taken in which she offered her best naturally casual look, at an angle she had learned accentuated her best assets. She checked their phones to approve the photos before the group moved on to the bar at the end of the hall. She turned and found that, despite the commotion created by the entry of her friends, her boorish companion continued to stare. She snapped.
                “What are you looking at?” she raged too loudly. “Why are you here?  Why do you smell like my grandma and weed? I don’t care what you do with your seeds. The bride and groom are just phonies anyway, with their posturing and their wedding followers. I’ll show you, and them, and everyone.”
                People in the vestibule were stunned to silence at this unforeseen and churlish outburst, their shocked stares making her feel seen in an unnatural way.
                “Are you alright?” her long-haired pest asked.
               Screw it. Her Insta-perfect moment would blow this wedding into the weeds! The losers watching her now would boast later about being in her periphery on this historic day, and her followers would lose their collective minds.
                 The blue check she would never see gave her a shiver.
                  She turned her back on the crowd, including her sneakered nemesis, and walked out of the hall and into the summer sunshine with all the dignity she could muster.
                After she was gone, her unwitting tormentor picked up the folded paper that had fallen out of her purse as she exited. On it read:

Final caption draft – To my beloved followers, I sacrifice myself as the ultimate gift to you. “when I become death. Death is the seed from which I grow.” William Burroughs

Around 2 a.m., she woke in her car parked at a pull-off overlooking the Kentucky River. It felt as if the previous day had played out in a boozy fog, though she had been completely sober. After leaving the wedding, she surprised herself by going completely off-script, posting the picture of her pesky wedding devotee with the caption, “One never knows where seeds of positivity will find a foothold.” Then she just drove until exhaustion brought her to this lonely spot.
                  She found her phone in the dark car, and opened it to a notification tsunami! Her last post had gone viral while she slept, seemingly because a popular follower had commented, “So pure!” prompting a torrent of shares and comments. With lightening-speed it was picked up by news and entertainment outlets including BuzzFeed and TMZ, and ultimately a share on Twitter by Lin-Manuel Miranda put it on the timeline of everyone in the world who mattered. She rubbed her thumb lovingly over the screen where the newly added blue check had settled so comfortably beside her name.

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