by Kate Scarpetta
When is it alright to look? It’s my iPhone that I’m staring at. You obviously want someone to see these, but how do I know if I’m that someone? I guess if I don’t know you that well, then I shouldn’t be looking at pictures of you and your friends (also people I only know by a name or a face) at a party, or you and your family at Disneyworld, or you and someone (an ex-girlfriend? a current girlfriend?) kissing against some wall in Paris, trying to look cinematic. If I am not the intended viewer, and I consent that in most cases I am not, what is wrong with just looking? It feels wrong, because I can’t come up with a good reason for doing it. I can, however, theorize terrible possibilities about my condition and personality. I am depressed. I am an escapist. I have low-self esteem. Agoraphobic. Pervert. Creep. Weird. Jealous. Pathetic. What else can be said? I’m just looking at you.
I see you at the gym sometimes. I go on Tuesdays now too. I debate waving. Do you even know my name? I know your middle initial, because you put it in your profile; it’s “A” flanked by underscores. What’s it stand for? Anthony? Adam? Aaron? Alexander? It kills me not to know. You’re proud of your body. You should be, it gets and “A” in my book. The pictures of you on the beach in Cancun with the Sepia filter over spring break looked like an old Abercrombie and Fitch ad campaign. The one of you buried in the sand was funny. Who did that to you? You’re so easygoing and cool to let your friends do that to you. Last Tuesday, I saw you wearing your, “I Heart Mexico” frat tank. I know that all of your friends have one too. As a joke, you all bought them in the airport and took a picture wearing them while giving the camera thumbs up. Everyone except you was sunburned, even your ex-girlfriend. She’s probably an ex, because you don’t follow her anymore. I checked. I get that. I totally get that. I still haven’t said, “hi” to you. That “hi” would have been my way of saying, “I’m sorry. Her loss. You can do better.”
I’m glad the sun got her; she deserved to get burned beyond the help of the Amaro filter. You really can do better, but instead you’re doing the guy thing and getting hammered a lot. You lost your cell phone last weekend. I was invited to the “Need Digits” event on your Facebook that’s linked to your account. That event must have sent to all your friends, real and fake. I didn’t give you my number, but now I have yours. I put you in my contact list. I included your middle initial. That burns me so hard not knowing. There’s no reason to have your number, but I do. It’s silly. It’s stupid. But, just in case you care, I used your last profile picture and your ringtone is Maraca. I’m not sure why I chose that one. Perhaps, it’s the Mexico thing. I wish I had been there with you. I really don’t like these drunken club stories. It’s not a good look for you. You take them down quickly. Are you afraid your boss at “The Smith Agency” will fire you if he or she sees you disheveled, clutching bar Barbies, with a drunk face on? The fact that you take them down so quickly strengthens my hope that this is just a phase with you. Did you really like her that much?
I like the older photos of you. You’ve been other places before Mexico and before her. Seeing these makes me want you—they always have. They make me want to be like you. To be your natural fit. They made me want to go out, buy an expensive camera—one with a manual optic zoom, and take a picture of myself using the reflection of some famous modern piece of artwork, like “The Bean” in Chicago. I’ve never been to Chicago, but I know you have. Your sister goes to school at Northwestern. Her follow request is still pending with me. I hope she accepts, buying that we follow each other. I want to see if she posted more from last Christmas. Was that when you got your camera? I want one so badly. I want to shoot landscapes of New Zealand, where you spent a semester of junior year, and put clever captions underneath, like “The land of Moordoor.” #Frodo Baggins #MyPrecious If I was clever and well traveled, would you look at my pictures too? Would you be in them with me? Holding and kissing me. Loving me for all of our followers to see.
Staring at my phone, I sit on my blue futon and wonder how you do it. All of these photos are just one second of your life. They’re your “pauses,” and I could live in your “pauses.” I want to travel as much as you do. I want people to look at my Insta and envy my life, which can’t be dull. I want to know you. I want to know how you can get me to care about you and if I can do it to you or someone else. I want what you have. I want to have it with you. It makes me miserable to look, but so far, I’ve been unable to stop.
© Kate Scarpetta, 2019
Kate Scarpetta grew up in Northeastern Pennsylvania and spent her youth playing sports and climbing trees. Her young adulthood was spent chasing a golf ball around the world as a professional athlete. Now, she works in tech and moonlights as a comic and aspiring TV writer. Her pilot, "Under Par," is about the circuit beneath the Ladies Professional Golf Tour. Kate attended Princeton University where she studied under Joyce Carol Oates and Edmund White. Her work has been featured in the Brooklyn Review, SpltiLip, Word Riot, BULL and 14 Hills amongst others. @kate_scarpetta www.katescarpetta.com
Your Instagram was read by Tim Farley on June 5th, 2019 for Freedom & Restraint.