Posted on: September 3, 2015

Sean came home to a hurried note on the fridge that read, WiFi Out.

“And?” he said aloud, knowing it was his problem now.

He wiped Kim’s scribbles from the whiteboard with his palm and studied the remnants accentuating his fingerprints. It was the closest they had come to holding hands since Kim began her nightly rotations at St. David’s Medical Center.

There was a lot to love about dating a doctor-in-training – the free medical exams, the parental approval, the promise of riches – but Sean didn’t anticipate the disparate schedules and always playing second fiddle to school work, although, he really should have. As the son of two equally preoccupied medical professionals, he had spent enough time with nannies, tutors, and tennis instructors to know that patients come first once one pledges the Hippocratic Oath.

Sean rinsed his hand off beneath the kitchen faucet, filling Kim’s marinara-splattered pasta bowl with muted-green liquid.

“Merry Christmas,” he said while drying his hands on a snowflake-patterned linen.

Sean tossed the towel on the counter, disregarding Kim’s insistence he never do that on account of the bacteria velum laminating the surface. She also gave him a very detailed explanation of how alcohol poisons your internal organs, but that didn’t stop him from retrieving his stout glass from the cabinet and filling it to the brim with a beer as dark as a reindeer’s pupils.

Sean took a big swig of the toxic elixir and closed his eyes to devote his senses to his tastebuds. He rolled his tongue around in his mouth like that spiral thing in a washing machine, detecting notes of coffee, licorice, vanilla, and dark chocolate.

“Liver be damned,” he said after swallowing the flavorful gulp.

Sean opened his eyes and saw a smeared whiteboard to his left and a sinkful of dishes to his right. He took another sip of beer and contemplated which task would have the largest impact on his immediate future. He took his phone from his pocket and spoke to the only other intelligent being in their apartment.

“Ok, Google,” he said, his phone chirping to attention. “Call Time Warner Cable.”

He watched as the search box transcribed his words and dialed his most loved and hated utility provider. Once the tone began to hum in the earpiece he hit the speaker icon and let the phone yodel from atop the bunched hand towel.

“Customer service,” he shouted when the automated messaging service asked him for his ten-digit phone number. “Customer service,” he repeated when the robot on the other line apologized for not understanding. “Customer service,” he said once more before the robot gave up and connected him directly to a customer service representative.

Sean grabbed the gloves hanging from the faucet and slid them over his fragile hands. As his chapped fingers filled the humid hallows he recalled Kim’s lecture about the pathogens cultivating inside his rubber gauntlets. He also remembered the look on her face when he folded down the pinky, ring, pointer finger, and thumb of one of the gloves, leaving the middle digit standing tall and proud like the flag of Iwo Jima.

“Thank you for calling Time Warner Cable, this is Janet speaking. Can I have your ten-digit phone number?” Janet, the customer service rep, requested.

Sean recited his number with the pace and volume of an American tourist in a foreign land. Janet processed the information and asked, “what can I help you with?” Sean told her his Internet was out. She politely recommended a reboot and asked him to hardwire his router to a computer. Sean asked if there were any other way to do it, because he’s “kind of busy right now,” to which Janet apologized and said, “a direct connection is the only way to return the signal to full strength.”

“Fine, give me a minute” he scoffed, tossing his gloves over the faucet like sneakers on a telephone line.

Sean picked up his phone and carried it to the bedroom, where a yellow light was beckoning him from beneath his desk. He asked for another time extension to find an extra ethernet cord and Janet was obliged to comply. His clinking and clanking served as a crude waiting tune while he rifled through the drawers.

“Got it,” he announced and crawled towards the modem before Janet could give further instructions. He plugged the cord into an empty port and cursed himself for not starting with his laptop. Unwilling to turn back, he slithered the free end up the wall and wiggled it around until it latched onto an unidentified object. He returned to the surface to find the cord hooked on the ankle of the World’s Best Boyfriend trophy Kim gave him on their two-year anniversary.

He plucked the doohickey from the plastic statue and inserted it into his laptop. “Okay, fire when ready,” he said.

“Very good, sir,” she replied. “I’m going to put you on hold while we reboot your system.”

“Do what you gotta do,” Sean said, flopping onto the bed for a more comfortable wait.

Sean awoke several hours later to the sensation of skin filling the gaps between his outstretched fingers.

“AHHHH,” he yelled into the darkness.

“Shhh,” Kim said, placing her free hand on his cheek. “I’m not going to hurt you, little baby.”

“I think you literally scared the shit out of me,” he spat, grabbing her elbow and pulling her within tickle torture range.

Sean moved his fingers across her torso like a piano virtuoso, each tap eliciting involuntary leg kicks.

“MERCY,” Kim screamed.

Sean ceased his concerto and studied her face like sheet music. She was smiling with her lips, nostrils, and eyes, which were staring directly back at his.

“You seem happy,” he said. “Good day at work?”

“Not particularly,” she answered, intertwining their fingers once again. “It’s just good to be back.”

“It is,” he said, catching a glimpse of green light beneath his desk as he leaned in for a kiss.

Written by: Mark Killian
Photograph by: Daniel Vidal

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