A man changes his profile picture to a car. A decision which proceeds to ruin his life.
HECTIC ON THE BOOLEAN
John entered the office to see a plume of people around Ben's computer. They were packed as tight layers over the top of each other, all trying to get a good look at the screen. 'Holy shit, can you believe this?' Gemma said, hunched over the screen with everyone else.
'How can I be missing something when I'm 5 minutes early to work?' John said as he walked over to the huddle.
'Come look at this lead, man.' Ben said to him, 'It scored enough to notify the sales guys, all from the keywords it used in Google.'
'So we can track keywords from Google now? When did that start working?'
'It doesn't work all the time, but it comes through when searches are as specific and detailed as this.' Ben said. 'Just look at it, they've gone all hectic on the boolean.'
John looked at the readout of the lead. They had visited one landing page. Source: organic. Completed one goal: Downloaded the digital marketing whitepaper. Name: Eric Tremblay. Email: email@example.com. Position title: Executive. Organisation: Dietrich Consulting. Employee size: 500+. Current annual advertising spend: $1 million+. It was the keywords that interested everyone. Removing the code and the adjoining HTML, it read:
"Info: Hi Google, I'm a big deal marketing executive looking for a marketing company that can totally automate my processes for me" -"time wasters" -"weeny bitches" -site:greenhat.com commission from this sale will straighten your dick out OR give you a cheesy vagina.
John read over the search term a couple of times. He considered the length, the punctuation, the keywords. 'What do they have against Greenhat?'He asked.
'It says no weeny bitches.' Ben reminded him.
'This is ridiculous. It has to be fake, or at least exaggerated.'
'It's real, we checked out the company on LinkedIn.' Michael said. He was more excited then he should have been. He works in web development, he has nothing to do with closing deals and doesn't get commission either.
'Yeah, but is this Eric Tremblay guy an executive? He'd be one of the first guys to come up on the employee list if he was.'
'The company's so big, their employee list is a fucking mess.' Ben said. 'It's scattered with so many people from different countries, it's like walking around Europe. The guy might be big here, but that doesn't mean he's a big dog internationally at Dietrich.'
'LinkedIn is a fucking mess.' John agreed. 'So, who's going to get the straight dick on this one?'
'I'll be the only one getting blue veins here.' Ashley said as she approached the group. 'You'll be calling me Brie before I even close this bitch.' This annoyed John to no end. All the big deals went to Ashley, he wanted a shot at a big prospect for once.
'I allocated it to Ashley. If they're serious, this could be too big to pass up.' Ben admitted. John could see Ben read his frustration, his poker face should be stronger than that.
'Next time my boyfriend goes down on me, he'll think he's eating a margherita. And I'll be drinking one, on the holiday I buy with the commission.' Ashley added.
'I know you want a big one, John. This one isn't a sure thing. Next big, sure, thing that comes along- I'll pass it on to you- promise.'
'Don't worry, I might need some help on this one if it's as big as you say.' Ashley consoled John. 'I'm willing to scrape off some curds to nurse your semi.'
'Ashley, please. I'm going to throw up if you keep talking like that.' Gemma said. With that, everyone not in the sales department slinked back to their desks. Ashley went to her desk, mumbling something about Gemma not having a boyfriend. John was left standing over Ben's desk.
Ben swung his chair from his computer and looked at John. 'Hey John- before you head to your desk- is everything alright?' Ben sat legs open, fingers intertwined with each other, drooping between his knees. He sat like a disconnected youth worker trying to strike conversation with a delinquent.
'Why do you ask?' John took on an air of suspicion. John liked to keep work separate from his personal life, anyone trying to make the leap from co-worker to caregiver put his defenses up.
'Just... I saw what happened on Facebook last night. You changed your profile picture from that one with your girlfriend. Are things alright with you two?'
'Things with Cass are fine. I mean, we've been living together for a while now, that should be a strong enough indicator. I've had that profile picture for ages, I decided it was time for a change. You know- we're not one of those couples that documents everything on social media for everyone. I don't always have a recent picture of us- or even me for that matter. So I decided to go for something completely different.'
'Alright, just wanted to make sure.' Ben said. He threw up his hands in a light surrendering gesture. 'You might feel like you only work with us, but we care about you, John. You can talk to us about stuff.'
'I'll remember that when I got stuff to talk about. Like I'm going to talk to marketing about getting us more big leads in.'
John never actually went to speak to marketing. He knew they had everything their budget could allow in place, they brought in the best leads they could manage. John was working on some proposals for a batch of warm leads from their appointment setters when Ashley came up to his desk. 'Yo, Stance Nation.' She called out from behind him. John turned to face her. 'That Dietrich Consulting lead turned out to be legit shit. I'm going to need you to do some heavy lifting on this one.'
'That big, huh? You know I want in on this one.' John went to turn back to his computer.
Ashley put a hand on his desk and leaned over, putting his face up to his ear. 'Great. Don't forget: This is a big one. I don't know what's going on in your personal life, but it better not get in the way of me and my brie.'
'What do people think's going on in my life? Seriously, I'm not that interesting.'
Ashley stood upright again, she curled her fingers to examine her nails in a confident gesture. 'I know that, Camber, but you better not pick now to get interesting. Fuck this up and I'll fuck you up.'
No one asked John about his personal life for the rest of the day. There were hushed tones, juicy whispers passed from mouth to ear, and fragile eye contact that broke as he turned his gaze.
People stopped talking and stared when he came back from lunch. He was asked "how's it going?" in a way more probing than courteous. It gave him a work anecdote to tell Cass when he got home. She caught the train before him from the city and was already home when he came through the door.
'How was your day?' He asked, slumping has bag next to the leg of the couch as he walked in. Cass was in the kitchenette, making preparations for tea.
'Ugh, you know. Our boss promises the world to new clients, then they get the shits when results don't come in right away.' She turned from the stove to face him, elaborating further on her day, 'like this guy today, he's invented some type of airbag thing that works like a bean bag. Instead of using beans, you can just swing the bag in the air and make a cushion out of that. He's calling up, pissed off that his Facebook ad has all these impressions, but no conversions. It's like, maybe no one wants your stupid fucking bag because it's an overpriced piece of shit. He's only paying us to do social and he's too tight to get a proper website. What does he expect? People click through this nice Facebook carousel add to a shitty, home-made Wix website. You're not going to hand over 100-plus dollars to that.'
John waited patiently for Cass to finish. She was a lovely woman, but she spat venom at everyone and everything from work. 'We had a crazy massive lead come in today.' He told her, exchanging details of the day, 'used all these search engine tricks to get real specific- was probably pushing Google's algorithm to the limit. They managed to find a landing page that's meant to be hidden to search engines. I should probably check it's hidden since they managed to get through.'
The pot rumbled as milky bubbles piled on top of each other to scale the saucepan. 'Fuck, the cabronara. Can you help me with tea?' Cass asked John. He walked around the bench and their attention turned to cooking.
They sat at the table to eat. The silence, punctuated by clanging and scraping cutlery grated on John's ears. He remembered another detail from work he forgot to mention. 'Hey, another weird- well, I guess I wouldn't call it weird- but an odd thing happened at work today.' Cass looked up, urging him to continue. 'I don't know, it's the weirdest thing. I think people at work think we've broken up or something because I changed my profile picture on Facebook.'
'I mean, I get it.' Cass demurred, 'It can be the first thing people change when they break up- especially when it was a picture of the two of them- lke yours was.' Those last words carried accusatory ice.
'But it's not like that at all. I mean, I'd had my old profile picture for ages, I just wanted something different.'
'I've been wondering about that though. What's with the car?' Cass was trying to heard this conversation, John could feel it. She was going to try get him into a corner, give him the three dots treatment, then dump a paragraph on him starting with, "I just think it's funny how...".
'Nothing. A guy from high school liked a picture of a modded car from some page, I clicked on it and cycled through their uploads. I saw this slammed and modded blue Accord- looked pretty nice. I'd been thinking about changing my profile picture for a while. It's been ages, but no one takesphotos of me and I don't selfie. So I decided, "why bother using a picture of myself? Everyone I'm friends with already knows who I am."'
'My profile picture is still a photo of us.' Cass pressed her point. 'It's from when we did Ten Thousand Steps that time. What if I just changed it to a car or some shit?'
'The way I see it, it's not up to me. You can set your profile picture as whatever you want.' As John finished the sentence, he realised he left his tongue in the proverbial bear trap. Cass was going to release the severed organ and proceed to beat him with it.
'So you wouldn't care what I put my profile picture as?' Cass shot back, 'I could put it as anything and you just wouldn't fucking care?'
'No- I mean, I would!' John stammered. 'It's just- why does my profile picture have to be indicative of our entire relationship? I thought we kind of agreed to keep most relationship shit off Facebook.'
'That's the whole point! Our profile pictures are the only thing we have. Mine's a nice picture of us, and yours is of some fucking car- a car you don't even own.'
'Cass, why's this so important to you? You're having real uncharacteristically high maintenance moment.'
Cass pierced him with a stare of peeled back eyelids and tempered glass orbs. Her v-tec of hate engaged, pulling the corners of her mouth into a thin line across her face. 'You mean like the car in your fucking profile picture?' she spat at him.
John had no response.
Cass spent the rest of the night on sitting on the couch, alternating between her phone and laptop. John fidgeted around the flat. He was looking for something to do out of Cass' sight, but not out of character. He would have to sit next to her to play the Playstation, and it would feel like he was trying to ignore her. He usually read at the kitchen table where they ate, but that was across from the couch. It's the same spot he would fiddle around with his old guitar. He felt even the unplugged plucking of his Chinese imitation Strat would be enough to annoy her.
He went to the bedroom and read in bed. He picked up the book he hadn't touched for 6 months. He remembered why, the prose was thick and heavy. He'd read paragraphs and realise he hadn't absorbed the first half of the page. Characters had similar names and their dialog seemed to overlap. He persisted.
Cass walked through the bedroom to the bathroom and prepare for bed. John took it as a chance to flee back into the living room and wait there for her to finish. He saw her leave the bathroom and change into her pajamas. She closed the bedroom door and he heard the click of the lightswitch as she went to bed. He scanned the loungeroom in response to the slight, as if ensuring there was no audience for the slight.
He decided against turning the light on in the bedroom to change into his own pajamas. He stripped down into his underwear and slid into the bedroom, as silent as old hinges and floorboards would allow. The bed was wedged into the corner of the room and John's sleeping spot as up against the wall. He tried to climb over Cass without touching her or rocking the bed too much, but each of his slow movements rocked the bed regardless. Moving slowly to his side felt worse, as even the slightest movement seemed to be amplified through the springs and cushioning. She lay cold and rigid as he clambered across her hips. She did not turn to face him, he made no move to touch her.