map Virtual Affair

by Keely Kotnik

Published in Issue No. 133 ~ June, 2008

Shawn’s new coworker Robyn, the cute little brunette who works in billing, goes on dates with guys who contact her on MySpace. Shawn’s only been working for Mercy Medical Staffing for a month, but in that time Robyn has dated ten other Myspacers. Shawn guesses that Robyn’s total is in the hundreds. In the break room, Robyn flips her ponytail from shoulder to shoulder as she talks about her conquests. It disgusts Shawn to listen. She wonders if that’s what dating is like these days. She’s only 22, but she’s been in a relationship for three years.

Close to the end of a regular workday, Shawn gets bored transcribing letters from her boss’s Dictaphone. She has a bladder infection and feels too uncomfortable to work anyway, so she goes to Myspace and does a search on her boyfriend, Aaron, an air force pilot. She exhales when the search on his name returns no results. Then she tries his call sign, Meathook, plus his last name, Johnstone. Again, no results. She goes to the bathroom and takes two ibuprofens with a swig of cranberry juice. She sits down again and does a simple search on “Meathook” and one on “Johnstone” and gets results, but none of them are in San Antonio. She reclines in her chair, realigns the earphones and prepares to type another letter. That’s when she notices the “browse” button and discovers that she can search for users with specific qualities. She does an advanced search for single white male college graduates in Aaron’s zip code who are only 27 and have photos on their profiles. The search returns 31 users. She finds his profile on the second page under the name, “Johny Boy.”

His main photo displays him in his flight suit in front of a Warthog, a photo that Shawn took recently. She can’t see his other photos without a profile. He’s listed as “single” and “looking for relationships.” Under his “interests,” among other things, he claims puppies and yoga, two “interests” Shawn didn’t know. His “About Me” section says, “I’m a fun loving guy who enjoys pushing my mind and body to the limits. When I’m not flying missions in my A-10 Warthog or planning strategies, I love to relax by cooking and watching movies in my new house. My friends and family have described me as an honest straight shooter who tells things like it is, but can handle a delicate situation with tact and kindness.” Johny Boy has 47 “friends”: all female, wafer-thin, under 24, who are mostly Asian, “bisexual,” and residing in San Antonio.

Shawn sits close to the pc with the earphones still on, one hand on the Dictaphone to feign productivity and one on the mouse to navigate Aaron’s network. She studies their profiles, reads the public comments they’ve left for Aaron (which began ten months ago), and tries to determine if he had dated any of them or if his profile was merely a farcical ego boost.

She creates a simple dummy profile in order to see Johny Boy’s extra photos. There’s one photo of him with air force buddies, and then ten snapshots of him with Asian girls–they look Japanese, Chinese, Malaysian or Thai–cheek to cheek photos in bars, glasses of beer peeking into the bottom of the frame.

Shawn edits the dummy profile. She lists herself as “Aiko Chinatsu,” a bisexual in San Antonio. She copies and pastes about me’s and interests from the Aaron’s “friends'” pages and re-words them to make herself sound not only intelligent, but also young, hot and ready for action. Then she browses for young Asian women’s profiles in Hawaii. She downloads photos from a thin, Japanese girl’s profile–nipples erect in her bikini, cuddling her terrier, hugging her brother and sister over a birthday cake, doing a kissy-face with a female friend at a bar, posing in front of the White House, sitting at an office desk, provocatively eating a strawberry, sitting in a convertible with the top down and her sunglasses on–and she loads them onto her page. She messages several San Antonio guys who are Online now! and sends them friends requests. Within two hours, she has a complete profile with a pink and yellow background and flashing components, 17 friends, five comments (“baby u so hot!!!” “Thx for da add,” “stoppn by to show sum luv? lol!!!!!”), and an inbox full of messages and telephone numbers.

That evening at her efficiency, she changes into a silk shirt with Chinese knots at the collar. She brushes her long blond hair, studying herself in the mirror. She had been attractive in college, one of the voluptuous co-eds at UT. Size C breasts, small waist, and serious hips. She turns around and looks over her shoulder. She can stand to lose a few inches off the caboose, though.

Shawn met Aaron at a bar in Austin when she was 19. Aaron was 24 and in his last year of pilot training; he had come to Austin to visit a friend who was attending grad school at UT. Shawn was also at the bar with a friend, and when the two friends started flirting, she talked with Aaron. At first, she didn’t like him. She had never spoken with a military officer, and she took his proud shoulders, elongated neck, and direct tone as signs of arrogance and edginess. Even in his civis, he was perfectly groomed and wearing a starched white dress shirt and pressed jeans. Shawn had spotted a tiny blue stain–an ink streak begot when writing down his number for some other girl, perhaps–and she felt better. There was no way she was going to fall in love with that guy. Still, he was the most attractive guy who had ever shown interest, and she took him home.

The next day, they went to Barton Springs. They lay in the grass, looking down one side of the hill to the huge green-blue pool, and smiled at the shrieks of swimmers coming up from the icy water. They heard, “God, it’s cold,” in four languages. Aaron bought her a corndog at the snack shack and stuck clover buds in her bun as she ate, his hands working delicately and his lips bunched in concentration when she turned to peek at him. By the time they walked down to the edge of the pool, she had worked up the bravery to shove him in, clothes, Movado watch, new Dockers and all. She figured, maybe even hoped, that he would be mad. When he surfaced thrashing like a mating duck, he hollered, “Dios, que frio, un dieu, il fait froid, Deus, está frio, bari, Allah akbar!”

They went to dinner that night before he went back to San Antonio. She wore a strapless dress which showed off the fine bones along her shoulders and chest. By then, Shawn was leaning against his meticulous shirt and inhaling the scent of his neck, which smelled like a baby’s. Even so, she thought it was what it was, a little fling, and that would be the end of it. But he continued to pursue her over the phone. A month later, he came back up to Austin on the promise that he could make the sun rise and set twice in one evening. He took Shawn on an airplane ride at dusk, flying her up high enough that she could see the pink curve of the sun again, and then diving so that it disappeared in a flash. He started renting an old Mooney and teaching Shawn to fly. He would grin at her head bobbing under the strange weight of the headset. “Nicely done, Sinker,” he would tell her frequently through the intercom, even if she fumbled a landing or swerved while taxiing. Shawn loved flying the small plane, adored seeing the landscape closer than airliners had brought her. Whenever she was flying, she would head straight to Barton Springs. The pool looked more detailed from the air than up close; the swimmers and the patches of weeds at the bottom were as perfect as filler in a Flemish painting. She wanted to stay up there with him forever.

That evening, Aaron takes her to La Fogata for dinner. They used to eat here when she would come to visit, before she had moved from Austin a couple months back. She orders water and a salad instead of her usual margarita and chile relleno.

He removes her hand from her water glass and strokes the top with his thumb. Shawn glances up to the lines of lights and plants hanging from the eves of the portico. There’s a tiny sticker on one of the planters that says Viva Los Mojados.

The subject of Johny Boy is on the tip of her tongue. She knows that confronting Aaron would be the most honorable. But it would give him an opportunity to invent a clever lie, and Shawn would never know the truth. She’d have to check every website constantly because she would never know whether he was back working one of them.

“What’s wrong?” Aaron asks.

She explains the infection, excuses herself, and goes to the bathroom.

When she returns, Aaron says, “Sinker Baby, you should go to the doctor. Don’t play around with an infection. I’ll pay for the appointment, the medicine, and whatever else you need.”

Aaron paid her rent a couple of months ago. “I’ve got it,” she says.

He takes out his checkbook and writes her a check. “I’ll leave the amount blank so you can fill it out for what you need,” he says with authority.

“Thanks,” she says and puts the check into her purse. “I’ll pay you back as soon as I can.”

“Baby, don’t worry about that. I just want to take care of you. Did you check into getting out of your lease?”


“You ought to give them a call,” he says.

“I feel like there are knives in my back,” she says to change the subject.

“Poor Sinker. Do you want to get our dinners to go?”

Shawn nods.

“Before you move in, will you give away your furniture?” he asks.

Shawn glances up. “Look at that odd little sticker.”

Aaron follows her gaze. “Interesting. Do you think the restaurant knows it’s up there?”

Later that evening, Shawn says she wants to spend the night alone, so Aaron takes her home. “Are you sure you’re alright?” he asks at her door.


“Call the doctor ASAP, okay? I love you.”

“Me, too,” she says.

“You love yourself, too?”

“I meant, `you, too.’ Will you be around this weekend?”

“I’ll be at Kirtland, baby. I’ll be in your arms on Monday, I promise.”

Once alone, Shawn connects to a weak wi-fi signal she’s been pirating. She checks her profile and finds three friend requests and five new messages in her inbox. They are all from men several years older, and they leave their phone numbers. Call me if you want to hang out, the messages all seem to be saying. Shawn smiles, adds the friends and answers a couple of the messages, Maybe we should chat sometime. Then she sets up an IM account with MSN under the screen name “cherryblossom,” which she sends to her new friends.

Acute aching in the middle of her back wakes her around 5:30 in the morning. Her fever reaches a 102. She’s lying on the floor in the balasana pose, attempting to ease the pain. Every now and then, she lifts her body to take a sip of cranberry juice, but it won’t help because her kidneys are now infected. She rifles through the medicine cabinet and finds a bottle of Percocet left over from the extraction of her wisdom teeth. She takes two, wraps herself in a blanket and puts a baggie of ice on her forehead. The Percocet kicks in, and she falls asleep in the recliner.

Around 8:00, she has a nightmare in which Aaron has sex with two Asian girls.

She gets up and makes a doctor’s appointment for 2:30. She hates to miss work since there’s a 90 day probationary period–no sick days, no health insurance, no bullshit. One less day of work is one day further from making the 90 days. She stalls until the last possible second to call in sick. Her boss sounds irritated. When the call is finished, Shawn eyes her laptop warily.

When she pulls up Aaron’s profile, she sees that he has added two new friends and received a new comment from Jenna (Chinese-American, 20, enjoys “looking hot and going out, but can also kick back in a T-shirt and talk football with the boys”). The comment says, “Meaty, saw u last nite at Swig. Sorry i didnt say what up. Jenny was sick & i had to help. She puked in the river. Lol!!!!! U lookn hot boy;) damn!!!! what u doing river walking? Pickn up tourists??!!?”

Shawn clicks on Jenna’s profile to see if Aaron has left her a return comment, but he hasn’t. He never leaves comments. She studies the profiles of the new friends, wondering if Aaron asked to be their friend, or the other way around. Shawn clicks on “Bootylicious,” and a song by R Kelly starts blaring. Shawn knocks over a jar of pencils as she reaches to turn her speakers off. Booty is a 19 year old white girl who has mostly black male friends. Her main profile picture sports her from behind, in a thong bikini, smiling over her shoulder at her flat little ass. Her about me claims that she was raised by black people and doesn’t discriminate–she enjoys having sex with whites and blacks of both sexes, “so datz what up wid my profile.” Shawn reads the comments, stumbling through the jarring lingo. A lot of her friends have left graphics of women with large breasts hanging over signs that say, “Sweet Dreams,” or “Have a nice hump day.”

Booty’s Online now! icon is throbbing. Shawn watches the orange man with the green waves radiating from his head until she realizes she’s forgetting to blink.

Establishing realistic looking friendships is important to build the credibility of her page, so she answers fan mail, leaves ambiguous comments on her friends’ profiles, learns text-speak, chats over IM with fellow Myspacers, and waits for one “Johny Boy” to bite her hook. At 2:00, she decides to reschedule her appointment and spend the rest of the day as Aiko.

Most of the people she chats with are at work–an accountant and a lawyer downtown, a resident pediatrician on-call in the hospital, a guard shut away in the state penitentiary. The doctor, Tony, also has many bi women on his profile. Shawn asks him, “So do you always date bi women, or is this an online thing?”

“I guess I’m curious. I get lonely, esp on long nites when I’m in the hospital & everybody’s asleep. Starts to drive me crazy. Hard for me to meet women as it is.”

“I’m not really bi,” Shawn writes. “no one is really bi.”

“y r u listed as bi?”

“like all of the other bi women … to attract more guys.”


“and I’m not asian; I’m white.”

“is anythn about ur profile real?” Tony asks.

She explains that she has invented this profile as an experiment to catch her boyfriend. Tony seems sympathetic; he has had a cheating partner before. They agree to only tell each other the truth. Tony asks for a real photo, convincing her that it is fair on the premise that she has seen photos of him. They exchange email addresses, and she sends him a photo of her in a formal dress. Tony leaves to do rounds, but when he gets back, he says she looks beautiful and asks for her phone number. She dodges the question by asking him about her kidney infection. He tells her that she needs to be treated as soon as possible. “meet me after work,” he writes. “I’ll write u rx and u can have dinner w/me when u r better as thx.” She thanks him and declines, promising to go to the doctor tomorrow.

She checks her inbox. There is a message from Johny Boy. There’s a new picture of Aaron beside the unopened message. For several seconds, she stares at the picture. It’s one she’s seen before–one of she and Aaron at Barton Springs, but she has been cropped out. The subject line is “hello beautiful.”

She tells Tony that she has to go because she got a letter from her boyfriend.

“O hon,” Tony writes, “Sorry bout that. b tru & don’t let it get hurtful. Tell him he’s caught rite away. Tc.”

She reads the message. Hey gorgeous, it says. I just wanted to say

hello and ask you to be my friend since we share almost all of the same

interests–I also like R&B and enjoy cooking. I can make a mean gumbo!

Who would have thought you could find a soul mate on Myspace? Lol!!!

Anyway, I’m 27, a fighter pilot for the USAF. Please check out my

profile. I hope you like it and we can be friends. -J

Johny Boy’s Online now! icon mesmerizes her for several minutes before she composes her reply. She sighs heavily and a shockwave of pain fires through to her chest. By now it is evening and the effects of the fever have moved to strange places; sweat clings to her throat and wrists, leaving smudges on the keyboard.

She takes two Percocet. She thinks of Aaron, of him smiling at her from the captain’s side of the Mooney, asking her if she would please move to San Antonio so they could be closer. Then she sees him as he was in the dream, penetrating one woman while the other slaps his thigh with a hot pink dildo, both women making noises that sound like Eeeeeeeee!

Learning whether Aaron is the gentle man who loves her or the puppy-loving, gumbo-cooking jerk has suddenly become more important than happiness. She wipes her wrists, dries her cheeks, and squares herself up to the screen.

She adds him as a friend and returns his message. Johny Boy, she writes, thanks for your sweet message. I like a guy who can cook gumbo. I’ve added you as a friend. Tc.

A couple of minutes later, her computer chimes and the chat box pops up, flashing orange. “Hi,” Johny Boy’s profile says. “How’s ur nite gon?”

“Fine. Urs?”

“lovely, now that am chattn w/u. u have an incredible figure, btw.”

“Btw?” she asks.

“By the way. wat u havn for dinner?”

They small talk for awhile, Shawn fabricating this vivid life of a young, Asian bisexual for him–the movies she’s seen lately, the interesting marketing career she has just begun, and the sexy clothing she’s wearing. Aiko means affectionate child, and Chinatsu means a thousand summers, she tells him. She uses the Internet to educate herself on all matters from Transaction Cost Analysis to a catalog description of a silk teddy.

Finally, she bluntly asks him if he has a girlfriend.

“no,” he says. “we broke up not to long ago.”

“wat happnd?” Shawn asks, her hands shaking.

“she was gr8. we dated for 3 yrs. But after she graduated from college–”

Just after he sends that script, Shawn’s computer loses the internet signal and boots her offline. She tries furiously to reconnect, moving the laptop around the efficiency to find a stronger signal and eventually throwing on some clothes and taking the computer outside. She finds that the dumpster behind the building gets the best signal, so she slides the computer onto the cover of the dumpster and uses a crate to boost herself up. By the time she is back on Myspace, Johny Boy’s Online now! icon is no longer there. She waits 37 minutes for him to get back on.

The night is warm, but she begins to shiver. The computer’s screensaver clicks on. The words, “Shawn and Aaron” bounce from side to side of the screen. Above her the stars are barely visible behind a gossamer curtain of purple city light. A Pegasus flies across the sky, wings flashing orange as he pumps the stardust. She begins to sob loudly. Someone leans out from the fifth floor and tells her to shut the fuck up.

She returns to the efficiency and sees that Aaron has called while she was outside, and she realizes that he probably called just after chatting with Aiko. She returns to the dumpster and does a search on all “personal profile sites.” Then she goes to Hi5, Friendster, Xanga, Bebo, Facebook, and Yahoo! 360. Aaron has profiles on Xanga and Hi5. They look nearly identical to his Myspace profile–he even has some of the same friends. Friendster and Facebook require membership in order to search profiles, so she stays up registering. Aaron Johnstone is listed on Facebook under the Air Force Academy network, but she can’t look at his profile without being a member of the network.

She wakes up the next day feeling even worse–her chest and back ache relentlessly no matter what position she’s in. She takes her last Percocet, calls in sick, and checks the wireless signal. No luck. She puts on loose clothing, packs two water bottles, an umbrella and her phone in a bag, and carries the computer out to the dumpster.

Johny Boy is not Online now!, but Tony is. She chats with him about her correspondence with Johny Boy.

“I can’t believe u r doin this,” he writes. “hon u r only hurtn urself.”

A sudden wave of nausea passes through her, and she leans into the open side of the dumpster and vomits on a cardboard box.

“I know,” she writes, “but I have to find out y he broke up w/me.”

“but he didn’t break up w/u.”

“he sort of broke up w/me.”

“if u want to keep talkn, can u call me? I’m tryn to transcribe my notes to patients records. 210-597-6899.”

Shawn picks up the phone and calls. He has a very deep, smooth voice. If she weren’t already shivering from the fever, she would have chills down her spine. She can hear the keyboard clicking in the background.

“Listen,” he tells her, “people join these sites for different reasons, you know? Maybe your boyfriend just has this fantasy. He’s curious and getting it out of his system. I think you really need to talk to him face to face.”

“Oh, awesome! My boyfriend’s acting out some fantasy on Myspace.”

“And you’re not getting some sort of thrill out of all of this?”


“Listen, honey, I’m not saying it’s a good thing, but the situation might not be as bad as it seems. Talk to him, Shawn.”

“You’re so sweet,” she says. “I’m so glad you’re my friend.”

“Thanks, honey. I’m glad we’re friends, too. I’ll talk to you later, okay?”

An hour later, Shawn’s still sitting on the dumpster, and Aaron calls. Just as she finishes telling him how she’s feeling, a man walks out of her building. She recognizes him as one of her new “friends,” but he doesn’t see her sitting on top of the dumpster. “Listen,” Shawn whispers, “I’m at work. I’ve got to go.”

“I love you, Sinker,” he says.

“You are really something,” she says. “I’m coming over tonight, and we need to talk about real things.”


“I’m sick, really sick. Going to the doctor now. TC!” she says and hangs up. She climbs down from the dumpster and remembers that no one could even recognize her from the profile because the photos weren’t really her. Remembering that she’s not Aiko is disappointing. Whenever she’s thinking as Aiko, she’s not lonely or desperate. Aiko would have gone to the doctor a long time ago. Aiko would have left Aaron already. Sweat drips down the back of her neck, behind her knees and from her nose. She begins driving to the clinic. Aaron tries to phone three times, so Shawn switches the phone to silent.

The Percocet is wearing off, causing her head to ache from fever; the pain is deafening like a Nine Inch Nails song popping up from someone’s profile. Pedestrians look digital, their bodies silhouettes against the white background of the sidewalk, their movements rhythmic and angular.

Inside the clinic, people of all shapes and color scurry down corridors and around potted plants. Shawn sees their profiles on the white walls beside them. Next to a nurse in floral scrubs she sees: I am a caring nurse and work hard to be the best, but I also get naughty and need to be spanked. Next to a middle-aged man in a black suit she sees: My friends say I’m an all-around class act. I enjoy working out, eating healthy and looking my best. The person I’m with will share those values. Next to a man in slacks and a polo shirt: Just your average guy! • Employed • Homeowner • Lead Guitar Player (see The Weekenders Band) • Educated • Spiritual but not religious. • Honest (what you see here is what you get) If you want to know more about me, just ask.

She waits in line to check in with the receptionist, who has an Online now! halo radiating from her curly, orange head. The woman tells her that the doctor is 45 minutes behind.

Shawn sits in the waiting room. She uses her phone to go online. She’s not sure how much this is going to cost, but she knows it’s expensive. She logs into Myspace with the tiny keys. Johny Boy has left her a message. She opens it. Aiko, sorry I didn’t get a chance to say goodnight. I hope you are having a good day. Is there any chance you’d be interested in going to dinner with me Friday or Saturday? If you like Mexican, I’ll take you to La Fogata. Here’s my number: 210-355-8515.

Sometime after that, Shawn faints. Maybe it’s in the bathroom where she goes to vomit, or maybe it’s when she’s back in the corridor. There’s a sting on the top of her hand as a technician inserts a needle, and she hears the whine of an ambulance from the inside. Later, the sharp pain in her nose from an ammonia inhalant briefly transmits her back into reality, and a young doctor bends over her and asks if she has any known allergies to antibiotics.

Both of Shawn’s arms are taped to armrests; a thin tube runs into each of her hands. A green curtain flutters in front of her bed as people running with a piece of machinery rattle by like a ghost train. A nurse emerges from the wall. Tells Shawn that she is in a holding room of the emergency room, that they are treating her for a severe infection by administering antibiotics intravenously and infusing her bloodstream with white blood cells.

Shawn loses consciousness again, and by the time she regains it, she is in a new room with a dark window. A white clock on the white wall tells her that it is 4:00. Her arms are no longer taped down. Only one arm has a tube. There’s no pain and she begins to fall asleep. But then she notices her phone on a tray by her bed, and flashes of a memory of Aiko setting up a date with Johny Boy plays before her. She sees Aiko, all perky, delicately typing on the phone with zeal. She looks down at the tube in her arm and feels a flash of panic.

She should call someone. Her family lives in Michigan and her best friend doesn’t even have a car. She picks up the phone and leaves her boss a voicemail explaining what happened and that she won’t be at work the next day. Then she dials Tony.

“Hi,” he says. “You’re up late.”

“Sorry, did I wake you?”

“No, I’m at the hospital.”

“Me, too,” she says, happy for the first time in days. “I was admitted this afternoon for my infection.”

“You’re at University Hospital?”


“Which room?” he asks.

She looks down at the bracelet on her wrist. “218.”

An hour later, a squatty man wearing green scrubs and a lab coat walks into her room. “I’m Tony.” He sits down in the chair next to her bed and pats her free hand. His hands have dark hairs on them, his hairline is receding, and he’s wearing outdated glasses without anti-glare surfaces. A dull, pudgy version of his profile picture.

“I’m Aiko,” she says.

The next day, sunlight sets the white room aglow. The stainless steel fixtures send off a slightly more muted light and remind Shawn of the way that skyscrapers look from a plane in the morning. She smiles to herself. On the cupboard, there’s a basket of cookies shaped and frosted to look like lollipops. She turns her head and Aaron’s figure, so out of place in the room, nearly startles her out of her IV.

“Hey, Sinker, I came as soon as I heard. I was worried to death about you.”

She asks how he knew she was in the hospital, and he says her boss called since he’s listed as her emergency contact. He smiles in the same old infectious way and lifts her hand to his lips ever so gently. Everything seems intact. For a second, she thinks she has only imagined the Myspace profiles. “The lollipops are so cute. Thank you,” she says.

“I didn’t bring them. Someone named Tony sent them. Who is he?”

“Oh, that guy. He’s a friend.” Shawn becomes silent then.

“You’re going to be okay.” He smiles again and pats her thigh, but she pulls away. He loses the smile quickly and his brow tightens. “Who is this Tony?”

“Tony? I met him on Myspace. Isn’t Myspace great?” She offers a drugged smile. She waits until a look of understanding passes over his face.

“So, you’re an Asianphile?”


“Hi, my name is Aiko,” she says.

He looks down at his lap and shakes his head. Then he looks back into her eyes. “Shawn, I’m so sorry. I’ve completely destroyed the trust. But I promise you I didn’t do anything with any of them.”

“Do you have any other profiles?”

“No,” he says, still looking into her eyes and with a straight face.

Shawn sighs. “How can I believe you? The trust is gone.”

After Shawn gets out of the hospital, she cashes Aaron’s blank check for 3,000 dollars, enough to cover the medical bill plus a little extra. She uses the remainder to get her hair bobbed and dyed dark brown.

A week later, Shawn is on looking at listings for marketing careers when Aaron calls. Shawn looks at the phone and back to the screen. Aiko’s Myspace chat box has popped up with a message. “Aiko, wanna chat? I cant wait til Fri,” it says next to a picture of Sam, an engineer with whom Aiko is going on a date. Shawn rejects Aaron’s call.

“There’s somethin I want to tell u,” she writes. “I’m not really asian.” She plans on editing her profile to have real pictures of her after she loses 12 pounds. The profile will still reflect her newfound interest in Japanese culture, which is steadily growing to include a basic knowledge of Japanese watercolor artists.

Her phone chirps to indicate a voicemail. She listens to it–Aaron’s third attempt at asking her to please reconsider their breakup.

“y did u list urself as asian?”

“long story. if u still want to go out, I’ll tell u all bout it.”

“will u send me a real pic?”

Shawn deletes Aaron’s message. “sure,” she writes. And then she checks her inbox for new messages.

account_box More About

Keely Kotnik currently resides in Fayetteville, AR where she's working on a novel and editing a collection of stories. She has a creative writing degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and is pursuing an MFA in fiction writing at the University of Arkansas.