This story is by Jericho Jones and was part of our 2017 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Chris sat on his couch eating Cheetos, watching the College Football Fall Kickoff broadcast. It had been a long summer after the breakup and he finally had something to look forward to. Kickoff for the State game was a few minutes away. The broadcast went to a commercial break.
On the screen a twenty-something guy was sitting on a couch, beard untrimmed. He was stuffing a pizza slice into his mouth. The narrator’s voice said:
“Have you spent too many nights sitting on the couch alone? Do you want to find love? His life about more than spending night after night alone eating take-out? If this is you, Perfect Pair is right for you.”
An 800 number and the website address popped up on the screen. Chris shook his head and went into the kitchen to grab another beer. You’re the broadcast of the background come back on and he ran in to see the kickoff. The campaign across the crowd. He saw states blue colors everywhere as the crowd of over 80,000 packed out the stadium in a sea of blue. And then the camera panned over to a couple wearing blue. The guy wore a visor. A freaking visor. And next to visor-guy was Vicki. Chris boiled.
Kickoff happen but Chris was still thinking about Vicki sitting at the state game with visor-guy. They were in the seats that Vicki and Chris sat in the last two seasons. He tipped his beer over and took a long drink. And then another. And then a few more bottles. and then he passed out by the middle of the game.
Chris woke up the next morning in a pile of empty beer cans and bottles. He checked his phone. No new messages.
The state game went into overtime but they lost on a field-goal. He opened up his email. One new email.
Perfect pair: your appointment is set for 10 AM today. We look forward finding you your perfect pair
It was 9:30 AM. He looked around at the beer bottles on the couch and floor. He thought of Vicki at the game with that loser with the visor. Chris got dressed and in the car. The GPS said 12 minutes. He’d be a couple minutes late.
He pulled in the shopping strip and saw the perfect pair sign between a nail salon in a deli. He walked in and receptionist sat behind the desk of the sleek modern room. Besides the smell of chemicals from the nail salon it was like he stepped into a completely different world. Everything was clean and uncluttered.
“Welcome to perfect pair would you please sign in?” Said the receptionist with a cherry smile. Chris signed his name on the clipboard and sat down. The Beatles played gently in the background. A few moments later the receptionist emerge from the side door and called Chris to the back. He walked through a hallway into one of the rooms just like a doctor’s office. He sat in a leather chair and the reception is set down at a computer.
She went through a lot of questions that were similar to a doctor’s visit. She asked him his name, address, and all the basic stuff you got answered a place like this. And then she handed him a tablet with the instructions complete the assessment.
The Perfect Pair Assessment was thorough taking Chris over an hour to complete. It asked them things like “what’s your idea of a fun date?” Or “What do you look for in a significant other?”.
After he completed the assessment, the receptionist came back in the room and took the tablet from him. She led down the hallway into another room marked Pairing Room. She showed him a beverage fridge and told him to wait while she identified his Perfect Pair.
Chris’s phone buzzed in his pocket. One new message.
Vicki: how are you?
Chris dropped his diet soda, splashing on the side of the chair and on Chris’s pant leg. “Crap”. He rummaged through the cabinets and found some paper towels to mop up the spilled soda. He looked back at his phone.
Chris: great. You?
A moment later
Vicki: good. I miss you
The door opened and the receptionist came in with another woman in-tow. The two ladies came in and sat in chairs across from Chris. The woman looked timid but smiled at Chris as she came in. Crystal had a fistful of wet paper towels in his hand as he looked up at the woman.
“Christopher I’d like to meet your Perfect Pair, Stephanie” the receptionist motioned with her hand towards the smiling woman. Chris blushed and wiped off his hands on his pants before shaking Stephanie’s hand.
“Stephanie” said the girl nodding her head.
“Chris” He said Imitating Stephanie. She was beautiful. And a little shy. Not the way Vicki was beautiful. Vicki was hot but Stephanie seemed to be the kind of girl that would age well. Chris’s phone buzzed again. He tried not to look at it.
“Chris and Stephanie. You have been paired with one another based on thousands of computations by the Perfect Pair Algorithm. We see that you are 98% compatible. Now it is obviously up to both of you whether you want to see each other in a romantic setting in the future. But it is our suggestion during this Trial Period that couples above the 90 percentile make an effort for informal interpersonal exchanges.” The receptionist sounded almost robotic. She was following a script but the message was clear to Chris. Chris and Stephanie were being set up on a blind date by computer algorithm.
Chris glanced at his phone.
Vicki: I’ve been thinking about you a lot lately.
Chris slid the phone into his pocket and smiled at Stephanie. The receptionist instructed them they had an hour and left Chris and Stephanie. For the next hour Chris discovered that Stephanie had gone through a bad breakup herself six months before and had nearly given up dating.
“It just kinda bums me out every time I think about dating” she said. Chris thought of Vicki with the visor-guy. It bummed him out to.
His phone buzzed again.
Vicki: can I come see you?
“Yeah,” said Chris “I know what you mean. I went through a breakup a few months ago myself.” They both swapped sob stories. Chris thought Stephanie was terrific. The way she talked about herself was self-deprecating. Not the way Vicki always made herself the hero of every story.
The receptionist walked through the door.
“Your Trial Period is over. If you would like to continue talking with your Perfect Pair, payment is required”. the receptionist handed Stephanie and Chris clipboards with a contract. Chris thumbed through the contract.
“What is a relationship subscription?” Said Stephanie to the receptionist.
“For the duration of a Perfect Pair Relationship, you must pay a monthly rate.”
“You can’t be serious?” Said Chris.
“Perfect Pair Membership subscriptions include relational counseling and tune-ups. Couples who marry, enter our Legacy Plan, which offers discounted rates and long-term relational solutions,” said the receptionist.
“I’m sorry Chris, I can’t do this” said Stephanie. Tears were welling up in her eyes. Chris had just met her, but this was not right.
“Listen, you can’t play with people’s hearts. We came in here looking for a connection, and now you want us to pay for it indefinitely?” Stephanie left the room sobbing.
“If one partner is unable to make payment, we allow for the other partner to make payment in their place,” said the receptionist. Chris shook his head in disgust.
Chris drove home fuming. He wanted to get on perfect pair website and leave the worst reviews. He make up fake accounts just so you can leave scathing reviews. When he pulled into his driveway he saw a familiar blue car parked on the side of the road. It was Vicki.
Chris open the door as Vicki wrapped him up in a hug. “I’ve missed you Chris. You’re all I’ve been thinking about lately. Can we talk?”
He thought about Vicki on the screen with the visor guy. She didn’t seem to be thinking about Chris then. And she had the audacity to sit in their seats at the State game. Their seats. He thought of Stephanie and the tears coming down her face. And the subscription.
“Chris? Can we talk?”
“I’m sorry Vicki. I’ve met someone”.
Robert Ranck says
You’ll pay for this!
Clever, thoughtful, and with horrifyingly businesslike efficiency.