“Pickles and Tarts” — Chapter 7

Image by Mario Savioni

Chapter 7

The cafe had graphic paintings: reds, greens, pinks, yellows, triangles, lines, circles, a heart in the middle of one of the paintings, a movement toward the center were these forms, painted with thick lines. A brassy meringue came from the speakers. It was loud. You couldn’t help but be affected by the music. Before he realized it, Frank was tapping his foot. Then, he looked around the room to see if anyone noticed. He saw an Asian woman on her computer on the right. He wondered if she noticed him, just as it seemed to him that she was thinking about him, but maybe it was his imagination. She was attractive and young. She was sitting with a man, who was wearing ear buds connected to a phone. He was Asian too. They were wearing running shoes, three white stripes on his shoes and a black and gray background. They matched the stripes going down the length of his long-sleeved gray sweatshirt. His socks were red, black, and white. He scratched the back of his neck. Her shoes were hidden behind his from Frank’s point of view and her feet were together. She wore a dark, gray jacket with a fur-edged hood. Her black-brown hair poured over her hood. Her mouth was open and she wore earbuds too. It was a cold night. They sat sipping tea and looking at their respective computer screens. 

By this time, Frank conceded to the truth of his limited reading. He was only touching, not even reading the books he was referring to. This was his means to a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) education or at least to prepare for the Graduate Record Exam (GRE), of which he was afraid. The GRE stood as a line that he would probably not cross in his lifetime. He was not good at standardized tests and he reasoned that studying for the GRE or Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) would require the altering of his personality just to do well enough to get into the school of his choice.

“Beyond that,” Frank wrote, “it feels weird contacting you because I saw your picture and as an artist, I thought you were a beauty.” This statement belied the fact that while Frank did indeed think Nicole was a beauty, and while he was an artist, what he thought of her was sexual. Her face was “perfect.” There was no noise with the issue of her complexion, which was clean. Other photos of her were of an innocent and kind person, one showed her with two men her age. He asked her why she chose him.

Frank was hoping she was attracted. He prefaced with “As a writer” to offer her an alternative, however, which would save his face in case she simply selected him accidentally. He figured if it had been an accident, he could fabricate the rest of her interaction for a short story. It had to be “true” and thus he hoped her response would be something more interesting than if she merely had made a mistake.

Frank had made many mistakes on the site and luckily at those times the other people weren’t interested. He never had to tell them that he wasn’t interested. He also asked her what she needed, because he had read this somewhere as a question one should ask a person. The word ‘need’ seemed to embody a direct question, it cut out the possibility for misunderstanding and the passage of emotional baggage. He hoped it would open a range of responses. He wanted to meet her in person to see if she existed. This would narrow the uncertainty.

“Hahaha, this is so unique!” she said. “You’re a writer then? I love to write. It’s funny you mention writing a short story. I am currently taking a class called ‘Short stories’ and it is focused on analyzing character development. I swiped right to do something spontaneous. I’m not looking for a romantic partner. I have a boyfriend. It’s fun to talk to different people sometimes. Right?”

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29 comments

  1. Wow, I like this sudden turn in your story. Still keeping the intrigue. If Nicole has a boyfriend… what is she doing on a dating site? Or is this a larger site for different kinds of human relationships, where she just pressed the wrong button contacting Frank who was actually simply looking for a possible love partner? Or perhaps not? Maybe it was Frank who pressed the wrong button as he found Nicole so physically atractive? Is Nicole bored with her boyfriend and wants to make him jealous (something I never understood about women, I think I would never do such a useless hurting thing)? If so, did Nicole realise that between Frank and her there are at least 35 years of age difference? Really well written and intriguing…

    • I think I answered that about who pressed what. Nicole chose Frank. But, yes, why would Nicole be there? But, we don’t know that her boyfriend knows, and thus there would be no jealousy. She may have not intended to choose Frank. I hope Frank’s position is clear. And maybe not. If he found her attractive, would pressing the button constitute a mistake? I think Nicole knew about Frank’s age. A lot of these sites have the age established. I am so glad the story has legs.

      • Yes, your story is thought-provoking. It leads to endless reflections and discussions on human relationships, digital era contacts, inherited religious and cultural aspects of love relationships, social prejudices… Your novel has the legs of a chameleon in the sense that it can run miles and miles so fast.

      • Yes Marta, these points too are what is important. I am interested in the cultural milieu and that dynamism of affect. Technology facilitates otherwise odd coincidences, the truth breaks through cement cracks.

      • Frank’s position is perfectly honest and clear. to me he makes no mistake at all morally speaking. As my English student Wladi said, Nicole will understand if she is mature enough at her age. I like her reaction and the fact that she also likes to write. I only hope she is being as honest as Frank. Perhaps she is not… who knows. Awaiting your next chapter!

    • Thank you for reading and implying success. Yes, Nicole was not interested in pursuing a relationship with Frank, but hopefully something positive about their interaction develops and the story itself has merit. Moments said their was impetus via intrigue to continue reading. I am happy with that. I think breaking the story up may have helped. I learned that from another writer on WordPress. I can’t remember how many “chapters” there are, but we will see if I can maintain interest.

      • Great to hear that and yes it sure is good to break up your story like this because the viewers like to read and get a grip of short and simple reading. Even I write but they r short stories. I have written a story on Thoughts u can have a look in my blog, Mario. Welcome u r a great writer.

  2. OK, so much said in the last paragraph. Nicole is not looking for a ‘romantic’ partner, she has a boyfriend, spontaneous, fun and different people are words which jump out. Is Nicole looking for a fling? She has a boyfriend and still she is on a dating site. A fling with a writer? It is obvious the age factor is not a problem she wanted to do something spontaneous. Frank also mentioned he could write short stories. Maybe Nicole knowing Frank is older is looking at her (younger) for a fun time? maybe? by the way well done, for this piece of writing.

    • I hope you don’t mind if I share, my daughter loves art and this morning we were looking through her book of artists. I came across Johannes Vermeer, Girl with the Pearl Earring and at that moment I saw Frank and Nicole. I think I’m beginning to understand the beauty of your writing and Franks need to love perfection (Nicole) and for perfection to love him back. Can’t wait for the next chapter. 🙂

      • That is correct. Vermeer’s relationship with beauty. I think he is very much aware of the impossibility of their relationship, but he idealizes it nonetheless. As an artist too, he knows he may hope, but to remain true, he can’t possibly ignore what more likely than not is hopeless. I think at that point, he intellectualizes it by turning it into a story, in Vermeer’s case, a painting.

        I am flattered that you think of my writing as beautiful.

  3. A thoroughly intriguing story and your sudden twist at the end caught me quite unaware, but at the same time became a familiar finish for a man on the wishful search.

  4. Nicole is a cheerful girl. She seems to only want to have fun. This is the impression I have. Frank, instead, I think he sees himself old and looks more serious into human relationships. I believe he has found some illusion with the possibility to start something with Nicole.

  5. I am really enjoying how this story is unfolding. I like your descriptive style which is both observant and poetic yet never overly florid. The theme here is, I feel, quite a universal one as we all search for our own undestanding of ‘love’. You handle this very adeptly. I look forward to reading more.

  6. What a pity! It seems that our friend Frank is going to be very disappointed. Nicole does not seem to share the depth of her thoughts, her feelings, her sexual desire … at least for now.

    This chapter shows, in my point of view, the diversity of character in people, the expectations of each one in terms of establishing relationships through social networks or contact pages. Not everyone has the same goal. In fact, I think that right now Nicole and Frank’s expectations are very, very far from each other.

    Although that relationship may evolve into something else … or not …

    How do you like to intrigue us …!

  7. Why use ‘Spark’ when you already have a boyfriend? Does Nicole just want to have a relation of friendship with Frank? Or she has something else in mind?

    Wow, this story is taking interesting turns.


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