Once in a Lifetime Moment by Sandra Bazzarelli

The pings kept coming. She had hoped to be regularly pinged, but this was too much. Her phone had become a sort of nagging pet begging for attention. She could put it on vibrate, but vibration, by virtue of being vibration, travels. Before long the wrapper on her granola bar and metal clasp on her wallet would be feverishly kazooing. All those alerts, the barrage of cartoon hearts bejeweling the crown of her home screen, all they did was turn her purse into a designer bag of noise.

ping

TEAMSPORT sent you a message: hey ur so freakin HOT!!!

ping

TEAMSPORT sent you a message: hey SEXXXY wanna chat?

ping

TEAMSPORT sent you a message: U 2 good 2 say HI???

ping

TEAMSPORT sent you a message: NOBODY WANTS UR STANK ASS ANYWAY U STUCK UP BITCHFACE!!!

TEAMSPORT is now blocked.

A week of this online dating thing had already taken its toll on Lily, AKA PETALPUSHER. With waning patience and minimal interest, she clicked on JUSTRON’s image to reveal his profile.

About JUSTRON:

I’m well-traveled and well-dressed. I consider myself a handsome guy because my mother used to tell me I should consider myself a handsome guy in case no one else did. I dream in French. My car is silver because everyone has a silver car and I didn’t want to stand out by driving an orange one. I used to dream (in French) about driving an orange car. The color, not the fruit. Driving from town to town in an actual orange would make me too conspicuous. Plus, people would think I sold oranges, or orange juice, and I don’t. I sell once in a lifetime moments. Any buyers?

By Lily’s estimations, this JUSTRON person was just handsome and literate enough to set himself apart from the others.

PETALPUSHER sent you a message: Tell me,  JUSTRON, what are these “once in a lifetime moments” of which you type?

Two days later JUSTRON had yet to respond.

It would be a full week before the muffled ping in Lily’s purse would be a welcome one.

Stripped of their profiles, photo filters, and assumed screen names, Lily and Ron sat across from one another at a rather out-of-the-way coffee shop that bore a strange resemblance to a boiler room.

Soon enough the two had shared the basics of who they were and seemed to have a light flirtation going. Still, when she asked him to be more specific about his job as a traveling salesman, Ron only replied, “I told you. I sell once in a lifetime moments.”

“But what does that mean?”

Ron shrugged. “It means just that.”

“Okay, so how much do you charge?”

“There’s no fixed rate,” replied Ron. “I usually just get what you’ve got.”

“Are these clients of yours satisfied after they’ve been granted their moments?”

Ron laughed, drank his last spot of coffee, and then leaned in and reached out to gently take a few strands of Lily’s hair between his fingers. He rolled the softness around on his fingertips in the same manner in which he had rolled his empty sugar packet into a tight paper pellet—with a sort of mindless purpose.

“They aren’t granted anything, pretty girl. They pay for it. I’m a salesman, not a genie.”

She decided she didn’t like him.

Not after the way he had touched her hair, called her “pretty girl,” and insisted on maintaining an aura of mystery about himself.

This was the Information Age they were living in. Two minutes after they had parted company with no plan to meet up again, still standing in the street, Lily typed the name Ron Lindster into the Google box of truth only to find that Ron Lindster didn’t seem to exist. As it turned out, no Ronny, Ronnie, Ronni, Ronald, nor Ronaldo Lindster existed either.

ping

JUSTRON sent you a message: Any luck, detective?

Lily had heard it described as a chest-tightening, stomach-dropping, hands-shaking kind of feeling, but Lily felt none of it. Panic, it would seem, had taken a wrong turn and missed her stop completely. She stared at her screen and coolly typed out a response message to JUSTRON.

PETALPUSHER sent you a message:  Who are you?

ping

JUSTRON sent you a message: Just Ron.

PETALPUSHER sent you a message: Knock it off. This isn’t cute. This neither scares nor impresses me, understand? So tell me, was anything you said to me in the coffee shop just now even remotely true? Tell me who you really are.

ping

JUSTRON sent you a message: Just Ron.

Lily had reached the point of utter exasperation. This was where she would give up and go home to her toy poodle, Serious Richard, the only normal male companion she had come across in the past five years. She tossed her phone into her bag and started walking toward her car.

ping

“Go to hell, Ron,” she said while digging through her bag for her car keys.

ping

This guy was unbelievable. She grabbed her phone, determined. She would block him. Report him to the dating app algorithm elves and get him kicked off the site.

She looked down at her screen.

JUSTRON sent you a message: Just Ron.

JUSTRON sent you a message: Sorry. Typos are the worst.

She didn’t understand.

Lily unlocked her car door and opened it. Like most car doors, it liked to alert her to the fact that it was, indeed, open.

ping, ping, ping, ping, ping, ping, ping

She had been turning the words  “Just Ron” over in her mind when the headlights caught her.

Cementing her in place as she wondered what was happening, the lights seemed to command that she stand still and watch their steady approach. She couldn’t move. It wasn’t until she saw the silver hull of his nondescript sedan speeding toward her that she finally understood.

...just a car crash away

“…just a car crash away” (image via Flickr user derek raugh)

There, in the street, with her last breath about to be spent, it occured to Lily that this was the once in a lifetime moment she was paying for.

Sandra Bazzarelli is a singer/songwriter and writing instructor from Bergen County, New Jersey who earned her B.A. in Literature-Writing from Columbia University and her M.A. in Teaching & Learning from NYU. Some of her creative writing has been published in such literary journals as Quarto, Jersey Devil Press, Instigatorzine, Mad Swirl, amphibi.us, and Clapboard House.

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