“An awkward encounter with Your Ex,” by Hannah Sloane

Aug 8th, 2012 | By | Category: Fake Nonfiction, Prose

It happens quickly.  One minute you’re walking along Orchard Street asking yourself who casts these so-called “models” for American Apparel because they aren’t even remotely attrac—and bam!  There he is, standing on the corner of Rivington. 

All prior thoughts are inconsequential as you focus on one goal: find a hiding place.  With the feline grace of a snow leopard you dive towards the first thing you see, a mailbox, and send a punk kid’s bagel soaring high into the air.  Now there are two problems: the mailbox only covers you from the waist down and the punk kid is causing a commotion, demanding you pay for his smoked salmon and cream cheese bagel that he had only taken ONE BITE OUT OF.  The number of bites is irrelevant you say which angers him more, so you thrust ten bucks into his sweaty hand and pray that the tall profile approaching your left retina isn’t who you think it is.

“Hey you!  Long time!” Jake says, leaning in and kissing you on the cheek.

You don’t hear what he’s saying.  All you can think about is how beautiful he is.  Look at those clear blue eyes and bright blond hair.  He’s wearing lycra which clings to his skin, emphasizing his tall rippling frame.  He’s so wholesome and all-American and perfect.  You smile in what you hope is a relaxed manner and try to convey an oh-so-breezy-you’ve-never-felt-better demeanor.  A woman who is also lycra-clad steps forward and shakes your hand.  You freeze and smile a little too manically like a hospitalized mad woman high on morphine.

“This is Sophie.  Sophie this is Amy,” Jake says.  “We met in Gourmet Garage.  We both reached for the same oatmeal packet!”

“And I recognized him from the gym!  He’d been running on the treadmill next to me!” Sophie says smugly as she does a knee lunge on the sidewalk, which doesn’t appear to be ironic.

“So our first date was a jog along the Hudson River path,” Jake says, beaming at you.  “We kept at an even eight minute mile pace.”

“That’s what all the kids who meet online say these days,” you remark, laughing while they stare at you, confused.  “I just meant…”

You allow your voice to drift off and stare at the ground and that’s when you see their matching Nike running shoes.  They’re one of those couples that exercise together in a non-competitive this-will-make-our-sex-life-better-if-that’s-even-possible way, the kind of happy healthy couple that makes Oprah look like a mean-spirited witch.  You remember the time Jake suggested you two jog together.  You laughed in his face and continued to cram Pringles into your mouth.

“How come you were hurtling towards this mailbox?” Your ex asks innocuously.

The three of you look at the mailbox.  Instinctively you slide your hand towards the blue lid and open it.  There’s a crumpled Netflix envelope jammed at the top.

“Mailing this back,” you lie.

“Which movie is it?”  Knee-lunging bitch asks.

You pause and desperately try to remember the name of something by Jean-Luc Godard, but your brain goes blank.  “The Goonies.”

“Good choice,” Jake said.

“It’s a classic,” you hear yourself say.

“How do you two know each other?” Sophie asks.  Or was her name Cindy?

Jake volunteers that you used to date.  You had forgotten how open he is in situations where small talk would suffice.  As he describes how you met, it strikes you that this story is the antithesis of theirs.  He goes into absurd detail, describing getting paired up as beer pong partners at a frat party, how you drank too much, how you tried to fit five ping pong balls in your mouth and stopped at four.  Wow he’s really not leaving anything out, you think, as he describes your vomit stuck to his foot at 4am.

“And that was the highlight of our relationship.  The next ten months really went downhill from there,” you joke.

“We didn’t date for ten months did we?” Jake asks.  “I thought it was only four or five.”

Ouch, you think.  Jake’s face softens with concern suddenly.  “How’s your gran doing?”

You hate him.  You hate his sporty girlfriend.  You hate their perfect athletic life.

“Dead.  She died.”

His face crumples.  “Oh god.  I guess she was getting old.”

“Actually no, an electric stair lift malfunction threw her down the stairs.”  You wonder where this is coming from, but you feel the need to keep going.  “The funeral service was really beautiful though and Chris has been so supportive.”

There is no Chris.  That’s three lies in the space of thirty seconds.  A cock must be crowing somewhere.

“I’ll send your parents a card.”

“They would… love that.  Thanks.”

“Well it was lovely to meet you Amy,” Sophie/Cindy says.  The bitch is calling you out on this.  She knows you can’t remember her name.


“Hang in there,” Jake says as he leans in for a hug and pats your back in an unmistakably patronizing manner.  And then they’re off, jogging in perfect unison.

That did not go well, you decide.  They were meant to walk away transfixed, unable to return to their earlier conversation.  You fantasize about what they would be saying if this was a perfect world.

Jake: “Wow, she looks fantastic.”

Sophie/Cindy: “I agree.  She has a certain… je ne sais quoi.” 

Jake (spoken somewhat wistfully): “I mean, it was so refreshing to see her.”

You watch them jog up the street towards the American Apparel on Houston.  Come to think of it, she kind of looks like one of their models.


Hannah Sloane moved to New York four years ago from London.  She has also been published in Monkeybicycle, Mr. Beller’s Neighborhood, and Nerve and she is currently working on her first novel.

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