She’d nicknamed him “Extra!” the first night she’d met him, because he’d come to their mutual friend’s birthday celebration late, exuberant, waving a copy of the newspaper he worked for, his article—his first front-page, above-the-fold piece—in one hand. That unselfconscious, joyful self-promotion was not his usual modus operandi, but with her, he had been happy to rebrand himself. Every early text and phone call, cup of coffee, the omlette prepared for her in his tiny studio apartment the next morning, all of it was exclamatory, a waved banner of incredulous delight and importance. And so the name had stuck. When he’d call, she’d answer the phone and say it, Extra! She started her emails to him this same way, at once a declaration and a naming of him. Extra! You wouldn’t believe what happened today.
After six months, though, the exclamation was starting to fade. One night, at the same bar where they’d met and with the same group of people, she said it off-hand: oh yeah, Extra and I saw that show last week. She shrugged a shoulder towards him as she spoke, but didn’t take her eyes off the person she was talking to. This time, the endearment tasted like dismissal. No longer Especially! or Even more!, it had become something else—a punctuation-less word that meant something outside of what was the main stuff of life, supplemental, unnecessary. He was no longer fundamental: he was extra. Like an old copy of the newspaper with his first above-the-fold article or a forgotten Sunday edition insert, he crumpled.
Margaret Adams is the author of short fiction, creative nonfiction, and essays. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Joyland Magazine, The Pinch Journal, The Baltimore Review, and The Bellingham Review, among other publications. She lives in Seattle, Washington. Her website is www.margaret-adams.com.