All the Women Flew Away by Valerie Maloof

When Donny moved out I decided not to tell people that I cheated. It was more believable that way.

I cringed as friends told me I deserved better than “that loser,” but I didn’t protest when my two girlfriends wanted to make me an online dating profile. I liked them pampering me even if they were just afraid I would die alone or get married in my late 30s. They came over and made me sound fascinating online while moving men collected all the furniture Donny had paid for. I told my friends not to mention to suitors that I didn’t have a bed.

My friends told me to envision my perfect guy so “the universe” could “send him” to me. I envisioned a guy who slouched, who had beautifully messy hair, who didn’t carry a bag, who cared about strangers, who didn’t bore me, who made life exciting, who would know when I was unhappy, who would live in borderline poverty with me in an apartment lined with books and green plants. That’s all I wanted. That’s not what I got.

Instead, my friends accidentally selected ‘interested in women’. I didn’t notice this error until it was too late. I was very popular. A blonde smiley doctor, a cool Indian architect and a busty brunette messaged me on the first day of my being interested in women. I couldn’t say no. I didn’t know what I wanted, but they did know what they wanted, and they wanted me, so maybe I was supposed to be with them?

I booked my first date right away and then two dates in a row after that. Donny cut me off his cell phone plan and it was the first time in years I didn’t have internet on my phone. I printed out the profiles of these women along with directions on how to get to the restaurants and tips for first date conversations. Each woman had her own manila file folder and I carried all three of my dates around with me in a large green file.

I studied their faces and re-read our flirty exchanges. I was good at being a fake lesbian. I believed the sweet words I said to them. Maybe I really was sweet. I didn’t know what to expect but I wanted one of these women to take me, to control me.

I put my green file on top of my car as I fixed my hair in the reflection of my window. I sat in the driver’s seat and closed my eyes picturing the Indian architect’s face. As I drove off I looked in my rear-view mirror and saw a gaggle of paper trail off behind me, and all the women flew away. I kept driving down the road not stopping to pick up the women. The green folder had freed them from me and it was probably for the best.

Valerie Maloof‘s fiction has appeared in The Drum Literary Magazine, 100 Word Story, Jellyfish Review, and Bartleby Snopes.