At some point, I should have thrown the mobile phone that I inherited from Alicia into the Bay, or at the very least deleted all of her accounts and started new ones. Perhaps not at the outset, when one might assume that Alicia would be seeking to return to her life without disruption, but certainly there was no need to preserve such continuity once she decided to remain in her new life. By the time I decided to tolerate this existence for another year in order to find one more suitable that has not been damaged by another's stewardship the way my own had, it had become sadly convenient. When I need to coordinate something with co-workers - and, later, flatmates - they tend to prefer using "WhatsApp" rather than a straightforward voice-mail or text message; on top of that, enough people at the airport remember one Magda or another and ask about her that it is worth regularly glancing at the Facebook page that Daryl continues to maintain to avoid questions of why I don't know what she's up to in New York.
This convenience has generally been worth the occasional moment when Alicia's phone buzzes because somebody has found her Instagram page and decided to leave some lewd comment on a picture of her not completely dressed. At times, I find it amusing, for I am sure most of the men posting that message would be taken aback by the true identity of the person reading it. Occasionally one is unctuous enough to merit blocking, and in a few cases people have reappeared with new accounts. As a man, I admire their persistence, but they are a nuisance, though one that had been tapering off, as I had not added more photographs to keep it current.
Then came "Barbie".
Barbara Matheson was hired by the airline a few months ago, and as fate would have it not only wound up assigned to the same crew as I was in November, but also rented a spot in the same apartment. It is, I suppose, natural that she would decide to look at me as a mentor and sort of older sibling, and I certainly did little to discourage it initially. I have always appreciated the attention of young, attractive women, and though I now recognize that it will no longer lead to certain highly-pleasant experiences, I am nevertheless vulnerable to it.
Part of her being young is that she instinctively documents her entire life in real time, and tags her non-stop stream of "selfies", food photographs, and status updates with the names of everybody in the area, frequently including myself. Every tag becomes a new, current way for people who followed a hash-tag to Barbie's page to find mine, follow me despite the year since the previous post, or decide to make some comment, creating more and more notifications. On a number of occasions, people came to proposition us before we finished our meal because Barbie had tagged the location! Thankfully, she has become more conscientious about waiting to post her silly food pictures until after she has finished eating.
Somewhat surprisingly, not all of the comments Barbie attracts are from men trying to get into her pants; or from family members who think that the travel involved with her job makes her life one to live vicariously, but a whole group of young women as well. And many of them would be shrieking in capital letters not just about the obvious things, but my apparel, which I found strangely gratifying.
Contrary to what Lindsey or Daryl might have you believe, I do dress well. It was initially emasculating the first time I donned brassieres and skirts, in large part because of the job they represented, but eventually one must work with the reality of the body one has. Eventually, it became clear that what one wears allows one to choose who speaks to her, and if that means a black skirt, nylons, and matching heels, it is a small price to pay to converse with serious people rather than the people Alicia used to get involved with! It can be frustratingly difficult at times - my current hips are not as conducive to a nice pencil skirt the way Lindsey's were and presumably are again, so finding the style that best creates the intend impression can require trial and error. That means more time than I would like in changing rooms, and I've taken to traveling with a small iron in case there is not one at a city's "crash pad".
It is, in some ways, a circle of deception, with me pretending to be Alicia pretending to be a bit more high-class than her means. The combination of all factors puts me in some strange situations on occasion, like last night, when I needed a new top and found my bank account light between paying rent last week and my pay not being deposited until today. I took two into the changing room and had a difficult time deciding, and practically before the idea had formed, there were two new posts on Alicia's Instagram account, asking the ladies following her which I should choose. Surprisingly, there was a flurry of responses saying that the white one with bate shoulders was "v. sophisticated" (and, yes, some would write out "sophisticated" while abbreviating "very"), so I went with that.
The Inn has made me a selfie-posting Millennial. God help me.
- Harmon Keller