A Face Restored – Part 1

Nick Sciacalli had been mindlessly swiping right long enough for his thumb to start to feel numb. Given the callus that had developed on most of his fingers he was surprised he had any feeling left to lose. His friends joked it was from the incessant swiping. His best friend Lotisha was concerned that it was becoming a nervous tick. Both were true to a certain extent — Nick tended to run on the nervous side and found himself idly swiping yes to girls that he couldn’t describe five minutes later. The majority of girls hadn’t swiped in his favor, and less than half of the small handful that did, never messaged him. Nick refused to be bothered by any of it. Most apps that were supposed to be for dating, even though dating these days was a complete abomination of the true meaning of the word, ended up being filled with girls looking for easy lays and free meals. He had heard from his friends (the same ones that now mocked him) who originally encouraged him to download it had said that most of the girls on Stinger were looking for something between casual dating and actual relationships. Dating had still meant actual courtship the last time Nick had been in a real relationship, eventually he succumbed to his peer’s pressure and signed up.

Looking around the store, Nick had felt similar about its products, before he had gotten sucked into needless need perpetuated by materialism. Nick worked at a high end kitchen supply store filled with fancy knives, over priced ‘handmade’ items, ceramic pots, and the item no kitchen could do without – the tomato corer. At first he mocked these things and the people that bought them, until the store manager put him on demonstrations the week one of his co-workers had an asthma attack and was hospitalized. Welding the fancy knife to slice through the top cut of pork, popping the cores of the tomatoes out to nuzzle their shells with the meat, making them a happy home in the bright orange ceramic pot, to relocate the gorgeous meal onto an equally gorgeous plate was exhilarating. He felt sexier than any man cable tv cooking shows could feature. He was the catch of the day, and owned the perfect butchering knife to flay himself… not that he was into that. Lotisha had given him a sideways glance when he was justifying the three digit price of the butcher knife he bought despite being the primary breadwinner in his family.  

Lotisha had always felt a strong need to look over Nick – Nick who felt a strong need to look over his family, all of his friends, even his friend’s dogs, but never himself. She had met Nick at the mall to grab a bite to eat before his shift. She was telling him her exciting news, she felt that Jim was finally going to pop the question, when she noticed his black, slicked back hair and maybe half of his forehead. With his thumb still shifting right to left and left to right, Lotisha opened her cup of water and threw it into as much of Nick’s face as possible.

“What the fuck, Lo?” Nick barked.

“Maybe I’ll join this dumb dating app, and then you’ll actually pay attention to me for a half a second before you’re on to the next.

Nick looked puzzled.

“Next time, put your fucking phone away and listen to the person sitting across from you asshole,” Lotisha shouted before storming off.

Nick sat there shaking the water from his hair like a dog. He looked down at his phone, as a pair of green eyes, blonde hair, and flashed across the screen as he right swiped. Angrily, he threw his thumb to the right, before closing his screen and jamming his phone into his back pocket. After cleaning up the mess from Lotisha’s water, her half eaten lunch, and his soaking wet untouched sushi rolls, Nick left the food court already five minutes late for work.

The door chimed forcing Nick to pick up his head and greet whatever affluent housewife wanted to but something they would never use. He turned an ugly shade of red when he realized it was Lotisha.

“Hey,” she said extending a bright red, extra large to go coffee cup, “I’m sorry, about earlier.”

Nick looked around the store. It had been a fairly slow shift thus far, even though it was frowned upon, he took the cup, “thanks.” Nick’s eyes briefly met Lotisha’s before averting them. He knew on some level his constant swiping had come to be more than just the butt of every joke with the guys in their group, but he hadn’t realized how much it affected Lotisha until earlier.

“You’ll find her, eventually,” Lotisha said quietly, “but you can’t lose yourself and your friends in the process.”

Nick thought about what his closest and longest friend was telling him. He would find her eventually. But how could she expect him to find her by slowing down the process? She was there, he knew it. He had seen her once before.

 

Her phone vibrated in a heartbeat pattern: “ZZZap… Match!” Courtney opened her phone, and rolled her eyes. She wasn’t sure why she had swiped right to begin with — the guy looked as though he had been the quiet kid on the playground, the one that got pushed around a lot, and grew up to be that awkward teacher still pestered by jocks, or America’s next serial killer. Was there really a difference, she thought to herself?

She continued scrolling through his pictures trying to figure out what had possessed her to right swipe. Within two pictures she figured it out- he had a picture with a dog, but she should have learned by now, you cannot date a dog, nor can you only date someone for their dog. If she had more time and less inclination to travel, she would get her own four-legged child, but it wasn’t in the cards for her just yet. There was too much she wanted to do, to see, to experience. Not that Courtney was looking for her soulmate, she just wanted someone, or two, with whom she could casually galavant around different cities and towns. While picking out her power outfit for a meeting with tomorrow she mindlessly messaged the psycho-teacher-killer: “Hey Nick :)”

 

To Nick’s delight, shortly after Lotisha arrived, groups of women started filtering into the store, forcing the conversation to end abruptly. Lotisha rolled her eyes at a particularly bitchy woman dripping in jewels, overpriced perfume, and an unfounded sense of entitlement shimmed her personally trained ass through the doors. Nick held back a smirk, and winked at Lotisha. Even when they didn’t agree on things, she was the closest thing left he had to a sister. A tightness pulled in Nick’s throat as the flashy woman walked up to the counter and tapped her perfectly manicured nails on the counter.  

Two hours of juggling the whims of Lisa, the bitchy bejewelled woman, and all the other slightly-less needy housewives, Nick was able to begin closing the store. He hated working alone, especially during the holiday season, but he was recently down two employees and hadn’t had time to hire someone capable of not stealing, not being a raging asshole, and who wouldn’t do lines in the bathroom. He had been opened later than anticipated, but he cleared $2,500 in sales. He also hadn’t checked his phone breaking his old record of 35 minutes by a full 242.86%. Nick thought about keeping up his record, but only people with addictions or compulsions kept records like that. Besides, the register was closed, the place was cleaned, the only thing he had left to do was set up for tomorrow’s morning demonstration and that was something anyone could do one handed.

Nick walked to the back room, hung up his apron and rolled the wooden butcher block with the box of demonstration supplies on top to the front of the store. As he began unloading the tablecloth and skirt, Nick pulled his phone out from his back pocket. The screen read: “ZZZap… 4 New Matches!”

Casually switching from the swiping to messaging section of the app, Nick adjusted the tablecloth down, securing it over the corners, while checking out his four new messages. Nick had a system so regimentally stuck to, that it had become a part of his muscle memory for his fingers and eyes. The first one turned out to be a tall brunette with glasses, and a while she had similar attributes to the girl he was looking for, she wasn’t. She was pretty and based on her pictures with friends at the zoo, the museum, and historical tv sights it seemed as though she and Nick had a great deal in common. He typed out a cursory hello, and moved on to the next one. The second girl had curly brown hair and a large chest, but that was the extent of what he was looking for; to make matters worse, her bio described a pretentious, boring snob. Nick ignored her message. The third girl had unmatched him. He opened the fourth message and dropped his phone

Hands shaking, Nick picked his phone off the floor and unlocked his screen. There before him wasn’t just any girl. It was the girl. Her bright green eyes framed by her long, wavy hair – it wasn’t brown, but the blonde worked. Her cute button nose and pink lips were all perfect. She even had the beauty mark. She was there on his screen, and she messaged him: “Hey Nick :)”

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