Miya Turnbull, Self-Portrait (Layers of Self), variation #17, 2022. Digital Photograph, mounted and laminated. 16 in. x 20 in.
Sad Boys and Pigeon Girls
by Nicole Haldoupis
Steven was a sad boy. Toni liked this about him. His hair was long and he was alone in all of his pictures. He told her that he had a rough night but didn’t say why. When she asked him, he said it was too much to type on his phone but that he was taking the day to rest and feel his feelings. His life had been unpredictable lately, he said. He would tell her all about it when they met in real life, when they finally went for their walk together. Toni stared at the cracking blue paint on her bedroom ceiling. She was not looking forward to hearing about Sad Steven’s life when they walked together. She kept putting off the walk: “Tomorrow,” she’d say, and each day she was unexpectedly too busy, so it was pushed to tomorrow again. She might have just stopped responding if it was a year ago, or if Steven wasn’t so sad. Her friend Emma made her feel guilty for ghosting, said it was inconsiderate and she should at least tell people what was going on so they weren’t left guessing. Toni couldn’t bring herself to tell Steven she wasn’t interested in walking with him or hearing about his life. Maybe avoidance was worse than ghosting. She wasn’t sure about the morals around this. She didn’t ask Emma.
A floating “1” in a little red bubble lured Toni to open up her dating app again. Sad Steven had sent some new messages. There were a couple of girls Toni had matched with recently who she wanted to talk to but she was too nervous. The boys far outnumbered everyone else on the app – boys on boats, boys with beer, boys wearing sunglasses with arms around other boys.
Toni looked through her recent matches, ignoring the boys this time. She tapped on the profile of a girl feeding pigeons. She had in her bio, “likes to feed pigeons.” Toni appreciated this, even though she was a little bit afraid of pigeons. She began to type: “hey, I don’t love pigeons but I like feeding ducks!” “Oh, ducks are my favourite,” said the pigeon girl. Anna was her name. Pigeon Anna was typing: “pigeons are underrated, they’re really sweet actually.” “I heard all the birds in town have avian flu and we’re not supposed to feed them anymore,” Toni said. Pigeon Anna didn’t respond after that.
Toni replied to Sad Steven: “Hey listen, I’m feeling kind of down today. I think I might need to postpone our walk.” An hour went by and Sad Steven didn’t reply. Toni examined the ceiling crack from her bed, wondered if there was water damage. “Is that okay? I’m really sorry,” Toni said. “Yeah sure, whatever. Let me know when you’re free” with an emoji of a hand holding up two fingers in a peace sign. Toni didn’t reply after this.
Nicole Haldoupis is a queer writer from Toronto. Her first book, Tiny Ruins (Radiant Press, 2020), was shortlisted for four 2021 Saskatchewan Book Awards and the 2022 Bressani Literary Prize. It is currently being adapted into a feature-length film by Rogue Rock Pictures. She’s the managing editor at Breakwater Books, a former editor of Grain and untethered, and an innkeeper at the Rendell Shea Manor. She lives with her partner and cat in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador.