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How to Hack a Breakup by T.R. Boone | Word Riot
Short Stories

April 18, 2016      

How to Hack a Breakup by T.R. Boone

When the venture capital runs out and your user base never materializes, shut down the social media startup you swore would revolutionize online communication. Lay off your three employees. Liquidate. Sell the Ping-Pong table on eBay.
      Go to dinner with Regina—her treat—at that upscale burger bistro she knew you had your eye on. As you pour the last of the Pinot Noir, she suggests you move in with her.
      Go “It’s not just about saving money. It’s time, isn’t it?” she says.
      Go You’ve been together over a year. Say yes. Don’t mention how important the “saving money” part was in your decision.
      Go The next morning, when she tells you she’s been promoted to Director of Online Instruction at the startup that swore it would revolutionize distance education—and then did—congratulate her. Be grateful she waited a day to share her news.
      Go Give up your loft. Move half your stuff into storage. Domesticate. Make peace with that blue overstuffed chair of hers that you hate. Tell her you’ll start looking for a job tomorrow.

After a week of unemployment, instead of looking for a job, register for an online cryptography class. Learn about block ciphers, collision resistant hashing, and random salts. Keep a journal of ideas for a startup that will revolutionize consumer encryption. Reach out to your venture capital contacts. Read their form letter replies. Call your three former employees. Listen as they tell you about their new jobs.

When Regina wakes you by saying the name “Dennis” in her sleep, try to lull yourself back to sleep by counting non-sexual explanations instead of sheep.

After a month of unemployment, instead of looking for a job, go to a cocktail party at her office. Smile when she introduces you to Dennis, her boss. Shake his hand. Accept his condolences on the demise of your company.
      Go “I really thought it would revolutionize online communication,” he says.
      Go He drips dark orange barbecue sauce from a chicken wing, and it goes splat onto his lapel. Don’t offer him a napkin. Wonder how much his stock options are worth and if they’ve vested.

Tell Regina you sent out résumés and called in favors but no one is hiring.

After two months of unemployment, instead of looking for a job, watch “How I Met Your Mother” reruns online. Become impatient with Ted Mosby’s sappy optimism. Add Regina’s email account to your cell phone. Be thankful she gave you the password over the phone six months ago so you could find an address for her while she was stuck in traffic and couldn’t get a data signal. Read every email in her inbox. Devote extra time to the ones from Dennis. Do your damnedest to decipher hidden sexual meanings in phrases like “conference call with Oklahoma City” and “that white paper about online pedagogy.” Remember to mark each new email as unread after you read it. Since you’re not busy, read the sent messages, too. Feel guilty. Delete her email account from your phone. Watch more “How I Met Your Mother.” Become impatient with Ted Mosby’s sappy optimism. Add her email account to your cell phone again.

At no point ask her if she’s sleeping with Dennis.

After three months of unemployment, instead of looking for a job, on the day she’s presenting a webinar about her company’s distance learning platform to potential higher education clients, get up early. Open her laptop. Edit the machine’s hosts file so that anytime she tries to go to her company’s website, her browser loads a competitor’s site. This takes less than 15 seconds. Remote into her office computer and make the same change.
      Go Brew coffee and fill her red travel mug. Add two packets of Splenda and a splash of skim milk, just the way she likes. Hand it over with a smile as she heads out the door. Kiss her. Wish her luck.
      Go If you’re feeling extra confident, tell her, “I’m proud of you.”
      Go Watch the webinar that afternoon. Empathize when her computer malfunctions. When she says, “This doesn’t make any sense,” resist the urge to text her the fix. Nod along when the moderator says, “It’s probably a virus.” Be relieved when, after two minutes of malfunctioning, she swaps her computer with a colleague’s and moves on with her presentation.
      Go Be proud of her. Just like you said. Realize the colleague was probably Dennis. Fuck pride.
      Go Make reservations at that Pan-Asian restaurant you know she’s had her eye on. Buy tickets for the new Tobey Maguire/Reese Witherspoon movie. Wait for her to call and tell you about her disaster of a day so you can surprise her with dinner, a movie, your shoulder. When she emails a little after midnight to say she’s crashing on her friend Mandy’s couch, spend a half hour writing and rewriting a one-sentence reply. Delete it without sending.
      Go The following night, after she gets home from work and goes to bed early, find her laptop. Delete that change you made to the hosts file. Remote into her office computer and delete it there, too.

Every couple of weeks, tell her you have a job interview. When the day arrives, put on your suit. Let her straighten your tie. Kiss her goodbye when she leaves for work. Accept her wishes of good luck. Then go see a movie.

Continue adding and deleting her email account on your cell phone. One day it doesn’t work. She changed her password.

After four months of unemployment, instead of looking for a job, wait for the day when she leaves the house without taking her brown leather messenger bag. You hear the back door close. The bag is propped up against the blue overstuffed chair. Unbuckle it and slide out her laptop.
      Go Open the computer and go to her email with her web browser. Thanks to Autofill, the username and password fields are filled in. Search for that browser extension you read about. Install it on her computer. Click the icon that appears in her toolbar, the one with a skull and crossbones superimposed over a padlock. As the dots in the password field change to real characters, write them down. Uninstall the extension. Erase your activity from her browser history. Put the laptop back in the brown leather messenger bag. Prop it against the blue overstuffed chair. Add her email account to your cell phone again.

After four months and one week of unemployment, instead of looking for a job, join an online dating service. Tell yourself it’s only fair. Follow the site’s guided communication algorithm. Rate the importance of animals in your life. Tell a stranger what your favorite movie is. Exchange emails for a week. Make plans to go bowling.
      Go Over a beer between games, the stranger tells you about getting her belly button pierced in college. She was shitfaced. Her sorority sisters dared her. She still has it.
      Go “Do you have any piercings?” she says.
      Go You wonder why you’re having this conversation. The stranger interprets your silence as flirting. She leans in closer and touches your arm.
      Go “It’s a Prince Albert, isn’t it?”
      Go You hate the stranger. You want the stranger to go away.
      Go “No,” you say. “I have a pierced clit.”
      Go She bursts into shocked—but happy—laughter. You look around, worried she’s drawing attention to you. You hope no one you know sees you.
      Go Feign an upset stomach. Say goodnight. On the drive home make a mental list of favors you can call in to help find a job.

As you walk in the front door, feel happy for the first time in months to see Regina. You’ve been wrong about Dennis. You’ve been depressed. You’ve been jealous.
      Go She’s sitting on the couch, in the dark, in front of a flickering TV. Her legs are folded up under an old afghan. Her cheeks reflect blue light from the television. They’re wet. Ask her what’s wrong. She glares for a moment, then hands you her phone. Press the home button. Slide the arrow to the right.
      Go It’s an email from the stranger. The stranger had a good time. The stranger hopes you feel better. The stranger can’t wait to see your piercing. You saw this email on your own phone while sitting in your car in the driveway.

After four months and two weeks of unemployment, wonder how receptive your parents will be to you moving back home. And recall that time last year when you gave Regina your email password so she could look up the VC guy’s address for you. Because you were stuck in traffic. And couldn’t get a data signal.

Photo-2016-04-13-22-42-05_FullSizeRenderAbout the author:

T.R. Boone is a librarian and a recovering attorney. “How to Hack a Breakup” is his first published work of fiction. He lives in Washington, DC.

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