Keeping Tabs by Nicole Zhu

Keeping Tabs

The first tab has Google Maps directions to where she’s meeting her boyfriend in less than an hour.

The next tab has Yelp reviews for the pho place where they’re having dinner. “Servers are RUDE and the food was INEDIBLE. I just got back from Vietnam and this place isn’t AUTHENTIC at all!” writes Yelp Elite member Greg B., a sunburnt middle-aged white man. Julie N., an actual Asian woman, says “My Vietnamese mom loves this place! It feels like home!” She upvotes Julie N.’s review.

She cross-references the Google Maps directions with the MTA site, since weekend service makes everything a complete clusterfuck. Of course, she’s already late because the B and D trains are skipping her local stop.

She debates whether or not she even wants to see him tonight.

Then there are the various BuzzFeed quizzes for when she gets distracted. She can’t resist the allure of headlines like “Decorate Your Dream Home And We’ll Tell You Which Michael B. Jordan Character You’re Going To Marry.” Or “Rate These Cheeses From Nasty To Tasty And We’ll Reveal If You’re Open-minded.” She particularly likes taking the kinds of quizzes where she knows the answer. She just wants to see if she can game the selections just right, like “Plan Your Perfect Netflix Weekend And We’ll Guess Whether You’re In A Relationship.” Her selections of Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown, New Girl, and Her yield the correct answer: two years of dating.

But today, she really wishes they had genuinely helpful ones, like “Pick 13 Pictures From That One Girl’s Instagram And We’ll Tell You Whether Your Boyfriend Is Cheating On You.”

The next cluster of tabs contains the aforementioned girl’s Instagram posts.

Ugh, she’s one of those people who always posts “thirst fails” — artsy pictures of herself against beautiful city skylines and mountain ranges, somehow always wearing a wispy strapless dress or a ruffled off-shoulder blouse, her bare shoulders ever so slightly tensed and face angled away from the camera in faux candid mode. The accompanying paragraph-long captions exude fake vulnerability, each one with the basic gist: “I was feeling sad/ugly/lonely but then I remembered the joy of spontaneity and the simple pleasures in life!” The platitudes make her want to #vomit.

Her boyfriend has liked every single picture. He’s only commented on a few, but each :fire: emoji and “looking good!” is a sucker punch to her stomach. He never comments on her posts and only throws the occasional like when he’s tagged in them.

His last comment was two hours ago on a picture of Platitudes Girl floating in a donut pool floaty. She reports his “WOAW :thumbs-up:” as inappropriate. He can’t even spell “WHOA” properly.

She comes to the Netflix account they share. Correction: the Netflix account she pays for that he mooches off of. They Netflix and chilled before the term even existed. At a certain point, their repeated drunken hookups had turned serious without either of them really noticing. When she told him she’d never seen any Martin Scorsese or Quentin Tarantino movies, he sought to rectify it with weekly viewings. Meanwhile, she got him hooked on TV shows. “Prestige television,” he insisted because he watched Mad Men and Breaking Bad. After six months of dating, he made a profile for himself on her account as easily as he’d claimed space in her dresser drawer for his clothes.

The last two tabs are her Facebook and her boyfriend’s Facebook. Now that the Almighty Algorithm knows they’re “in a relationship”, the targeted ads that used to be for dating websites are for lingerie, diamonds, and couples activities like pottery-making and room-escaping. She wishes she’d taken up his offer to go to an Escape Room. Perhaps they would’ve found another way to connect. At the very least, maybe it would’ve made this puzzle easier to solve.

His posts always appear first in her newsfeed. Whether he’s just “interested” in attending a Hot Pocket festival or likes a friend’s mention on a SpongeBob meme, she sees it all. The first thing she sees today is her boyfriend’s picture of blurry beers at last night’s baseball game. He hasn’t replied to her last three messages but he’s had the time to cross-post this picture from Twitter and Instagram. She likes the post so he’ll know that she’s seen it.

Didn’t he even care that she’d crossed her own boundary of double texting?

Scrolling further down, she sees he left a comment on Platitudes Girl’s status. Turns out Platitudes Girl is moving to New York, and she’s apartment hunting this weekend. Her throat closes when she sees their exchange.

“Can’t wait to see you! It’s been too long!” he writes.

“sameee thx for letting me crash with u <3,” she replies.

She closes tab after tab. The occasional popup asks whether she wants to “Leave” or “Stay”. Are you sure?

She lands back on his Netflix profile, resenting the avatar’s slightly off-center smile. Smirking motherfucker. Out of the corner of her eye, she spies that he has just two Breaking Bad episodes left.

With a few keystrokes, she changes the password.


Keeping Tabs


Nicole Zhu is a writer and developer based in New York. She co-hosts Sweet and Sour, a podcast about the intersections of Asian American identity with culture, work, and lifestyle. Her work has been published by Catapult and Eater.


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