For the fourth time this hour, Hallie scrolls down her Instagram feed, “liking” every hyper-filtered picture. The double-tap of her thumb on her phone’s greasy screen sounds like a war drum. Like a heartbeat.
A photo from a party she wasn’t invited to. Coors Lights. Backwoods blunts.
A two-month anniversary post. Utah Jazz jerseys. Promise rings.
A throwback film photo of a grandfather holding a toddler. Birthday cake frosting.
An ad for birthday-cake flavored laxative tea.
A throwback to the homecoming dance. Gold streamers. Thigh-gapped girls.
An ad for a pop singer’s new single, with comments including “MURDER ME DADDY” and “ughhh his mind!!!!”.
A smiling girl. White, clean teeth. A Facetune-warped closet door.
Hallie refreshes, bouncing back to the top. According to the algorithm-analyzing app she installed, now is the optimal time to post a blue-tinted, square-cropped selfie. She picks one picture from 76 options, a dead-eyed, gap-mouthed one. She can’t tell if it’s pretty. She’s been looking at it too long to recognize a face within the pixels.
She posts it, holding her breath.
She refreshes, waiting for someone to like her picture, or comment “prettyyy chica” or “WHAT. A. BABE.” She refreshes, waiting for someone to be jealous of her like she’s jealous of them. She refreshes, her eyes hurting. She turns on night mode. It doesn’t help.
She refreshes again. Someone liked it.
She refreshes again. More likes.
She refreshes again, waiting for more. Waiting forever. Waiting for something she can’t name, for something good, for something better, for something real.
Sarah Priscus writes in Ottawa, ON. Her writing has appeared in journals like Barren Magazine and Rookie Mag. She received a 2019 Best of the Net nomination for a story published in Atlas and Alice. She currently attends the University of Ottawa. She can be found on Twitter at @sarahpriscus.