It was just a picture. A seaside glacier, spiked like a cartoon castle and tinted like a blue slushie. Really, a default lock screen image. One click, eight keystrokes for my password, and it was gone.
Alixia had talked so much about glaciers. About how they were calving off massive icebergs earlier than ever. That was how she would be able to see so many floating ice mountains when she went off to Newfoundland with some program for teens from disadvantaged neighbourhoods like ours.
“They take us on a boat, out to an iceberg. We’re going to harvest ice right off of it,” Alixia had said, her high cheekbones hiding her eyes in excitement. It sounded romantic, like the kind of place where I could stand behind Alixia on the boat’s bow while she squinted into the sea breeze. I wouldn’t see anything, her hair blowing into my face and looping into my pubescent beard.
But that was fantasy. I wouldn’t see anything because I never finished assignments on time and was more likely to be expelled than excelled by the faculty.
At the time, I reminded Alixia her godfather had nothing good to say about boats. Mind you, his boat was a bundle of empty plastic jugs quickly fastened together at night on a beach east of Havana. It stayed afloat and drifted north on prayer alone. Her godfather was the only surviour. The ocean was doom.
“What do you know about doom?” Alixia asked.
“How the fuck don’t we know doom?”
It wasn’t what I was trying to say, but when Alixia reminded me how stupid I was, I wouldn’t let her forget that I didn’t appreciate it.
I wanted to remind her that the only reason she qualified for the program was because the school board took pity on us. That given a little less doom, she would have spent summers showing her white girlfriends how easily she tanned instead of working the slushie machine at the public pool. That the only reason we were even dating was because I was the only guy at school whose parents also protested against Castro with other exiles every summer.
I would have continued arguing, but she had her mind made up. Maybe I couldn’t make the honour roll, but when Alixia first showed me the program’s paperwork, I knew I had already lost a piece of her–a piece that was stuck to me too. It hurt, like popping a pimple that would keep coming back until it left a scar.
Alixia promised to email. She even lent me her laptop after the new program hooked her up with a tablet. The laptop was clunky, school-issued after she won some academic award in freshman year. I used it to watch porn or pirate music. I checked my email too, mostly to cull spam from my inbox.
There was always spam. There were messages from a job site in Newfoundland that I spared. But after a month without hearing from Alixia, I deleted them too. Then I selected everything on the first page and sent it to the trash. I deleted the second and third page before I sat back and waited until I could contemplate the glacier lock screen again.
But the image changed. It was a winter landscape. Something barren and white. I tossed the laptop onto my bed and started going through the drawers in my desk. My garbage can was empty, but I quickly filled it with Alixia’s comb, her CDs, the bundle of passed notes from years of distracting Alixia in class.
Then the laptop chimed. There was a video call coming through. It was Alixia.
The connection was poor. She wanted to say hi. She met a new friend, an Australian glacier aficionado who wore a size twelve boot. It was impossible to see his face when she swept the screen his way.
I could see Alixia when she stopped moving. My face wasn’t doing so well, she said. It was all scattered. Pieces were missing: my eyes, my chin, my left ear. It was freaky. Her friend laughed. She was right, more than she knew, but he didn’t have to know anything about it.
Unlike those poor glaciers, at least I could put myself back together again. I folded the screen closed and topped my garbage pile with Alixia’s laptop, still humming.
Jack Caseros is a writer and environmental scientist whose fiction has appeared in cool places like Literary Orphans, Typehouse Literary Magazine, and Drunk Monkeys. His non-fiction has appeared in dreary places, like boardrooms and government databases. Currently, he is studying novel writing at Stanford. You can read more about Jack at www.jackcaseros.wordpress.com.