Previous Challenge Entry (EDITOR'S CHOICE)
Topic: Social Media( 12/01/11)
By Michael Throne
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"I don't know. Maybe it's just too hard to have an enduring marriage in the twenty-first century." I pause for a moment before hitting enter.
I watch Maggie decorate the apartment, setting out wreaths and stockings and placing a nativity on the fireplace mantle. I sit alone at my desk, posting my thoughts.
"She doesn't understand me." Even I recognize a cliché when it's that bold. I hold down the backspace key and start again. "I don't understand her."
And honestly, I don't. Doing things virtually is so much more efficient than running around here and there.
Maggie moves on to decorate the bedroom. I download a widget of wandering wise men, then border my display with virtual Christmas lights. I sit staring as they flicker off and on, off and on.
I force myself to check for openings on Monster.com and email my resume to several companies. I'm a good programmer, but there's a recession going on and, after the drama of my last job, I'd prefer to work from home.
In fact, I'd prefer to do everything from home.
Maggie's starting to nag me.
She says I need to start getting out, to do things with friends. I tell her I have plenty of friends right here.
She wants me to go to church with her. I don't see the point. I can see the service, listen to the sermon, even sing along with the choir if I choose to, from the comfort of our home.
She wants to go out for dinner but I don't see why. We can get wonderful food from highly rated restaurants delivered right to our door.
Maggie says I need help. She says that living my life online is something that I need to deal with. She says it's hurting me, hurting our marriage.
I don't know what to do.
I bite the bullet and decide to check out reviews of local therapists and am intrigued by a psychologist out of Texas who specializes in online addictions. He's dealt with thousands of cases just like mine and even offers online access to his treatment center.
But I'm just not sure.
"It's tough being married to a muggle," I post. "We just don't have that much in common."
I get tweets of agreement.
"I don't know how to make this work."
"I'll meet you half-way." It's a post from Maggie, which is surprising; she hardly ever posts. "Let's compromise and try to work this out."
Here she is, posting our personal life on Facebook for all the world to see! Honestly, it's a little embarrassing.
"How about a private chat?" I post and the next thing I know, she's here in the room with me. Newbies!
"Maybe we could do some Christmas shopping?" Maggie suggests and I catch myself mid-sigh when I see her open her laptop. Now we're talking!
I'm stoked; I open a window for Frys and another for Best Buy and third for Tiger Express, so we can easily compare prices. I open a fourth for Sears as way of compromise when I hear her say, "and then maybe we could go for a walk."
I freeze. In truth, I haven't been out of our apartment in weeks, not since I lost my job. This time my sigh is long and heartfelt.
I look at Maggie, at her hopeful green eyes and soft, sandy brown hair.
I love my wife, I do.
We spend hours looking at CD's and videos, sweaters and gloves, IPods and earbuds. We finish shopping and get free gift wrapping and cookies from my favorite mom-and-pop storefront, then one by one, we close the gift store windows.
Reluctantly, I put on a coat and scarf. It's cold out there.
I cross the threshold of my door, no big deal, and we walk out into the snowy winter night. She holds my hand as we stroll through the white-dusted path of the park. We're alone; the snow's driven everyone inside. We watch as the snow collects on the grass, watch as it builds up on the branches of the trees. It's beautiful.
At home, Maggie puts the kettle on and I start a fire. We sit on the couch sipping peppermint tea and gazing into the flames and I find myself drawn to the nativity on the mantle, to the brilliant white star that guides the wise men to salvation.
I put my arm around Maggie.
I'd be lost without her.
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