Russell stood facing an aisle of tiny, nondescript cubes. All contained the compressed materials that were required to print various living room sets, and all were labeled with pretentious names. The Winter Warmth Collection came with a frosty silk couch, its soft curves hemmed in baby blue, a matching ottoman and recliner, plus two pillows in sewn in the baby blue of the hemming, and hemmed with the frosty white of the silk. Rustic Canyons came with the same items, all more square and much more brown and leathery.
There was Tinder Nights and Modern Casual and Arabian Dream and, as Russell stared, he was greeted with a seemingly unprovoked feeling of apathy. He searched this feeling for a provocation and produced the idea that maybe he felt that the choice, that all of the choices this store offered, were pointless. All of the options were the same. They all existed to lift the buyer further into their little corner of reality. The question was who did Russell Crenshaw want to be?
He felt a presence behind him and turned to acknowledge it. It was a woman, about twenty-six, auburn hair, eyes full of understanding, and a slightly turned-down mouth. Her face was one he thought he might know, but couldn’t place. She was standing uncomfortably close behind Russell, staring at the aisle with the same sort of blankness that Russell had been.
“Funny, isn’t it?” She didn’t break eye contact with the aisle.
“Well, it’s all so fake.”
Russell’s ears perked up a little. An old remnant of his ancestral animal past.
“Yeah,” he said, “It’s sort of all about status.”
“And it’s an illusion of choice. Like, we have these options, but they’re the only options we have. Can’t really go out and build a couch these days.”
“I guess you could break down the parts from multiple sets once they’re printed.”
“Yeah, you could. Why don’t more people do that?”
“Dunno. People get used to a system and they kind of just go with the flow, I guess.”
“We should do it.”
“We should buy a bunch of these together, print them all out, and then break them down into our own furniture.”
“I— Yeah, that— That sounds great,” Russell hadn’t been so immediately awestruck by a person like this in quite some time. He was smitten, and could react only as such.
“I don’t even know you, though. What’s your name?”
“Samantha,” and she flashed a perfect smile.
“I’m Russell,” he extended his hand.
“I— Oh, handshake,” she laughed and accepted the gesture, “Yeah, alright.”
Another big smile from her, and this made Russell smile, too. His mind had a tendency to jump the gun in these sort of situations and he knew that it did, but still, he couldn’t help but feel hopelessly optimistic about this woman.
“There’s just one thing,” she said, “Right now, I have to get home and take care of a few things. But I’ll give you my number, and you can check out my profile on myfreedreamgirls.com.”
Samantha got a pen out and grabbed Russell’s open palm. The hopeless optimism drained from Russell. She began to write a number, and Russell pulled his hand away.
“Not interested, sorry,” he forced the words out over the lump in his throat and turned to walk off.
“No,” she said, grabbing him by the shoulder, “Just let me give you my profile—”
“Not interested,” the words were getting more stern.
“Well, then let me tell you about our—”
“I’m not interested,” he kept walking.
“I think you’d really like—”
“Jesus,” he turned back to her again, fuming, “How the fuck do I— Not. Interested.”
Samantha stared with the same blankness as before.
Samantha smiled one last time, said, “Have a nice day, Russell,” nice and flat, and walked off. Russell buried his face in his hands and sighed.