The room is cold and she’s on the losing end of a solid oak desk. A lacey film of snowflakes coats the window like a spider web. She studies the lines like a map as she listens to the steady flip, flip, flip of pages. He’s on the other side of the desk and he’s studying her file, or pretending to study it, she’s not sure which. He’s taking a long time.
“I see that your last relationship only lasted six months. Tell me about that.”
She’s following one of the rivulets down its icy path. She imagines that’s she walking along its narrow ledge, slip-sliding, one foot in front of the other.
“It was a mutual thing,” she says, maybe more casually than she intended. “We’d grown apart.”
“It looks like all three of your LTIs ended under similar circumstances. According to our preliminary background check, the Office of LTI Dissolutions doesn’t have any formal closures on file for you. Can you tell me about that?”
At the bottom of the window, the lines are tightly criss-crossed and thin like a hairline crack in a martini glass, tipped over by a drunken hand. She follows one of the lines to the top of the window, where the ice spreads out and claws at the edges like cracked, bony fingers.
It’s true that she’s never reported to the Office of Long Term Investment Dissolutions. She’s never had anything to report. Things get boring and she leaves. That’s all there is to it.
“All of my relationships— all of my LTIs— have ended amicably,” she says, now addressing a dolphin-shaped paperweight on the corner of the desk. “There’s never been any reason to file a formal dissolution.”
Boring isn’t it exactly. It isn’t boredom that leaves a hastily scrawled note on the mirror, keys on the table, and a cold, hollow space on the left side of the bed. It isn’t boredom that runs 3,000 miles to escape. It isn’t boredom that crawls up her throat in the night like cracked, bony fingers on a windowpane.
He clears his throat.
“We’re very… interested in you,” he says, choosing his words as though selecting each letter from a scrabble board.
“You want to suspend my license,” she says, flatly. She’d known for awhile this was coming. The Department of LTIs doesn’t let someone like her keep her license forever. She’s reckless and irresponsible; they consider her a hazard. An investment risk.
“I’m afraid,” he says, after an interminable pause, “that we may’ve brought you here under false pretenses.”
She looks up sharply, seeing him fully for the first time. She notices for the first time that his hair is slightly disheveled, not perfectly gelled as she would expect from a Department rep. Small creases mar his pink button-down shirt and his glasses are shaped like oblong traffic signs.
She’d been called in to discuss her LTI license renewal. Her first license was issued at age 21 after weeks of tests, psychological evaluations, and an in-depth background check. Like all of her friends, she’d been anxious for that first license. Of course, she’d dated previously but she dreamt of a Long-term Investment that was sanctioned by the state. It wasn’t just about the health insurance and the tax savings; she wanted to feel accepted.
Licenses must be renewed every 5 years unless the licensee has been actively engaged in a state-sanctioned LTI for at least 12 months prior to the renewal date. However, renewals can be mandated sooner than that if the DLTI notices any aberrations in a licensee’s file such as concurrent LTIs, closed LTIs with no formal dissolution issued, or any reports of abuse. With her track record of failed LTIs, it came as no surprise when she was summoned by the Department.
“We’ve been interested in you for awhile now,” he says. “We’re hoping that you’ll be interested in us, too.”
“Who are you?”
“We’re DLTI’s biggest competitor. Well, its only competitor,” he adds. “We’re privatizing the interpersonal sphere and we’re looking for new customers— people working within unconventional investment paradigms.”
“People who suck at relationships.”
“So you’re starting a business,” she says. “What’s your metric?”
“Happiness.” She raises her eyebrows. “Okay, so we’re charging a fee,” he admits, “but that’s just to cover overhead. The point is that we want people to be happy. We want to help them find true love instead of looking at relationships like a business transaction. We think of ourselves as a non-profit.”
“A non-profit that makes money,” she replies, dryly.
“So how does it work?” she asks, eyeing the door and wondering why she hasn’t left yet.
“Through a series of motivational seminars, subliminal messaging tapes, creative exploration workshops, trust exercises, and inspirational videos, we guarantee to eliminate or reduce your emotional baggage to free your heart to travel the path of true love.”
She stands up and starts pulling on her jacket. “Thanks for thinking of me,” she says, tugging her snow cap over her ears.
“The Love Muscle is open for business,” he says, standing to hand her a business card, “and we’d love your business.”
She pockets the card. “Thanks,” she says again, “but I think I’ll stick with good, old-fashioned investment transactions. This true love shit sounds too expensive for me.”
Categories: creative writing