Sister Carrie Facebooks Frankie Machine

What made me click his profile was his eyes. There’s sadness there, surrounded by a façade of confidence, but sadness nonetheless. There’s also something in his posture, the kind of weariness a man isn’t born with, but can only accumulate. All of it called out, Now Caroline, now there’s a man worth a gander. Maybe it’s the camera, maybe it’s the angle, or maybe someone just caught him at a bad moment. But remember, he chose that picture to represent himself. We’re talking freewill, after all: He wants the world to see what I’m seeing, wants everyone to know his pain, to reach out, to help him grow stronger. Of course, he has a wife, and that’s swell, but he doesn’t seem so high on her, either, with what he posts, and more so, what he doesn’t. In nearly twelve hundred photos—most in a bar, I might add—only a handful depict the lovely Mrs. Majcinek, and nary a one features them together. It is not my intention to impede upon their love, though that territory is not unfamiliar to me. It is just the nature of the beast, this Facebook, to bring such opportunities to light, to forge friendships of this nature. Reaching out to this man, to those eyes, may lead to him accepting friendship, and from there, who knows? A poke here, a like there, and before you know it, you find out if that friend is worthy of further pokes and further likes. Before long, the right needling can lead to messages, to suggestions, and if the winds blow right, actual human contact. I, too, am betrothed, but for now, all of this is innocent, a friendly hand reaching out. Eventually, though, this could be the man to swoop me off my feet, carry me forward, initiate nothing short of a positive change in my status.

Michael Czyzniejewski is the author of two story collections, Elephants in Our Bedroom, released by Dzanc Books in 2009, and the forthcoming Chicago Stories, due this coming spring from Curbside Splendor. He teaches at Bowling Green State University, where he serves as Editor-in-Chief of Mid-American Review. In 2010, he received a fellowship in fiction from the National Endowment for the Arts.