You know I’ve been watching a lot of Murder, She Wrote, but you don’t know that it’s the show I turn to when I’m lonely. You don’t know that the bad Maine accents remind me of my family’s good Maine accents and you don’t know that Jessica Fletcher’s life is one I looked up to as a child and take solace in as an adult. Her widowed status means no one questions why she’s single and her many close friends support her independent lifestyle and zany adventures.
I gave you the login to my Netflix account a year ago because I, usually by myself, frequented the New York City bar where you worked on slow nights. Our conversations revolved around mundane details about our days, the latest news from our rival sports teams, and what we were watching on television. I wanted to talk to you about Making a Murderer, but you hadn’t watched because you said you didn’t have a login. I jumped at the chance to give you my password, something I had never done for anyone before. Everyone else I knew had someone who shared their account. Finally, I had someone who needed me, too.
I tend to let myself develop crushes on people I have no intention of pursuing, let alone dating. It’s a way to calm a heart that was raised on romantic comedies without offending a brain that knows better. You have a girlfriend, or someone you refuse to call your girlfriend but have been dating the entire time I’ve known you. I don’t have a boyfriend because I’m not ready to accept a relationship that would require me to bend my wants to someone else’s. I come to the bar, we chat, I leave. That’s all it is. That’s all I want.
You never created your own account profile and I never asked you to, so when I log in, our two histories are intertwined. I don’t think I’ve changed my watching behavior knowing that you can see me but I definitely know that you can.
Watching television with someone can be an inconsequential way to pass time or it can be one of the deepest forms of intimacy. You learn how the other person reacts to emotional highs and lows. You share a journey.
One time you commented on how I watch a lot of ABC Family shows, but I didn’t explain how shows where everything works out bring me peace. Did we ever even discuss Making a Murderer? Somehow, our broken boundaries online lead us to be more guarded in real life. One time I asked if you’d watched Daredevil and you said no, showing no further interest.
The bar closed several months ago. I haven’t seen you since then, and I’ll probably never see you again. I see you watched Sixteen Candles. I assume it was with your girlfriend.
Recently, I started checking the Netflix app on my phone while away from my computer as if it were another social media app. Sometimes the most recently watched item would be the episode of Jane the Virgin I left off on, but other times it would be Pokémon or Stranger Things. I had never watched Pokémon and I gave up on Stranger Things after the first season.
This is less creepy than it sounds, or maybe it’s exactly as creepy as it sounds. Imagining what was happening in your life filled the void of not having anyone in mine.
I went on vacation for a week and let some friends stay in my apartment. As I checked the app one night before bed, I saw my feed muddled with multiple sitcoms and a half-watched movie, which didn’t follow the linear watching pattern we both preferred. My friends must have been watching on my computer, which, though completely expected, caused me to become unmoored. I had no clues about what was happening in your life, nor you in mine. I wonder if you even noticed.
When I got home, I researched how to delete portions of my watch history so I could clear out the clutter, leaving only what I knew I was mine and what I thought to be yours. I returned the space to us in case you were paying attention.
One day this relationship is going to end, not with a bang but with a whimper. Maybe I’ll decide to cancel my subscription or maybe you’ll decide to get your own. Maybe you’ll find someone new to share your habits with or maybe one day I’ll decide that the loneliness that comes with being single isn’t worth the freedom. But then, I log in to watch Daredevil and see it’s already in progress, and for a moment, we’re connected.
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