A Year in Twelve (Very Short) Stories

Unripe Figs, Canadian Television, and Unpaid Labour

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Illustration: Danielle Morgan

November

Fig season is over but there are still a few left at the grocery store. Though, there are not enough left to fill their own section and the ten remaining figs are placed on top of a pile of satsuma oranges, which are in season. I squeeze a few of the figs and the skin is hard but I buy three of them anyway. As soon as I leave the store, I take a bite out of one. The skin halts grossly against my teeth and the mealy middle fills my mouth. I consider throwing it out but don’t. I don’t eat it because I enjoy it. I eat it because I know what it’s supposed to taste like.

December

While at my parents’ house, I go through old boxes and sort the contents into “keep” and “toss” piles. In a box labeled “university,” I find one of my old essays. Beside the paper’s second paragraph, my professor’s handwriting reads, “sentence fragment!!! No!” I place the paper onto the “toss” pile.

In the same box, I find a bag filled with half a set of cutlery. When my ex-boyfriend and I broke up, we haphazardly split up the set. There’s not much use for two spoons, five forks, and one knife so I chuck the bag into the “toss” pile. A moment later, I move it over to the “keep” pile, telling myself that I’ll just combine it with another set. A complete set.

January

I fly to Stockholm and take the train to my new apartment. To test my Swedish language skills, I attempt to read the advertisements attached to the walls of the train. One of them promotes a gym’s exclusive perks and I wonder what the word “Sverige” means. I google it: it means “Sweden.”

February

To celebrate my birthday, my boyfriend and I make sushi at home. I am cranky even though I’m having a great time. Briefly, I wonder if I’m irritable because I’m allowed to be irritable considering it is my birthday. I wonder what kind of person does something because they can do it instead of doing what they want to do. I wonder if I am the kind of person who goes to Denny’s for free pancakes on their birthday even though they don’t like pancakes or Denny’s. I decide I am probably just out of sorts but I do wonder.

March

I write my mailing address down wrong on a Swedish migration form and my residence permit card does not arrive. When I call the migration office, the man on the line tells me to write the incorrect address on a separate mailbox and place it outside my door. He tells me to be patient and hope that the mail person spots the error. Despite feeling like I am an unwilling participant in a Monty Python sketch, I buy a plastic mailbox and write an incorrect address on it in permanent marker.

It turns out that two wrongs do not, in fact, make a right. I call the migration office back and the woman on the phone asks for my residence permit number. If my card has not arrived, how do I access the card’s number? She informs me that she cannot give me any information about the card unless I can give her the card’s number.

I receive an email telling me that my card has accidentally been sent to a migration office in a different city. They happily inform me that I am finally able to come pick it up. This point is emphasized with three exclamation points. The city is nine hours away.

April

My boyfriend breaks up with me and I purchase all three seasons of the Canadian show Workin’ Moms instead of getting my own Netflix account. I watch the show twenty-four hours a day for four days straight. I am discomforted by the fact that I find this comforting.

May

I talk to a man on Tinder and he regales me with stories about the app he runs with his friends from college. I send a screenshot of our conversation to my friend. She tells me to give him a chance.

I decide to go on a date with him almost solely because my friend told me to. One hour before he is supposed to meet me, my date warns me that he’ll be “just a touch late” because he “needs to try on some running shoes after work.”

The date lasts twenty minutes and he wears a white turtleneck.

Later, my friend tells me that she was being sarcastic when she told me to give him a chance.

June

I move out of the apartment I share with my ex-boyfriend. I buy a smaller bed and arrange it in the corner of a new apartment. A few weeks later, my boyfriend and I get back together. We move the bed out of the (my?) new apartment and back into ours (his?). For a while, we have two beds and we sleep on the smaller one.

July

I fail to secure a permanent job and I find myself managing a summer flea market. Whenever the market closes for the day, I have to wheel inordinately loud trolleys in front of a nearby restaurant’s patio area. Every time I pass with a trolley, patrons of the restaurant and the waitstaff pause their conversations to glare at me. I completely wreck their dining experience and for the most part, I feel quite bad about it. Occasionally, I think about joining them for a drink.

I am reminded of a time when I was denied a chocolate bar as a child. When I put the chocolate bar back on the shelf, I squished it between my tiny hands so that no one else could properly enjoy it.

August

On the same day as I earn a high wage to write, I earn nothing for creating a social media campaign. I create the social media campaign in the hopes of getting an interview at a company. For the eight hundredth time, I wonder if a flexible life with an unpredictable wage is better or worse than performing hours of unpaid labour for the opportunity to interview for a stable position. I write this in my notebook:

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September

I walk into a cafe with a good friend. When we get to the counter, I ask her to order for me and I head to the washroom. When I come out, I sit down at a table and wait. On the other side of the cafe, my friend waits for me. Separately, we panic about each other’s whereabouts without considering that we might both be in the exact same situation.

October

My boyfriend and I buy a puzzle. When we sit down to do it, I sort the pieces into groups. While I look for pinkish pieces and sky pieces, my boyfriend lays out the perimeter of the puzzle. He asks me to keep an eye out for pieces with a flat side. I realize that it has never in my life occurred to me to look for a specific shape in a puzzle box and I admire our gentle dissimilarities.

I imagine what it would be like to write an essay by fitting content into a structure rather than fitting a structure onto content.

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