It had been 11 months, 2 weeks, and 4 days since Frank had had a meaningful interaction with another human being. It wasn’t a Robinson Crusoe situation – isolation enforced by violent shipwreck. No, this was a 21st century isolation, one brought about and enabled by self-checkouts at stores, online bill payments, and (whew!) no medical emergencies to speak of. Frank had been stung by a wasp in his 11 months of isolation – and right on the knuckle of his thumb – but fortunately, despite his thumb swelling up to the size of a marshmallow, a Benedril lozenge had helped alleviate the reaction, and precluded a trip to a doctor.
Frank had received permission to work from home over a year ago, and so had begun his life of seclusion. From then on, his work life consisted of Slack channels and group chats and text messages. But no phone calls – his manager had attempted to call him once, but Frank simply let it ring, waited for a voicemail, and then sent a text in response. Sorry Ms. BlahBlahBlah for missing your call. I can take care of that paperwork this evening. Thanks, Frank.
And for the most part, it was working – work for 8 hours (sometimes 8 hours and 15 minutes if he had a deadline to meet), sign out of his work computer, head to the kitchen for a snack, then to the living room, switch on the TV, lean back on the couch, sink his unclipped toenails down into the fuzzy brown carpet, and begin a new TV show marathon. TV shows were his social life now. When he watched How I Met Your Mother, Frank’s friends for a few short weeks became Ted, Marshall, Lily, and Barney. He started thinking about what the different characters would like, as if they were real people. Barney would approve of the way I wrote this email, Frank would think to himself after authoring a particularly snarky email.
Occasionally, Frank would get unaccountable feelings of…mental hungriness. It was not loneliness, he told himself. When he felt this way, he would go and turn on Parks & Recreation and watch his favorite episodes. It took the edge off, and the feeling would quickly pass. At other times, he thought about how nice it would be to have a girlfriend. Someone like Lily, crossed with Pam from The Office, crossed with some of April Ludgate’s mischievousness.
One day, in a fit of mental hungriness (NOT loneliness), Frank signed up for an online dating profile. Within a couple days, he received a message from a lady named Jill Epwerd. Scrolling through her profile, he discovered she had similar interests to his own. She liked cats, she liked TV shows, she was a software developer and was even a Doctor Who fan! But then Frank reached the bottom of her profile: “…love working out and finding new meals that fit my vegan lifestyle.”
Frank recoiled noticeably from his computer screen. This Jill was no good. She was not the one. Why had he even decided to open the account in the first place? Wasn’t it obvious only extroverts who liked people and exercise would use dating sites? 10 minutes later, Frank had deleted his dating profile and was once again ensconced between cushions on his couch, petting his purring cat Olaf and watching Parks & Recreation (While not pertinent to the story, you will be happy to know that Jill recovered quite admirably from Frank ignoring her message and went on to become quite happily married to a wedding photographer).
But then, one evening, something terrible happened. As Frank was settling down on his couch for a typical evening binge (this time of Persons of Interest), a white streak caught the corner of his eye. Thinking for a moment that his cat Olaf was under him on the couch but unable to keep himself from sitting down at this point, Frank kicked one knee out awkwardly, missed the couch entirely, and landed in a gangly heap on the floor with a CRACK.
“Ow,” said Frank, calmly. A stabbing pain was now shooting through his left leg. “Ow,” he said again. Beginning to move now, leaning on the couch to stand up once again. “OW,” Frank said now, louder and more certainly. He knew that something was badly, badly wrong.