"Enjoying the revolution."
Cynthia rolled her eyes. She couldn't believe the dirge of quality matches on any of the cutely named dating apps currently residing on her phone. "Enjoying the revolution." Her stomach twisted into a knot so tight she bent over.
Three months. She couldn't tell which reports were true when it came to the violence. Casualties, she'd always assumed, meant dead. KIA. Removed from this Earth. It wasn't until a rather crude --she was being kind, he was horrific--person had informed her that "Casualty" was broader in definition than simply tallying up the dead. Since then she struggled to trust any story that came across her feed.
Not that she had been particularly trusting to begin with. She'd watched too many people in her life OD on Truth Serum to allow herself to slip into that never churning chasm of conspiracy theories and cheaply marketed snake oil, but she undoubtedly felt like something had been broken in her since the killings began.
Hell, she'd felt that process start years prior, but it had been easy enough to ignore. Like a recurring tooth ache, she simply learned to live with the gnawing cavity where her ability to trust used to live.
"Maybe that's why no one gets married anymore." Liv, her friend since the two had been serendipitously placed together as roommates after they left college and got their first internships in the Big City. Cynthia had since thrown in the towel and moved out of the Burroughs but Liv continued fighting the good fight, skip-jumping from apartment to apartment, roommate to roommate. Parts of Cynthia envied her, the freedom, the uncertainty, but the rest of her couldn't understand how someone could live so frantically. Cynthia had a hard enough time standing straight when everything else around her was stable. She couldn't imagine doing anything while living such an unstable life. "Every one has lost the ability to trust."
Revolution was a strong word. So was Civil War II, WWIII, and every other stupid meme-based, irony-saturated title people tried pinning to the ever-changing conflict unfolding around them. Gunshots outside her apartment had been rare. Growing up in suburban Connecticut, Cynthia could count on one hand how many guns had been discharged in her general vicinity. That number had more than quadrupled in the past three months.
It seemed insane to even be looking at a dating app with all that going on. But tough times are lonely, and the prospect of finding someone she could talk to, and feel more sane around, was too enticing to pass up.
"Enjoying the revolution." Maybe he was being ironic. Wouldn't that be a relief.
The restaurant looked normal. Across the street Helman's--a deli that, according to the locals, had been there since the thirties--and Sailor's Delight--a kitschy seafood place that boasted a 10-foot plastic shark and a real deal sailor as its chef--had both closed down within a week of each other. The sight of those abandoned fronts had been artfully blocked by the addition of a mural of a serene ocean gently lapping against a tan, undisturbed shore. The walls went up about a month ago after a shooting on the street. The painting came after. Like a majority of people online, Cynthia had scoffed at the idea of a New York restaurant trying to hide the horrors engulfing them by putting up a wall and having the artists paint their scene while nervous patrons picked at tapas.
Now here she was, picking at tapas and waiting for her revolution loving date while staring at the finished product and wondering if the windows had been replaced with bulletproof glass.
Cynthia recognized him the second he walked in. The part of her brain where trust used to exist shot off a spark. He looks like his picture. Security Clearance Level 1: Cleared. Strolling to the host's desk he leaned on his elbow and began looking around while chatting with the young girl there. He had a smirk that seemed to teeter between confident and smug that didn't sit right with her. Another jolt. Another synapses firing off, searching her memory files frantically for how to interpret this revelation. Loneliness makes body experts of us all.
When he spotted her, he nodded casually then, pushing himself away from the host's altar, tapped his knuckles against it and strolled over. "Enjoying the revolution," she whispered to herself. He was either a psycho or an idiot. The tapas disappeared from her plate in a flurry.
She extended her hand. He took it by the fingers and gave it one of those weak little shakes that made it seem like they believed if they'd taken the handshake seriously the subsequent aftershocks either would've killed her or turned them gay.
Cynthia smiled and gestured toward the open chair.