The wife tells the husband it only has to be this once. A test, a trial-run, and if he doesn’t like it they can stop at any time. It’s just that she’s got so many of these Bachelorette episodes stockpiled on their TV’s PVR and was saving them for him in case it was something he liked and then it could become something they did together. Because what all did they do together these days. But if he didn’t like it, she’d go and watch them herself, scot-free for him. And so the husband tells the wife okay—he’ll give it a try.
So that evening they watch the first episode of this season’s The Bachelorette and the husband, to his surprise, finds he doesn’t mind it all that much, its Bradley and Brady, its Ryan M. and Shawn E., its David and Josh. So they, the husband and wife, say why not keep watching, and even that night are able to fit in one more episode before they hit the hay.
But lying there in bed beside the wife, the husband can’t find much sleep, for he’s got Cory and Daniel and Kupah running through his mind and he can’t make them stop no matter how he tries. All he can think of is what happens next; to whom Kaitlyn gives her roses, how the romance unfolds. So he counts 120 seconds to be sure the wife’s asleep, then slips out of bed to crawl down to the basement’s TV to bring his mind relief.
Within a few days the husband already finds he’s made this a daily habit, his late-night sneaking to the rec-room where he thinks the wife can’t hear to swallow up 2–3 hours of The Bachelorette. He realizes that this was the show that the wife and him were supposed to watch together, but the husband just can’t help himself from Tony and Clint. Plus, by the time each week rolls around and the wife wants to watch more, he’s okay with reliving the drama, so he reasons it’s not like he’s forfeiting this time together entirely.
In time he makes it through roughly half a season’s-worth of Corey and Jonathan and Ryan B., and with the excitement of the soon-impending finale riding his heels, he takes a trip down to the 24-hour Costco to shell out for some serious-quality poster-sized full-body shots of the show’s remaining contestants, which he fashions into freestanding cardboard cutouts that he can position around the basement’s rec-room as he watches to make him feel even more like he’s in the heat of it.
By this time, the show has started cropping up as a somewhat not-insubstantial speed-bump in the road that is the husband’s day-to-day life; while his weekend hours enable him both to sate his nighttime-hunger for Ian, Joshua, and Justin and to catch his necessary Z's during the day, his weekdays and their regular 9–5 have become seriously sleepless, and with each morning it becomes harder and harder to will against slapping that snooze button once, twice, thrice, his slowly extending dozes encroaching into the time for his daily routine. The husband begins finding himself for days and almost weeks straight showing up five, ten, soon dangerously close to fifteen minutes late to his job as a high-profile financial adviser, which job, the husband realizes but tries not to, at least to too high of an extent, stress about, contributes very significantly to the husband and wife’s being financially secure with respect to lifestyle luxuries such as, for instance, the rec-room’s 60+" 4K HDTV and PVR and access to the close to one thousand cable channels, including those that broadcast select relationship-dramas that have become so near and dear to certain persons in the husband–wife household—and thus which job would not be in the husband’s best interest to be showing up late to.
And so, after another late night, the husband as he goes to bed is motivated and resolute—hopeful, even—that this night’s just-passed session will be the very last of his Ben Z., J.J., and Tanner, that from then on he’ll stop indefinitely—indubitably; but he catches his 3 hours and the next day and evening go by and he finds himself at just before midnight lying beside the fast-asleep wife without sleep’s pull helping him along too; and suddenly like magic he’s down again on the rec-room couch, preoccupied with his Ben H. and Chris. An episode ends and the husband sees it’s now 5 a.m. and way past the time when he knows he should’ve been asleep, but he discovers that the episode he’s just finished is the season’s second-last and there’s just one more on the horizon: the season-finale, the wrap-up—an end to his journey. He knows that if he persists through this last 2-hour special there’s positively no way in the natural world, even barring sleep, that he’ll have the time to get himself in to work on time, let alone that he’ll have the energy to function during the day; and it’s at this point that the husband finds in himself a dissonance, an aspect at odds, because he knows that even though a part of him wishes he could just sleep like normal, go to work like normal—put everything back to normal—he knows he likes his Bachelorette too, his Jared and Joe, and the suspenseful anticipation of the spicy Nick V.–Shawn E. competition makes his heart quiver in a way that’s unbearable.
Meanwhile the wife in bed sleeps on, the husband’s anguish to her unknown. Couch-ridden among soft lighting, strewn cardboard cutouts, and flickering TV, the husband whimpers through the night. But when the morning comes, it brings the woken wife, her search for the bed-absent husband, and her arrival at the rec-room, seeing the husband’s eyes—eyes red and wet and bagged like a raccoon’s.
Reggie Mills lives in Toronto, Canada, where the bulk of his efforts go into curbing his vaporwave addiction. Elsewhere, his fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Buffalo Almanack, The Nashwaak Review, and The Postscript Journal.