Jane met Ezra online and never considered him anything but a rebound guy, someone to help her get over her last boyfriend. She always met him at a restaurant in the financial district, where Ezra worked as a software engineer. She bought a pregnancy test one morning after she missed her period.
“But you’re at work,” Jane said. She looked around her small studio apartment, the mess in the corner, the cats on the bed.
It was sweet for him to offer, but she wanted to control things the way her last boyfriend had controlled things with her; it was like that bad breakup inspired her to write a personal manifesto of her ideal rebound relationship
“I could drive over to your place,” he offered. It sickened her to imagine his male presence in her studio.
She sat on the toilet and took the test, but then she experienced an unexpected wave of something like intuition. It was like a sixth sense, which made her feel ashamed to suddenly want to know more about this man who might have gotten her pregnant. She knew so little about him: he made good money, lived two blocks from his sister and niece, and even helped support them. Now she wanted to know more, so much more.
In red, small letters toward the top of people’s profiles, the site reported the exact minute when the user last logged in, and now Jane could see that Ezra had logged in only one minute ago. He was using the site presently. She felt stunned by this fact: he was logged in now!
Had he merely felt anxiety over the news that she might be pregnant, and allowed his anxiety to manifest into a search for other girls? Was he simply hunting for new women to date at the exact time Jane waited to discover if her whole life would change?
So at her desk, she logged onto the Internet dating site where she’d first contacted Ezra and pulled up his profile
She sat on her bed, very much alone, and waited. The test came up negative. She wanted to make sure, so she took another test, waited again, and again it came up negative. She phoned her A.A. sponsor and started to cry into the phone.
“A pregnancy scare y W., said. Amy, six years sober, worked as a research librarian at a branch of the Oakland Public Library, and had just had a baby herself. Jane could hear the baby in the background.
In the end, she decided she wanted something close to nothingness – although Amy W. argued that Ezra felt less like a rebound and more like an old boyfriend hangover. Jane thought of her romantic life relative to the laws of supply and demand: the demand for a good man was so high, the supply so low.
She considered hunting for another Ezra Stein, an interchangeable dude with a decent job, clean fingernails, and an apartment with a view. But why go through all that trouble, to sort through online profiles and emails, and then all those first dates for coffee so she could screen them?
After she got the phone call about her father, she booked a flight and returned home. Jane drove in a rental car straight from the Orlando airport to the old neighborhood. She still remembered every inch of it, a mixture of residential houses, office buildings, and a few restaurants and one local bar. The neighborhood stank of new development. The empty, concrete square where she’d learned to roller blade had been turned into condominiums. The pasta place owned by the family down the block now was a chain hamburger restaurant she avoided in the Bay Area. The house where she grew up no longer existed at all. She found instead a gray, generic office building. Jane parked the car and read the signs on the front of the building, the names of doctors and dentists on a plain white board. She walked over like a detective and peeked down a long, thin ally way on the side of the building. What she hoped to find down there she did not know.