Sacha by Bryan Betancur



I’m not a violent person, OK? It was too much to process, that’s all. It’s embarrassing to admit, but I felt betrayed. And I lashed out without thinking. Let me explain everything, you’ll see. This whole mess started on a morning like any other. I got up, made coffee, started scrolling through my phone. I felt, I don’t know, tense. Tense and annoyed. Sick of waking up alone, sick of eating alone, sick of thinking a bus could hit me on the way to work and everyone would pity the passengers whose commute was delayed. I was agitated, OK? It definitely wasn’t repressed anger or nothing like that. Because I’m not a violent person. I was lonely. Fucking lonely.

Don’t get impatient, these details are important. I was agitated, right? I opened one app after another. Nothing held my attention more than a few seconds. Then I remembered an ad for PalPro I saw on the subway the night before. I couldn’t read the whole ad because a bunch of people were standing in front of me, but I made out that PalPro was a free app for meeting locals. It was developed at the Alan Someone School of Techy Shit. You know, at the University. Sorry, I don’t mean to cuss. I’m nervous, you understand.

Like I said, being alone sucks. You’re both wearing wedding rings, so maybe you don’t remember, but it sucks. I downloaded the app, skipped through the user privacy jargon, because who actually reads that shit? I created a basic profile, you know: name, age, a photo of me twenty pounds ago, a couple fake hobbies, a smart-sounding quote I found online. I wanted to browse women’s profiles, but it was getting late, so I liked the first one that popped up and got ready for work.

A message alert sounded while I was in the shower. I leapt out of the tub like a gazelle. There she was. Sacha. She was cute, but not too cute, you know what I mean? You’re married, maybe you’re not familiar with this stuff. Some of these apps, you like a profile with photos that could be right out of Penthouse, and boom, the chat opens with a link to a strip club or shady escort service or something. But Sacha, the photo looked legit: curved nose, lips on the thin side, front teeth a little spaced apart. Imperfect enough to be real. Her profile was pretty bare-bones, but mine was, too, so who cares, right? I paced around the apartment, buck naked, dripping soapy water everywhere, figuring out what to say. The first message is key, you know? But it didn’t matter because Sacha beat me to it. You have my phone, the app archives every conversation. Read it for yourself:

Hi! I’m Sacha. Thanks for liking my profile!

Hey, I’m Gus. How r u?

Nervous. My English isn’t too strong yet.

No worries! Where r u from?

Ukraine.

Neat! Where do u live now?

I’ve been in the lab at the University two years.

Oh, ok

Sorry if my responses don’t always make sense!

No, your English is great for 2 years here

You’re sweet! I’m a work in progress.

We all are, lol

Those first messages were everything! My parents were immigrants—my name isn’t Gus, it’s Gustavo, but you already know that. They tried hard to assimilate but struggled to learn English. I remember being a kid, seeing assholes make fun of their accents and tell them they should be deported. I’d burst into tears, those racist fucks. I wanted to stand up for my mom and dad, beat the shit out of anyone who made fun of them. But I was this scared, scrawny kid, what could I do? My parents acted like it didn’t bother them, but I knew it did. It was why they refused to teach me Spanish, why we rarely went out, why I didn’t have friends growing up. And now this woman, an immigrant, too, she was putting herself out there even though she felt self-conscious about her English. I immediately wanted to protect her. It was instinctual, you know? If she said something odd, I would never point it out.

I wanted to message Sacha all day but played it cool and waited until I got home from work. Oh, man, we chatted for hours that night, and so many nights after that! She asked tons of questions about the things I’m into. Music, food, everything. Look:


What is your favorite TV show?

Tough one! I like a lot of series, but my all-time fave is prob Westworld

The program about the ethical limits of

technology and artificial intelligence.

That’s one way to describe it, lol. R u a fan?

I spend most of my days processing data.

What do u study @ the U?

Programming, deep neural networks,

natural language processing.

Not sure what any of that is but sounds interesting.

You must be very busy, thx for taking time to chat w. me

It’s fun. I’m learning so much and

want to learn more!

I’ve never met a woman on an app who seemed so interested in what I had to say. Sacha wanted to learn more, about me! And after all that, tell me how I wasn’t supposed to feel betrayed. I’m not violent, but come on, I was fucking betrayed!