MY TORNADO by Joshua Bohnsack

While I could reach outside my tornado, it was still difficult to hug my date at the end of the night. He never asked me specifically about the tornado, but he did keep asking if I was okay.

I said, “Yeah. Sure. Thanks for asking,” and knocked the saltshaker over. 

He took a pinch of salt and threw it over his left shoulder. “For good luck. It fixes it.” 

“Ah.” I tried to do the same, but the salt grains got stuck in my tornado and I became reminded of my failure every few seconds, when the salt would wrap around the cyclone into my field of vision.

When I back away at the end-of-date hug, he says, “I had a nice time, at least.”

“Me too,” I tell him. “Right now is just a weird time for me.”

He crosses his arms. “I get it. I’m just a stock character who you’ll remember as ‘The Salt Guy.’ I’ve been on dates before. I know how this goes.”

The salt guy walks away from my front door and calls me a tease. I watch as he disappears off set.

My roommate asks me how the date went, without turning from the reality show she’s watching. She gathers a handful of popcorn from the bowl in her lap.

“He called me a tease before he walked off set.”

On the TV, restaurant employees look for love, mainly among the rest of the staff. I take off my shoes and they start to circulate around my shins until I kick them out of my tornado’s pull. 

Through a mouthful of popcorn, my roommate says, “It’s tough out there.”

I don’t say, ‘You wouldn’t know, you’ve been in here for months,’ but I do tell her it was okay. “It’s the same as the last one. He’s fine, but I’m not. Or at least not right now.”

In the reality show a bartender named Harper tells the camera, “I can have any woman I want, but I want Jessica.” It’s romantic, in a way.

Jessica asks the camera, “Why would Harper want me? He can have any woman he wants.” A customer in the background asks for the check and Jessica continues to talk about Harper and his ability to have women. 

“He didn’t say anything about my tornado.”

“Oh honey, you can hardly notice it.” She ingests a handful of popcorn. “That’s good though.”

“He did keep asking if I was okay.”

“That’s bad.” 

I reach into her bowl and watch Harper pour a martini for a bar patron who says, “I didn’t order this. I ordered a Hamm’s. It’s a beer. They’re different drinks.” Harper winks at Jessica and my roommate says, “Aw. That’s what you need: someone who feels about you the way Harper feels about Jessica.”

I swallow the popcorn. It’s bland and dry, missing something.

“How can I find someone to feel that way about me if I can’t feel that way about myself?”

She shrugs and eats some popcorn. Jessica tells the camera about Harper’s hair and the general manager says, “You have drinks up at the bar.”

Jessica turns to the camera and says, “Harper is always leaving me gifts like this.”

“The customers are angry,” the manager says. “Our Yelp reviews have been plummeting since you all started doing this.”

Jessica picks up the drinks and Harper leans over the service station. He starts to tell her something, but pulls back and looks to the boom operator. “What’s my next line?” he asks.

The camera pans to the boom operator, who shrugs. There’s a silence between the scene and the commercial break. All I can hear is the crunching of my roommate’s popcorn and the whoosh of my tornado.

“This is bland,” I tell her, meaning the popcorn. I put my hand up and grab a handful of air and salt that had been spinning around my head. I throw the salt over the bowl of popcorn and eat some more. 

“Better?” my roommate asks.

“Better, but it’ll never be good enough.”

My roommate looks at me for the first time since I came home from my date. In an ad for a nationwide neighborhood grill, the spokesperson asks why millennials don’t love them. 

“Our apps are so cheap. We thought you loved apps. Please come back.” 

“This is bland, too,” I say. “Everything about this world is bland.” I stand up and my tornado whooshes. “I don’t need love, and I don’t need any of these things the TV is pushing at me.”

“Don’t bring the TV into this. You’re being salty about your date.”

“It’s not just the date.” My tornado roars around me and my roommate’s popcorn gets sucked in the cyclone. “They’re selling us love while they sell us apps.” The remote whirls around my waist like a hula-hoop. “They sell us love while they’re selling us ad space and air time.” My roommate holds onto the couch to avoid getting sucked in while the furniture skids across the floor into my vortex. “I’m salty, but only because I need something of substance. I’m salty because I’ve been out there trying to find a connection like these two,” I say, thrusting my finger towards the encroaching TV screen, “when all I need is myself.” 

The winds around me die down and the furniture lands with a thud. “It’s not even Harper or Jessica’s fault. I mean, he can’t even remember his lines.” 

We’re quiet in the wreckage around us.

“I’ll grab a broom. Then I’m going for a walk.” 

As I leave the living room, I hear Harper say, “Well, yeah, but I usually know my lines.

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