The Bachelors
Week 10: Season Finale

I love you, Mergatroid.
Ten weeks. His fingertips grew white clutching the inked parchment now blotted with tears. In his head rolled a replay, a bitter showcase of every missed opportunity, the way they accumulated, fed off one another, carving away at his one chance to turn it all around. If only he’d spoken up the first day they’d met. Back when it wasn’t too late to discover how easily they shared their worst dating mistakes. How they had both never seen the Pacific but planned to fix that next summer. How their bursts of laughter harmonized in the most perfect of ways.
Why only now, after their time had ended, could he at last recite over a thousand reasons to pick him over that other bastard?
At his feet lay a rose snapped in half. Anguish cut off his air. Caught in his throat, regret and unconfessed flames.
He should’ve left long ago. From the moment he stepped inside the house and captured nobody’s attention. Out that rose-hued door with middle fingers jabbing the sky.  After weeks had passed without receiving a single rose. Forcing the production staff to recover from his unannounced exit. But in all honesty, despite subtler signs, there was no excusing Week Eight.
Clock hands tutted. It was well past curfew. Still, considering his nerves, jittery beyond salvation, and the rhythmic ticking amplified at this hour, who could blame him?
He needed to move. Lying in bed made him a sink for self-criticism and worst-case scenarios, churned from his treacherous imagination. It left him vulnerable. At the nonexistent mercy of his own self-esteem. And when hazy scenes of rejection, mockery, and being forever alone supplanted his normally dreamless nights, there wasn’t much to look forward to in sleep.
He needed to move.
In the halls shined a sliver of light peeking out beneath shut doors. Palms slammed table, reverberating.
"Damn it, Tom!" came a muffled cry. "Your ideas are absolute shit. Barging in every four seasons makes you the least qualified to run this show."
A chipper tone replied, "Then tell me why our ratings spike each time I do."
Slow whines followed, the creak of a chair leaning unapologetically back. His ears strained to pick up several low whistles, as well as incoherent grumbling about the madness of finding everyone a husband. Should’ve stuck to one guy fishing from a harem.
"According to our calculations," the staccato of papers reshuffling against oak, "there’s a 6.042% chance that the final matching will be stable."
Loud groans and frustration clamored inside the room. Mergatroid stepped forward and tuned more closely in.
Another table smack. "We’re down to our last weeks, our last unmarried contestants," raged a new voice. "The couples we have so far are happy. Viewers will kill us if we break anyone up."
Wood scraped against wood, and the terse taps of chalk on blackboard turned shortly after.
"Let’s recap. Right now, Alex wants Bobby Joe. But Bobby Joe only sees Robin. And, fuck, Robin’s gunning for Alex."
One individual, the first speaker, tossed a surly question into the mix. "And Mergatroid?"
Then, snickers.
Tripping into chuckles.
Boiling into mirth.
Each callous contribution a cut to his confidence. There wasn’t much left either way. His mind told him to run, his gut said to scream, but his body defaulted to what it did best.
"Not making a single move," howled the production staff. "And he expects one of these guys to fall for him?"
He just
"No matter how we spin it, someone’s gonna go rogue."
He just wanted
"We’ll pick someone random to send him a note."
He just wanted to be
"And nobody likes Mergatroid. He’s their least favorite pick, so his preferences don’t really matter."
He should’ve confronted them when they cemented his demise. But it’d been 3am, and he was done. The next morning, he’d convinced himself it was all a dream. God, if only it had been.
Sharlene Chiu
Published in Issue 40