Short Story: “Instant Connect”

There’s a new dating app that cuts out the dating. It connects two compatible people and implants a love story into their memories while removing any recollection of ever having signed up for the service. As far as the two lovers are concerned, they met and fell in love in a totally normal, natural way. So when Selina’s best friend suddenly announces she’s getting married to a woman Selina has never heard of before, you can understand why she might be suspicious.

Front view portrait of two angry friends ignoring each other at home © Antonio Guillem /

April 07, 2024 02:05 EDT

Something to consider when reading/listening: If someone changed your memory, would you still be you? What if they replaced your memories in their entirety with someone else’s? What do you mean by “you”?

I’m not nervous. I can’t be nervous. She’s seen me wee behind a McDonald’s drive-thru. 

I just want things to go back to how they were. Not how they were… but… I want her back. I just want her back in my life. 

It was all so stupid anyway. I blame Nate, if I’m honest. It’s definitely all Nate’s fault, he put the idea into my… ok, so… Look, me and Angelica lived together on and off for about ten years ok, best friends, inseparable, blah blah blah. We’d both had a few shit relationships and I’m not saying we were done with them but, like, we were chilled if they were done with us. We had a nice flat and we were happy and she, in particular, would say, “Selli, you are my rock, you are my life partner. I don’t need anyone else. It’s just you and me from now on.” It was always her who said that sort of stuff by the way. I’d agree but she was the one who said it. She embroidered the words “Selli and Jelli forever” into our cushions.  

Anyway, at the back of my mind ok, if I’m one hundred percent honest, I was always a bit like, “I will still find someone, I’m not gonna, like….This is great Jelli but I will meet someone eventually.” 

And, you know, there was Nate, there was always Nate. 

We’d had this twenty-year transatlantic kind of thing… He lived in America but he’d come over each summer to stay with his uncle who lived down the road and we met when we were six… this little American boy with a speech impediment and the worst case of hay fever you’ve ever seen, who wouldn’t talk to me without using his big brother as a go-between…   

We were never together together but… well he’s the only friend I’ve known longer than I’ve known Angelica…and at the back of my mind, like, you know…and when he moved to England permanently I thought well ok…

But anyway, he asks me to do a weekend in Paris with him and I can’t tell Angelica about it because I think she’ll get all weird and… so I tell her I’m going on a work trip even though she knows my work isn’t exactly location specific. 

Anyway, we sneak off to Paris, me and Nate, we have a great time, I head home preparing to talk to Jelli about how I really think he might be…. you know… And I get to our flat and there’s another woman there… with Angelica… and she’s… and they…. And Jelli tells me they’re getting married.

She and Cordelia, this woman she’s never even mentioned before, and they’re apparently all of a sudden getting married, even though Jelli always said she’d never marry anyone… other than me, which I know she only said as a joke but still. Oh and she’s hidden the cushions, not that that even matters but…

They’ve been seeing each other for a year apparently. Cordelia’s stayed round loads of times, I’ve either been out or asleep, and she’s definitely, definitely told me about her. We don’t have this conversation in front of her, she seems lovely by the way, it’s not Cordelia who’s the problem it’s the… it’s the fact that my best friend is suddenly… because of course, this means she’s moving out and all the rest of it and I’m just… I’m happy for her, that’s what I say, but I’m also, I mean, I’m… 

And the wedding is in three months time, she says. They’ve booked it, she wants me to be her maid of honor. And that’s it, a decade of Jelli and Selli is done just like that and I have to be… I have to be… I just have to, there’s not even an acknowledgment of how I might find this, you know, maybe just, like, a little bit difficult. And when I spend the whole evening crying, she thinks they’re happy tears and they are… kind of. And she’s sad too that it’s coming to an end, it’s not just me. 

And look, by the end of the week, once I’ve properly at least got to meet Cordelia, and she and Jelli are very well suited. They both love tennis so… you know…I tried to get into it but it was never my thing so… but, yeah, I feel much happier, much more supportive, much more… 

And then Nate…

Nate bloody tells me about Instant Connect. 

Apparently, his dad who’s a coder, or used to be until they all got made redundant, worked on the earliest version of it and now it’s super, super advanced. 

Basically, it’s a dating service that cuts out the dating. 

You sign up, very discretely, and it matches you with the most compatible person it can find, using all their advanced algorithms and blah, blah, blah. 

But as we all know, being compatible isn’t enough. So what Instant Connect does is it implants a love story into your memories. 

It goes through the last however long, typically around a year, and it inserts memories of meeting, of getting to know each other, of falling in love, hyper-realistic memories, indistinguishable from the real thing. And then they wipe your memory of ever signing up to the service, you sign waivers in advance and… and… and as far as the two… lovers… are concerned, they met in a totally normal, natural way and they… they… so yeah, I’m… I’m pretty convinced that this is what’s happened. 

I don’t think Angelica knew Cordelia until maybe the day they got engaged. But they both believe they’ve had this passionate, beautiful year-long relationship. 

And anyway, I become obsessed with the idea, you know. It feels… just, it feels entirely wrong. My best friend is about to marry this woman and it’s all… like, it’s all built on a lie. The memories they’ve implanted, they might not be remotely representative of how Cordelia would actually behave in a… Apparently, they are, apparently the AI one hundred percent replicates what would have happened, including arguments, mini-breakups, all of it, but they would say that wouldn’t they?

Nate tells me I definitely shouldn’t mention it to her but she’s Jelli, I’ve never had an ingrown hair without mentioning it to Jelli. 

He says it makes no difference. Just like any couple in love, they have a relationship built out of memories. If they both share a memory, that makes it real. And I know he’s right. And I know it’s not my place to intervene. So I decide to say nothing.

But the chatty little worm that lives inside my brain has other ideas and it ends up telling her on her hen do. 

And she kicks off big time. 

I wasn’t even accusing her of anything, I was just letting her know of the possibility… She says she would never ever sign up to something like that, she says the whole idea is disgusting. And she starts showing me all these pictures of her and Cordelia together, even though we both know the AI could quite easily fake those- I’ve checked and it is included in the service. But I don’t say that, at least I think I don’t say that.

Anyway, I apologize. And apologize. And apologize. And I think I’ve won her over. But at the wedding, where she’s made herself the most amazing dress, I can’t help doing a bit of sleuthing. I’m texting Nate the whole time, he’s back visiting his parents in New York at this point, and he’s telling me to let it go but I can’t find a single person on either side who can definitely say they met the other person before they heard about the engagement. 

Jelli’s dad is basically the dad I never had. He’s already agreed to give me away if I ever get married. But he said, no, the first time he met Cordelia was when Jelli said they were engaged. And now he’s going round the guests asking questions too. And her mum finds out and she’s not happy. And this is the first time she’s been in the same place as Jelli’s dad for years and you just know she’s been looking for any opportunity to have a fight.

So her mum swears she met Cordelia loads of times in the first year. I think she’s lying to protect her daughter but I wouldn’t dare say that. And anyway, their argument totally ruins the wedding, and Jelli’s dad drops me in it and Jelli tells me to leave. She kicks her maid of honor out of her wedding. And, well, we haven’t seen each other until now. 

Eighteen months. It’s been eighteen months. it’s been awful, it’s been unbearable. Without Nate, there’s no way I’d have been able to get through it. 

So now all I want to do is say sorry. I want to tell her I believe her, I don’t think it was an Instant Connect. I think what she and Cordelia have is genuine and beautiful and wonderful and I’m just so, so sorry. 

Because even if I don’t technically believe that, who cares? It’s been nearly two years since they got engaged so even if… even if they did, you know… they now have more genuine memories than fake ones anyway. 

And when I see her, with her French braid and her little nose and her stupid homemade coat with too many buttons… when I see her, all the nerves I’ve been feeling disappear. I run over to her and grab her by the shoulders and apology-vomit all over her. 

And we have such a great day. We go to about six bars, at one point I’m laughing so much the waiter thinks I’m having a stroke. 

Jelli tells me how much I hurt her but she forgives me. And she tells me all the cool things she and Cordelia have been up to. Like…like…well, playing tennis mostly, I’m not really paying attention, I’m just so happy we’re back… 

And I tell her… I tell her that me and Nate are finally a thing. After all the waiting and wondering and, after all of it, Nate, the nervous little boy with the swollen eyes and the runny nose, who’s now six foot two and allergy-free by the way, the only friend I’ve known longer than I’ve known Angelica… Nate from America… has asked me to marry him. 

And Jelli, I say, Jelli I want you to be my maid of honour. 

And she does this look. I don’t know what I’m expecting, obviously not tears or… but she does this look as though there’s a third person with us and they’re sharing an in joke. And she says, “Ohhhh.”

And I say what?

And she says don’t worry. 

And I say no come on, what is it? 

And she holds my hand and she says, “Selina I would never judge you. You do know that don’t you?’

And I’m like errrm what are you talking about? 

And she says it’s ok. She says it makes sense now. She says she couldn’t understand why I was being so spiteful before but clearly, all along, I was looking for validation.

Validation? For what? 

“It’s cool,” she says, “so many people are doing it now.”

Doing what?

“I saw it advertised on a bus the other day. It’s gone mainstream. It’s perfectly normal.”

What are you talking about? 

“Come on Selli. Instant Connect. Nate. I’ve never heard of a Nate before.” 

Errrrm…. Yes you have. I’ve known him for twenty years. 

“Great,” she says, “great. Good for you.” 

He was my childhood sweetheart. He… 

“Yeah,” she says, “I heard they’re getting a lot more sophisticated now.” 

Are you kidding me? But she isn’t. She actually thinks… she actually… and I’m furious. I’m done… I am… I stand up and I am… she’s doing this smug look like she’s and no, I am… I am… I get out of there. Nate is my… he is my…. This is not…I call him but he doesn’t answer, that’s fine. I check my call history, I have calls to Nate stretching back for years so… so… so…

Shut up. We… she… she must… she…

I am done. Done. I am never seeing that woman again. 

Bloody hell. I’m so angry I almost walk into the road and a bus beeps its horn at me. I leap back and look up…

And on the side of the bus is a picture of a group of mates smiling at each other with the big Instant Connect logo in the top corner. 

And the text reads, “Not just for lovers. We also do friends.”

[Doe Wilmann first released this piece on his short story podcast, Meaningless Problems.]

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.


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