love in the time of the green heart emoji | fiction by E.A. Garfield

love in the time of the green heart emoji

Jo had Mitchel saved in his phone as Mitchel Rodgers <3. The love heart had been added about two weeks after they’d exchanged numbers. Jo knew that Mitchel had him saved as jo, and that it had been misspelled as joe for about a month. 

He’d tried not to take offense. Mitchel didn’t seem like the type to add a complementary emoji to anyone’s name. He wasn’t even the type to use surnames, or capital letters, or punctuation, which made parsing his 20-line-long messages hard sometimes. 

But Jo knew that Mitchel was nice, emoji or not. He’d known it the moment they’d been paired up in Anatomy 101 - Jo alone by virtue of his shyness and Mitchel the same due to his lateness. Jo had stared down at the desk and thought fruitlessly of something to say, and Mitchel had snapped his gum and smiled, said simply, “Do you remember what the question was?” 

Jo was an overthinker. It was going to make him a very good doctor one day. Staring down at his phone, though, he just felt lost. What did a green heart emoji even mean, anyway? What feeling was it supposed to convey? What significance did the colour green have to anything? 

Mitchel had a green hoodie he wore a lot, Jo remembered. Sage green, not the bright, highlighter green the heart was. It went well with his complexion. How he managed to look handsome even under the fluorescent classroom lights Jo couldn’t understand. 

He was taken out of the thought as his phone pinged again - this time Mitchel asking:

           will you tell dr thorpe pls? 

He had a dentist appointment and wouldn’t be in class the next day - that was the message that had been attached to the awful, criminal green heart.

           Yeah ofc! 

Jo typed back, and then:

            Will you be in bio of disease? 

           no i cba getting the train lol 

You’re infuriating ❤ is what Jo imagined he would say, if he were someone else, or if Mitchel had implied in any way that he was open to vaguely flirty banter, or even just if Jo had a modicum more confidence than he had.


is what he sent instead, and then he turned his phone off and went to sleep. 


When he woke he felt very foolish about the green heart. The green heart had been a child’s problem. It was a young, naive problem, and Jo felt much more of a grownup than he had the night before. He could go out and attend all of his classes and be responsible and not think about - well, he wouldn’t be thinking about emojis, that was certain. Grown-ups didn’t wile away hours analyzing people’s text messages like they were Emily Dickinson poems. 

He really did try to pay attention in class. He did. He didn’t look at his phone once, not even when it buzzed two or three times in his pocket - Mitchel, notorious double texter. 

But he felt like he had a weight on him. Everything seemed grey and flat. He was red-heart-emoji in love with Mitchel and Mitchel only thought of him as green. 

Dr. Thorpe told them to pack up and Jo finally pulled his phone out, scrolling through the half-a-dozen messages about ‘the dire state of public transport in this country’ that Mitchel had sent before he landed on the one that sent his heart racing:

           miss you x

Inordinately subdued, for Mitchel. Sweet and melancholy. Jo turned to the table of girls next to him. 

“Alya,” he began. “Do you think that a kiss, like an… ‘x’ kiss,” Alya was looking at him through her too-long fringe like he’d lost his mind. “Do you think that that’s more or less romantic than a love-heart emoji?”

“Okay, first things first.” She set her notebooks back down on the table, tapping them with her long acrylics. “It depends who you’re talking to. If it’s someone who uses a lot of emojis, probably. Or if they don’t use any emojis, like if they’re old or something.”

Jo snorted a laugh.

“But like, my friends send me kisses all the time, and it’s not a thing. It just sort of… softens the sentence, I guess.”

“But, you know, if someone said they… missed you, and it was followed by –”

“Almost certainly romantic,” she said. “That’s so cute, Jo. Who is it?”

“It’s just…” He sighed, and leaned in, lowering his voice. “It’s Mitchel, but I don’t actually know if he likes me, so –”

“Oh my god, that is so cute –”

“Don’t tell anyone about it, please.”

She mimed zipping her lips, still smiling. “Bye, babe. Good luck with the kissing.”

Only after she’d left did he realise he’d been left alone with Dr. Thorpe, to whom he said an awkward goodbye and then fled.

           Missed you too ❤ 

is what he decided on sending back. He deliberated over the heart for many minutes, and then got sick of himself and just sent it. He let out a breath afterwards, glad it was done, but by then Mitchel had replied:

           🙂 coffee tomorrow? 

           Sure! Before class?


is all Mitchel sent back, and then, a few seconds later, the oft-seen, so far never-understood green heart emoji. 

Jo’s hands moved faster than his brain. Before he could think about it, he’d sent:

           What does the green heart emoji mean to you?

What kind of a dumb, asshole thing to say. It didn’t mean anything. To everyone other than him it was just green. 

           it makes me think of the grass and that makes me think of u

Oh. He hadn’t expected a real answer. 

           Because I’m always 420 blazing it?

           no lol 

Jo already felt gooey inside. Mitchel didn’t even need to explain himself.

           do u remember that day we had lunch outside? 

Jo remembered. The groundskeeper had just cut the grass - it was the end of September, the end of summer, the first day Jo had felt he’d properly laughed in a long time. When he stood up he’d had grass stains on the knees of his jeans and Mitchel had laughed and said, “That colour looks nice on you.” 

           Yeah I remember

           it’s my favourite now

Jo was pretty sure it was his favourite now, too, but he didn’t say so. That wasn’t a message he needed to spend hours decoding. He smiled, and thought about Mitchel on the other side of the phone, smiling as well, and felt warm. 

He could think of a few dozen things to say, but in the end he settled on:


Beeper Peddle is a writer and healer living on the East Coast. She lives with her partner and their beloved soul puppy. Beeper writes about sorrows, lies, and deep loves. When you read her work, you will dip down into her heart and end up in all manner of body parts. Should you find yourself reflected in these words, it is merely coincidence; however, it does not surprise her you share the same heart. Find her at and @beeperpeddle on Twitter and Instagram

E.A. Garfield (she/her) is a history student from Scotland. She has been described as “consumptive,” “old romantic but make it scary,” and “a literary demon.” Her work can be found in Literally Stories and Lunate Fiction, and she can be found @indomitableem on Twitter.