The story is told in first-person and the scenes switch between the television commercials and scenes with Claire and the narrator who are both young actors. However, the narrator rarely lands a job. As Claire becomes more successful, the narrator envisions his life taking another turn in which he is married to someone else, has a son and works as a disc jockey. In the end he states to his son, "'Just someone I used to know,'" is how I'll answer, though I'll wonder if that's true."
The theme, for me, is "How long should a person give it before they give up?" All along it is clear that Claire is more ambitious than the narrator and claims that the narrator, her boyfriend, doesn't get more jobs because he doesn't want it enough. Claire is talented and "that she'd work for years to burnish and grow. Claire had it from the start." The ads include Burger King, fast food, hamburgers, Prudential, insurance and investments, and Windstar, a yacht cruise.
A second theme, I think, is that people wonder if they really knew a person at all when a couple grows apart. It can feel as though he or she were always a stranger.
Jonathan Durbin has many publications to his credit but "Claire, The Whole World" is his first in the short story form and was published by One Story, issue number 191.