Self Portrait as Partially-Loaded Internet History
Search: train, train schedule, next train, when
Results: The train comes when it wants. There is exactly as much logic in looking up when a train is supposed to arrive as peering down the tunnel to see if you can catch its headlights in the distance — though there is slightly more danger in the latter, of course, dangling one’s body over the edge of the platform to see around the bend. Sometimes, train operators perceive these people as “platform matadors,” an industry term for those who willingly flirt with death, instead of what they are actually doing, flirting with time. (Which is close, but not the same.) Regardless, neither activities make the train come faster and both make you appear to others as an anxious, impatient, an altogether uncool person. There is no right way to wait for the train, but there are hundreds of wrong ways, and if you’re checking to see when the train is coming then you are, in fact, waiting incorrectly.
Search: weather, weather today, forecast, permission to use your location
Results: You could wear the beige top, the beige top works, you’ve gotten good feedback on the beige top. But then again, did you ever really imagine yourself being the kind of person whose go-to attire, whose identifying trademark, the piece of clothing that when your friends would see on strangers or celebrities on magazines in supermarket checkout lines would say, ‘That’s so Jenn,” would be a beige top? It wasn’t cheap. It’s not like it was one of those discount sale bins where they determine the price by the pound. It was expensive and logo-less and looked almost boring in the way that rich people pay extra to look casual on purpose. It took all of your tips and part of a paycheck. It took a significant amount of posing and sending pictures to friends from a phone in the fitting room. And when you finally worked up the courage to place the item on the counter, already feeling a strong upswell of buyer’s remorse and self-hate for overthinking it this much, the cashier had the nerve to ask, “Is that it?” in that teenage tone of nothing ever being enough. Then again, maybe people are starting to recognize just how often you’re wearing the beige top. Instead of being welcoming and reassuring, say, in the way that cartoon characters are always wearing the same outfit, perhaps everyone is thinking of you as boring, uncreative, even smelly. There’s the slouchy top. Or that slightly sheer one that gets you more tips. Who are you kidding? Whether you like it or not, you know who you are in the beige top and there isn’t enough time to imagine the two dozen people you could be today because who cares, nothing fits, you’re already late.
Search: song, song that goes don’t be sad, I know you will / but don’t give up until, love song, lyrics
Results: You listen to this song on your phone and in the shower and on the toilet and on the train. It’s only one minute and forty-eight seconds, so you can easily slide it in-between various acts and errands without too much forethought. In many ways, it is the song of a moron — its simple and crooked depiction of love touches you in a way that is hard to describe. It possesses a kind of stopped-watch accidental genius: the happy-go-lucky chords, played too close and all thumbs, the campfire sing along of the chorus, the lingering melancholy of the verses, and then it’s over before you have time to romance the mess any further. It came out in 1985 and you are convinced that you have known and loved this song for many years — but that’s not really true, is it? You could make the bed or listen to this song one time. You could do the dishes or listen to this song four-and-a-half times. It was recorded on cassette, with all the little analog pops and hisses, and the guitar was played slightly out of tune. Though the chords are incredibly simple — G - C - G - Em - Am - C — you can’t seem to recreate the exact sound. In a message board online, a comment reads, “It’s easy to play right but nearly impossible to sound wrong in the same way as someone else. Try leaving your guitar near an open window for a night.” There is an old voice memo on your phone of a woman singing a version of this song, but you are not ready to listen to that yet. Besides, recorded from your position at the house party, next to the young couple having a whispered argument and a drunk man tapping his foot too loudly, the audio is more a document of the room than it is of her. You spent months with this song in your head before you realized it was in your phone. You spent months with this song in your mouth before you remembered you can’t sing. You spent months trying to be wrong in the same way before deciding it was better just to be right.
Search: coffee, coffee near me, permission to use your location, 9 healthy ways to sweeten your coffee
Results: You’ve been hearing a lot about agave, stevia, and organic honey lately and think maybe you’ve been eating plain white sugar your whole life like a fat idiot when you should have been using coconut, maple, or palm derivatives. Of course, it would be best just to drink your morning coffee black, but it tastes awful, especially when placed in your commuter mug, which gives the whole thing a metallic taste like you brewed a hot cup of loose change. You’d rather sleep through your day than to suffer through an unrefined, sugar-free, all natural existence. Your doctor pinches your sides with strange instruments and says things like, “Sugar binds to proteins in your body and causes severe and irreversible structural damage — sort of like when you leave fruit out on the countertop and its skin slowly shrivels and turns brown,” and you say, “Yes, doctor I too have owned fruit and can relate to this,” and he continues, “Well, we’re all browning, but sugar causes you to brown upwards of seven times faster. Don’t you want to live a long, healthy life with traveling abroad and rearing children and the rest of it?” and you say, “Yesterday the StairMaster told me that I had climbed enough flights to reach the top of the Taj Mahal, so I think I have the travel part covered,” but he did not laugh, only scribbled something down on his chart and walked out of the room. There are many machines to simulate traveling but less that simulate having children. Your own mother has long said that having kids is the “easiest hard thing you’ll ever do,” which is, like most pieces of advice, a completely stupid phrase that will assume great meaning when you least expect it. Your father let you have all the sugar you could get your little hands on, saying, “Who cares if they rot, they’re just baby teeth.” He applied this philosophy — not really trying until absolutely necessary — throughout his entire life, until he died of fatty liver disease at the age of fifty-one. Everyone in the family maintains that he passed from type one, the nonalcoholic kind, but he was a skinny man without a sweet tooth in his head. Unlike advice, this is a stupid phrase you repeat hoping that the meaning never shows itself.
Search: news, daily news, breaking news, top stories, trending topics, viral think piece, most read
Results: No one at the office would exactly describe you as well-read — citing a hilarious and frequently mocked incident in which you erroneously referred to “The Gambia” as just “Gambia” — but this is no ordinary morning. Today, you tapped your way through every breaking story, trending topic, and viral think piece on the internet. You read the one about how the world is going to experience famine, economic collapse, and ancient diseases thawing from ice, then you read two dozen responses in the comment sections, linking to just as many counterarguments and alternative points of view on the matter, resulting in four official corrections to the original piece, as well as an annotated second edition put out by the editors to include quotations from scientists, citations, and original sources — and that was just before breakfast. Fastening your tie in the mirror, you played a podcast about the latest Washington D.C. scandal, wherein some senator was embroiled in yet another unsavory incident, this one involving jumper cables, a 25 pound drum of petroleum jelly, and two Lithuanian priests. “That’s politics!” the voice from your phone said, before a jazzy mix of drum and bass transitioned the clip to a more lightweight story of a dog saving a cat from a different third animal, or perhaps the other way around. On the first train, you skimmed the one about the oldest man in the world, the scores from the big games last night, and the leaked celebrity photos from a hidden beach in Ibiza. By the time you transferred to your connecting train, the oldest man had died and a new oldest man had been crowned, the hometown hero had been traded to the crosstown rivals in a blockbuster deal, and the celebrity was solemnly discussing the implications of her sex tape to a daytime talk show host with very empathetic eyes. Jumping in the elevator, you have just enough time to swipe through your social media to get up to speed on the latest childbirth, birthday, and health cleanse of your coworkers. When the doors of the elevator glide open, you confidently march straight into the kitchen where your colleagues are loudly clanking their coffee spoons around each bend of their mugs. Not wanting to appear over eager, you simply fill your cup and wait for the conversation to come to you naturally. In your mind, you recreate tiny bullet points that distill each story down to its most vital essence — a trick you learned from this very company’s “Communication Appreciation Retreat, 2011.” Playfully blowing the steam from your cup, you review: climate apocalypse, political sex, celebrity sex, animal heroism, buzzer beater in overtime, Stephanie is pregnant, Avery is engaged, and Jeff just started getting into that documentary series. Then Paige, a woman from design that frequently asks to borrow your phone charger for hours at a time, looks up from her drink and asks, “Hey, do you know what the weather is supposed to be like this weekend?” Taken aback, you clutch your coffee and utter, “What?” She continues, “Oh, I was thinking about going hiking and was just curious if it is going to be nice. Do you know?” As if watching yourself from the air duct above, you suddenly become aware of each individual part of your body — your oily skin, the little divots in your forehead, the awkward way you’re holding your hands, in anxious half-fists that sway at your waist — and the strange, uncoordinated way it all fits, like a magazine cut-out collage of a person. Perhaps parts of you make sense on their own, but not together like this. “It’s going to be beautiful,” says Jered, from across the kitchen, then adding with a smile, “guess you can thank global warming for that one.” Everyone laughs, and then Paige says, “Oh my god, did you read that article?” to which the entire room opens up like a flower and each person takes turns pollinating the conversation. When everyone has exhausted every tangent on the topic, the eyes of the room gradually rotate to you. They all have contributed life to the living thing of the dialog, and now it is your turn to keep it breathing — lest it die at your feet. “So, what do you think?” prods Jered, sitting on the edge of the kitchen counter. Sweating through your undershirt, you blurt, “That’s politics!” and quickly exit the room before you can see if the joke landed or not. Opening up your computer, you hit refresh on the day’s news again and again and again until it shows you something you can stomach.
Chris Ames is a writer who also draws. Most recently, his work has been featured in 3:AM Magazine, Heavy Feather Review, Wildness, and elsewhere. He lives in Oakland and online @_chrisames.