Is it petty to not share in the happiness of someone else's success? Is it petty to wish-to beg, even, knuckles blistering, eyes bloodshot, beseeching each god-for their horrific downfall? Is it immature to consider another's achievement, to imagine them doing the job you wish you had-walking around in your fancy pants, sleeping with your wife in your own bedroom, eating your Frosted Mini Wheats, loudly slurping the milk-and sink into despair? Is this unfair? Should this be beneath me? I woke up in an un-air-conditioned lethargy this morning and, as I have for the past several years, rolled over to open my laptop.
You. Bearer of bad news. Barer of breasts. I hovered over the seventeen or so tabs of Facebook I had open from the night before and, having selected one, eased into inoculating myself against the day's coming annoyances. Girls' phones, lost, drowned in so many toilets. Send me your numbers, QTs! A sullen she-bro from Long Island sharing her low resolution photo of a car. An idiot and his lone, cloying Tweet about soccer. What a sweet and noxious cocktail the mix of Facebook and Twitter statuses makes for-like grenadine and clorox, or Hitler and Mussolini waltzing. That's enough news for this morning, so-wait.
And there I saw it. J___ had shared something. What a sad mess of sharing Facebook has made. What sharing once meant, what virtue it once stood for. Here, I have a piece of key lime pie. Would you like some? I will share it with you. But now-HERE, DO YOU WANT TO SEE WHAT PICTURE I TOOK ON MY PHONE TODAY? LET ME ~*~*SHARE~*~* IT WITH YOU. LET ME SHARE SOME FRESH PEPPER, GROUND DIRECTLY INTO YOUR EYEBALL. J___ had shared an article she wrote. Her article. Her words. Her… byline. I hadn't seen her name above text since we dated and I used to help edit pieces she wrote for our high school paper. They would be about assemblies, and carpools. And now they are about high art.
I groaned and the hot wind in my chest rattled and I hated my apartment's stupid crooked floors and how I didn't have any socks. I thought about the fact that I had probably overdrawn yesterday when I bought that iced tea-overdrawn so far, so deep down into the red that it would take an array of advanced financial algorithms to sort out how many fines to apply to my account. An oversized alarm probably sounded at Bank of America headquarters, and confetti dumped down from the ceiling, and all the analysts hooted and yelled and kissed, "I can't believe the kid did it again! Unbelievable!" I read her article and it was very good. I hovered over her name and thought about clicking and congratulating her, but I didn't want to come across as depleted and insincere, which I was.
I stepped out of my bedroom and the cooler air felt good. If there is something that is the opposite of sex, the apartment reeked of it. I dressed quickly, crept past R___'s crumpled, corpse-like form on the futon to pick up my sneakers-the first rays of noon slapping at his grimacing face-and pretended I had an errand to run down on Houston. If anyone pressed me I'd say I was going to go print out a few copies of my resume. Ha! Poor little sheet. Sometimes I compulsively check my resume, scouring it for some overlooked explanation of how often it's ignored. Perhaps I introduced an inadvertent racial slur? Did I include overt Freemason symbolism? Is "FUCK ALL JOBS & EMPLOYERS" written in tiny type at the bottom? As I walked past 1st Avenue, I noticed a crowd formed across the street around a chicly dilapidated theater. I thought maybe it was something neat like a firing squad or a zany "flashmob" type iPhone thing. Oh, well, no, it was some sort of red carpet event. Was I late?
An impossibly tall, grinning, heron-like woman clothed in a matte black trapezoid shimmered in the light of the sloppy sun and waved from behind a barricade. My shirt smelled like ramen seasoning powder in the humid wind. She was standing in front of one of those walls with patterned logos on it that awful people pose before to be photographed at momentous occasions like the launching of a handbag line. I remembered last summer, when L___ told me about his friend's fundraiser for "nightlife preservation" in New York-is there any way to place something like that in more than one set of quotation marks? I imagine there were a lot of red carpet logo walls there. I thought of this now and closed my eyes and faced the gut-punching sun and thought about how it's supposed to burn out in a trillion years or whatever, and how maybe that could come a little sooner and it wouldn't be so bad.
There is actually an industry term for these red carpet backdrops, and I remember stumbling upon it for the first time a few months ago, and then feeling a bit lightheaded as my brain strained, in desperate cognitive self-preservation, to purge this awful factoid. I was glad I couldn't recall. There's really no excuse for anyone to ever know this word. The crowd craned their heads, a thousand Wayfarers creaked in unison, and an ecology of LCD devices shot up for a better look-but no phone was smart enough to identify this glamor-ridden anonymous giantess. Her very atoms were animated by the recognition of the crowd. Her skin gleamed and her eyes flashed with a terrible shine. Look on my shins, ye Mighty, and despair. Did anyone know who she was? The starers strained further. A small pale man in a cream hat, turning away from the red carpet colossus, murmured to a young flat-chested woman with him, "there's an app for that!" and smirked. O, to have a flamethrower in New York.
I rounded the corner in a hurry because, really, that shit was just the worst. I thought about foraging for pizza somewhere, and began to roam. Sometimes my employed friends remark, charitably, how nice it must be to be without a job and free during the day, and walk wherever and whenever I want. To be free! A comment analogous to saying how nice it must be to have no hands, what with saving so much on the cost of mittens and all. A weeping willow's tentacle brushed against my face, and I let it, without tilting away. I'm always told that to fit in here, you ought never look upward-it betrays a delight with one's surroundings that natives find unsavory. But it was a beautiful, enormous tree, and I looked it up and down, and smiled at the babies sitting underneath it in the hazy shade, then immediately stopped because I didn't want anyone to see this guy with savage hair and a beard staring at their baby. Walking further, I passed a gaunt couple walking two healthy looking dogs. They were cheery in spite of their sickliness, perhaps owing to their fine linen outfits, or having been freshly exhumed that afternoon.
"Yeah, I know, it's just-"
"Well I'll tell you what it is," the stately heroin wraith replied with a yawn. "It's just that DOING NOTHING is so TIII-IIIRING. Just sitting DOWN! It's just so HARD! I'm exhaa-aausted!"
They smiled at each other and one of the dogs chirped a bit and I wondered whether I had held my face up to the sun for too long earlier. I walked briskly back home and congratulated J___.
Sam Biddle is a recent college graduate in New York City.
Photo by AlPie, from Flickr.