“Why did you say Christmas? Now I can’t stop thinking about Christmas.”
“Listen, you can use whatever memory you want as your passkey, okay? But you have to calibrate the system first if you want to check out. You can change it later at home.”
“But why say Christmas though?” I ask.
“Oh, man, sorry, just like…force of habit I guess. Everybody has strong Christmas memories, you know? I don’t know. Just a suggestion.”
He is really embarrassed.
I know why he said Christmas. It is a week until Christmas is why. I can’t really blame this man for saying Christmas. My reaction is instinctual. I know I am being a bastard, but I can’t help it.
“Why wouldn’t you suggest my birthday or something secular, such as for instance, Thanksgiving or the 4th of July or uh perhaps even such as Bastille Day?”
“Hey man,” he says. “Look, it just needs to be any strong memory in a real, real specific category, so there are like…deep grooves around it…which make it easy for the computer to find. I wasn’t trying to offend you. Do you have a lot of strong Bastille Day memories?”
I do not.
“Honestly, though, now I can’t stop thinking about Christmas,” I explain.
“It’s real easy to change at home later. We just gotta calibrate you so you can check out. Your EZXpress passkey memory is good at a hundred different stores and restaurants and theaters.”
I am trying to set up an EZXpress account at the new Trader Joe’s in my neighborhood. The new two-story Trader Joe’s with a wine lab and a cheese print shop annex in the basement has destroyed all the other grocery stores in less than six months. Now I either have to shop at Trader Joe’s, leave my rent-controlled apartment and move to a different city, keep doing my grocery shopping in an entirely different borough, or die.
I have held out for as long as I can, but I am tired of buying my oatmeal and condoms and beans and rice and coffee in the Bronx. It is crazy to go all the way to the Bronx every week to do my damn shopping. But the thing is, Trader Joe’s won’t take cash. This means I have to sync up my bank account with their dumb mnemonic passkey system. Once I am synced up, I can just walk in, pick shit out and put it in a sack, and leave. Of course, this means I have to integrate my entire deck with my bank account, something pretty much everybody in the world has already done, but which I am really, truly, deeply, pervertedly not into doing for reasons I cannot articulate. Just spite, I guess. Petty spite. Natural born goddamn white trash sign of the beast barcode tattoo antichrist slackjaw naysaying wormguts skinrash 666 apocalypse spite.
They don’t even have self-checkout kiosks here. It’s sync up my deck or nothing. I am doing it. Goddamn it, I am doing it.
From now on, whenever I leave the store, the system will check my head for my passkey memory, and money will be debited from my account automatically.
Everybody loves it. I hate it. I know I am wrong to hate it. I have lost so many arguments to so many smart people about why I am wrong to hate it.
I still hate it.
“So, okay, cool...you are logged into Trader Joe’s, right? Is this you?”
He points at my deck avatar. I nod.
“Cool. When I say go, think about Chri…think about some really specific category of linked events. Uh, think about your birthday, okay? It’s going to pull up memories and cycle through them until it finds the strongest one, okay, and that’ll be your passkey. Sometimes it takes a bit. Okay, ready…hold on, gotta calibrate…you just keep thinking about…uh…your birthday, right…here it comes…hold on…ready…go!”
Of course, I think about Christmas.
I am drunk on the F-train, traveling at ponderous MTA holiday speeds from the ass-end of Brooklyn to the ass-end of Queens. It is Christmas, and I have been drinking at the Coney Island Applebee’s, which is miraculously open and staffed with cheerful teenagers getting double pay to serve me double whiskeys.
I wasn’t expecting any restaurants to be open across from the NYC Aquarium, where I have spent the past few hours watching piranhas swim up and down, and watching sea lions do tricks for fish, timed to hip-hop remixes of the year’s pop favorites, while a team of fit women in head-sets and brown polo shirts have tried so goddamn hard to be cheerful about the tricks that sea lions will do for fish that it has actually worked and I feel pretty good.
Now I am headed home. I am too drunk to read a book, but I am not drunk enough to sleep. There are two other dudes on the train and I am checking them out, trying to establish some kind of demographic truth about what we all mean here together.
Is the F-train on Christmas demographically what prison looks like? Or is it closer to the demographics of astronauts? Are we too smart for Christmas or too wrecked up and sad?
I just don’t even know.
One guy is so drunk that he is doubled over and I am sure he is going to fall out of his seat onto his head every time we hiss to a stop. But he does not! He is balanced perfectly, clenching his butt-muscles to stay upright, sliding along in his seat while his nose grazes his knees like a piano player who is doing a really good job. He wants to be doubled over: it is not where he has ended up.
He has chosen this place and time, like I have.
I decide that this means we are more like astronauts than felons. We are better than other people for being drunk on this train during Christmas; not worse. Demographically, we are the princes of the universe. Here we are, born to be kings.
I feel great about this. I send out some triumphant text messages, knowing that my friends will receive them while sitting around with their families and loved ones, bored and depressed and envious.
There is a bald man in a suit across from me who is also dicking around on his phone. He is very serious, perhaps he is even utterly sober. He looks like a recently divorced dad and I imagine that this day is hard for him. His children have chosen their mother, even though at his apartment he has a tree decorated for them, and expensive presents, and marzipan chocolates.
Maybe he has been drinking after all. He is just better at it than I am.
I am terrible at drinking.
But this man drinks scotch while sitting at a drafting table drawing blueprints of typography museums for socialist Scandinavian countries; he does not drink Evan Williams served by teenagers at Applebee’s while wearing a black velour track suit. He wears a real suit.
I wish I worked at Applebee’s on Christmas. I wish I was at work anywhere instead of on this train. Any kind of job. I wish the holidays were optional, but they are not. Where I work, you have to take the day off. You have to be alone with your life.
Now I am back to staring at the doubled-over man, sure he is finally going to fall over as the train picks up speed while coming down from the Smith and 9th stop. But he does not. Instead, he begins to drool. A long strand of saliva leaves his mouth and attaches to his shoe. He shudders; his shoulders clench up. Now he is silently urinating, sweeping his feet up onto the bench seat and curling into the fetal position. He urinates unstintingly and without pause. His urine is foamy and full of iron, liquid broccoli and cauliflower, the color and strength of hardcore unflavored mouthwash.
I look at the bald man across from me, but he is still intensely focused on his phone, oblivious and imperial. He has not noticed. He does not care. I also vow not to care.
Here we belong, fighting for survival. We have come to be the rulers of your world.
I think about identity politics. I am fine with having some kind of real allegiance to the people of this F-train. Here on this F-Train, I have never felt more like I belong, not since being forced to ride the bus back in silence after losing yet another Junior High school “C team” football game.
“You’re not supposed to be proud you’re on the C team,” the coach would say. “You are supposed to try and get better. You are not supposed to take comfort in a loss. You shouldn’t feel relief. You’re supposed to get mad. I’m mad. Now you just sit there and think about how you got out-played.”
The only identity politics I believe in right now is that each of us must all be grouped into how we spend Christmas (such as drunk and alone on the F-train).
Perhaps, as a distant second, I might also accept that each of us must also all be grouped into what kind of superpowers we would have if we could have superpowers.
If I could have a superpower, it would be to be able to breathe underwater so I could walk straight into the ocean and live in the wreck of an old downed Cold War-era Russian submarine.
If I could have a second superpower, it would be to be just a little bit sad all of the time, but not all-the-way overwhelmingly sad, just sad enough so that I would never knowingly and without thinking about it be a dickhole to anybody, and always have something wise and mysterious to say if anybody suddenly turned to me and asked for my opinion about something.
The train stops. The doors open and close. No one gets on. No one gets off.
I watch the drunk man’s urine slide down the length of the subway car. He has urinated enough so that it is quite a sizable puddle. His fulsome urine crawls down the length of the car in tentative, fretful little pulses as the subway jerks down the track. Amoeba-like tendrils of piss branch off and start new peninsula of piss real estate.
The bald dude in the suit who drinks scotch while drawing typography museums is in grave danger. My brother!
“Hey man,” I shout.
He doesn’t look up.
I walk over and double-finger-tap him in the shoulder. I am too late. The urine overtakes his nice shoes.
“I don’t have any change,” he says.
“No man, watch out,” I say. He looks down.
“Fuck,” he says, leaping away from the urine and grabbing the pole on my side of the subway car.
The train comes to a stop.
“Hey, you look like that guy,” he says. “From that TV show about New Orleans.”
I don’t know who he is talking about. I can’t really watch TV anymore. Or anything else. I can barely even read books. I don’t know about anybody new and even if I did, I wouldn’t care what their name was or what they did.
Getting older means: first you stop caring about the nouns, then you stop caring about the verbs.
“Are you that guy? From that show…fuck, I can’t remember what it is called. Something French.”
“I am just a fellow like you. Dodging urine on a Christmas F-train.”
The bald dude in the real suit (not a black velour track-suit) gets off the train.
He is replaced by a villain. A smell lord gets on, a homeless man who drapes himself in layers and layers of his own filth and disease-covered clothing in an effort to generate a smell so awful and strong and vile and full of chemicals that he can have a whole subway car to himself by choking and suffocating and poisoning his fellow travelers.
The smell is so strong that even the passed out dude who has pissed himself is roused.
I lean back in my seat and bury my face in the crook of my arm. I don’t even care about the smell lord. I respect the smell lord and his superhuman stench. Here we belong. We are fighting for our lives, in a world with the darkest powers.
It is Christmas. My mother and my step-father are yelling at me because I don’t want to travel with them to go watch my great-grandmother die.
But the thing is: I can’t handle it. I have only come home for Christmas because I am completely broken and exhausted and my life makes no sense. I am fairly certain that watching my great-grandmother die will not help my emotions make sense to me.
I have been “broken up with” for good in Austin by my girlfriend, the woman I love, the woman I thought I might even marry. In fact, in a fit of desperation, I have even proposed marriage and been told I am being crazy. Maybe I am being crazy. I hardly know anymore. I definitely have the mind of a crazy person. Any time a person calls me crazy, I have to seriously consider the fact that they are probably right and I should do the opposite of what I have been doing.
I have been broken up with for good for cheating on her, even though we were partially broken up technically when I started fucking somebody else.
She found out that I was fucking somebody else while I was supposed to be coming to terms with my own inner poison and has now decided that I am unfixable.
This feels unfair to me: wanting to fuck other people was a strong component of the inner poison I was coming to grips with in the first place.
I haven’t figured out yet that you are not actually supposed to talk about your problems or share your thoughts with the people you love.
The last person I want to share all this with is my dying great-grandmother. All I want to do is get through Christmas without leaning too heavy on the Dilaudid that I still have left over from my botched tonsillectomy, where they had to plunge into my infected throat to cut out a gross throat-closing abscess.
“So what are you going to do?” asks my stepdad. “Just stay here? You can’t just stay here.”
I blank out.
I know that from now on I will need to choose between “feeling okay and getting through life” or “having feelings that I am able to enjoy and express” and all I want to do is click “feeling okay and getting through life” as soon, and as often, as possible and be done with it.
“You are such a selfish little shit,” says my mother.
My step-dad looks at her like she has gone too far.
“I wish you weren’t mine,” says my mom. “I don’t understand you. I don’t think I can be your mother anymore.”
“She doesn’t mean that,” says my step-dad.
“No, I do mean it,” she says. “I really do. I am done with you.”
Now my mom is breaking up with me because of my horrible yet insurmountable nature. Seems like too much. I click furiously on “feeling okay and getting through life.” Nothing happens.
“Fine,” I say. “I guess I am disowned then.”
My baby sister has led my baby brother out to the old grey Astrovan and they have already buckled in, waiting for us to finish arguing and come to some kind of conclusion: will I go with them or will I stay home. I can see them through the kitchen window.
“You have always been such a selfish little bastard,” says my mom.
“But the good news is you don’t have to worry about me anymore,” I sneer. “Bye, have a nice time.”
My mom told me once that my only real talent was making people angry. That I should try to find a way to do that for a living.
That’s when my step-dad comes at me. Later, he will say that he thought I was going to hurt my mom, a thing I have never done. But I guess I have been institutionalized for being crazy before, though never violent. He will say that I looked funny to him.
He takes a swing and his giant Texas A&M college ring crashes into the top of my head, splitting my scalp wide open. Blood spurts everywhere. I start punching back and get him on the ground. He is overweight, out of shape, but also probably 150 pounds bigger than me and certainly a foot taller. He goes down easy enough though after a “form tackle,” and then I am sitting on top of him, grabbing his hair, telling him to calm down over and over again. I am bleeding everywhere. Telling him to calm down.
I feel pretty calm.
“You are getting blood everywhere,” says my mom.
“I am not trying to get blood everywhere,” I say.
Eventually, my step-dad says he is calm. I turn him loose and stumble away to the hallway bathroom to see if I am going to die, to see if my brains are spilling out of my head. I feel dizzy.
I am bleeding pretty bad, but it is already starting to gum up in my hair.
“Can you get me a needle and some thread?” I tell my mom when she comes in.
“What are you going to do?” she asks, bringing me a hatbox full of sewing supplies.
I stumble back to the kitchen and turn on the stove. I stick a needle in the burner to sterilize it.
“Why don’t you just go to the hospital?” she says, disgusted with me.
“Because I am too mad to lie to the doctors about what happened.”
My mom gets me some needle and thread. I have done this before, but never with so much blood and I have to do it in the mirror, which makes it like a video game. I take my time. I put in about ten stitches, just enough to close the wound. My stitches are close together. The gash starts to get clotted and crusty, which is a good sign. I feel a little nauseous, but then it fades.
What does it feel like to sew up your own head? It is the best way I know to forget about everything else. The trade off is: you will remember doing it forever.
I guess if I was a girl, this situation would be sad, but instead it is funny to the three of us. My baby brother and baby sister also think it is funny. My step-dad drives me back to Austin. My mom tells me not to forget my Christmas presents (couple shirts, an Annie Proulx book that I will never read). I am not sure if my mom has still disowned me or not, but I suspect this is not completely the case.
I return to my one room apartment sandwiched between two rooms rented to sex workers who are always borrowing over-the-counter drugs from me….Tylenol and Benedryl and Sominex. I fall asleep in the chair where I sleep. The best thing in my life is my Russian Blue cat, named Juliette, who never tries to escape even though we share a room the size of the back of a van. My Christmas present to myself is that my head does not get infected.
IT IS CHRISTMAS, and I am a college graduate, kinda, which makes me king of the homeless people here at Speedway Copies in Austin, Texas.
They could not turn me down…here I am, got a degree, willing to work on Christmas to make course packets for the spring semester.
Everybody else here willing to work on Christmas is right off the streets. They wear the same shitty sweaters every day. They get high right in front of the building, right on the front steps of the Dobie Mall. Many homeless people are not crazy drug addicts; but I would say 80% of my fellow course packet engineers do have some kind of glaring substance abuse problem.
There is a hard double-finger-tap on my shoulder.
“What are you doing?,” says the owner of Speedway copies, a massive man who watches us all work on closed circuit televisions in the back room while listening to conservative talk radio. “No, no, no, no, no, no. I am very concerned about how you handle paper.”
He has left his office, where he has been watching me knock paper on the side of a desk to get it all lined up. He grabs the paper from me.
He shows me how to use the electric paper jogger to get the edges of the course packets flush. I didn’t even know we had an electric paper jogger.
I have been hired as a temporary course packet production manager: my job is to clean up the scans that the professors have provided us with for the spring semester, scans from books, literary journals, old faxes, print outs, and even some handwritten charts and graphs. My job is to crop out all the “artifacts” on every page, the smudges and copy machine toner blurs, making sure that each scan is white and pristine and glorious.
What my title, course packet production manager, means is: I have been hired to manage all the homeless people who have been hired to do the same job. I am supposed to make sure they stay productive and keep showing up for work and do not steal any equipment.
We get paid in cash at the end of each day. I get an extra twenty because I am the course packet production manager. I am king.
Besides the owner of Speedway Copies, there is one other actual employee, this guy Andrew who has no front teeth. He just got back from Iraq, but doesn’t like talking about it and appears to have no interesting stories.
I asked him once, during our fifteen-minute break.
“Do you have any interesting stories?” I asked.
“I guess not,” he said.
We have been working for a week here, but now it is Christmas Day, and everybody is rather melancholy, as you might expect. We are seasonal employees, temporary people.
One fellow named Peanut, who everybody at Speedway copies treats gingerly (with reverence, suspicion, and fear), is drinking from a thermos that is clearly full of whiskey, but also cropping down scans at a remarkable rate, talking all kinds of nonsense as he hustles. We are allowed to wear headphones while we work, but a lot of people don’t have any and I can tell Peanut is getting on everybody’s nerves.
“If you don’t WANNA know how everything is all connected up, then I can’t help you,” says Peanut to no one in particular. “You know the Confederacy was run by a Jew? Look it up, look it up, run by a Sephardic fellow named Judah Benjamin, one of the Rothschilds. Spent most of his time negotiating favorable cotton prices with France and Belgium with the other Jews. He was Secretary of State. It’s all connected; always has been. We’ve been a cat’s paw for French BANKING INTERESTS since the Louisiana Purchase. We’ll NEVER go back to the gold standard, but look how the media treats people who talk honestly about gold. Demonizes em’. You know why? Because gold is THEIR game. They don’t want anybody getting in on THEIR game. Columbus used to make them Indians bring back a pound of gold a day or he’d kill them. If you did your duty and brought back your gold, you got to wear a necklace for awhile that said you couldn’t be killed or raped to death. But if you weren’t wearing one of them Columbus necklaces, you were fair game to them Spaniards.”
“Thought it was the French we had to worry about,” mumbles one of the other hung-over wrecked-up dudes just trying to make course packets without having to process any weird ranting.
“Hey Peanut,” I say. “Hey Peanut, maybe you could keep it down a little.”
He looks at me. He takes a sip from his thermos.
“Hey Andrew,” says Peanut. “How you been? How’s your wife?”
“She’s doing real good, Peanut,” he says, coming over, smiling and shaking his head, as if he can’t believe Peanut has remembered that Andrew is married. Of course he remembers. Peanut remembers every single lizard person who has ever been vice-president, in order.
I decide to take my fifteen minute break. I bum a cigarette from one of the guys sitting on the steps of the Scientology center and stroll over to the 7/11, smoking as I go. I buy a couple pairs of headphones, spending the extra twenty bucks I make as king of the homeless people for the day.
It is Christmas, after all.
I bring the headphones back to the copy shop. The next time one of the bearded-up, twitching malcontents groans out loud because of one of Peanut’s conspiracy spirals, I slip him a pair of headphones. THERE WILL NOT BE VIOLENCE THIS DAY.
“Part of the conspiracy,” I say. We both grin.
Later, after the 14 hour shift is almost over, Andrew pulls me aside and sits me down. He is in a suit and tie and I am wearing jeans with holes in them over thermal underwear pants and a matching white thermal underwear top. All I want to do is get back home to my pretty girlfriend and watch some cartoons with her.
“Hey,” he says. “You are doing real good work.”
“Thanks,” I say.
“No really,” he says. “The owner is very happy. We are way ahead of schedule and it usually never goes this smoothly. Usually a bunch of people quit by now.”
“Cool,” I say.
“I gotta know,” he says, sitting down on an empty mop bucket. “Are you trying to get my job?”
There is desperation in his voice.
“What?” I say.
“I see how you work,” he says. “I see how you talk to people. Are you trying to get my job? You trying to get into a management position maybe?”
“No man,” I say.
He relaxes a little bit. “The owner…he really likes you.”
“Trust me,” I say. “Even if he offered it to me, I don’t want to manage a copy shop.”
“It’s not like this the rest of the year,” he says. “It’s not always so busy. We joke around, you know? It’s a pretty good job. Benefits and all.”
“I don’t want your job, okay? Dude, you were in Iraq.”
“Okay,” he says. “Man, I just had to ask. I get so crazy, you know? I spent a lot of money…that I didn’t have…on Christmas presents this year. And the way the owner keeps talking about how much he likes you...”
“Never in a million years,” I say.
“He’s gonna ask you,” he says. “I am warning you.”
“Next time I get paid, I am out of here.”
“You know, he doesn’t trust the bathrooms around here,” says Andrew. “The boss. He doesn’t think they are clean enough. You know what he does instead?”
Andrew nods his head to the trashcan by the owner’s office.
“In little ziplock bags,” says Andrew. “He does it in ziplock bags. Number one AND number two.”
“That is horrible,” I say.
Andrew laughs, whistling through his missing front teeth. “It’s pretty horrible,” he says.
“Whoa, you DO NOT smell good,” says my roommate’s little sister, the woman I have been in love with for several years now but who doesn’t know it, or, perhaps, maybe she does.
For lack of anywhere else to go, and after only three months of being back in college after spending the summer on soul-obliterating atypical antipsychotics and trying to convince myself that we do not actually live in hell and that all of manifest reality is not actually an elaborate punishment to checkmate us into suicide and I am not actually an angel who is supposed to tell everybody this, I have been invited back home to spend the holidays with one of my roommates, for lack of anywhere else to go.
“Yeah, I don’t know,” I say. “I probably do smell bad. Not good at showering lately. Or, uh, shaving I guess.”
“The beard isn’t so bad, though maybe you could trim it up,” she says. “But you should definitely grab a shower. You can use my bathroom. I think there is shampoo in there…?”
I can’t tell if she is hitting on me, in which case it is fine that she has such opinions about my personal hygiene, or not, in which case I might should be offended.
I can’t tell a lot of things though.
Some nights, I don’t sleep at all. I lay there in my bed, staring at the ceiling, waiting for the alarm to go off so I can go to class. I am taking something like twenty hours a semester just to keep my brain occupied. The more real, pragmatic, intellectual shit I do, the less bad I feel.
I don’t have any money, so I am alternating between ramen, macaroni and cheese, and toasted bread with an egg in it as far as food goes. There is a nice wooden chessboard in my room that I bought at an estate sale for ten bucks. I have a standing offer: I will play chess against anybody, any time, day or night. My roommates deal a little bit. People like to smoke meth or do coke and then come play me at chess. It is fun.
I have perfect grades. I was a C student in high school, but I have perfect grades in college so far and I am on track to graduate a year early because when I close my eyes all I see is the burning fucking void.
But I am not at college right now at this very moment, which is good news. I am at my roommate’s childhood home, back in west Houston for the holiday.
We drink champagne and eat cinnamon cookies with my roommate’s crazy artist mom, who is painting elaborate reproductions of old pulp magazine covers, blowing up details of the women’s portraits to catch their sneers and gasps. She doesn’t watch any movies that aren’t black and white, so we watch “Some Like It Hot.” My roommate and his little sister (with whom I am in love) argue about everybody we know, trying to determine if they are fuck-ups or not. It seems like it is not on the table if I am actually a fuck-up, which I take as a good sign.
“Remember that time you had a party and fucked that girl on our POOL TABLE?” says my roommate’s little sister.
“Yeah,” says my roommate. “The hot tub was occupied.”
Eventually, my roommate’s mother goes to bed. We all go upstairs and my roommate promptly falls asleep on the couch, still wearing sunglasses, one leg twitching through his trousers like some kind of electrical current is running through his knee.
My roommate’s little sister is younger than me, but she is already dating a dude older than both of us. She will be starting college soon; will be coming to the University of Texas instead of one of the nice private schools she has got into. She wants to make movies, a medium that I consider utterly debased and politically compromised. Her current boyfriend makes movies.
We start arguing about action movies, whether they can ever be any good. I make the mistake of making fun of “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.” My penalty is that she puts the film on and we watch it, sitting on opposite sides of the love seat. She says she is getting ready for bed, so she puts on tiny shorts but she doesn’t take her make-up off. She stretches out on the love seat, putting her legs over mine…
I am so glad she made me take a shower. Maybe this world isn’t actually hell, maybe there is a better life for me somewhere and we are not victims of our brains. I can beat this thing, I can get better, I can find evidence that being alive is not just punishment…for future sins…for past mistakes…time is not a hell-spiral that slowly reveals all of our inadequacies to us, proving to us that we deserve birth, deserve death…
It isn’t snowing or even cold. We are in Houston, where it never feels like Christmas. I’ve got to get out of Houston. I know for a fact that I have the brain of a fucked-up crazy street person. The sun will kill you here in Houston, on the streets. How do I stay alive? How do I stay indoors? What if I move to New York? Maybe I could fake like I am smart, in New York?
“Okay, all done man,” he says.
I stumble backwards a little bit, putting my hands to my eyeballs, expecting to find they are bleeding or something. But no: I am perfectly fine.
“Ha ha,” he says. “See, nothing to it, okay?”
“So I can just leave with all this junk?” I say, gesturing to my sack full of pasta sauce, wafer cookies, pepperoni slices, and frozen raviolis.
“Yeah, sure, if you found everything okay,” he says.
“Yeah man…feels kind of weird…just walking out of here…like I am shoplifting or something.”
“You’ll get used to it,” he says. “No more lines!”
“What if it calibrated me with a terrible memory?” I say. “What if it took a terrible memory that I don’t want to think about every time I gotta buy paper towels and discount lemon-scent dish soap?”
“Oh, man, you don’t have to REMEMBER the memory every time you walk out of the store,” he says. “It just pulls it out of your head automatically.”
But I know that I won’t be able to help it. Now, every time I leave a store I am going to think about Christmas.
I think about how useful it is to make us all feel like criminals all the time. Like shoplifters. Even when we are doing what we are absolutely and unequivocally supposed to be doing and not fighting back or complaining or being rebellious, but just trying to get through life in a straightforward and dignified manner that harms no one and could never be considered selfish by even the most shrewd and pitiless judge.
“What makes one memory stronger than another, do you think?” I ask him.
“Oh man, I don’t know,” he says. “Context? Trauma?”
“What happens if I lose my passkey memory or something? Like, say I get kicked by a subway dancer doing some pole trick and my mind gets wiped clean like a deleted text doc?”
“Oh man,” he says. “Then you wouldn’t be you, I guess.”