by Daniel Ross, 3.24am November 10th 2021
“For all we care, none of us are interacting online. The AI isolates an individual connection and flashes procedurally generated bullshit for us to stare at like the wide-eyed dopeheads we are. You’re not talking to a person on the other end of the world. You’re talking to a general intelligence feeding you dopamine randomly. The other person is getting signals from you, but it’s filtered through a corporate machine-mind.”
I keep a tarot card of The Fool in the pocket of my jacket everywhere I go. It reminds me of what I am.
Johnny lays on the floor with one leg crossed over his knee and his fingers interlocked behind his head.
“Would you shut the fuck up I’m trying to watch this.”
On screen, some weird looking family of primates picks through each other’s fur while some British fucker who wishes he was David Attenborough drones on about climate change.
It wasn’t my idea to turn on the television. The party was doing fine without it, but still it made a distraction that let me get a good look at the girl here I don’t know. She has the black hair, black clothing goth thing going on and I am a fan.
“It’s a party man, why are we watching nature documentaries?” I said, turning my pupils back towards the screen.
Krystynn has a bong in her right hand and a sploof in the other, the inelegant way of smoking weed indoors without alerting the landlords. Plus it makes the room smell like clean laundry. “Animals are cute and this doc is chill.”
I am Christ in the moment, or at the very least my need to turn my best friends to proselytes feels like the most selfless act I can perform eight beers and a gram of mushrooms deep.
I need to tell them my thoughts. It is the first time talking about the things going on inside me, and I feel a very childish level of frustration at how flippant they are being about my ideas.
“There’s a reason we’re here. I feel. There’s a reason we’re all here right now. It is important that we all… I don’t know. Come together. Sublimate our degeneracy.. Like a cult. A good cult.”
“Would you please stop talking,” Johnny says again. It’s his house so I probably shouldn’t go out of my way to piss him off.
I watch their faces under the flickering blue light of the LED screen. Panem en circenses I think. That’s what this is. All of it. The tv, the nature documentary, the beer, the psychedelics, even our own bodies and minds are distractions for other people. Our social media presence enables us to entertain each-other with selfies, memes, anecdotes, and...shit I don’t know I’m starting to get trailers. “I’m going for a smoke.”
Outside the air smells like sugar and rot, and I’m about to close the door when the black haired girl I don’t know very well comes around the corner.
“Hi,” she smiles and one of her teeth is a bit crooked and she smiles like she knows she’s imperfect. I wonder how I smile. I wonder how this girl thinks I smile. Are my teeth cutely crooked? Am I cutely crooked?
“Looking at you makes me feel like I’m going to self-actualize at any moment.”
She stares at me for a second and then starts to laugh. “Is that a compliment?”
“I think so,” I say and smile back wondering why it was funny to her. “Do you smoke?”
“Unfortunately. Also my name is Raven in case you were wondering.”
“I was, yeah. I’m Jeremy.”
It’s starting to feel like she’s familiar. Like I know her. Like I already love her.
“Like the Pearl Jam song.”
“I never thought of that.”
“Ask your parents if you were conceived to the song Jeremy by Pearl Jam.”
We both giggle. Her laugh is as perfect as she is.
“I’ll ask my mom if she was thinking about Eddie Vedder when my dad was on top of her.”
Raven puts a hand over her mouth. “Sorry, I’m fucked up I shouldn’t have said that.”
“What?” I say. “No, it’s good. It’s funny.”
We smoke in silence.
“How old are you?”
“I hate that number.”
“Burroughs. He ruined it for me. It’s the unluckiest lucky number or the luckiest unlucky number.”
“The number is lucky and unlucky?”
“Let’s do an experiment. Let’s count our smokes.”
I opened up my pack and had seven left. Raven had sixteen.
“No fucking way.”
I look up and Raven looks directly into me. I feel heat in my chest. My body feels like the musical crescendo when two people in a movie kiss for the first time after obstacles, but something holds me back from kissing her right there on the patio.
The conversation takes a shit and Raven wades through the silence for a minute before pulling out her iPhone. “I’m going back in,” she says when she finishes her smoke. She stubs it out in the ashtray, then disappears into the house.
My brain is an asshole. I hadn’t been laid in a while so I am out of practice. Too nervous I guess. Too uncertain. Looking up, the stars are barely visible, and that makes me sad. Sad enough to go for a walk that feels like an act of self harm somehow.
Cars, or the sound of cars, cascade like steel rain streaming past on the sidewalk. It feels good to get away from the party. I’m not even sure if they’re my friends anymore, but that’s maybe a little bit melodramatic. Doesn’t stop the feeling of a lead jacket being thrown over my shoulders, weighing me down as I try to figure out what I’m doing alone in the cold.
I take The Fool out of my pocket and look at it. There are no thoughts so I leave it on the wet sidewalk.
I turn onto a narrow side-street, then lie down in the middle of the road. I close my eyes and hope a car hits me before the sun does.