Jil was in her house, her sanctuary, surrounded by her flowers, little shields which distracted passing folk to key in on the flowers rather than the tenant inside. she never needed to speak to anyone, her flowerbed did the talking, the people knew just from the array of colors and scents around this house that the owner must be awesome. they took their cell-phone pics and left it at that.
Jil took the packing wrapping off of her new laptop computer and turned it on for the first time. she didn't like home computers, the concept of it, it was too dirty, too scandalous. i mean, with a computer at home, why leave the house? you have the entire world at your fingertips, just stay inside your cavern all day talking to strangers by tapping on keys, silent communication free of any real consequence or consequences, no need for a real name, anonymously spouting off cardboard views as thin as the cardboard the computer came in, and when the argument becomes too heated, simply TURN OFF. forgotten, wisps in the air, not real people, glide into the windy nothingness of OFF. there were real people on the other side of the screen, and yet they weren't real, not really, she couldn't touch them, shake their hand, hug them, kiss them. acknowledgment from a comment is one thing, an embrace needs no words, it's a more powerful connection.
it wasn't like Jil's relationship with Firstie, the dog from next door who barked and moaned and pleaded plaintively for Jil to let him in her yard. there was loads of petting of the head and touching and stroking and shaking of the paw going on there. except Firstie wasn't hollering so much these days, now he pondered Jil with a quizzical look. he never actually came into her backyard, it was more a test than a reality, he was still trying to ferret her out. no, he knew she was good. he also knew that it was not a dog named Firstie that she needed.
Jil took the cover off. some warm milk soothed her. she turned ON. one of her Instagram friends was named Grisel. Grisel was a bright and noble woman who was having a hard time recently trying to kick her alcoholism. she never posted an Instagram pic unless it was gravely necessary, no cheap selfies and photos of food and gum on her account, just solemn pics of her sobriety tokens, updates on her progress, and urgent messages to her instagram friends about the nature of friendship, loyalty, and generosity. she never failed to mention how much she appreciated each and every single one of those who followed her, she considered them her family, they were her family, Jil was her family. this was the sort of thing that couldn't be dealt with casually at the work computer at the library, Jil needed the monastic silence of her home in order to craft a thoughtful response, a comment from the heart to her secret friend Grisel. Jil lived alone but she wasn't alone. Jil wrote a comment under Grisel's one-month sobriety token which was free of internet snark, puns, or clever double-entendres. there was not an ounce of irony in it, it was a clear and florid message that evoked steadfastness and humanity. Jil looked over her paragraph, she used up every letter she could given Instagram's character-count limit, and she smiled openly. Jil pressed the SEND button proudly.
a noise. a rumbling.
Jil: what's going on?
it turned out to be the salt system. you had to pour a heavy bag of salt crystals into the little outside container box there or the water would go to hell and start tasting like mud. it usually beeped when it was time for a fill-up, but this was more than a beep, it was a wailing, a crying out like Firstie used to bark, it wanted more than a refill, it wanted to be loved.
Jil went outside of her fortress and scissor-opened one large bag of crystals. she was still thinking about Grisel. that's a good thing. but she was distracted and missed getting all the crystals into the hole, the crystals spilled everywhere on her precious soil where her flowers grew. the bag was heavy, she awkwardly lugged the thing over her shoulder as she poured but it was clunky and didn't pour in an efficient stream, it just kind of shot out. it was so heavy the kinetic energy transferred from the bag to her body in such a way that it lifted her off the ground for a moment, Jil did a tiny, impromptu, failed half-flip.
Jil: fuck, now what?
the crystals would surely damage the soil, too much salt is never a good thing. Jil had to act fast. she realized she had to make a sacrifice. Firstie looked at her from the open slat of the fence quizzically, he turned his head to the side, askew, panting and with one ear pricked. Jil scooped up all the crystals into one pile and put it in the center of her backyard garden.
Jil: that's no good. i don't want Firstie or a cat coming in here and trying to eat this toxic stuff. i know of the legends of black cats around here, they are called Masters are are supernatural beings you don't want to get on the bad side of.
she knew what she had to do. she noticed a group of her prized red poppies near the salt pile. she uprooted these poppies and replanted them on the spot of the salt. she knew she was killing these particular flowers, but these flowers were brave soldiers which would suck up all the salt and prevent the rest of the garden from becoming infected. they would also hide the salt from any animals wandering by.
Jil: give your life to save thousands of lives. we salute you. the war is won because of your blood-red, my precious poppies.
some DUST, CLICK HERE, RIGHT HERE AT THIS LINK kicked up Jil as she walked back inside.
a call. a ring. the phone by the laptop. Jil picked up.
Abdiel: you could have just put the crystals in a trash bag. quit being so dramatic all the time.
Jil: how's work? is the library still standing without me? no wrecking balls to the place?
Abdiel: i serve as the human wrecking ball. same old, same old. there are customers wanting to check out books, they give me their library cards, i scan some scary red-light laser over a black-and-white square, and life abides. guess where i am as you play hooky?
Abdiel: i'm at your computer. i hacked into your instagram account and am posing as you commenting away on all of the pics of all the people you follow, especially your celeb crush Lozzo.
Jil: what?! that's not funny. my day off is over, i'm coming over there. damnit, just don't say anything stupid. don't do anything stupid. how the fuck did you guess my password?
Abdiel: relax, i'm just messing around. i knew your password had to be Firstie. it's always pets. i use my smarts for evil.
Jil: that's a shame. and you're not evil. and you're not my friend anymore. and i'm never discussing my life with you again.
Abdiel: that's what you get for being a truant.
Jil: please, Abdiel, i'm serious now, as serious as one can be over the phone without direct eye contact, i'm fucking serious, please....(Jil pauses to think about her.).....leave...her...alone.
Abdiel: who, Lozzo? too late, i've trolled her pics, but it doesn't matter, it's just one comment lost in a parade of thousands of comments she gets for each of her pics. she's a star, she probably never reads the comments anyway, her secretary does or something.
Jil: um, no, not her, but, just stop, please.
Abdiel: huh, there was this one pic of Lozzo with a quizzical look on her face and her hands up. under the pic the caption read: WHERE'S MY DOG AT? I replied: hello? is anyone out there? help me, woof woof, where are you, Lozzo? i miss you, come get me. where am i? if only i had been chipped...
Jil: hilarious. what if her dog is really missing? celebrities are people, too.
Abdiel: come on, you can see her dog in the back of her in the pic. it's just a way to get more likes and comments, showing Lozzo with a funny face. the whole thing is staged.
Jil: befitting an actress. come on, man, sometimes you have to play the game in life, y'know? social lubricants, it just makes everything easier. it's not that you're backing down from your hardline stances and ideals, it's just that life is hard enough, you've got to lighten up and go with the flow.
Abdiel: like air. and then there's this one girl i follow whose account is made up solely of selfies of herself with one tear on her left cheek. all of the captions read like the lyrics of an indie-rock love song. she's constantly talking about the boyfriend who dumped her. she can't get over it, day after day, missing him, wanting him back, incredulous at the breakup, pleading with him over the internet.
Jil: have you ever gotten your heart broken?
Abdiel: i know, but not even a break, an interlude of a pic of an apple to change the mood? ALL SELFIES? what i do is i like her pic, and then i take back my like by hitting the LIKE button again.
Jil: i'm pretty sure she doesn't notice that. you need a life, my friend, and there is no life online.
Abdiel: you're right, she wouldn't notice, she's too self-absorbed in her emo pain.
Jil: gotta be more compassionate, open up to others' pain, i was an emo in high school.
Abdiel: and then there's the guy whose account is filled with pics of clever signs, puns, weird instant-messaging conversations, and captions full of double-entendres, crazy pics, funny wordplay, the latest in internet memes and trends. he comes up with the new buzzwords. i believe he first posted the word BAE.
Jil: yes, so what of him?
Abdiel: i'm jealous of him, that's all. i mean, what a sweet gig. he knows of some secret website where all of this cool stuff is stored, everyday he gets up and simply plucks a clever punny pic from this stash and posts it on his page and he gets a million likes and comments. where do i sign up? i want his job. my job sucks. i still have no idea where he gets all this stuff from. it's not his stuff, you can tell, it's the art of others, he's just posting it.
Jil: so he's a thief, a charlatan, a fraud. i'd be more mad at him than harmless selfies or genuine selfies. creative originality is hard to come by these days, it must be protected.
Abdiel: did you hear about that celeb hacking scandal? all the nude pics? i wonder if any of Lozzo's nudes got out?
Jil: what? Lozzo would never take nudes of herself, she's too dignified and chaste. that whole scandal makes me sick. celebrities are people, too. what, so no one can live freely anymore? celebrities can't take any more pictures for fear of some future hacker who might intercept them down the road? mayhem and paranoia have won the war.
Abdiel: .........wait, what's this? a message has just popped up on your screen, apparently the authorities think it's your computer that is the source of the original hack, they are coming to your house immediately!
Jil: what? damnit, Abdiel! i don't want strangers in my house! (Jil scrambles for a minute.) fuck, i can't fix this with my home computer here, what a surprise, i'll have to go over there and check it out, seize my work computer first. what did you do?! fuck, i'll be right over, don't touch my computer anymore, don't touch any more buttons, close the lid and turn it OFF OFF OFF. pull the plug, erase all the files and pull the plug, they're tracking me, i want to remain anonymous. shit.
Jil dropped the receiver, which knocked over her mug, spilling the warm milk all over her bare feet. she rushed outside her front door and walked barefoot along the path to the library. there was a dangerous stretch of path where the traffic whizzed by before the walk on the beach. once you reached the beach-walk boardwalk, you were home free and you were soon at the brick library. but that narrow area had no sidewalk, you had to scoot yourself gingerly past zooming cars full of distracted drivers, distracted with the distractions of the world, of their worlds.
Abdiel: wait...Jil...i was only kidding...hello? hello? shit.
woman: i'm ready to check out now.
Abdiel looked above the ice cream cone he was eating to the woman customer, staring at her blankly, seeing through her to a gust of air on the ceiling which projected the decision he had to make right now. on this projection the film was already going on, the scene before was his remembrance of what Jil had just told him:
Jil: you're not evil.
TO BE CONTINUED...