Forgetful second-time meeters. Passive aggressive texters. Incompetent waiters, everywhere. It’s too early for shorts; what are you doing?
In these trying times, our focus shouldn’t be on the right answers but the right questions. And today, the right question is, Do you Believe in People?
Several months ago, WEEKEND picked up a signal, an alien transmission beamed from a nebula in the deep, cold blackness of cyberspace. As the Bard put it, “These are the days of lasers in the jungle.” If you had blinked amidst the charging, frantic herds of gigabytes, you would have missed it: an open parenthesis followed by a colon under the heading of an address belonging to a ghost.
Connection was made possible through the method that made it unreal. In the ethereal networks of server-meets-server-meets-screen-meets-face, bald text became the most tangible grounding for identity. But the components aligned: a contextless emoticon sent to an oblivious illustrator, a dubiously obvious email address verified by knowledge no one else could have possessed, a seasoned journalist returned to the game for one more job.
Negotiations were commenced; tensions ran high. A morning meeting in pajamas in adjoining apartments. Bitten lips and pacing, and, finally, compromise. An audience agreed upon between two parties of strangers who had no reason to trust each other, one fearing fraud and the other fearing exposure. A criminal and a reporter and a cab that drove off into the waning light of a dreary New Haven evening.
Secret stencils received from a hushmail account had only confirmed what we knew by way of intuition out of place in a world comprising ones and zeroes, absences and presences processed by a machine humming serenely and alone in a basement somewhere. This was a world in which cursors blinked out steady rhythms of desperation on the blank white screens of people who did not know what to say, their robotic counterparts whose most complex understanding of sympathy was a paper clip programmed to recognize the signs of a letter or a contract or an essay. Red and green zigzags underneath language it wasn’t built to comprehend. The point is, the structure and the means were opposed, and they met in the space where the fingertip touches the keyboard.
We had no choice but to believe in the machines, but did we Believe in People? To uncover the truth, we didn’t have a choice. Papered Indians on the walls of Skull and Bones, the elegiac eyes of Anne Frank on the side of a building on Crown Street that the owner decided was worth keeping. This week we saw something; but we saw it because someone who works in secrecy decided to show us. It’s something too often neglected or forcefully forgotten in the institutions of communication: words, pages, the pubic architecture obscuring the secret myths of the heart.
Do you believe this blonde youth to be a vagrant? Or do you believe that the wet paint drying on the wall in disquieting images of loss and guilt accuses us of the dissemblance we felt within our own walls all along?
Pressurized cans of paint, to release the pressure.