By Jimmy Chen
The story of what powered this.
A writer struggling for an idea for an article walks into a cafe with his MacBook. The cafe is full to capacity with brains-exuding people on their laptops, staring so intently into their browsers they are almost grimacing. The band of the month, before they become too popular, emanates from speakers hanging overhead, unseen. It’s Sunday late afternoon, the overcast sky hinting of Monday. Various white battery charger cords as long parasitic worms are fed into the walls, leaving spaghetti patterns on the floor, each socket stuffed and sucked. My laptop is dying. I can feel the hollowness and fear in my marrow. I leave.
I go to another cafe. There are many of these cafes, each full of people doing vague and probably unnecessary things to the internet. Their faces, botox frozen. I see one remaining seat in the back, a lounge-y area made of two parallel couches and an adjoining set of seats comprised in living room fashion, as if we the orphaned could find a tentative family in one another. I claim my seat with my bag, place my coffee considerately equidistant from all the other cups on the middle table, swear to God one day I’m going to run away into the woods, and sit down. All the outlets are taken.
My battery is dying, 11% or so. I am a pensive and dour man. Others might gloriously “ride it” until their battery dies — ’til the black rectangle of the screen mimics the universe as seen without the distraction of dying stars — but my insecurities are honored through my laptop. I need power, it is unbearable. I notice that one outlet is dedicated to a lamp shining it’s yellow obsolete light onto the left cheek of a young woman with literary glasses and a don’t mess with me on her face. “Hi,” I say, “do you need this lamp on?” Her smile turns into a quick “no” upon my face, returning to the more engaging world of not me. I unplug the lamp, its missing light unnoticed by all.
Plugging my life into the wall felt so good, almost visceral. One thing simply belongs in another. Every tight fit in this world is a tiny hug from God. It occurred to me I could write about this: an article about its composition’s very imperative. “Battery Life,” it would be called. I would describe all the people seated so close to me, and how far apart we felt; oddly though — with our similar college educations, liberal politics, disappointing childhoods, weary single- or in a relationship-doms, ingratiating edgy outfits, technology and caffeine addictions — it seemed we could all get along by getting into the same boring conversations people like us tend to have with, well, people like us. Perhaps it was better we didn’t speak.
Another young woman to my left wearing f-me boots and cubic ziconia earrings, her battery now dying, stands up and despairingly gazes at the various stuffed outlets. She stood there, almost above me, emoting electrical exile. My heart, and another part of me, went out to her. I am not a good person, but a rationalist. I did some simple math in my head. I touch her elbow with a finger. “I have fifty-seven percent and I’m about to leave,” I say, pointing to my thing in the wall. “Oh, thank you,” she says, with swift minimal eye contact. I unplug my thing and take hers, sliding it with unlubed verity into the socket. She sits back down, her life in order again.
I must go soon, though we have auspiciously reached the end. I’m riding this at only 56% and the coffee’s diarrhetic capacities are motioning in my abdomen. I faintly steal a look at the two young women of this article — imagine repetitive mornings with each one, the warm secure silence of them combing their hair, growing every single day towards their shoulder blades. But they are lost inside the world they came here for, rapt under the glory of a full bars signal. An old man smelling of mothballs and mold resigns himself to the morning’s newspaper, the mark of this insane world duly spell-checked and printed in serif font, as if an organized hell made it less hot. When his battery runs out he will simply be dead, and part of me envies that. I finish my cappuccino, its final foam felt on my lips as a surrogate kiss, and leave.
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You had perfect almond eyes that were colored dark chocolate.
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He holds my hand in his lap, looks me directly into the eyes and says, “I love you more than the amount of sperm a blue robin makes.”
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