IMPRESSED

“I just feel profoundly exhausted, you know? Like, I look at this digital morass of egos and monsters and wonder if I was ever young enough to be half as prolific as some of these creatures.” My thumb flicked down, again again again and it will never stop flicking down unless something intervenes. The content that I’m scrolling through is a chaos of color and voice and it is quite endless.

“You’re feeling your age,” she said, and snapped her bubblegum at me. “It’s natural.”

“Is it, though?” I asked. “Did my father have to deal with this? Did his?”

“I think your ‘dealing with it’ is largely by choice, don’t you?” she asked, and snatched the phone from my hand. My thumb made one final scrabbling drag and I watched a kaleidoscope of creative detritus spin away. She locked the device with a snap and dropped it into her purse, and for all intents and purposes she might as well have thrown it into a black hole, or a snake pit, for there was as much chance of me visiting the interiors of those places as there was her sacred woman-sack.

“You’re right,” I said, already feeling the pangs of withdrawal. I’d been close to something, there, like that hacker from that pop-philosophy movie who was searching for echoes of another world inside his computer. I was looking for my Morpheus to come wake me up, to invite me to follow his rabbit, to maybe get a kiss from a Trinity.

“It’s all in how you look at it, old man,” she said, and stood up, her chunky heels clopping on the porch steps like a horse’s hooves. “You’re overwhelmed because it’s overwhelming, and you’re on the receiving end of it. These people you think are kings and queens and others of the media age, they’re not. They’re just good at making stuff and delivering it. You think they’ve somehow got more of a handle on things than you do? Don’t sell yourself short. No amount of punky exuberance or charismatic self-deprecation can replace the wisdom of your years.” She poked me in the chest with a candy-coated fingernail and dragged me to my feet. “Come on. Let’s get a coffee and talk about how the kids today don’t know shit.”

AMNESIA

He would look at the photograph for hours, a perfect statue of a man whose gnarled hands would idly scratch his rough stubble of a beard or rest one palm over an eye, as if by denying himself the depth of vision he could somehow see deeper.

But he couldn’t remember ever taking it. His daughter assured him that he did, he had, a great many years now long past. Decades disappeared, across a great gulf of empty memories like someone had taken a razor to the long reel of film in his mind and excised a 40-year chunk of it.

He should be terrified, but instead the experience was one of immense calm, like he’d been drinking enough to lose himself a little. Just a little, just so that he could sit back without feeling the cold claws of his reality. There was no fear in the realization that most of the life he’d lived was missing, for he couldn’t be sure he’d even lived it in the first place.

The woman frozen in the photograph, staring back at him from across all those years, triggered no recognition whatsoever. Caught in profile, features blurred, watching the photographer with sidelong eyes that communicated both annoyance and coy delight in a single glance. She was a vision, whoever she was, or had been. If he’d loved or hated her he knew not now.