“Populated by a menagerie of low-lifes and genial dopes—played by a uniformly excellent cast including Kate Walsh, Oliver Platt, Bob Odenkirk, Adam Goldberg, and Colin Hanks—Fargo is akin to FX’s other great crime series, Justified, only with that show’s cool wit swapped out for a loopiness that frequently, and alarmingly, tips over into near-existential dread. That the show maneuvers these sometimes sudden changes in tone so seamlessly is its chief delight. I’ve seen four episodes and am itching for more.”—I really like FX’s Fargo. A review!
“On a show that has partly been about uncovering the various lies and compromises embedded in the American dream, Peggy has always seemed like our only occasionally daunted hope for the future. What does that future hold for Peggy, and by some weird extension, for us? From the looks of it, there may be some tough times in the coming weeks. But I still think Peggy, with her reliable pluck and spark, will ultimately be the one who saves the day.”—MAD MEN season premiere reviewed!
HBO’s Game of Thrones returns for its fourth season on Sunday. In case you haven’t yet watched the series and are curious what it’s all about, or just need a little catch-up, we’ve gone ahead and written a summary of all the major stuff that’s happened on the show so far. We may have missed a few details here and there, but this is basically what you need to know.
It’s funny to enter that brief (briefer and briefer every year, it seems) season when you can’t blame the weather. It’s nice enough now, I guess. It’s rainy, sure, but it’s not freezing cold, my winter coat is probably done for the year. And it’s not getting dark until 7 or so, meaning we’re mostly getting the light we need to stay above the line of seasonal affective whatever. This is the weird liminal time before it’s 90 degrees and we’re allowed to let our resolve melt. Right now we’re forced to shrug and admit that the weather’s fine, but things just aren’t that great.
Many things are great! There’s so little concrete to complain about that it seems kind of silly to even sit down (or lie down, I’m in bed, all right?) and type out “things just aren’t that great.” But perspective is for later, I guess. So at the moment I’m letting myself vibrate at a familiar frequency of vague unease, and restlessness, and loneliness, and plenty else. And I can’t blame the weather! That excuse is gone for the time being, and all that’s left is me in shirtsleeves and a light jacket, wondering what all the fuss is about.
This is the time of year when people start doing things again. I’ve noticed a lot more handholding, now that hands aren’t mittened or stuffed in pockets. Outdoor seats are popping up again—outdoor seating being a magical thing that makes pretty much anyone look relaxed and cool and happy, in control of the world. If they weren’t, how could they be sitting still with a glass of something while the busy world groans on by, just inches away from them?
I walked into a bar in Williamsburg a week ago for a friend’s afternoon birthday party, and there was a painting class going on, everyone working on their own version of the same rainbow-streaked sky, the same happy rocks bordering the same calm, blue ocean. It was a surreal sight, a field of easels and canvases filling the front of a little bar on Roebling Street.
But it was a sunny, warm day in late March, so it didn’t seem that surreal. People are doing things now! Which is exciting, encouraging hopefully. But it can also make you feel more stuck if you find yourself feeling stuck anyway. “What do I do with all my time?” is a little memory game I find myself playing, tracing back each weekday and weekend as far as I can go. There aren’t any painting classes that I can remember, certainly not any handholding, not any al fresco afternoons so far this season. Which is normal, mostly. But this is the time of year when you want to feel delightfully weighted down by that kind of possibility. It’s a good replacement for the peculiar comforts of being cold and bundled up, for feeling cozy at home instead of hidden away.
My sister’s taking a painting class. Not the one in the bar, a different one, in DUMBO. Her teacher said she has real natural talent, something she’s known since she was a kid but has ignored for a long time. It could be nice to do something like that, to relearn something. Or maybe I should just start clearing the sweaters out of the drawers, start the weird work of remembering my summer clothes. A pair of shorts I forgot I had, a receipt from last summer still in the pocket. I know it’s not shorts weather just yet, but it might be useful for now to pretend that it is. To try to catch a hazy glimpse of myself trudging up 2nd Avenue, or wasting away in a subway station. So sure that the terrible heat will never end, that fall cannot possibly come soon enough.
“When the jokes are ultimately as good-natured and silly as they are on Silicon Valley, it makes for a perfectly entertaining and likable series. But it’s so far too flimsy to turn over the heaviest rocks and poke at what wickedness and grotesquerie lies underneath. And there is a lot of wickedness and grotesquerie in the Bay Area! Of course this show doesn’t have to be some grimly satiric exploration of the evils of empty capitalism, but it could maybe be a little more, y’know, disruptive.”—SILICON VALLEY (and VEEP!) reviewed.
“Her hair (or, her wig) is cut into an ‘80s poof, which complements her acid-washed jeans and ill-fitting leopard print faux fur jacket. It’s an awkward look, almost mocking in its approximation of the va-va-voom. But it also makes Laura oddly sympathetic. She’s sexy, yes, but the tacky get-up makes her seem just the faintest bit lost, even pathetic. In one scene, Laura trips and falls and some real-life people rush to her aid. The scene was being surreptitiously filmed by Glazer, but a civilian also caught the moment on camera and those images became a popular “Scarlett Johansson falling down” meme, thereby proving Glazer and Johansson’s despondent point about what her fame, with its odd mix of sympathy and scorn, has come to mean.”—Under the Skin is weird and interesting. A review!
“For college student Grayson Price (United States of Tara’s Keir Gilchrist) a spring internship at the White House seemed like opportunity enough. So when he’s told that he’ll be traveling to Rome when the President goes to meet the Pope, he can’t believe his amazing luck. When he gets to the Vatican, though, he quickly learns that tagging along during a lot of boring meetings isn’t the most exciting way to see the Eternal City. That is, until he meets seminary student Francis (Noah’s Douglas Booth), who whisks Grayson off on his moped for a whirlwind tour of the city of seven hills. The city is beautiful, the food is amazing, and, well, Francis is pretty good company. Might something more be happening? Grayson hopes so, but he worries that a young White House aide caught in a compromising position with a soon-to-be priest could cause some sort of international scandal! Grayson has to learn to honor his responsibilities while following his heart in this spirited and oddball romantic comedy from director Drew Barrymore.”—This and four other movie pitches from this week’s news!
“This scene, as the rain pounds down in sheets and the waves roar in from all sides, is a stunning sequence, all the epicness of the story realized with seat-rumbling grandeur. As the ark lurches up into the water and most of humanity is rinsed from the Earth, Noah heaves with the terrible magnificence of this cleansing. The world truly does feel both drowned and reborn.”—The dark, at times fascinating NOAH, reviewed!
The people of the story, who live in a dystopian future Chicago, have split themselves up into five rigidly maintained factions, each with its own roles and philosophies: Abnegation (the selfless administrators), Dauntless (the protectors), Candor (the truth-tellers), Erudite (the intellectuals), and Amity (the placid farmers). Why are three of those names nouns and two adjectives? Couldn’t the smart faction be called Erudition, and the warrior group be called something like, I dunno, Bravery? It doesn’t make sense!
When the very names of the factions on which the whole premise is based don’t work in concert, it indicates that a lot else probably won’t either.
“Here is the stuff we’ve been waiting for with bashful prurience. Bored, mechanical humping in bathrooms, oral sex simulated in the most convincing of ways (we see something that looks very much like an erect penis), a long montage of images of male genitalia, fake semen dribbling out of Joe’s mouth. This is von Trier being wicked and flashy, and his nose-thumbing bravado does work for a time. But as the film attempts to bore deeper (sorry) into the emotional and psychological implications of Joe’s affliction—and it does, before long, begin to seem like an affliction—von Trier’s film becomes less nervy and bracing and more like the same tired, frustrating horndog stuff we’ve seen from many a straight male artist before.”—Nymphomaniac: Vol. I reviewed!
Last night I went to Long Island with my best friend to see her sister, Molly, and Molly’s baby, Adrianna, in Hicksville. Molly and the baby moved down there from Boston to be with the dad, who’s a grad student at SUNY. They live in a little cozy, weird house that belongs to the grandmother of someone they both grew up with. There’s a whirring mechanical chair and a bar on the door outside, stuff meant to help old people. But the old person moved out and now this new family has moved in.
Maybe they’re a little lonely. Molly especially, home all day with the baby while Soren is at school. Last night, a bad part of me wanted to zoom in on that loneliness, so it might help qualify their life to me. They have, suddenly, so many fundamental things. But is a baby enough? Can it compare to all of the busy, crowded stuff I’m so determined to do? It might! She’s a beautiful kid. A Gerber model if ever I saw one. She’s a very baby baby, I said to my friend as we waited for the LIRR home.
I first met Molly during the summer fourteen years ago. Then she was my friend’s older, scarier, rebellious sister, with a constantly stoned Alabama boyfriend. I spent a few nights that July and August sitting in their backyard with them, sisters and boyfriend, and reveled in being able to make Molly laugh, feeling a power in endearing myself to this older girl who wasn’t my sister, but may as well have been. Molly has always held that weight for me. She’s mysterious and withholding, hard to get a read on. A really nice girl when you get to know her, but a good challenge at first.
And now she has a daughter! This small, smiley thing. A thoughtful baby, we decided. She’s figuring things out, while she hovers and bobs in whatever corner of the room she’s being held. And Molly is so good with her. A natural, easy mother. Not too precious, but gentle, and kind, and familiar. My friend said on the way home, “Well she’s been with her every day for four months, so she knows her very well by now.” Which of course is true. But there’s probably something more? I think she’s just very innately good at it. Because she wants it, and there’s this wonderful creature asking so openly for all these easy and difficult things.
Tonight I got drinks with my old boss and my old coworker, who are really just my friends now, and it was good to get a little thick with wine and smooth over old professional worries, to peer blearily into whatever future the dim light of the bar was showing us. We were all the way west, almost at the river, a neighborhood none of us really ever go, so it all felt a bit stolen. Like we were hiding out for a brief hour or two, before heading back to whatever trenches, good and bad, we’re kicking around in.
And it was so warm today! When I forced myself out of the office to get lunch, Molly text messaged me and said thanks for coming over. I wrote back, saying that I hope it was the first of many visits. They have a backyard, so summer barbecues are hopefully in the offing. I put my phone back in my pocket and stood for a second in the warm line of sun cutting through Times Square. Of all the places to be! Thousands of people milling around, enjoying what felt like a pretty miraculous day. I wonder what any of us who were there just then will remember about it, years later, if anyone thinks to ask.
“Maybe a Grad School Musical? Where Troy Bolton is back in Albuquerque and taking a few classes but mostly working as a waiter at P.F. Chang’s. And then Gabriella comes home for a visit—she and Troy broke up like three years prior—and she’s engaged maybe? So that’s kinda sad. And Troy has been sleeping with Sharpay Evans, because she’s living at home too after a short and depressing stint in Los Angeles, and it’s kind of embarrassing for both of them to admit that they’ve been hooking up, because neither is where they’d planned or hoped they would be at this point. So it’s all about Troy halfheartedly trying to get with Gabriella again, but he’s usually too stoned or whatever to make a move. And then! Oh, right, and then Ryan comes home from New York—he graduated from Juilliard and is living in Astoria and working in catering—with his “roommate” Brad, and so there’s a whole song about that. (“The apartment is small, so there’s only one bed / But it’s platonic! Don’t get ideas in your head.”) And then of course everyone has to deal with Chad Danforth’s death…”—I figured out what should happen in High School Musical 4.
“It’s perhaps a strange comparison to make, but Grand Budapest Hotel left me with the same feeling I had after Django Unchained, both films in which wildly talented auteurs walk up to a serious historical era, only to skitter away from its most harrowing implications. To me, Django Unchained represents what I hope is the nadir of Tarantino’s exhausting self-regard, and The Grand Budapest Hotel, for all its delightful tics and peculiarities, is finally the film that had me screaming for Wes Anderson to say something. Anything, really. Here we have the crumbling of grand old Europe, dark armies marching across picturesque lands, the first early glints of the Iron Curtain. Anderson could actually interact with all this heavy stuff and still construct his chintzy hotels, still send his manic characters twirling like tops around elegant old rooms. Instead, he made a chase movie.”—Grand Budapest Hotel, reviewed!
I. Almost exactly two years ago, my friend Jackie came down to New York from Boston so she and I and two other friends could spend the weekend in my apartment, minds boggled, processing the sudden death of our friend Crystal. Our friend Cathy’s parents live in the area, so that Sunday they very kindly appeared outside my building with coffee and pastries from their local Italian bakery. Sitting on my floor (a strange experience—people who live alone don’t often sit on their floors, I don’t think) I started playing with the red and white bakery string from one of the pastry boxes. I wrapped it around my left wrist and asked Jackie to tie the knot for me. I decided that I’d wear it until it fell off. That it would be a reminder of a weird and awful but also cozy weekend. I’d see how long it took to let go of me. Then, just this Saturday night, I was fussing around getting ready to meet a friend, trying to figure out which one of my sweaters makes me look the least fat, and at some point the bracelet snapped, just sorta spilled out of my sleeve as if to say “I give up.” Almost two years to the day since it had been tied on there. It wasn’t anything really decorative, but I always noticed it. Was weirdly proud of it. I liked when a guy I went on a few dates with last fall asked me about it, because it made me feel like I had history, and was interesting, like I was the kind of sentimental or superstitious person who remembers things through talismans. I really liked that little string! And then, halfway out the door to Greenpoint, when I had no time to mourn its passing, it gave up. I put it on the dresser next to the TV and, I dunno, figured I’d wish it goodbye later. Then I ran out and got in a cab and the rest of the night pressed on.
II. I don’t know what a “cloud” is. I know I have one on my phone? And also sort of on my computer? To me, iTunes is the most confusing piece of software ever invented—what did I buy? Where is it? Where does it go when I get a new computer? I’m not trying to be some sort of charming luddite. I just genuinely cannot understand, no matter how much I try, how it all works. It’s like watching a David Milch show, Deadwood or Luck or John From Cincinnati. I know those are English words they are speaking! But all I see is a knotted, confusing bramble. iTunes is like that for me. So, just hours before my little bracelet broke, while searching for the latest download of a podcast, I was shocked to stumble upon a cache of songs. Things that had been put on my cloud somehow, at some point. I can’t pinpoint when I downloaded all of them, but mostly the songs look like a playlist from 2005-2006. (When clouds didn’t exist, deepening the mystery.) There are three or four songs in particular that are so solely identified with that year, which I spent living in Somerville with Crystal, and Jackie, and our friend Foster, that it was both a stinging and sweet surprise to accidentally find them again. Almost nine years ago! And there, in this apartment and this life that are so faraway from then, there was Gabe Dixon, and that one Postal Service song, and Jamie Cullum. Remember him? Remember “All at Sea”? I looked him up on Saturday night and he’s 34 now! I was horrified when I saw that, wasn’t he supposed to be some British wunderkind? He was, of course. Only, that was ten years ago. I immediately pressed play and caught a glimpse of myself, at 22, rushing through the Boston Common, trying to convince myself that Boston was big enough, knowing the whole time that it wasn’t. And now how foreign that worry seems. I should have been worried about other things! About Jackie, about Crystal, about Foster, about how time would erode our friendships, send us scattered into the world. But then, I was only bothered by the height of Boston’s buildings, only concerned with counting how many bars and restaurants I passed on my way to work.
III. I left my office at around 1:15 this morning. I was doing the very important work of Officially Tweeting the Academy Awards for Vanity Fair. This is, I know, a very silly way to spend a night in one’s office, but that’s what I was tasked to do, so I did it. Stuck in a conference room on the 22nd floor of a Midtown building with a bunch of nice people who are younger and prettier and seem busier than me. I have to admit, it’s still a trip to be on a high floor in a glossy building like that one. It lends everything an air of importance. Surely nothing mundane, or useless even, ever happens on a 22nd floor! And when I leaned against the window, there was nothing holding me in but a piece of glass! Sitting on a ledge! So high up! It was tiring to be there, but it was not without its own small magic. When I finally got in a cab to go home, the driver was blasting “Greatest Love of All” and it felt like a triumph, as if I’d just wrestled something big from the jaws of impossibility. I hadn’t, of course, but it was nice to feel that way as the cab made its way through Chelsea. What’s that line from Mad Men, about the secretary who dies in the office? Born somewhere low, but died in a high rise. About how she was “an astronaut”? I felt like an astronaut early this morning. And there was Whitney Houston, singing to me from heaven about how close I’d come.
February is always a bad month. The tail end of a thing, longer than it’s supposed to feel. It’s almost like I elided January this year, intensely focused as I was on doing a whole dry month. And then suddenly I found myself here, back in this worst month of a bad season, where I don’t have any concrete plans for self-improvement beyond just, I don’t know, being better. Better how, I’m not sure! I guess not going out on weeknights if it can be avoided (sometimes it can’t—you want to get to know your new coworkers and so you stand around in a crowded Midtown bar for a few hours, clutching a drink like a talisman). Keeping my apartment clean, eating better. (Which involves a lot of standing in the mirror in the morning, turning to the side and looking at my stomach to see what’s shrunk, like a pregnant woman in reverse.) Daily life things, general practices, all the sort of granular stuff that tends to fill the room when it’s a Sunday night and you’re feeling anxious.
The Olympics helped! They’re so much fun, a good, uplifting distraction. They’re such a good distraction, in fact, that it was only when I was walking to meet a friend on Friday night after work that I realized that it was the two-year anniversary of a friend’s death, that the day had sort of, well, not crept up on me, because there really wasn’t any “Boo!” of surprise. It had just… arrived. And at 8 p.m. was already nearly over. I thought about that, a little desperately, as I walked up 3rd Avenue, wanting to somehow stop time, to memorialize what was left of the day, but instead sending a few meager “Thinking of you” text messages before walking inside the restaurant where my friend was waiting. I know it’s probably a good thing that the day came and went without any real emotional fanfare, that it means I’ve not given the date any real authority. That now she’s just someone I knew who lived once, instead of someone who died on a particular, terrible day. That’s what I told myself, anyway.
Two years ago I wrote a post for The Hairpin about the horrible February of 2012, framing it as a guide to planning for a better spring. The idea being then, in April, that things were moving forward, into sunnier and warmer months. Which, of course, they were! It was nice then to think about spring as something concrete, as a rescuer, pulling me out of the gray dust of the previous difficult months. And spring is that, every year, in some small way or another. But mostly it’s like last Friday, just tumbling up to us and then rolling by, as impossible to plan for as anything else, save for a few fixed dates. Jury duty, a party, a play.
It was funny to come home from a movie tonight and miss the Olympics. To find my apartment a little less wholesome, almost sinister even. I guess that was boredom and restlessness poking their heads back out, chiding me for this dumb idea that I could be good and stay home every night, drinking lonely old tea and taking BuzzFeed quizzes. I found myself anxious to start planning for a better spring all over again, even though it hasn’t been a terrible winter. I suppose tonight that planning amounts to sitting down and writing a little thing and thinking about my friend and, if I’m honest, trying to conjure some real genuine missing out of what’s mostly become remembering.
When I walk out of my building and down 14th Street to the subway, there on the right, past Union Square, I can see a series of buildings that I’ve decided, for some reason, look like real city buildings. Something about their age and their particular height makes that little bit of New York seem august and full of possibility. Sometimes the hopefulness of those buildings feels like a sad beacon, a kind of a lie. Usually when I’m trudging somewhere I don’t want to be, those buildings teasing me about a city I could live in if all the dull clutter of life didn’t get in the way. Other times, they’re reassuring. There, just down the street from where I live. Sometimes they say “You’re doing it!” Sometimes they say “Here we are!”
Tonight when I left my apartment to go to the movie it was about 5:45, and there the buildings were as always, and behind them were a few last wisps of sunlight disappearing toward New Jersey. Light, at nearly 6 p.m.! As I crossed 3rd Avenue, I thought about another spring on its way, and then worked my way back from there. There was next week, and then this weekend (Oscars!), and then this week. All the way to tonight. All I had to do was get on the subway and then sit in the dark for a couple of hours before I could leave and go home again. Where I could worry and plan and do so many things that we’re so lucky we get to do.
“The series is thoughtful enough to see the potential in each character; nearly everyone is given their due, helping the world of the show achieve a mesmerizing texture and sense of depth. The thicker the air is with criss-crossing motivations and shifting allegiances, the more ingenious fun the show has moving through it. It’s a daunting juggling act, keeping so many pieces of plot in play, but House of Cards does it, with uncanny ease and sophistication.”—House of Cards is, actually, a great show. A re-review!
“When Franco-Russian champion ice dancer Victor Joubert (Gaspard Ulliel) comes forward claiming to be the secret lover of the oppressive president of an unnamed Slavic nation, ace crisis strategist David Arch (Daniel Craig) is hired by that nation’s government to get a handle on the explosive story. While a controversial Olympic Games unfolds around him, David must work to uncover the truth, and then bury it just as quickly. But soon he finds himself involved in a torrid love triangle between himself, Victor, and the cagey, temperamental president (Viggo Mortensen), as repressed yearnings burble to the surface and great political hypocrisies are laid bare. Both political drama and passionate romance, Mira Nair’s Dare Speak My Name is a heartbreaking portrait of a man who, in denying love, denies life.”—OLYMPICS MOVIE PITCHES!
“Spacey has added another coat of glaze to his honey-baked hamminess, and he’s as silly and spellbinding as ever. Wright, such a frightening, elemental presence last season, retreats a bit in early episodes, but she still manages to give Claire a cold shimmer of secretiveness that makes her the most arresting presence in every scene she’s in. Wright’s is one of the most beguiling performances on television in recent years. Watching her glide around bespoke rooms like a calmly malevolent sylph gives this show its real charge of menace—Spacey provides the scenery-gnawing fireworks, but Wright is the quietly beating dark heart behind it all.”—HOUSE OF CARDS SEASON 2 REVIEW!
You’ve been to Disney World let’s say… a few times. Let’s just call the number of visits to Disney World that you’ve made as an adult “a few.” You work in Human Resources but you’re not one of those too chipper weirdos. You get it. You’re a straight-shooter when you can be. You like a glass of wine or a margarita and you’ve been known to smoke a cigarette or two when out drinking with coworkers. You own a condo that has at least one room you haven’t gotten around to furnishing yet, so for now it’s just blinds in unwrapped packaging lying on the gray wall-to-wall carpeting and a box marked “Christmas stuff.”…
“In the age of Twitter, we’re no longer afforded time to silently grieve. The internet calls for immediate reaction, be it snark or pathos.”
I like, and often agree with, Louis Peitzman’s writing on BuzzFeed, but this line from his piece about last night’s ugly, deeply inhumane Girls episode really rubbed me the wrong way. As someone who has written a lot about the death of a close friend right on this here weblog, I certainly understand that the Internet, in whatever form you use it, can be a useful outlet for exploring grief/sadness/numbness, whatever feeling follows a horrible thing. But I don’t think we should lose sight of the important fact that the Internet does not call for anything, ever. We may call for it, but it never calls for us. We are afforded as much time as we afford ourselves. That’s all.
Senator Laura Morton (Cate Blanchett) looks to be a shoo-in to become the first female president of the United States. A decorated Air Force captain who flew several space missions with NASA, she’s an American hero with business-friendly centrist policies that make her a favorite among moguls and middle-class folks alike. When a schizophrenic astrophysicist and known conspiracy theorist named Miles Alder (Jeffrey Wright) begins making noise about the senator not being who she says she is, Secret Service Agent Maura Bishop (Sandra Bullock) is the only one who will listen. What happened to Laura Morton on her last space mission, and was it even Laura Morton who came back? Kathryn Bigelow directs this paranoid mix of science fiction and political thriller, which features Chris Cooper as conniving Secretary of State Grover Rourke and Vanessa Redgrave as Russian billionairess Irina Semyonov, a woman with many secrets who may know more about the real Senator Morton than she lets on.”—Planet Hillary and four other news items from the week turned into movie pitches.
When he got back to the hotel he took a hot shower, washing off the stale smell of the cell, hoping too that some of this feeling—was it embarrassment? guilt? It had been so long since he’d really felt either—would go with it. He’d told his team to make themselves scarce for the night, so he was alone in the suite, the Florida sky in the giant windows turning purple as the sun drifted west. It was quite a view, all the way up in this sprawling series of rooms, everything crisp and clean and soft with the particular hush of a hotel. Like something always on pause, nothing ever really changing, all the mess that one person made suddenly corrected as soon as they were gone.
He sat in his bathrobe on one of the sofas and thought about calling someone. Not his mom, she was too… Well, not upset exactly, maybe just bewildered. It’s not that she’d sounded surprised when he was first allowed to call her. Rather, it was like she’d expected this for a long time, but now that the moment, the incident, was finally here, she’d had an unexpected reaction. “I’m concerned, honey,” she said, in a tone he hadn’t heard in many years. Maybe she really was concerned, not for the Him that all of their lives had been spinning around in a dizzy orbit for years now, but actually him, just him. For the first time in a long time.
So he didn’t want to deal with that again. He thought about maybe calling her, the other her, but she’d probably sound faraway, how she’d been sounding lately, suddenly all mature and knowing ever since she did that stupid spring break movie. He let out a sigh, put down his phone, picked up the TV remote and flipped through the channels, lots of noise and light buzzing on the enormous flat thing stuck up on the wall like a painting. He caught a few syllables of his name a couple of times before he could change the channel, saw fuzzy video of flashing lights, two fancy cars stuck dumbly on the side of the road.
He turned the TV off and walked back into the bedroom, sat at the desk and opened his laptop. Maybe he’d check out Brazzers or something, distract himself and let his mind go soupy for a few minutes. But when he clicked over to the site it all looked somehow both shiny and dull, like it was computer animated or something. It was sad, he thought, and made him feel like some kind of prickly thing was growing in him, poking him from the inside out. So he clicked away and found himself on YouTube. A rush of rare nostalgia came flooding over him as he typed his name and then “first video.” The one he found wasn’t, he was pretty sure, the actual first one, but it was close. His hair in that silly bonnet shape, his clothes the clothes of all the little boys where he grew up. There he was, not even that long ago, sitting on a couch, eyes closed, singing earnestly but also aware. That the camera was catching something, that he was glinting, giving off light. He’d never not known it. But back then, at least, it had felt exciting.
He watched all the way to the end of the video and briefly considered scrolling down and reading the comments, but he knew what they’d all say. All those strange, random YouTube people. The ones who had made him, and then suddenly, like a switch flipped one day, seemed to turn against him, torches lit, doing mean tribal dances, saying cruel prayers that he might fail, hoping they’d get to watch as he fell back to Earth. He hit replay on the video and there he was again, sweet-voiced kid, poised but hungry, the obvious, ardent gaze of his mother filling every pixel of the frame. Sitting there at the desk, he closed his eyes, just like in the video. He never thought about the time before, it just wasn’t something that he did, but just then, in the quiet of his fancy suite, he wished himself back. Eyes closed tight, the watery glimmer of Miami splayed out around him, he willed himself back into that smaller body.