Here’s the thing, and it’s not pretty. Not that it cares. It walked out of Calculus 101 nineteen years ago and still hasn’t found its way because the road was first paved with Sagging Pants and then with Skinny Jeans, neither of which much suited its figure. The long and the short of it are perpetually dissatisfied and strut around in Leopard-print Boxers as if the world were their oyster. But they are mistaken because that oyster was annihilated, according to CERN, in an anti-matter experiment in 1987–a year otherwise unremarkable–and the world is still here. The thing would argue otherwise, but it is bothered by the fact that no one can make heads or tails of it, or spine, for that matter. Not even the NSA, which admitted publicly that the thing concerns itself solely with matters of the heart that can be rendered only in poetry. Luckily, it turned out that poetry is the one language the agency has not been able to decipher (according to certain parties who tend to reveal such facts with enviable disregard for their own safety).
The thing was not a recluse, despite its love of metaphor, so it Googled itself three times a week, and its BFFs and Frenemies on an alternating schedule, to make sure that its Facial Hair was still considered desirable. One Friday, at a bar with no WiFi, it pretended that it always knew what Shazam was even as it secretly Downloaded the App. This took ninety-eight painful seconds since its stupid table was Receiving Only One Bar. The anxiety of being discovered was worth it though, because the thing was henceforth able to peruse the lyrics of current club music at its leisure and never again felt on the dance floor as if it were Mr. Bean. However, it took the Tagging a bit too far when it began to mark Explicit Hip Hop Songs with ironic notes, as was evidenced by the unsavory conversation that resulted when the FBI knocked on its door.
Harboring some concern over Being Monitored, and having suffered two Wall Street Crashes in a single lifetime, the thing decided to follow the advice of a Happiness Guru and leave behind all its self-imposed responsibilities to instead Reach For The Stars. In preparation, it spent its last $935 on a Tumi Ultra-lightweight Suitcase with four wheels and five-star reviews, and a gas mask, which could be acquired online as an alternative to space helmets that for some reason were all out of stock. Haunted by a sense of trepidation due to the fact that outer space was not mentioned in the Places it would Go by the doctor whose advice it had followed since the age of two, including the Things it could Think, it made sure to review a Rich Dad’s strategy for optimally Moving its Cheese, spent Ten Thousand Hours on Seven Habits, closed its eyes and Leaned In. However, it had neglected to note its copy of the Inspirational Book was an older edition, and discovered too late that Being Present, in the manner of eastern philosophy, was the prescription in the latest edition.
This is when it short-circuited because it had trouble processing how it could not have been present when it was sure it had never been past, and also, the other way was too long. Depressed and angry about being unhappy for reasons that were logically inconsistent, for a while it took revenge on the world. But it was upstaged in that, too, due to its singular failure to simultaneously Sing and Ride Naked On A Wrecking Ball, which it was certain it could have failed at separately. (There is evidence at this point, at the lowest of lows, that it was briefly employed by the NSA, but left after discovering they never really loved it, and were only using it for its looks, which it knew were not good, but was devastated to realize were actually scary, especially in the gas mask.)
For several months after that data point, the trail goes cold on the thing. So it can hardly be blamed for eventually surfacing in the heat of Brenham, Texas, where the locals (blatantly plagiarizing other locals seen on TV) say that The Cows Are Happy. However, as with many other supposed facts in this history, this too is under dispute, since the thing was observed mournfully surviving on nothing but mounds of beef jerky.
During this time there were days–the third Tuesday of every month–when the thing told itself to Just Do It. But that became uncomfortable because it Kept Going and Going and Going and found that soon it needed to lease The Ultimate Driving Machine simply to maintain momentum. Serendipitously, the thing called in sick one morning, and cruising down Route 1, skidded on an overturned load of green Antibacterial Sanitizer. This is how it managed to wash its hands of the foreign machine, because it recalled on impact with a mighty redwood tree that it was American by Birth and a Rebel by Choice. But it turned out that there were Some Things even borrowed Money couldn’t Buy–the particular model of a bike it began to lust after was on backorder for eighteen months–so, cautious but hopeful, it tried to Say it with Flowers instead. To its dismay, the bouquet that arrived was pockmarked with substitutions, and the thing was allergic to lilies. But there was no refund to be had even though it argued until it was hoarse that nobody reads the Fine Print anymore. Eventually, the thing demanded to speak with the manager and informed her in no uncertain terms that given the fact that their customer service only had a 1-800 Number, and no Online Live Chat, it would not be patronizing their business anymore.
It is rumored that for a short while after that, the thing proceeded to turn its back on this undeserving world. Sometimes it suspected it should get help and looked up its symptoms, but all the maladies under “A” fit its description, so how was it to explain what the matter might be? But then it remembered that Steve Jobs had died and is said to have felt a glimmer of hope. This, only to find itself jostled about in A Line that wound around several blocks of downtown San Francisco and ended at the mouth of an Apple Store. This appears to have been the final straw in its Tumi bag which was found abandoned on the steps of The Fillmore.
Some say the thing had a notion that it would end its days in California. But it was subsequently seen, dressed in nothing but a gas mask, on a Greyhound bus headed to Colorado, where it hoped (according to a note wrapped around some gracefully aging cheese found inside the suitcase) to take full advantage of the fact that one can now legally buy A Brighter View Of The Days To Come.
Maya Kanwal’s fiction appears in Quarterly West and Squawk Back, and her nonfiction is forthcoming in an anthology of The Doctor T.J. Eckleburg Review. She has completed a novel set in Pakistan and is currently working on a short story collection inspired by her roots in the Indus Valley. Find Maya on twitter @mayakanwal.
Photos by Rashed Haq. See more at http://www.rashedhaq.com