Above them, there are police officers. Designed to keep the stink from rising to the surface, they watch you carefully to ensure that you are clean and smooth like the sidewalks and streets. They are everywhere. They have names for each and every thing.
Everything comes to him in bits and pieces now. That’s what they call them here in Silicon Valley: bits and bytes, and pieces of hardware to keep track of it all. He once imagined his life as a billion bits and pieces floating unconnected, unraveled and haphazard in black empty space — data lost, corrupted, viral. That was the world, that was what they learned. He wished there was somewhere he could store it all, back it up, organize it into something that made sense. He says to himself I will design a program to keep my life in order; it will remember things for me, it will look up the names of plants and farming tools I no longer recognize.
All around him, he sees the names of things fading. He reaches out, grasps at words that die as quickly as they are born, words empty and cold as the light of a long-dead star hitting his eye at last — an eternity too late, an illusion of infinite depth.
These days, he sees this moment, and this moment, and this other moment, and so on, and each is separate, each blips in and out of life independent of the others. They do not move from one to the next; they simply are — first here, then over here, then over here. They are not designed for efficiency. They are not designed to make you feel safe.
They are not designed.
They have learned to accept this. They have learned that if you try to grasp too many, if you try to connect them, name them, it is all too much, it is all a waste.
We are not designed for this he tells himself now. He pictures a straight path that goes from one thing to the next, and then the next, and the next, and each follows the last, each leads to the next — you are born you make babies you die. You are green you are yellow you are red. He is convinced we are designed for something else — something far more simple, far more safe —
— he thought once, We are designed for some other kind of world — some world that is nothing at all like this — then he thought something else, and something else again —
Rubén Mendoza is the author of the recently published Lotería and Other Stories fromSt. Martin’s Press. He lives in Elysian Heights.