The Nonexistent Nerd [Single White Nerd]
The day I ceased to exist stood out only in its unremarkability. I woke up, did fifty jumping jacks, some squats, a few pushups. I watched some porn on the internet, shook my head in disgusted titillation, and hopped into the shower. I emerged, dried, pulled on some faintly wrinkled khakis and a button down shirt, and drove to work. I parked my car in the overpriced garage a block from the office. I walked to the office and went up the elevator.
Utterly unremarkable. Boring.
I slid my key into the office door and unlocked it.
Just like I did every morning.
I opened the door and walked in.
And the lights didn’t come on.
The office lights were connected to a motion sensor. The lights would usually click on as soon as someone, anyone, entered the room. I entered the room and they did not come on.
Maybe I hadn’t entered the room emphatically enough. I stood in front of the sensor and jumped up and down. I did a jig. Waved my arms. Nothing, nothing and nothing. Assuming that the sensor had malfunctioned, I finally reach out and turned on the lights.
They clicked on bathing the beige room in fluorescent light. Victory.
I settled into my chair, clicked on the computer and immersed myself in the day’s work. First I returned a few emails, then reviewed some spreadsheets. Within minutes, the snafu with the lights had been buried under a flow of information and electronic communication.
About half an hour into the day, my co-workers arrived. I absently noted that the lights clicked on just fine for them. “I thought the lights were busted,” I called out as Olivia, a petite slip of a girl who sat in the center of the office less than ten feet from me, slid into her chair. She did not respond.
That’s what I get, I thought, for trying to make conversation.
I sent Olivia an email a few minutes later requesting some information about a meeting we had later than week. She responded instantly with the information. And a weird statement:
“Where are you working from today? Didn’t see you walk in.”
I peeked out of my office and waved at her. “I’ve been here since you got here,” I called out. No response. I picked up the phone and dialed Olivia’s extension. She picked up after one ring. “Hey, I just sent you an email.”
“I know,” I said, “I got it. I’m sitting in my office, by the way.”
“Ok,” she said. I watched as she rolled her eyes a little.
“No. Just wanted to let you know.”
She hung up and went back to staring at her computer.
The next couple of hours passed without incident. Well, almost. At one point, I went to the bathroom. As I headed down the hall, I passed one of the guys from the office next to ours. “Hey,” I said, doing the little head nod that guys do when they pass each other in the hall on the way to the bathroom. He ignored me. Rude, I thought.
Sitting on the can, I began to think. I do my best thinking either on the can or in the shower. Two of the only places that the digital age and its constant stimuli have left untouched in my life. The trail of my speculation went a bit like this:
The lights did not register my presence this morning. They registered my co-workers. Olivia didn’t seem to see me. The guy in the hallway ignored my presence. If this were a piece of speculative fiction or a pretentious short film, these seemingly isolated occurences could mean something considered in aggregate. They could, for example, indicate that I have ceased to exist as a physical being. That I have finally reach the point that my corporeal existence has been subsumed into the flow of information. I can still interact with the world, but only through digital means. Since I mostly interact with people online or via phone, most people won’t even notice. For them, I am the same. For the most part, I really am the same. Nothing has changed. Except, of course, that I don’t exist.
It was an interesting enough idea that I immediately whipped out my cell phone, jotted a note to myself, uploaded to the Cloud, and then stood to wipe my ass. I include the latter because it’s something generally done only by those who exist, physically speaking.
By the time I’d returned to my desk, I’d more or less forgotten about my far fetched idea. Until I tried to ask Olivia if she wanted to join me for lunch. I stood right in front of her and asked “Hey, do you want to go grab lunch?”
She pecked away at her keyboard, undisturbed.
On a whim, I took out my phone and, still standing in front of her, sent a text. “Hey, do you want to go grab lunch?”
Her phone buzzed. She picked it up. Read the text. And responded. A moment later, my phone buzzed. “Sure,” it said, “Where do you want to meet?”
I started to shake. I wrote back. “Nevermind.” Then I sat on the floor.
I updated my Facebook. “Michael Kass has ceased to exist.”
A few minutes later, people had commented. “Dude, you ok?” and “Clearly not true, you updated this.” Still trembling, I responded to the latter: “Ah. I Facebook therefore I am, uh?”
I continued to sit. I tried to feel less real. It didn’t work. And yet…apparently, I had ceased to exist.
As far as I can tell, I have not existed for over a week now. Honestly, not that much has changed. I still go through the motions, eating, sleeping, going into the office. I haven’t quite mustered up the courage to give up the trappings of the physical world. My relationships are intact—I chat with friends on Skype, exchange texts, even submit to various blogs. To the virtual world, I am as solid as ever. In the real world, I am as insubstantial as information.
One day soon, I’ll have the guts to cut the final ties, to fully embrace my new state of being. When it happens, you probably won’t even notice. I wonder if I will.
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featured image credit: Lel4nd