Thanks for coming here. This is the forty-third in a weekly series of fifty-two stories I am publishing in this space, wherever it may be.
At the party, a technology reporter for a major newspaper spoke to Gene excitedly about a new app he was using. “Look at this,” he said, and Gene looked down at the bright two-by-four-inch rectangle in the man’s clean, manicured hand. So this is what the hand of a successful person looks like, Gene thought. The reporter, Norwood, was rapidly touching one image after another on the little screen, telling Gene how useful and time saving and well made this app was. Gene used technology too. He input things and word processed things for a law firm. He wondered if anything about his life would improve if in his free time he were to use the app Norwood was showing him, and he could not account for what he did in his free time. He wondered why Norwood had chosen someone of a lower importance level than himself to show his new app to, and with so much enthusiasm. He also wondered why it was not he who was talking without interruption to Norwood and why he did not ever talk without interruption to anyone about anything. Norwood’s wife approached, said, “Norrie, there’s someone at this party you should meet, come on,” and pulled him away without glancing at Gene. She was bigger than Norwood. He understood that Norwood would need that much surface area and volume over which and through which to distribute his energy. She was taking him, Gene saw, to meet an older man whose photograph he’d seen on the internet, a kingmaker in the publishing business. This would be an important introduction for Norwood that his wife was brokering. Gene moved to the window and looked out at the dark shapes of the buildings across the street in this formerly industrial part of the city, and at the dirty pink urban fog, lit from below and superimposed upon the black night sky. People walked slowly past him near the window and he did not try to start a conversation with any of them. A long time went by. Norwood returned, drunk, his face red and sweating. “That went terribly,” he said, “I humiliated myself. It happens about 80 percent of the time my wife introduces me to powerful people, and she gets furious at me. I’ve been hospitalized for depression.” “Let me show you something,” Gene heard himself say to Norwood, and pointed out the window at the barely visible buildings across the street and the muddy pink sky above them. “What are you showing me?” Norwood asked. “I don’t know,” Gene said. “Come on, I’m very vulnerable right now, don’t just show me some garbage that isn’t anything.” “Everything is something and everyone is someone,” Gene said and realized. Norwood looked at him almost in tears. “So you’re saying I should just look at… whatever.” “Sure.” Norwood looked, and after ten seconds he said, “This is some kind of joke and I resent it.” He turned abruptly away from Gene, saw his wife, and moved hastily toward her. She nodded severely at him and held out her large arm. He took it in his smaller one, and they strolled into another room of the party, maybe to meet another powerful person. Gene stood by the window, through which he had lost the heart to look. He didn’t know what to look at now, or what to do.