“TO CONNECT” by KL Frank, Odessa MO

Connected October 16, 2011 05:31

topic: CONNECTED medium: TEXT
Liesl Schillinger, of the New York Times Book Review, had this to say about “TO CONNECT”:
KL Frank imagines the gray inner life of an office drone who tunes out of the humans around him by day, and tunes into the avatars of Second Life at home at night by his flat-screen tv. A shadow existence, of bloodless connection.

One of the Winners of the “Connected” Contest

Fleshy humans exist only on the hazy boundaries of my life.
I sit in a cubicle all-day and contact the world through a computer. Through my ergonomic keyboard I activate electrical currents or optical fibers. The pulses surge through cell phone towers and across landlines and ring bells, spit out videos and print pictures or by means of hi-speed wireless light up the all-inclusive cloud. The other people in the office are no more than stealthy shadows passing along the strip of carpet I can barely see. On my phone, I talk to disembodied voices. The Bluetooth fits cozily around the external lobe of my ear. Some guy I’ve never met sits in an adjacent office. He’s before me in the mass production process as it exists today – a collection of jiggling zeros and ones. He orders sets of schema.

I acknowledge receipt of his request by pressing a key. It responds with satisfying pressure against my finger.
Thanks,” his voice says. “My pleasure,” I reply by rote. I process my portion of the whole. I generate gratifying columns of data and email them to the guy in the cubicle who’s next in the assembly line.
“Yeah, man,” his insubstantial words float over the rims of the head-high walls. “I got that. I’ll take care of it immediately and fax you a hard copy.”
Why is he always doing this, interrupting my placid day with his irritating voice?
As I wait for our production process to iterate, a change in the shadows passing along the carpet disturbs the periphery of my vision. A body thrusts itself into the opening of my cubicle, propels itself forward until it lowers its bulk onto the corner of my desk. “Hi,” the same irritating voice says. “I’m the guy in the next cubicle.” A hand extends into the breathing space before my mouth. “I’ve been dying to meet you.”
Intolerable.
I jump up, grab a loose CD from the top of the desk and beat the invading body back through the opening.
“OK, OK,” he says. “I get it. You don’t want to be disturbed.” The body disappears.
But its laughter drifts over the walls for several seconds, collects near the ceiling and settles on my head in a cloying mist. I can’t breathe through it. I choke. I reseat the earpiece of my Bluetooth. Its comforting clutch on my earlobe helps me to catch my breath and regain the composure of my territory. Seated again, I await the next order.
My phone rings and the day proceeds. At closing time, I go home and sit in front of the flat-screen TV. I eat a packaged frozen dinner cooked in an appliance by microwaves I cannot see. I watch the two-dimensional pleasant people converse, play, make love. They crack jokes and I laugh. I update my 300 or so friends on Facebook. I twitter. Then I take the laptop into my den. I access Second Life. My avatars mingle with other avatars. After a few hours I go to bed. Blankets swaddle my limbs like a baby’s. My recording of birds from around the world plays comforting chirps until I fall asleep. It shuts off automatically.

I dream about movie stars and avatars against a background of creeping shadows and disembodied voices. In the morning, I awake, hands folded neatly across my chest in exactly the same position I fell asleep. My programmed coffeepot in the kitchen operates. It dispenses flavorful aromatic coffee. I use the facilities in my bathroom. A maid who arrives after I leave and departs before I return keeps the fixtures antiseptic. Unlike people, they are porcelain. Solid. I don’t miss the touch in ‘getting in touch’, the hook in ‘hooking up’. That’s for people who like the stench and sweat, the skin and bone of intimacy.
I am connected to my universe and content.

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