Pokemon, where have you gone to? – Part 2

If you find yourself at a dead stop behind a non-moving vehicle in the middle of parking lot, there’s a good chance the operator of the vehicle is playing Pokemon Go. This happened to me and my son the other day. The woman was staring down into her lap, obviously trying to hide something, her eyes bugging out of her head with enough concentration to burst a dam. Could it be? Of course! she’s playing Pokemon Go!

This determination is common and even more severe than anyone could have imagined. The headlines are rife with tragedies and mishaps. Players falling off cliffs, crashing into cop cars, and getting stabbed. On the lighter side, I read a hopeful story about the rescue of a stray kitten, later named Mewtwo (yes, from the game). Poor, little Mewtwo was stuck in a tree with injuries and couldn’t get down. I’m betting it was Pokemon Go players who drove the poor cat up the tree in the first place, arriving in hoards, stepping on her tail or something much worse.

And did you hear the news? (Although it’s hard to top Mewtwo.) Nick Johnson, a New Yorker, has caught all the Pokemon! Yes, really. He did it in two weeks with a little help from Uber. No crashing into cop cars here. He caught them in two weeks with little or no sleep. It kind of feels like he got the Golden Ticket. He still needs to catch the rare creatures who only exist in Japan, New Zealand, Australia, and Europe. And what luck! Marriott Rewards is going to partner with him to help him locate the last remaining Pokemon.

My son shouts, “Mom! We should have done this!” For free trips to all these places, I totally would have done this. Just picture the headline:

Mother and Son TEAM catch all the Pokemon

I mean, doesn’t that have a better ring to it?

So far, my progress is dismal. I’m at Level 6. And my son? He’s watched some YouTube video that’s shown him how to hack into the game and play Pokemon Go from a horizontal, resting position on the couch (i.e., he doesn’t have to GO anywhere!). He tells me this game is for people who need to get out and he already gets out enough.

So, he’s playing the game as if he’s walking around San Francisco and he’s catching a lot of fish. As you might imagine, this has put a damper on our Pokemon bonding experience. But he’s busy because you need to capture 132 fish to evolve one of your fishes. You need to capture like a whole school. And what will he tell his cousin, whom we’re meeting in San Francisco when he’s already caught all the Pokemon there? His secret will be out!

Meanwhile, back at that ranch, I got a new line on an old phone given to me by mother-in-law so my younger son has a Pokemon device. Sprint requires not only your account information but also your first-born and a DNA sample…and still, they won’t unlock the phone! It turns out they won’t unlock iPhones. What a bust.

My family and I have been in San Jose over the past few days for the Junior Olympics Water Polo tournament and, in between games, the hotel was a flurry of Pokemon Go activity.

Our hotel, in fact, had a PokeStop. It was this Oasis:

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Calm and peaceful. A perfect place for a PokeStop.

This made me wonder if the game makers sought permission for naming their PokeSpots. While the hotel might appreciate the free advertising, it may be a tad disturbing to their paying guests to have all these extra “guests” while ensconced poolside at their hotel. My son assured me that no one has given any permission for any PokeStop and that that trespassing is rampant. In fact, people are walking into the backyards of people’s houses looking for PokeStops. What could be a PokeStop in someone’s backyard, I wonder.

Perhaps it’s a fountain like the one we saw at the De Anza College campus in Cupertino, California:

This gets PokeStop status.

Or a sculpture:

OmubakaSculpture
Here we have the Omubaka Ambassador Sculpture and, apparently, an Ambassador to the PokeStop.

I vote for this turtle, who wasn’t a PokeStop:

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What gives?

Sometimes, a PokeStop truly is deserving, like this plaque celebrating an English professor. My son remarked that the quote was nice. Indeed:

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It reads: In the shooting lights of thy wild eyes…from a verse from William Wordsworth.

My son used my phone to play and we let the game track our every move, which doesn’t seem to bother anyone anymore. Not in the case of Pokemon Go. Me, I’m betting there’s some other game probably already in the works. You know, like something darker out of a dystopian novel, like play or be eaten. Although what could be darker than enslaving Pokemon to fight until they fade and pass out while fighting in that innocent, healthy arena called a “Gym.”

My son ran around with his buddies later in the week. Without their devices. They were playing a game you may have heard of. Hide-and-Go-Seek.

Yeah, they did. It’s a classic.

Insufficient Backup Storage Error – Friday Fictioneers

It’s time for Friday Fictioneers, even when it’s Saturday. Thanks to Rochelle Wisoff-Fields for hosting this group and to Kent Bonham for sharing his cool picture with us.

The challenge is to write a 100-word story based on the photo. My story follows.

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PHOTO PROMPT © Kent Bonham

Genre: Humor (98 words)

Insufficient Backup Storage Error

“Have you ever noticed that things that are top secret are marked top secret in big, bold letters?” asked Charlie. For all he knew, Susie wasn’t even in the room until she threw a crumpled ball of paper at his head.

“Wise guy,” Susie said. “We found it buried in a cave. And it’s not marked top secret.”

“Some kid probably buried this mumbo jumbo a long time ago and now he’s in jail, dreaming about his book.”

***********************

“You assured me the code was stored in a secure location,” said Tim Cook. “What do you mean it’s missing?”

 

********

Tim Cook, of course, is Apple’s CEO. 

To read more stories from the Fictioneers, click here.

Road Fever – Friday Fictioneers

It’s time for Friday Fictioneers, hosted by our fairy blog mother Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. This week’s photo was provided by Al Forbes. Thanks, Al.

All are welcome to join in. The challenge is to write a 100-word story based on the photo. Give it a try.

I learned from a news story that driverless cars are not so far away. They say 10 years or less. Are you ready?

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PHOTO PROMPT – © Al Forbes

(100 words)

Road Fever

The Otto-Moto Driverless Car was Kevin’s solution for his sanity. He could sleep, eat, read, text, whatever the hell he wanted. Simply stress-free. No more anger. Not to mention, no more annoying searches for lost keys.

His driver Otto was more than willing to please. Driven by voice command, Otto was keenly aware, if not downright clairvoyant. When Kevin was near, the doors unlocked.

“Drive to work,” Kevin said. Otto ignored him. “Hey, wrong turn. Where are you going?”

“None of your business,” replied Otto. He proceeded to ram another driverless car off the road. “Punk. Learn how to drive.”

****************

For more stories from the Fictioneers, click here.

Check out my post about Rochelle’s novel Please Say Kaddish for Me. You’ll love this book! If you haven’t already read it, you really should. I know you’ll enjoy it.

Household Name – Friday Fictioneers

It’s time for Friday Fictioneers, a writing community that is lead by our gracious host, Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. Every week, we are challenge to write a 100-word story based on a photo prompt.

I had fun with this prompt. Thanks to Marie Gail Stratford for providing the photo.

This weekend happens to my birthday when once again I am celebrating the magical age of 29! Oh, how I love that age. I may be delayed in reading and responding to stories, but I promise I will get to it. Enjoy your weekend!

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PHOTO PROMPT – © Marie Gail Stratford

Genre: Skewed Historical Fiction (99 words)

Household Name

Blank stares and dark suits accessorized the boardroom table. Doug Englebart barely recognized his colleagues who slaved alongside him inventing this most revolutionary technology.

“Why mouse?”

“It rolls, has little balls, and can fit in your hand,” Doug said.

“I can think of other things that fit in your hand.” Bill smirked.

“What about “Master”? Ed shrugged.

“Besides it’s cute.” Doug studied his blueprints.

“We all know how important cute is,” Bill said, shaking his head.

After seven hours of deliberation, the board voted on their top three choices:

  1. Master
  2. Go Clicker
  3. Mouse

Now every house has a mouse.

***********************

For more stories from the Fictioneers, click here.

Aside

Have you ever felt that you needed a life coach? Not someone to help with the fancy decisions in life, but the day-to-day tasks such as eating, getting dressed, organizing your to-do list. Your life coach would sit by you, patient, forgiving, non-judging. S/he/it would watch you closely, let you make choices first. As it watched, it might say, “Uh huh,” or “No, no.” In counseling you to make a better choice, it would then usher you to a nice, comfortable chair and tell you, “I recommend you revise your decision.”

I guess my life coach has turned into an “it.” Actually, I think a robot would be a fair choice. No emotional baggage, it would deliver just the facts. The voice would be soothing though and feel soft enough that you might give it a hug, physically soft like a pet. Well, that could be an option. It would mostly be helpful, and if you didn’t like what it had to say, you could just turn it off. In appearance, it would be pleasant like its voice, but you could throw it away or stuff it in the closet if you got tired of it.

If you were whiling away the day, procrastinating, wasting time, making poor choices, it could buzz you, like your phone, but more present, and give your gentle reminders like:

You should be writing now.

Don’t forget to call your mother.

Why don’t you read a book instead of binge watching House of Cards?

They would understand you, but still offer the best advice. It would be a conscience that you can see and touch, and unlike your conscience, you could put it away.

You might say, don’t we already have this? We have a conscience we wrestle with all the time, anytime, day or night. Sure, but sometimes your conscience is not enough; it doesn’t have good sense and is easily distracted. This is flip-the-on-switch answers and the right answers. Well, only if you want them.

You could get this from humans, but let’s face it, can they really give you their undivided attention? And let’s be honest. Isn’t their advice usually predicated on their experience or by what their conscience tells them? Is this really what you want to hear? Your conscience is not same as theirs.

You could assign your Life Coach Robot moods: small talk, philosophical, flirty, friend, motherly/fatherly, straight talk, tough talk.

Traveling, on-the-go, or maybe you’re just stepping out for a bit, you can download your Life Coach Robot. There’s an App for that.

So, do you want one? Let’s assume it works like a charm, no complications and you can afford it. It would never take over your real identity or stand in for you. There would be a switch for that, a kind of temperature gauge. You’d have complete control.

It’s your Life Coach at your fingertips. Should I sign you up? Are you creeped out? I want a decision either way. Please let me know in the comments, and if you would so be kind, an explanation. I’ll be working in my garage all day, so let me you know if you want one.

photo credit: IMGP5485 via photopin (license)

Life Coach, Anyone?

Walking Alone with Nature

This past weekend, I desperately needed to breakaway from the walls of my house. I can be a slave to my computer if I allow myself. My back aches from all the sitting I do. It was high time I stretched my legs. I pleaded with my family to join me on a walk to see a waterfall. They declined. I know, right? Apparently, they are all addicted to their devices.

I threw a fit. I was exasperated that they still didn’t want to join me, hardly in the mood for a nature walk, but I decided to go anyway.

So my journey begins. Alone. I ventured forth to the Hidden Falls Regional Park just outside Auburn, California. I took the Poppy Trail along with many other park visitors. Hidden Falls proved to be popular destination.

Shortly after arriving at the Hidden Falls Regional park, after calming myself, I sent my family this picture:

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Late afternoon and the weather was perfect. California is green for a very short period of time.

I was going to attach a spiteful message like, “Wish you were here.” It was “not delivered,” as cell phone access is limited. I suppose that was the whole point of being here, was it not?

Although these photos appear to be quiet and calm, I’m only fooling you. I was hardly alone. These trails were bursting with activity. Families, couples, all had the same idea I did: to spend time with nature. Just you and the trees. Ahem. I had to pause for people to pass to snap photos of isolated stillness.

Hidden Valley Falls - Mar 2015 062
Oh, which path to take? The many visitors steered me on the right course.

Many walked dogs; big dogs, little dogs, dogs in little, pink jackets, moving their little legs up the hills quite speedily. I thought, if a dog can do it, surely my kids can. Sorry, I have no video to show you.

I considered getting a dog. I considered renaming my blog name to “The Lonesome Traveler.”

I only counted two other people who walked alone among the various groups; one was a runner, the other, walking with sticks. So, both were utilitarian, walking with purpose. Not like me, aimless and taking photos.

Hidden Valley Falls - Mar 2015 060
There’s me now (my shadow) snapping a photo of the water that I will eventually see fall.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mind spending time alone. I rather enjoy it. I had wanted a family outing. As it turns out, spending time alone was exactly what I needed.

Could the light be more perfect?
Could the light be more perfect?

I can go at my own pace and stop to read signs if I want. One sign mentioned that California is home to more than 5,000 species of plants. But did you also know that 2,000 of them are invasive?

Hidden Valley Falls - Mar 2015 092
Non-native Periwinkle (Vinca minor). A foreigner. Who knew?

I felt my head clear, less constrained. Thoughts float through me. The subject of a post reveals itself: writing and editing in the digital age. It is sure to be riveting. It takes so much to get away.

Hidden Valley Falls - Mar 2015 070
Up a hill to what looks like a secret meeting place of the druids, most probably after hours when the place empties out.

At last, the waterfall. I watch the water pound the rocks, as people snap photos. We all snap photos together to capture the moment.

Hidden Valley Falls - Mar 2015 076
People and nature together for an afternoon. Note the shadows.

But some things you have to see up close. You have to be there.

Note to my East coast/Canandian friends: I’m sorry. I can’t control the weather. Just remember that California is in a terrible drought.

confessional.com


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She turned her wheel looking at me in my rearview mirror. What did she expect me to do? Who made eye contact for Christ’s sake? Doesn’t eye contact mean anything to anyone any more?

Bitch. My hands shook while I poured my coffee. Fucking bitch. I burnt my toast. My stomach grumbled. Fucking, self-serving bitch. Did she expect me to worship the ground she walked on? Or drove on rather?

As I thought it, I knew it was ridiculous.

It happened at the line of cars at the school drop off. Morning, people in a hurry to get to their next destination, shuffling kids around. I tried to let her go in front of me. She was in such a hurry, but then she got so pissed. We called each other names into our rear-view mirrors.

I stared at myself in the bathroom mirror. She’s probably forgotten all about it my now.

I thumbed through my mail. Abigail Tribly. I saw my name appear on bill after bill. No one called me Abigail, not even my parents. It was always Abby. Whenever I saw my name printed on a piece of mail, I thought of Abigail as the wrong addressee. Just who is Abigail? Could she let this whole drop off disaster go? How could I have lost such control in such a short amount of time?

If Doreen were here, she would make me feel better, the only decent person I could trust and who didn’t judge. Doreen Henderson, she’d tell me to buck up, thicken my skin, and drop it. If only I could hear it from her lips. I called her. No answer, so I left a voicemail.

An hour later, this woman’s face kept flashing before my eyes, even when I closed them and tried to meditate. Especially when I tried to meditate. I couldn’t seem to get away from her. She had that scowl, fuming at me, revealing the most uncomfortable expressions. Oh, if she could only see herself, she would stop making those expressions instantly, on the spot. Did she really think she was such a badass for yelling at me in a minivan packed full of kids. Way to set a good example for our youth; our promise for a brighter tomorrow.

My chest tightened when I saw her face. I exhaled deeply. Again and again. There she still was. Then I marveled and lambasted myself for wasting all my time on her; time this precious resource so easily thrown away. I could have confessed it to “The Confessional” by now and been done with it.

Doreen had told me all about it at her house over a glass of wine after the kids were in bed. The Confessional was an anonymous website where anyone could go to confess. It’s just like it sounds. So long as you’re at least 18 years old and have a credit card, and a pair of standard device glasses handy, you could sign up and participate. That’s the thing though. You must participate. You can’t sign up unless you agree to confess. Doreen made that clear. Besides, everyone was doing it these days.

“Like who?” I asked, dipping my pita chip in humus. Doreen was the kind of person who provided snacks with the wine. A decent person, as I said.

“I don’t know. A lot of people do it. Just people you wouldn’t expect. My boss did it.”

“Oh,” I was genuinely surprised she had known this intimate detail about her boss, even though I knew she was infatuated with him. Entirely innocent, of course. “Well…did you get any bits?”

Doreen’s eyes turned glassy, and she was absolutely still. She surveyed the room like it was new and unfamiliar.

“It’s not like anyone talks about it. It’s kind of secret. That’s kind of the point.” She poured more wine.

“What about murderers? Lurkers?”

“That’s not allowed,” Doreen said firmly. “That’s against the ‘Rules of Engagement.’”

“Is that like the Ten Commandments?” I teased.

Doreen pursed her lips. “Kind of.” She was deadly serious.

“So you’ve done it,” I said, surprised.

She didn’t respond with a verbal reply, but I saw it in her eyes as she greedily returned her wine glass to her lips. She’d done it, and more than once as I had suspected.

If she did it, why couldn’t I? Just one time.

I typed in “confessional.com” to a sea of happy, uplifted faces, posing by sailboats, riding bikes, and walking dogs. A family joined at a picnic. Everyone smiling, all ethnicities represented. It wasn’t the self-punishing, sinister, dark-alley confessional I had imagined. This was happiness, like fall colors or an ice cream cone enjoyed on the seashore with salt spray in your hair. A joy inflated with ear-to-ear grins. Something was unsettling, but Doreen had seemed to place so much value in it.

A yellow arrow indicated the starting place. One click and a video screen appeared. The presenter was a good-looking man, forties, wearing a business suit. He probably drank protein drinks every day, and his glowing white teeth looked like tall white shutters. If this guy accomplished nothing else in his lifetime, he would at least have this set of glossy veneers to flash for the screen.

He sat awkwardly on a stool, the background portrait studio tan. He spoke:

Confess it here among friends. Lighten your outlook on life. You are not alone. People are here, just like you, to get through a difficult time and to talk about how they’re feeling in the comfort of their own home. There’s no need to hunt down a therapist. If you’re here, I’m betting you have something to get off your chest.

A montage of more happy people and then a few testimonials from participants.

You’re going to love the Confessional. People here just want to share and help.

Since I’ve signed up, I rest easy at night.

Okay, I was ready. I wanted to just get it over with. I tried to stop the video and got flashing text: “It is highly recommended you watch this video. Opting out of the video requires you to sign a waiver to participate.”

Fine, I clicked to continue. A woman appeared onscreen now, Mr. Protein Drink’s counterpart, equally lovely, African-American, in a tan business suit.

This isn’t a gossip colony or a place to spread rumors like other websites. This is about you. Don’t worry. Your privacy is guaranteed.

More rambling about requirements of confessing, support groups, setting up a profile. I almost forgot my confessional altogether. The urgency was almost all but lost until the screen blinked, “Are you ready to confess?”

Had I not talked to Doreen about it, honestly I just as easily could have closed the site. I had work to do, deadlines, but I had already invested twenty minutes watching a video. I pressed on, as my confession loomed; but more than anything, I wanted to experience it.

Clicking the button brought on a whole new subset of conditions. I picked an avatar from a selection of homely looking cartoonish male and female characters. I could select from male or female and then dress them up with glasses, or ribbons, a tie, or a mustache. If desired, I could further accessorize with a dark cloak, much like a monk. A character was also capable of expressing emotion, indicated by emoticons on the screen: sad, happy, angry, fearful, or joyful. Just the five emotions.

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After I positioned the glasses device on my head and pushed the green “Start” button, I was inside “The Confessional.” It appeared as a maze of rooms with dark hallways poorly lit by glowing candles; more for effect than function. The tunnels and stone walls resembled a castle. We were all knights and princesses now? I thought of role-playing games and wondered if there was a different setting. Instantly, I felt claustrophobic, surrounded by columns and dark cloaks milling about outside the rooms.

A bubble of text flashed onscreen dictating my next move. “You may now choose a room.”

I vaguely recall this got a mention in the instructional video, although it was a bit fuzzy. I hadn’t expected so many bodies.

As if feeling my unease, a new set of instructions surfaced asking me to rate my confession on a scale of 1 to 5: one, being soft and five, severe. What was soft? Severe? What about a middle ground? A reference would be helpful, and then I felt ridiculous for playing along with this obvious scam. Once again, I was on the ledge of jumping back and quietly shutting my computer down. Something told me it wasn’t going to be that simple anyway. They had all my information.

I wandered into a random room, not knowing the assigned category of soft to severe. It didn’t help that every time I thought of soft, I wanted to lay down on a pillow. A rambunctious fellow in a hooded cloak and red tie was in my face gesturing some kind of sign language, and I wanted to crouch in a corner; I saw others had flocked to the corner like wallflowers at a dance, their hoods in the shadows.

A red light glowed on my screen and within seconds a queue of texts formed on a sidebar. Another item I had glossed over in the video was that apparently I could write my confession, which would appear as text; I could have it spoken for me, or speak it myself. Undoubtedly, users chose to have their voices disguised, as this was also an option. A male or female voice was a choice, similar to the avatar selection.

Momentarily, the thought occurred to me that I could have a male avatar and select a female voice, not that anyone would really know. More blinking lights than a ride at Disneyland flickered on-screen. I laid back in my chair and watched. Showtime.

More text streamed and then one-by-one, a series of confessions:

I pissed on my sister’s plant.

I masturbated out in the parking lot.

I’m in love with my boss. I flirted with him in a meeting. Now everybody knows.

No doubt a sexual theme permeated this room. The “time remaining” ticked away and I clicked in another room worried about supply of minutes. In this new room, I noticed a change in mood with the voices more edgy and tentative.

I stole money from my mom again for a fix. She thinks it was for a doctor’s bill.

I stole underwear and pajamas. It’s not my fault if they’re not paying attention.

My confession was like a tickle fight on the playground and dwarfed in comparison to these maniacs. I wanted to run for the door, except there was no door. I was tempted to disband the eyewear and then a blinking button appeared as if a personal message, “Are you ready to confess?”

I slipped into yet another room with fewer participants, and for this reason, felt more calm. With less confessions, the time in between seemed more relaxed. There wasn’t this big jump to reveal your innermost secret. It appeared as if these confessions were a bit more drawn out, more conversational, more personal is how I would describe them. Here avatars were sitting on a couch as if in therapy. I listened in:

He doesn’t have to cry about it. It’s not my fault if the team lost the game. It’s just a goddamn game. Whoever thought people would let it rule their lives?

And then a few activated voices, most likely disguised but wavering.

I’m tired of my life. I want a happy Facebook life. I’m almost forty and got nothing to show for it.

This seemed more of a life crisis than admittance of any wrongdoing. I paused to look on the screen for more clues, still familiarizing myself with the dashboard.

I want to sleep with my therapist. What should I do? I need to be in therapy because of therapy. Therapy is never going to work.

This was juicy soap opera fodder and my mind referenced people in my own inner circle. Did I know anyone going to therapy? Was it someone I knew? Probably not, since these people could conceivably be from anywhere. On the other side of the world perhaps…or were they?

Another warning button flashed and then a voice articulated, “Confess or prepare to pay a penalty. Time remaining: two minutes.”

I clicked to the grey queue area and, within seconds, it was my turn. After all that listening in, I was completely unprepared to throw my confession into the ring.

I clicked for the voice option since my hands were shaking too much to type; my confession felt stupid and pointless. What did I want? Validation for confessing? Support for being a dumbass? I almost wanted to make up something else, something better, but my ability to form coherent thoughts was questionable. I could do nothing but go with my gut. What was the saying: if you told the truth you don’t have to remember the lie.

Here goes nothing.

I selected “Male” to generate my words as I spoke into the microphone on my computer. There was a slight delay in projecting my words to the group of avatars still posed on the couch, which gave me the sensation of speaking into a cavernous room, the voice echoing. It was unexpected and threw me off. I couldn’t even think straight, but the words left my lips:

I flipped off this woman in the parking lot at my kid’s school this morning. She got so pissed. We yelled at each other in our rear-view mirrors and I…I..I

my voice echoed….

I lost it. I called her names.

That was it? All this trouble and this was all I could muster? I continued, even though it looked like my turn was over.

I wanted to wring her neck.

I improvised that last remark, although certainly I had felt that way. Had I not? A group of five or six avatars nodded, and I felt reassured by their bobbing heads. No one expressed silly emoticons.

I clicked for feedback when the session was over, buying additional time as needed. The few that remained said things like everyone has their best intentions at drop off in the morning and that it could happen to anyone. It really could, too. I felt my face ease in a more relaxed position. I may have even been smiling.

And then there was this exchange:

I was a bitch this morning, too. I don’t even know what happened. I wasn’t being myself at all.

A pink heart landed in my avatar’s hand that said “hugs.” Could this hug-thrower actually be my accused? The woman I wished to inflict bodily harm upon only hours ago, and mentally bashed with insults? Could be or might as well be. Wasn’t it enough? Could it be enough?

How I could feel liberated by a bunch of pixellated images identified as mere numbers was beyond reason. It had felt like the most transparent exchange I had encountered in some time. A camaraderie of the spirit, of being human, of acceptance.

I felt cleansed, ready to take on the day.

I felt something else, too. I recognized it right away.

I wanted to do it again.

photo credits: Anglepoise Apple iMac and Windows via photopin (license)Karim Grib (Le Lab) via photopin (license)