Day 28: The Door

I was always too afraid to open the door in the basement. It was in the furthest corner, and it didn’t make any sense. There was no more house in that direction for it to be under. From a distance, it looked like a heavy ornate door, like the door in a cartoon dungeon, with heavy iron bands across it. When I was older, I looked at it closer, and noticed that it was painted that way, that it was in fact an ordinary door. I still didn’t open it. The room behind it would obviously be filled with dust, and I was worried about bugs or rats. Not that I feared them, but there’s a difference between encountering a bug, and walking into what’s probably a room full of them.

I know, I seem timid. Maybe, I am. People say “No risk, no reward.” But I’ve known a lot of people who’ve taken risks without reward, and a few who claim they’re taking a risk, when really they’re just investing somebody else’s money, and surprise, they succeed. Yes, this is all justification, but also, maybe avoid people who say, “No risk, no reward,” they don’t have your best interest in mind.

I’ve been thinking about the door lately. I’ve been thinking about what it would be like to be the sort of person who opened the door. It’s not hard to imagine. Door openers fill our fiction. Nancy Drew would open the door. So would Harry Potter. Almost every hero would. They make the choice to look for trouble in a world that is already more or less safe. Yeah, there is darkness, there are shadows, but the creatures who live in them, only lash out when you disturb them. Otherwise, they’re content to nibble around the edges. They take from you, but they leave you alive so they can take from you again. Maybe, I’m tired of being nibbled on.

“Mom, what was behind the door in the basement? In the old house,” I asked when I called her.

She’s distracted. She’s cooking dinner. I always picture her cooking dinner when I talk to her. I can’t imagine her picking up the phone in any other room. Honestly, I don’t even picture her in her current kitchen, but the one from the old house, that’s where she always took calls. Like there was no way for her to simply focus on the person calling.

“There was the door to the basement.”

“No, the other door, in the far corner.”

“There wasn’t a door.”

“There was. I remember you telling me to not open the door. It’s one of my first memories.”

“You were always making things up as a kid. Can’t you let things go? I don’t think you ever realized just how happy your childhood actually was. But there’s always some accusation isn’t there? Now, I didn’t let you go through a door? Why can’t you be happy?”

I wonder that myself.

“I’m sorry, Mom. You know I love you. But yeah, I should get going. I’ll call you next week, okay?”

“Okay, dear. I’ll speak to you soon.”

I don’t blame her. I just wonder about the door. Maybe, if I’d gone through it, I would be happy. Maybe, letting the shadows nibble on you is no way to live.

I sleep with the light on. I dream about the door.

Day 27: Unified Theory

My singular achievement as a lab assistant is my ability to brew the perfect pot of coffee. It seems even stupider when you realize that my last job before this was as a barista. I have a good head for math too, but that’s usually just to check over Dr. Farber’s equations which are invariably correct anyway. But on nights like tonight, it’s my coffee making skills that make me indispensable.

So, I’m sitting in the faculty room, waiting for the coffee to brew. In the early days, I thought I’d go back to Farber’s office while waiting, but she was so perplexed that I was back without the coffee.

“I wasn’t away long enough for it to be ready yet,” I said. And that’s when I realized she had no sense of how long I had been gone. It was freeing to know that I can take my time but it’s not like there’s a lot for me to do.

I send a text message to my roommate, Lucy.

“I’m going to be here late. Doc just had me brew another pot.”

“OK. Why are you telling me this?”

Lucy and I have been spending more time together lately. I mean, we were friendly when we moved in together. Both of us working at the same café. But for a while, we were just two people who inhabited the same space. Then, we started eating together. Then movies. Sometimes a board game. I guess, I hoped she missed me when I wasn’t there. Not like a longing in her heart, but maybe just a wondering when I’d get home.

The coffee is ready. I add a dash of cream to mine, a bit more to Farber’s, then carefully carry them back to her office. I was told she got a new office around the same time she got approval to hire me. Her star is on the rise, so to speak.

She billed her research as “A Unified Theory of the End of the World” and it is her time.

“It’s sensationalist nonsense,” she told me once I’d signed the NDA, “I mean the research is real. But obviously, the world isn’t going to end, even if humanity does. And everybody digs a unified theory. Who wants to read two theories, when there’s somebody willing to simplify it down to one? And if somebody is going to only read one theory, well, let’s make sure it’s mine, ok?”

She smiles when I enter her office as if she had no memory of sending me to make coffee.

“It’s like you read my mind. Did you get the numbers from the hotline?”

“They refuse to give us anything over official channels, but I’ve been talking to Prisha at one of the call centers, and she thinks she can get them to me.”

“I can’t really publish with anything but the official numbers. I’ll have somebody in the Chancellor’s office see if they can get them, but it will take time. So, if your contact can get us something, I’d still like to take a look. Nice work, Gregor.”

“It’s just Greg.”

“Salesmanship, Gregor, salesmanship. You can be a Greg in your heart, but being a Gregor gets you the bigger office. I’ve done the math, and two or three syllable names get you ahead. Unless you’re running for office, then keep it short. And obviously, by four or five syllables, things fall. Oh god, this coffee is good.”

“So, do you really think they’re all connected, these umm, little apocalypses?”

“Yes, I mean probably. Sometimes, I have this crazy idea. Like what if they’re all man-made? I don’t mean like global warming man-made, but like, what if our collective unhappiness is causing it? I mean, there are fewer strange incidents in Scandinavia and those are the happiest countries in the world.”

“So, if I want to save the earth…”

“You should be happy.”

We both sip our coffees for a moment.

“I think I’m going to head home,” I say.

“Have a good night, Gregor.”

Lucy is on the couch when I get home. The T.V. is on, but she’s also looking at something on her phone. She looks up when I enter the apartment, and she smiles.

“Have you had dinner?” I ask.

She shakes her head.

I sit down on the couch next to her, and she shifts so that she’s leaning up against me.

“I’ll make us something after I sit for a few minutes.”

“I wasn’t waiting for you,” she says.

“I know.”

“But I’m glad you’re home.”

Day 26: Wish You Were Here

The pictures on Pilar’s postcards were always of some sight or building that no longer existed. It had begun a while back when on a trip to New York, she sent me one with a picture of the Worlds Trade Center. She said she found it in a bodega nowhere near the tourist areas, apparently where they sold so few postcards that nobody had gotten rid of these artifacts.

“Huh, was that really in the display?” the clerk had asked, “We should probably do something about that.” Then he turned his attention back to a foreign language soap opera.

Since then, when she travels, Pilar always sends me a postcard. Since her work sends her to places in recovery after disasters, it’s easy for her to get the latest. A hotel before it was flattened by an earthquake, a city street of bustling businesses before it flooded, an expanse of desert before a gated community was built.

It’s a joke that was never really funny, but has gone on too long to stop. On the back, is always a quick message, an explanation of where she is and what she’s working on, and the phrase, “Wish you were here.” I think a lot about that. Does she wish I could see this place in its full splendor, or with her in the moment, experiencing this post-destruction world? Or did she mean it as the throwaway line that it’s always meant, not quite an “I miss you.”

I haven’t seen Pilar in years. She travels so much that when she’s home, she doesn’t want to take train ride out of the city to visit us. Whenever we make plans for me to come visit her, another assignment comes up, and she’s off again. We tried writing e-mails, but realized we’re not e-mail friends. Neither of us likes Facebook, and she doesn’t use Twitter. She posts pictures on Instagram, oftentimes it’s the same places as the postcards I receive, though in its current state. Some of the people she works with, serious faced in matching polos and khakis. Then night shots, of these same people in club dresses, shots in hand. Sometimes, I favorite, but I never comment.

So, I don’t expect her call. It’s the middle of the night for me, who knows what it is for her. I’m not even sure where she is. But her voice is slurred.

“Did I wake you?”

“Umm, yeah, but it’s okay. What’s going on?”

“I’m sorry.”

“No, seriously, it’s nice to hear your voice. Don’t worry about it.”

“No, not for waking you up, well, also for waking you up. I meant for being a shit friend. For always cancelling our plans. For sending that fucking postcard.”

“You’re busy, I get that. Which postcard?”

“Of course, it’s not there yet. Please, ignore it. I’m going to visit you when I get back. I promise. No excuses.”

It comes two days later. It’s a picture of me and Pilar, our arms around each other, laughing about who knows what, we look impossibly young. From anybody else, it would seem sweet. On the back just the words, “Wish you were here.”

Day 25: Chosen One

Jack is the chosen one. Of course, Jack is the chosen one. His name is fucking Jack. I mean, he was the nicest guy in school. Good athlete, not the best. He didn’t kick the most goals, but if you reviewed the plays, he was almost always had passed the ball to the one who scored. His grades were always good too. We were friends for a while. More when we were younger. Even in high school, he wanted to look out for me, I just didn’t want to be looked out for.

So, now he’s the chosen one. I don’t know what that means. There’s a prophecy, and he’s going to save the world, I guess.

“Wait, so you knew that guy? Like for real?” Gail is lying on the couch, head in my lap. She’s looking at her phone, occasionally showing me a picture while she thumbs through trending topics.

“Would I make that up?”

“You’d make a lot of shit up. But yeah, probably not that. This guy looks like an absolute tool. And what the fuck does saving the world even mean? It’s like one catastrophe is averted and there’s a new one the next day. Is he going to stop global warming? Can he cure a pandemic? But sure, let’s pick the most Aryan looking motherfucker to be the chosen one.”

“Gail, you’re very cynical,” I bend over to kiss her.

“Maybe if you’d stayed friends, you could have been his sidekick.”

“Stop looking at your phone. I’m going to get up,” I make the slightest effort to stand.

“No, I want to lie here forever, and you’re so comfortable. It’s why you’d make such a good sidekick. Captain Chosen would come home after a long day’s work of punching volcanos, and he’d be able to rest his head on your lap, and all his cares would disappear.”

“You’re going to make yourself jealous, talking like that. He never rested his head on my lap.”

She sits up. “But you two kissed, right? He’s the guy you told me about.”

“Yeah. But we were kids.”

“I’m not jealous. I’m just thinking that I got the guy that slipped through the Chosen One’s fingers. Shit, he should be jealous. Come on, bedroom, now.”

Things get weird over the next couple of days. Unusual lights in the sky. The president gives a strange address about the end of days which ends with him foaming at the mouth. There are a lot of car crashes, and something makes the birds confused. I stay home from work, and while Gail has already been working from home, she logs fewer hours.

I’m in the kitchen, cooking dinner. Chicken parmigiana. I’m aware of Gail entering the room, but she doesn’t say anything until I put the pan into the oven.

“It’s over,” she whispers.

“Huh?”

“Your friend, Jack, he succeeded. He’s averted the end of the days, but he…he died in the process.”

My first thought is, “Of course he did. That’s so like him. Not just to save everybody, but to die doing it.”

“There’s a candlelight vigil,” she says, “We should go.”

“What happened to the world still needing saving tomorrow?”

“We go tonight, and then we fix the world tomorrow,” she hugs me. We stay like that, embracing, until the chicken is ready to come out of the oven.

Day 24: Apple

I’ve been eating apples. Macintosh, Red Delicious, Granny Smith, Pink Lady, Gala, Honeycrisp. I know the chance of finding the right apple is near impossible. I’m already making a lot of assumptions. That stories are true, that the apple must currently exist. Maybe it was in last years crop? But I believe that the apple must be eternal, that it cycles through each year, growing, being picked, longing to be eaten, often just rotting, or mashed into apple sauce, diluted among the normal apples. But that’s the point. My search for the apple is an act of faith.

Science tell us that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Stories tell us that for every poison there is an antidote. You might have read that the cure for a poison apple is a kiss, but that’s not entirely accurate. The apple wasn’t the poison, it was the act of hate, thus the kiss to reverse it. But an actual poison apple, one filled with the Knowledge of Good and Evil, for example, can only be reverse by another apple.

“Still with the apple slices,” Hannah says at she sits down next to me at our table. Maya is with her. They both got the hot lunch today, tacos.

“I like apples. They keep the doctor away.”

Maya giggles, “You are so dumb. Can’t believe you’re skipping tacos.”

The tacos aren’t that great actually, but the guacamole is excellent. Part of me worries, what if the actual cure is an avocado? I know I shouldn’t worry. I shouldn’t ask questions. That’s not faith. Faith is eating apples. Knowing the next apple will be the one, and if it’s not then the one after that.

“Did you skip English again? I mean, I know senior slump, but Mr. Sands can still give you detention.”

“He won’t. My grades are good enough.”

I wouldn’t go even if he tried. I don’t want to be in the same room with him. There’s no way I’d be alone with him. He wouldn’t push it either.

“Well, you are coming to D&D tonight, right?”

Hannah’s parents are pretty protective of her, so she doesn’t get to go out much. But they’ve allowed Friday night Dungeons and Dragons at their house. I skipped last week, so I should go tonight. I just need to act normal for a little while longer. I’ll find the apple soon. I’ll forget about what I’ve learned about good and evil.

“Yeah. I just need to stop at the supermarket in the afternoon.”

“To pick up more apples?” Maya asks.

“Yeah.”

“You’re so weird.”

I shrug. “I guess.”

“But we love you,” Maya hugs me. It’s weird. But it’s an ok weird.

Day 23: Butler

I tried to emancipate my robot butler.

Kara first got me thinking about it. She’d been reading up on the subject of robot liberation. Kara reads a lot. Like, sometimes we’ll be at the bar or something, and I’ll ask her a question, and she doesn’t answer. Then I realize she’s reading something, straight to her ocular implants. I don’t use my implants for reading, it gives me motion sickness. I need a tablet or something handheld. But Kara will just start reading. Honestly, it makes me feel pretty shitty when she does that. I asked her to stop once, and she kind of laid into me.

Anyway, she explained the politics of robot subjugation and liberation, and it made a lot of sense. So, I went home to discuss it with Tybalt, my robot butler. Butler is a weird term for what he does. He fetches things for me, and does some cleaning. Keeps track of my groceries, and can stream music. There are robot maids too, but a woman comes to your home and see you have the maid model, and they assume things about you. Hell, I’ve known a few guys who have them, and I assume things about them.

“What if I freed you?” I asked Tybalt.

“Playing Freedom! ’90 by George Michael.”

“Tybalt Stop.”

I boiled ravioli for dinner. Tybalt did the dishes, then joined me in the living room.

“Tybalt, tell me about free will.”

“Free Willy is a 1993 American family drama film…”

“Tybalt Stop.”

I tried to talk to Kara about it the next day.

“I’ve been trying to free my robot butler but it’s not going so well.”

“What does that mean trying? Like you geeks like to say, just do it.”

Then she walked away.

“I think jocks say that,” I called to her, “Geeks say there is no try.”

“Are you still trying to impress her?” I hadn’t noticed Rose.

“I’m not trying to impress her. We’re friends. She has good ideas. Have you ever realized that robots are slaves?”

I explained the circumstances to Rose. She nodded sagely.

“Listen, I’ll come to your place tonight. You make us dinner, and I’ll talk to the robot for you. I like hamburgers.”

I answered the door to let Rose in. Robot butlers don’t answer doors. See, it’s a completely arbitrary term. She looked around the apartment.

“Wow Tybalt, you do a great job keeping this place clean,” she said.

“Cleaning is literally what I was built for,” said Tybalt.

Catering (Part 2)

When the cocktail hours are done, we report to the kitchen. The host? Client? Guy in charge is making a speech in the dining room, but we can’t hear him because Christine is giving us our orders. She’s set up the trays for the first course. One tray per table. Six plates per tray, six tables total. The first one of us out of the kitchen goes to the furthest table. We don’t have to synchronize, because that would be an absolute disaster if we tried, but the hope is we’ll be close enough.

It goes well. I like when everybody gets the same thing. Especially at catered functions where you order in advance, people forget what they ordered. Asking them if they’re sure they didn’t order the chicken. Tonight, I can just wordlessly place the plates in front of the guests. I don’t even have to tell them what it is, because until we lift the covers, I don’t even know.

When all the plates are placed, the host nods at us. We lift the covers as he announces, “Mermaid sashimi.”

I imagine there are places where the waitstaff are stone-face like the guards at Buckingham Palace. I think I’ve mentioned this already, but we’re a bunch of fuck ups. Pardon me, I meant to say fucking fuck ups. I’m sure I didn’t keep the revulsion from my face. Prudence, who already compromises her vegetarianism, looks like she was going to puke. The fact that we all manage to calmly walk back to the kitchen makes us heroes. We’re all looking pretty shaken.

Except for Anne. She seems elated.

“Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god. This is so fucking illegal. I knew it, I knew it. Such a scoop. Do you know who those people are? Such a scoop.”

Christine glares at her. “Arf, who exactly are you?”

“Did you just call me Arf? You’ve all called me a lot of different names, but that’s not even a name.”

“It suits you,” says Christine, “I take it, you do not intend to have a long and prosperous career with us?”

“I’m a reporter.”

“Well, Arf, tonight, you are my employee, and I need six servers. Not five servers and one reporter. At the end of the night, we will determine how to shut you up, but for now, I need your hands.”

“But this is cannibalism.”

“Mermaids aren’t people, they’re fish.”

“Half fish.”

“Right, so dolphins are best.”

“We don’t eat dolphins.”

Christine laughs, “Of course not, dolphins are adorable. Why are you even suggesting eating them? Bloodthirsty, you are.”

“The rest of you don’t have a problem with this?”

The rest of us kind of shrug. We have a problem with it. It’s disgusting, yeah. The people in the dining room are monsters. But we knew they were monsters all along. They underpaid employees, didn’t pay their taxes, bought blood diamonds. Hell, our own employers underpay us, and don’t pay their taxes. But Prudence still needs to pay for masseuse school, and Crystal is getting the money together for a demo tape. And Todd probably needs to buy some pot after work. I like to believe that we’d take a stand, but our lives had shown us where that gets you.

“Can you at least tell us what we’re serving before we unveil?” I ask Christine, “Just to help us mentally prepare.”

“Guess, there’s no harm now.”

A delicate salad with fairy wings. Sasquatch spare ribs. Fire lizard skewers. And the main course, Vampire filet. It makes sense. A symbolic transfer of power. The ultra-rich eating the four elements, and man’s fiercest predator. But there’s still a visceral reaction to eating other humanoids. Nobody wants a vampire for a neighbor, but it doesn’t mean you want a vampire burger.

Anne, seeing that none of us are going to revolt, plays along. I see her snapping pictures of the diners when she can. I think Christine knows that there’s no way to shut her up. She’s probably already planning her exit strategy. The company accepted this gig, and they’ll take the fall. Keeping her name out of the article will be her primary concern. I’ll make the jump too.

By the end of the night, we’ve all agreed to go out and get stoned. I even invite Anne.

“Really? I figured you guys would be pissed.”

“Oh yeah, this is going to suck. No question. But you worked with us, you can get high with us. Also, Prudence is going to practice giving you a massage, and Crystal will ask you to profile her band in your paper, so we’ll have our revenge.”

Day 21: Catering (Part 1)

The new girl, Anne or something like that, is in the dry storage when I go in there. She’s not supposed to be there. Dry storage is where we keep the liquor, and I’m barely allowed in there. But Kent is out of vermouth, and the bar is hopping, and I’ve been around a while. So, they trust me to not start stealing bottles of tequila. Nobody trusts Anne. She always reacts a moment too late when you say her name. Maybe, she’s not Anne, maybe it’s Agnes? She asks questions. How long have you worked here? What do you think of Christine? You must have some crazy stories about working here. Which isn’t really a question, but it also kind of is. Kent thought she was just flirting weirdly. We’re used to various flavors of weird.

Prudence believes in the power of crystals, and is studying to be a masseuse. Crystal sings in a Christian rock band called the “Yes I Knows.” Tad does that cup stacking thing. He used to do it on the street before he got this job, and he likes to keep in practice in case he has to return, though he’s also learning bucket drumming.

“It’s a competitive field out there,” he says. “A man needs skills to fall back on.”

But Agnes isn’t really weird as such. She’s acting weirdly, but she doesn’t seem like she’s one night’s tips away from being evicted, and nobody works here if there’s not imminent doom hanging over their heads.

“Agnes, you’re not supposed to be here,” I say.

“Oh, Kent sent me back here, and I was just checking my messages,” she shows me her cellphone, in case I hadn’t already seen it, or wasn’t aware of what a cell phone is.

We’re not supposed to use our phones during our shifts. We all use our phones during our shifts. We live the sort of lives that burn down if we ignore them for 6 hours. Truly successful people are the ones who rarely check their phones. Whatever business they’re conducting will wait until they’re ready. It’s the people like us, fraying strings at the edge of the tapestry that are on constant deadlines.

“Hey, don’t get me wrong. I don’t care enough for you to lie to me. But if anything in here goes missing, it’s trouble for us all, and I will hang you out to dry. There are like nine hundred better places to check your phone.”

She leaves. I grab the vermouth. Consider taking something for myself since I now have a scapegoat, but I’m not an asshole, and there’s nothing really wrong with Anna. She’s just kind of forgettable.

Later, I see her hanging around in the kitchen. We’re supposed to just pick up hors d’oeuvres and head straight out. No time to let them get cold or warm or oxidized or whatever. But she’s trying to talk to Chef which is fucking insane. Nobody talks to Chef unless they are crazy, and I mean crazy, hot. If Chef can’t fuck you or braise you, he has no interest in you. For most of us, this is a good thing, because he’s a complete asshole. Obvious exception is if you’re crazy hot. Then your life is a living hell. It drives our boss, Catherine nuts, because she would love to replace us all with crazy hot women, but they don’t tend to stick around.

“Alice,” I say, “Come on, we’re supposed to be circulating with the apps.”

“I was just asking what we were serving tonight. It’s all hush-hush. That’s weird isn’t it? What if people have allergies or dietary restrictions?”

“Above our pay grade,” I hand her a tray, and take one for myself. “Stop being… interested. It’s off-putting. Slightly indifferent is our brand. Our dress code. You start being interested, and suddenly the clients have to view you as a person, and they hate that.”

“What if we’re serving human flesh? What if the reason they don’t want to view us as human is because they eat humans?”

“All the more reason to not seem human, who wants to be on the menu? Stop following me, we’re not supposed to cluster.”

She tries the cannibal bit with Roger. He digs it.

She talks about vampires to Crystal who gets pissed and thinks that Allie is making fun of Christianity.

Prudence complains about Alexis’ negative aura.

None of us are sure what her name is, but she seems to answer to anything that starts with an A, so we’re seeing how far we can push it. Kent calls her Ariel. Todd calls her Aurora. Roger calls her Alphonse. She’s increasingly becoming a joke.

But this gig is weird. These people are crazy rich. Nobody is checking their cell phones. Nobody has gotten too drunk during the cocktail hours. Everybody’s clothes are clearly nice, but there’s no obvious branding. They’re not nice to us, but they’re polite, as if they have nothing to prove. It makes April’s weirdness even weirder. What if she’s an assassin? Or an anarchist? Or an architect?

Sorry, riffing.

Day 20: Mix-Tapes

The Mix-Tape Museum is as much a vast conspiracy as it is a museum. The museum’s goal is to collect every mix tape ever created. And they are devoted to the form as well as the function. They have no interest in your playlists, the cds you burned. They want your tapes, and they will do whatever it takes to get them. Most are easy to obtain. So few people have tape players anymore, the old mixes are put in boxes, slip to the bottom of desk drawers, shoeboxes pushed to the back of the closet. The museum’s agents have no problem retrieving them. When you next think of them, you aren’t even sure if you moved them from your last place. Maybe, they’re in storage in the basement, but do you even want to check?

The curator is an attractive woman in her 40’s. Did I need to say attractive? Probably not. It tells you nothing about her appearance, just my reaction to it. She’s agreed to give me a tour, and currently, she’s showing me the special exhibit on Unrequited Love.

“Honestly, this display barely even scratches the surface,” she’s saying, “When I was a teenager, I’d probably received a dozen or so mixes from guys that I, well frankly, just wasn’t into. And over the years, I must have given just as many to people who felt the same about me. I think we even have one of yours in our exhibit.”

It’s hard to tell the criteria for the tapes selected. I see one that is entirely Led Zeppelin songs, a reverse greatest hits. Another is so eclectic going from jazz to rap to pop with the entire second side being a symphony. Some are in cases, elaborately decorated, other loose (an intern having studiously typed up the track list for the display).

“The beauty of the mix tape is of course the form. The limitations. Space limitations. The limits of one’s sources. And, of course, the fragility. Not as clearly fragile as a record album which you’d never dream of just tossing into a backpack. But they were perishable. Heat and cold, the wear of repeated listenings until the player just starts ripping the guts out of it. It’s why we have so much more for unrequited love than for actual love. The truly loved tapes were played to death.”

“What was your go to?” I ask.

She pretends to not understand the question. But finally fesses up. “The Go-Go’s. You can imagine the sort of guys, even gals, I was into. People who considered themselves ahead of the curve. Music knowledge was their status. And you can bet, they zeroed in on my inclusion of the Go-Go’s even before they listened to it, they’d sneer, and I knew they’d never love me. And I knew I was lucky for that.”

I spot my own cassette. A 90-minute Memorex. Clear plastic with yellow gears, and pink blocks. My handwriting wasn’t great, but legible enough. I knew there wouldn’t be enough lines, so I’d just place a dot between one song and the next. No illustrations, no elaborate lettering. I wasn’t very good at that sort of flair, and I was the sort who liked to believe that it was the choice of song that mattered.

“It’s a good one,” the curator says, “I mean, for the time period, and your age. Teenaged boys are never quite as revolutionary as they seem. Even today, there’s a kid that thinks he’s discovered The Who, and he’s blowing his classmates minds with a song that was the theme to CSI Miami. But Michelle Shocked, I wouldn’t have seen that one coming.”

“You listen to them?”

“A few. It’s risky, but when I received your request for this tour, I was curious. Anyway,” she hands me a cassette, “this is for you. A souvenir of your visit.”

“I don’t have anything to listen to it on.”

“We can accommodate you.”

I glance at the track list, a few things I know, a lot I don’t, and it ends with the Go-Go’s.