Some time around mid-November of 2012, Jerry “Jer-Bear” Washington, Junior Business Analyst at Sodakoch & Strattimore, 2010 graduate of Motorola University with degrees in Economics and French, former vice president of intramural wrestling, Chair of the Blue Siren committee, Eagle Scout, AP Scholar with Distinction, all-around “nice” dude, owner of a lime-green fixie and a never-fired, platinum-plated, Rex-Aeternitas collector’s pistol, constant as a northern star admirer of Joni Mitchell, Lao Tse, Heidegger and Jimmy Carter, former lover of Amy Brandt (blonde, glasses) and Sayshana Liu (tall, whined), underwent what I would take pleasure in calling a full-on, capital F, Category 10 Fitzgeraldine crack-up, and it was almost entirely the fault of the Heybuddies.
Inquiring minds are going to prod their fingers to my chest and ask “What are the Heybuddies? What, that is, is a Heybuddy? You know, per se,” and in anticipation of these digital intrusions, I’ll tell you. Heybuddies, this noxious species of person that Jerry Washington can assure you were one-hundred-percent responsible for the cataclysm of his already-flimsy mental bearing, that shattered what little tenacity his common-sense had on reality, the obnoxious straw that made the camel’s back fidget and crack, Heybuddies are real and they live in a neighborhood near you, probably.
Heybuddies are that excessively unashamed category of person that tends to sprout up in public spaces, including parks, metros, subway platforms, the Cheeto-and-dip aisle of your local gas station mart (whatever a “mart” is), the synagogue, the One Direction concert ticket queue, a quiet, six-person bunch in the National Gallery gathered around a plexiglass cube containing a top-hat speculated to have belonged to Lincoln’s legal secretary and which he may have borrowed on one of his less-bloody operatic excursions, part of a summer travelling exhibit.
Heybuddies understand their angelic duty to be one of awareness-raising, of rectification of maladjusted morals, of resurrecting old, golden codes of etiquette and conduct, of unclouding alarming levels of pedestrian ignorance when it comes to matters that the tides of the twenty-first century have plunged into oblivion. They will be the first to speak up, utterly unafraid, if they notice someone in their immediate midst who is acting in error, the perpetrator of microaggressions against themselves, folk virtue or fashionable social justice.
A Heybuddy will address you directly, often sporting a smile that makes you feel like he or she has crouched down to your level and laid his or her hand upon your shoulder like a first-grade teacher (though they never literally do this), and say:
“Hey buddy, did you remember to order at least one gluten-free pizza?”
“Hey buddy, let me tell you about a little thing called the Oxford Comma.”
“Hey buddy, this is a 250-dollar shirt from Brooks Brothers!”
“Hey buddy, aren’t you aware that Macklemore is problematic?”
“Hey buddy, I was a history major at Williams!”
“Hey buddy, there’s a line here!”
“Hey buddy, that’s no way to talk to a lady!”
“Hey buddy, don’t you know that smoking is bad for you?”
“Hey buddy, it’s pronounced SART, not Sart-ruh.”
“Hey buddy, I pay your salary!”
And so on.
The last important thing to known about Heybuddies is that they’re often strangers who leapingly inject themselves with judgemental intimacy into relaxed casual scenarios, making points that, while technically correct, stink badly of fundamental character obsessed with correcting the errant moral compasses of others, as if this isn’t just another dick-measuring joust in disguise. But, while often strangers, Heybuddies can also be your family and friends. You will know that best friend Joey or co-worker Melinda or boyfriend Andrew or squash partner Katie is heybuddizing you to your face when you notice the he or she is talking to you about a capital-I issue as if you are a stranger.
Back to Jerry in 2012. On November 12, his best friend’s and Charles Manson’s birthday, Jerry had stayed up late with a child-sized (read: the size of a child) bag of Salt-and-Vinegar Lays Potato chips, inhaling a lot of boring Youtube. By 4 A.M. he was definitely tired, but the faint electric blue underlying the beaming glow of his HP laptop, and a little bit of incessant thirst that kept him rotating between trips to the bathroom to refill his water-glass and to pee collectively kept him treading the water of near-slumber without lapse beneath the surface of waking life.
Jerry had work the next day at Sodakoch & Strattimore, but nine out of ten days in the office no one showed up to his desk, he got no e-mails that required any especially accelerated thought, and there would be no birthday parties, continuing education seminars, tolerance and opalescence workshops, keynote speakers, emergency drills and the like—so the odds were pretty good that showing up exhausted and cognitively checked out would be a safe maneuver.
Jerry’s employment, during the period just before his descent into jabbering madness, was perfectly suited to a bandwidth insomniac like Jerry, that is, a person who wouldn’t normally be an insomniac, but one from whom an oppressive melange of mildly entertaining .gifs, memes, Wikipedia clubs, gigantic, fifty-dimensional smut sites, Youtube stars, fad flash games and “food porn” blogs consistently barred sleep.
After about five Natalie Tran videos he’d already seen before, his eye was caught by an ad for a videos whose title read in all capital letters “ARE YOU GAY? TEST.” This he clicked, and after a few seconds’ buffering, he was presented with two highly manicured male Youtubers against a bright blue background. Their hair was immaculately styled and their teeth glowed like ghostly stones fallen to earth from the moon. The video’s premise was one of answering questions from fans, the answers to which were meant to reveal clues as to their homosexuality or less thereof.
Without going too heavily into detail, what followed was such a ghastly display of performative superficiality, failed attempts at cute humor and internalized homophobia that Jerry became sick to his stomach and could not finish the video. “This” he thought, noting the millions of views the video had accumulated “is why God doesn’t talk to us anymore,” a line he remembered having resonated with him years back, context forgotten to memory, perhaps from another Youtube video.
Though he shut his laptop, he could not halt his thought, his mind like an overfired engine, accelerating its gears and pistons, until at last, like an explosion in a shingle factory, he lost it. For Jerry was a bit of a homosexual himself, and though while he had certainly not been closeted in high school or college, he had not been exactly “out” either. Protected comfortably in the generically progressive collegiate environment of Motorola U., he was not afraid of any males who, learning of his Greek inclinations, would not want to be friends with him. Rather, he was afraid of the females who would. He detested all those unspecial girls, who imported to their entourage so many socially-anxious gay men, all-too-willing to commodify themselves and play the Princess Leia to their Jabba the Hut, for fear of total social death.
He made the mistake of reading the comments, which were trash, but one from “shr3kd1ck88” with almost five hundred downvotes, read “this suck you guys are fing idiots,” in reply to which, with one thousand seven hundred upvotes, “pinkjusticecatbot” wrote “hey buddy let’s see u make anything famous kbai.”
Jerry could not help but feel that these two Youtubers, with their plague of views, their poisonous smarm and affectedness, were but hellish coaches to the young and vulnerable, teaching them how to be subhuman playthings of the only-slightly-more-confident. For every Jerry who had successfully escaped such pathetic degradation, there was a fourteen-year-old Joey or Jake upon whose wall, some fourteen-year-old Jabba-girl was posting the ARE YOU GAY? TEST video with the accompanying text “ha ha idk r u??? love ya bitch!!!”
Jerry immediately betook himself to his bedside cabinet out of which he extracted a bottle of spiced whiskey. This he drained halfway along with three Pall Malls fanned out the window. He got into bed and his head hit the pillow like a cinderblock in a kiddie pool.
That night he had a queer dream that seemed to be based on a story he’d read from the Gospel of Mark in Sunday School long ago. Jesus had a long beard and a cloak, and he was somewhere in Judaea, getting down from a small boat near a large number of tombs by the mountains. A crazed man ran up to him screaming, possessed by demons, who had been bound by chains many times but had broken them each time, so great was his strength, and spent his nights and days howling among the tombs and in the mountains, cutting himself with stones. He screamed “What do you want with me? I know who you are; you are the Son of Man!” And Jerry asked him, “What is your name?” and he replied “My name is Twitter, for we are many.” And then he begged Jerry not to send them out of the area and not to torment him. And there was a great herd of pigs on the slope of the mountains, and the demons cried to Jerry “Let us go into the pigs, so that we may be inside them.” And Jerry permitted them to go out and they went into the pigs. Except now, they were no longer demons; they were the Heybuddies. And the Heybuddies, two thousand in number, ran down the slope of the mountain and into the sea, where they drowned.
Jerry woke up the next morning before his alarm rang, a little hungover. The sun was oppressively bright outside his window and cars were shwrooming three stories below. He heard his phone vibrate once and then twice beneath his covers, and after a five seconds’ pause, a third time. With an aggravated sigh, he began feeling around through his many blankets and comforters, his fingers lighting upon the other various contents on his bed: books, condom wrappers, receipts, change, a phone charger–but still his phone evaded him, now the contractions more tightly spaced. This obnoxious situation, he thought, had been happening too often recently.
“This must be what it feels like if you’re one of those people who carry big purses and can’t find their phone as it blares its P!nk ringtone, usually at a movie or in a waiting-room or in a library.”
At last he located it, and, in horror, saw that the flurry of texts he’d been receiving were coming from Tim Antwerp, his immediate supervisor at Sodakoch & Strattimore, asking in less a Heybuddy and more of a Now Listen Here, Son tone why he wasn’t present for the termly development meeting (which was mandatory, though completely useless, for all Junior Analysts, such as Jerry was). He had not, as he had thought, woken up before his alarm; he had forgotten to set it at all the evening before.
Jerry punched his pillow four times, each punch coordinated with a terrific “FUCK!” and then lept out of bed, threw a suit on and made beeline for the elevator, in which he paced in circles tighter than a mosquito’s sphincter while he called an Uber to take him to work. The whole time, he thought “I want to die. I don’t want to go to work. I don’t want to see any Heybuddies or Jabbas or Youtubers. I want to die but I want people to see me die. I want to see people see me die.”
Jerry’s mother had worked on a suicide hotline before he was born and had begun telling him stories from her experience at what was perhaps an inappropriately young age for him to receive them. She said one tactic they used to get people off the edge was to ask why they wanted to kill themselves. Frequently, people responded by saying that they wanted everybody to feel sorry for them, or to realize how great and wonderful they had been, or to take their death as a symbol for some greater cause. But, she said, it was effective to point the fallacy of this plan to them, for, being dead, the suicidal narcissist would never get to see the great crowds at their funeral, or read the obituaries soaring with praise. This was what she said was called “The Sleeping Beauty Complex.”
He thought about this almost every month, this as well as some quote of Nietzsche he’d encountered at Motorola: “The thought of suicide has gotten one through many a difficult night.”
It isn’t death, he thought, blasting out the elevator door and into the waiting Uber, that anybody wants. It’s to be recognized, to have all the attention turned to you while you turn your attention away. This is how the powerful live all the time, and it’s the condition we want too, the eternal childish game of who can love the other less, though we want to love and be loved. And when we feel powerless, or overwhelmed having witnessed some sublime, social disease (he thought of the Youtubers), we want that power back, and we think we can get it through death. But we can’t!
He came into work late, withstood some upbraiding from Mr. Antwerp for all the nothing he’d missed at the Development Meeting, and the settled at his desk, where he fell asleep again.
Now he dreamed that he was a lamb, and he was on a tall hill, and he was being nailed to a tall wooden cross by vultures in track pants. “What time is it?” he was crying out. “Can you check your iPhone?”
“Hey buddy,” said one vulture, pulling out his phone and waving it in front of Jerry’s agnine face, “This is a Droid! All the same capacities of your eight hundred dollar portable Steve Jobs Dicksucker, but faster and cheaper and months earlier. Read Techcrunch once in a while.”
Below, a brooding Teutonic with a humongous mustache was calling up to Jerry about how the lambs resent the vultures, they hate them because they are powerful. “But the vultures,” he explained “do not hate the lamb. In fact, they say: ‘Hey buddy, there is nothing we love so much as a tasty lamb!’ This is the end of bad and good, and the birth of good and evil.”
Things grew bleary and then sharp again as Jerry awoke to a buzzing phone, this time just the alarm he had actually remembered to set in case he passed out at his desk, as indeed he had.
Understanding everything, he logged onto his desktop and deleted his Facebook account. And that was the end of Jerry “Jer-Bear” Washington, Junior Business Analyst at Sodakoch & Strattimore, 2010 graduate of Motorola University.