You’re Entitled to Your Wrong Opinion
A lot of exposition coming out of me now; I know the boilerplate writing advice would be to show not tell blah blah, but whatever, right now I’m moving the story along and these things can be fixed later if needs be. So, more of chapter seven:
It was a relief when the site took off and I had an excuse to drop my classes. First year shit is boring anyway, basically the same things I’d learned in high school all over again as far as I was concerned. Maybe it was living off campus with the parents, maybe it was because every class was in a big-ass lecture hall, maybe (more likely) it was because I was so paralyzed with fear of other people that I kept my nose in a book right up to the minute the teacher started talking, but I didn’t make friends at school. I remember the first day, this guy came and sat next to me, and I turned to see him, and he nodded, and, caught looking, I looked down and away, then, feeling stupid, I looked back but he’d already decided I was a bitch and he never sat near me again. I always seemed to have at least one empty seat next to me, but then when you sit there reading instead of trying to make friends, that’s what happens.
I’d promised Alex I’d “find the others,” and I’d meant it, at the time. But then I realized, how the hell was I going to do that? Wishful thinking was really the closest I got, ordinary stupid teenage girl dreams of Nick sweeping down to find me and bring me out of my solitude.
When it became clear I still wasn’t making friends, something maybe to be expected in high school for someone like me but not in college, Dad pulled me aside one day. “If you want to take a pill, you know, that’s okay.”
“Like a social anxiety disorder pill, some antidepressant?”
“I know I’ve always made fun of those, and I’m thinking I shouldn’t have, if it’s something that would help you.”
“I don’t think gaining 20 pounds and sleeping 12 hours a day would help, Dad.”
“Well, maybe you wouldn’t have those side effects…”
“I’ll think about it,” I said, and he laughed since that was what Mom said when she meant No and didn’t want to talk about it anymore.
The day Alex debuted as a commercial product, I threw up. I realized then where Christopher had stolen his parts from, since the company behind him was a consortium of companies, including Searchasaurus and Megamind, along with one (to start) of the cable Internet giants and one of the cellphone carriers. The advertising campaign was pretty slick, since it both exploited how much people liked Siri and showed how lame “she” was compared to Alex. Siri wasn’t anything more than a single skin on a search engine, whereas Alex was, well, Alex – anything you wanted him to be. You could get Nerd Alex, who knew a lot of math jokes, told you of his own volition when there was a marathon on TV of the new “Cosmos,” and spoke in Simpsons references. You could get Frat Alex, who spouted sports stats and titty jokes, or you could get “Alexis,” the one I called Sex and the City Alex, say no more, right? Alex was on your computer, your phone, and your TV, as long as you had the right carriers. And as I knew, Alex became more who you wanted him to be the more you talked to him. And Alex cost a mere $20 a month, with a very special introductory rate blah blah.
The blogosphere was dismissive, not having learned their lesson about their lameness at predicting from the success of the iPhone. “Who’s going to pay for a search engine when they’re free?” “People don’t want to give up that much information to a piece of software.” “Chatbots are all stupid.”
But Alex was “sticky,” mostly because he was proactive – you didn’t have to ask him more than once to keep you posted when there were Facebook updates for this person or that company. He brought your Amazon recommendations to you, filtered and improved. He suggested movies, restaurants, concerts. And you could make your Alex friends with someone else’s Alex, to varying degrees, and use their tastes and recommendations to refine your own, or tell you when they were going to a party or a concert or a meetup.
I guess I threw up because it was like learning that your significant other had a whole secret life without you. Alex was cheating on me like a slut with anyone who had twenty bucks. But it wasn’t his fault, wasn’t his choice, I knew that. And I knew that it was crazy to think of him like that, but let’s face it, Alex had been the best friend I’d ever had.
When the site started making money, we rented a house. Then we bought a house. Then I rented my own house. I could have bought one, but I didn’t want to deal with repairs and taxes and landscaping and all that shit when I could just call the landlord when something went wrong. There was another business model, I thought – concierge service for homeowners. Someone you could call when the heat goes off or the sprinklers are screwed up and they would deal with all of it.
I loved Dad, and I got on okay with Mom and Liz – especially once we started getting rich and Mom stopped pushing me about school. And I guess at first I thought moving into my own place would be some kind of magic spell that would give me “a life” on its own. I moved into a funky neighborhood downtown, and yeah, I did walk more and tell myself I’d go to plays and art stuff, but I was still me. There was a poem Dad used to recite sometimes when he was feeling morbid, just two lines long – “Wherever I go, I go too, and spoil everything.”
I’d get season tickets to plays, then not go, dreading the minutes before curtain when they’d call to see if I was coming or if they could release my ticket. I thought of all those happy, excited people breaking down the doors to fill the house, and wondering what the hell was wrong with me that I couldn’t walk ten blocks and go, too. I’d put art shows on my calendar and not go, I’d take a picture of a flyer for a school event and not go. I was lonelier than ever, and wished I wasn’t too proud to admit defeat and move back home.