“Steve jobs is strange, he just made things and had confidence there were useful. Yet entrepreneurs are always talking about, find a problem, find your audience,” I say, my thoughts inevitably bubbling up out of my mouth and into the golden afternoon air. “Oops, did I say that out loud?”
“Nerd,” Katie laughs musically, her head lolling upside-down out of the hammock in front of me. An idea strikes out of the sky delivers, painting the colorful squares of a user interface. “Is that the website that will save the world?” Katie asks somberly.
“Uh huh…” I mumble absent-mindedly, saving the color of the sky to my digital paintbrush and using the hue to create a yellow login button, nestled within a navigation splash of pink. I nibble ferociously at the cuticle of my thumb, but Katie pulls it away and a warm breeze placates me, underlining her gesture of awareness.
And for a moment I see her, my eyes focusing on the green of her left iris radiating around the pupil, intertwined with veins of orange to make a cloud of hazel.
But the colors fade to numbers and strings. “Now I just need to settle on a framework to write the code in. There are so many nowadays…” and then I’m gone again, somewhere else entirely and my teeth are wrenching the last ghost of the cuticle off of my thumb. The blood pools on the nail and I suck it on it, only distantly registering the color red and the sardonic taste of iron.
“Mocha Cappuccino with a hint of HTML?” says the barista. I graciously hand him some currency. “Is this ethereum?” He asks, his eyes wide. “Nah, it’s cybergelt. Got it from a virtual bar mitzvah,” I say, fearing the virtual currency could burst at literally any moment, hastily setting off into the crowd.
I listen. Most of the conversations contain the tone of certainty, yet nobody can agree. In the corner, one of the software immortals from another galaxy is there, smoking a pipe and writing his code in a notebook.
“Whatcha drinking?” I ask him, sidling over in what I hope is a casual manner, admiring the glint of the Andromeda galaxy in the shock of astral-black hair crowning his wise head.
“Pure vanilla,” he says, “You?”
Of course, I think.
“Something with sugar and an arbitrary amount of dairy, not sure. What are you making?” I asked.
“It’s a laundry app,” he said, his eyes sparkling with celestial wisdom.
“Like, laundering money? Is this an anti-capitalist thing??” I ask, eyes wide with conspiratorial fervor.
“No like, you know, to wash your clothes. This way you can pay machines at the laundromat using your phone to validate the wash process with their servers.”
“Oh!” I say, my eyes still wide. “Mind I watch?”
“No problem at all,” He says.
“I’m Elijah,” I say.
“Ah. I-O. nice to meet you,” he responds, his smile warm. His fingers glide over the keys of what appears to be a vanilla wafer keyboard with an integrated projector beaming his development environment into a spectral cloud of stardust.
The structure of his project is beautiful. With the completion of each module and component, each line of his code executes, is born, raised and quickly is scammed into debt for a full bootcamp education of its own. In his coding environment, the modules and components sing and dance together, arm in arm yet with enough grace to never pass variables to one another, their feet standing firmly on a single state, dry from data leaks.
“Where’s the state store?” I ask, pretending that I’ve seen this framework before.
“I am,” he says, and as he looks into my eyes I see every Laundromat transaction that has ever happened in a small neighborhood in Silicon Valley that was built in a manmade cavern simply dubbed “The Underworld” to accommodate the ever-hungry Airbnb industry there.
“Dear god,” I respond, unable to look away, ”But what if you forget?”
He taps his temple where a computer has cozily nestled its tentacles into his brain. “This not only connects to Laundrify servers,” he says, causing me to cringe painfully at yet another innocent verb assaulted by mindless brandification.
“But it is connected to a backup service. All my thoughts are fully backed up. Three-times redundancy,” he says.
“Brilliant!” someone said, “That would make refactoring so easy!” said another naively, and soon the developers were vaulting over tables, a veritable colony of webheads scuttling our way.
Realizing our remaining time was brief before a dangerous HYPEStorm™, the developer named I-O rested his virtual hands on my virtual hands and locked his celestial eyes with my mortal ones. I saw a pure mind curdled into something gruesome, something broken. “What wicked webs we weave,” he whispers. The winds of the blogosphere descended upon us in a building rush of medium articles, and then we were torn apart by the violent gale of the HYPEStorm™.
I am promptly logged out, finding my dear physical body drenched in cold sweat. I gaze towards the dimming sky and that’s when I realize; nobody knows. Nobody knows the way.
That room was full of people who were also building the website that would save the world. But there wasn’t even a sane way to make a website to do laundry. Or well, it was insane for a website to do laundry in the first place. I mean. You know what I mean. Insanity.
I had been so close to saving the world so long. All I wanted to do was allow people to vote online while also connect on an emotional level with others, without any effort, through the internet.
“Those things aren’t very related,” Katie mentioned pragmatically, using the telepathy headset amazon had sent her as a free trial.
“I know they don’t really seem that way, but deep down, I can feel it,” I say, fist over my heart, brow set.
“They’re totally different functions,” she said.
“Goddamn it.” The thing is, I knew. I knew it was a crazy dream. But as every small project went by and I learned more about web design, I realized that if an immortal web developer from another galaxy couldn’t even create a laundromat app in a straight-forward way, there was no way the internet was going to save the world.
Speaking not a word, Katie and I slide into the kitchen in our socks and mince our computers on the big wooden cutting board. We plop the mangled silicon into the blender, and together we put our index fingers on “pulse” until my computer is a soulless, grayish liquid. Katie pushes the pulse button a few more times in thought, making sure the aluminum is truly liquified.
We add in some gin, lime, mint and juniper berries, knock it back and call it a day. Delicious.
“To arriving at the dark crest of technological insanity!” We toast, with vigor.
And we spend all the time at our keyboard playing soccer instead. And we are happier and have more friends and we can juggle that ball like nobody’s business.
The sun sets over the lake, the pinkish light pooling like ephemeral cocktails in the ever-shifting valleys of the water. The water resembles that last page in my journal, which is filled with many rectangles that, more or less, contain other, more colorful rectangles.
“Now I just need to choose a framework,” I have written in pen. Those words, and then nothing but empty pages in which the framework is, thank god, never chosen.