Talking to Myself and Other Entities of Questionable Reality

Often, when I need a little extra encouragement, I’ll mutter under my breath to myself, or to inanimate objects or entities. When I need to not vomit despite a horrific hangover, I’ll mutter, “Steady, Weinstein.” When I need to not freak out even if things appear to have taken a turn for the worse I’ll mutter, “Roll with the punches, go with the flow. Rooollll with the punches, goooooo with the floooow.” As I inch my surfing learning curve along the tides of Rockaway Beach I whisper to the ocean, “One day, Ocean, I will ride you. I will ride you yet!” When I have to haul ass through a long day of work that is all for money and not for love, I look at New York City and whisper, “I will sink my fangs into your neck of steel and suck upon the river of money that flows beneath your streets like sewage, you den of sin, you city of broken dreams and dreams undreamt.” When I share a glance with a passing stranger I think, “Who are you, and what were you before? Where did you go and what did you think?” When a car comes too close to my perambulating self I mutter, “Look at this asshole!” Then I often shout, “Watch where you’re going, asshole!” accompanied by appropriate and classic hand gestures. When my feelings have been hurt very badly and I don’t want anyone else to know, I mutter, “Eject! Eject!” and hop the first train or hail the first passing taxi and ride it either directly home or, alternately, as far from home as I can afford to get, where I can kick things in solitude. When I have a great idea or want to remember something for later, I tell Helen, my imaginary secretary, to make a note of it. “Make a note of it, Helen,” I say primly. In this way I accompany myself through the dwindling hours of my short life on this ruined but beautiful planet.

Today, like most days of late, was overbooked. I used to play that Velvet Underground song, “Run Run Run,” on fast days, but it wasn’t on today’s playlist. Not that I was running. I was cabbing it all over New York’s poshest neighborhoods. Takes money to make money, I’ve learned of late. I’ve gotten really good at eating pizza with one hand while hailing cabs with the other. If I plan everything just right, pizza here, espresso there, nuts, chocolate, green tea and a banana in my purse, I can make it through a whole night of teengers without becoming irritable. They’re really not so bad, the teenagers. They’re kind of great. It’s just that I’d rather be sitting here, writing about all the depraved things I’ve done, witnessed and heard tell of than teaching them algebra.

I hailed a cab on Fifth Avenue to whisk me to the West Side. In the cab I munched my almonds. My dad, when he found out I wasn’t eating for hours at a time due to the demands of the high season, said most Semitic-paternally, “Whaddya mean you can’t eat? You can eat! How about some nuts? Just have some nuts!” Like most things my parents say that make sense, I hear his voice in my head telling me to have some nuts, and I begrudgingly obey it, most Semitic-offspringally.

All the way across the park I was wondering to myself if and when I might get an iPhone. Probably I would get one eventually, I figured. Don’t we all probably eventually give in to the technology of our age?

I’ve been mocked for years for my fantasies of “the Device” and “the Chip.” The Device, I always imagined, is a combination cell phone/iPod/digital camera that would lighten the load of my pockets and travels. Technically, the iPhone is The Device, but its camera is so crappy that I can’t consider it a full realization of The Device. The Chip is some kind of as-yet uninveted solid-state memory you get injected in the fat of your arm at birth that takes the place of all important documents, money and hard drives. The Chip is your driver’s license, passport and credit card. It also contains the files of all your photographs. Family photographs could be scanned in to computers and transmitted to The Chip of newborn members of the family. Medical records and grocery lists–it’s all on the chip. No more wallets or keys or photo albums destroyed in floods the fault of environmental destruction or government negligence.

The iPhone, I marveled, almost The Device. A true nerd never gives up on her dreams of ultimate technology. I imagined the heft and smell of a future iPhone in my hands, the fun we would have together, (wo)man and machine. Maybe the next generation I would get one. The next generation was bound to be smaller on the outside and bigger on the inside. If only people evolved that way, we could conserve natural resources.

My fantasies of devices yet unowned took me all the way to the West Side, where I juggled my pizza crust and wallet and paid my fare. Slamming the door of the cab I reached almost reflexively for my phone, and found it missing from my shallow pants pocket. Panic immediately ensued.

“I didn’t mean NOW,” I said to the universe. “I don’t want an iPhone NOW. I can’t afford one NOW. Give me back my phone, universe, give it back! I need it very badly.”

The rumblings of yoga propaganda began to whisper unhelpfully in my ears. “Free yourself of material possessions,” they said.

“Maybe later,” I said.

“The shit you own,” said Tony Soprano in a memorable clip (Melfi’s office) from Season 4, “it owns you.”

I couldn’t quite bring myself to tell Tony Soprano to go fuck himself, but I raised an eyebrow.

“Emancipate yourself from mental slavery,” said Bob Marley.

“What’s that got to do with my missing cell phone?” I asked. “By the way, Lester Bangs got you pretty bad, man.”

Marley laughed and lit a spliff and vanished down Amsterdam Avenue.

Just as I had been lusting after the iPhone moments before I now missed my old phone terribly. “I didn’t mean it!” I told my lost phone. “You’re everything to me! Come back!”

“Steady Weinstein,” I told myself. “Roll with the punches, go with the flow. Roooollll with the punches, goooooo with the flooow.”

It wasn’t working too well. “Shit, shit, shit!” I yelled. “Fuckfuckfuck.” I hurled my pizza crust at a stop sign. I kicked a garbage can. I made whiny, growling noises. “Helen,” I howled. “Find my phone AT ONCE!” But she didn’t answer. She never does.

Hours later I returned home to an email from my parents, subject: WE KNOW WHERE YOUR PHONE IS. In their attempt to get my attention they made their exciting information appear ominous. The email included the phone number of a taxi driver, who had eventually answered the phone. His name was Mohammed.

“A skinny woman leave this phone in my cab,” he told my parents as they frantically tried to discern why the number where they were expecting to reach their daughter was now being answered by a man with an inscrutable accent. Note to self, I thought when I read this detail. Rearview mirrors are slimming.

I dialed. “Mohammed?” I said, “This is Emily. You have my phone.”

“Oh yes,” said Mohammed wearily. “Your mother call me so many times.”

I was forced to admit that my parents have done more for me than Helen ever has. After I paid Mohammed the fare to Brooklyn and a lot extra for his trouble and kindness, when I held the phone in my hands, pressed the cool surface of its screen to my forehead and sealed our emotional reunion, I felt complete again. “Close one, Weinstein,” I said to myself. “Good to have you back, Motorola,” I added.

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