There will be no mention of Kim Kardashian in this story. When our cyborg descendants unearth this document in the digital archives of The New Yorker, or The Paris Review, or, in a pinch, right here on ThomasJeffersonMiddleSchoolHoopDreamz.blogspot.com, the website I built for my daughter’s middle school basketball team, I will not befuddle them by referencing lost technologies and forgotten celebrities. I want this story to be timeless.
There is a woman in this story, a woman of grace and beauty, much like actress Kerry Washington, with the same heart-melting facial bones and those pillowy lips, a beauty that has inspired several women of my acquaintance, including my lovely wife Sheila, to say they would go to bat for the other team. I smiled and laughed along with them, but Googled it when I got home because it was a phrase with which I was unfamiliar. Oh.
There is a man in this story. Not Brad Pitt, although he was my favorite actor for a good fifteen-year span. Alas, Brad has lost his smolder. He seems merely unwashed, a man laid up with a stomach virus who might just be feeling well enough to throw on a pair of pants and head to the CVS for some Gatorade. Substitute one of the Chrises—Pratt or Hemsworth—instead.
The man sees the woman for the first time, maybe near a waterfall deep in the Amazonian jungle. He stands, one leg planted on earth, one on a boulder, making his knee into a platform where he can rest the Indiana Jones hat he pulls from his head in slow motion, revealing a slightly sweaty but nonetheless youthfully glorious full head of hair. Or possibly the waterfall is at the Golden Nugget Casino, where I met my lovely wife Sheila the night she was enjoying the hospitality of CyberNetics, Inc., the company sponsoring the poolside mixer at the academic conference. Geneticists and bioengineers were getting hammered on hurricanes at the swim-up bar, my Sheila among them. She was a sight to behold in her Nike running shorts and the “Geneticists Take Down their Genes” t-shirt she wore because she’d forgotten to bring a swimsuit. I was searching for a way to approach her when she broke from the herd, gazelle-like, and proceeded to vomit into a flowering shrub. I helped her to her room and left a glass of water, two Tylenol, and my business card on her nightstand. She called the next morning and we ate hash browns.
The man and woman join together. They have their share of joys and sorrows. You will wonder how they are going to overcome the odds. What a pickle they’re in this time! You may feel a measure of guilt for rubbernecking at their tribulations. Admittedly, some of their tribulations are of their own making. The man, for instance, did not need to succumb to his love of family-sized bags of Cool Ranch Doritos. I mean, he could have succumbed occasionally, but not made it a nightly thing until the waistband-size of his pants and the MSG-laden dust on his fingers drove his wife back to the lab in the evenings, as she preferred work to spending time with him. They tried to remedy their problems with couples’ counseling and date nights. On their final, disastrous date night at Chili’s, the night she had the Quesadilla Explosion Salad and he had the Big Mouth Bites, they agreed to lead separate lives, yet share their house for the sake of their child. It was cheaper than official divorce and it wouldn’t be that bad once they stopped trying and failing to please each other. Plus, there was the possibility of occasional drunken sex, like if she came back from a night out with colleagues and had drunk enough Cabernet Sauvignon to feel amorous, and he hadn’t already slipped into a Dorito-induced torpor after some mini-crisis of their daughter’s over a forgotten school project where he was forced to swoop in at the last minute—a tag-board procuring, glitter-covered white knight. On a night like that, anything could happen.
Of course, everything builds towards some sort of climax, when life really puts the squeeze on the characters. A tragedy befalls the woman? A tragedy befalls the man? Perhaps the tragedy is their child’s, a beloved child that is the symbolic representation of everything they’ve won and lost, their old love personified.
That is what children are, correct? Love, person-ified.
It starts with a pain in the leg. Is it a shin splint? The daughter doesn’t want to go to basketball practice—it hurts. When the man sees the tumor on the X-ray, he drops his Dorito bag, tugs his thinning hair.
Be a brave girl.
The waistband of the man’s pants shrink, his face takes on a haggard quality, cutting grooves that will never go away, giving him, in a certain light and from a distance, a Harrison Ford-like ruggedness. Sometime during the hospital days of dark and worry, he moves his things back into the master bedroom. With minimal negotiation, the man and the woman order a new bed, where they cling together through the long, wide-eyed nights. When at last the daughter’s scans are clean, the sun is allowed to rise again. The daughter grows. The daughter grows. Say the daughter grows up and goes to her own academic conference and meets her own Kerry or Chris. Say the man and the woman are never separated again. Say they walk into a golden sunset.
Such a brave girl.
In the end, our cyborg descendants cannot fail to recognize, cued by whatever human remnants blip inside their bio-engineered circuitry, the timeless elements of this story. They cannot abandon the pattern of 0 meets 1, 0 and 1 join together, 0 and 1 produce 1-0. 1-0. 1-0. 1-0 F0R3V3R.