I read an article about automation. It is a doomsday scenario about the possible displacement of vast sectors of the population due to usage of robotics in the private sector. I listen to her droning on; I nod and half listen. It occurs to me then that it is obvious that there is a possible upside to the certain wave of employment displacement that is on the horizon. There is a bright side as it becomes possible for some to reevaluate their purpose, casting off labels assigned to them based on their vocation. Find new ways to spend their time, validate their existence through creation, rather than groveling for a wage performing a task that is both unfulfilling and soul crushing.
“Are you even listening to me?” She puts down the to-go menu.
“Yes, of course.” I stare at her hoping my eyes don’t give me up.
“What was I saying?”
“You were talking about your feelings and saying this, that, and the other.”
“Oh my God, I don’t know why we are even doing this. I don’t know why I thought this was a good idea. Perhaps I was kidding myself. Perhaps I was just bored. Or perhaps I bought the plane ticket five months ago to spend my birthday with you, and I thought there might be some fragment of who you were left. There is nothing.”
“General Tso chicken is very good. Though they do have delightful orange chicken.” Picking back up the menu. “I understand. Time is short, let’s have a good weekend.”
“What are you going to do?”
“About what?” I try to lite a cigarette backwards; she pulls it out of mouth and throws it on the coffee table.
“Jasper, your life is a mess. This is like a scene from a horror movie. I am here for only a short period of time; you have to live in this. You need help.”
“Do you know anything about automation?”
“Fuck, you are impossible.” She stands up and goes into the kitchen. “The vodka we bought last time is still here, that was five months ago.”
“I never liked drinking. It is the hangovers that I can’t live with.”
“Pills are better? Eating pills every night and stumbling around this house until you pass out is better?”
She comes back in and stands over me as I have stretched out on the couch, hoping she doesn’t notice that I had taken something to take the edge off. “The fun times have been gone a long time. This can’t be fun. You don’t have fun anymore do you?”
“No, this isn’t fun. It is a nightmare. Every once in a while, I wake up, and I am in another nightmare. A dream within a dream.” I almost have a moment of clarity. “Yes, I get it. This is all very bad. This is stomach churning bad, and if I started now it would take me years to dig out of this hole.”
“There is almost nothing left.” Her tone is sad.
“Yes, everything is gone. The rest will go. Eventually it will just be me and the awareness of what I have lost.”
“I hope you have orange juice to mix with this. I need a drink”
“Okay, I am a monster, but we should really think about getting some Chinese.”
[Jasper Kerkau is co-founder, writer, and editor for Sudden Denouement Literary Collective and Publishing. He likes to write about dreams, and the way people act under duress.]