“Another day at work... firstname.lastname@example.org... and the password is 1shinyshirt... Hmm... You probably shouldn’t... oh well,” were the words Devin thought when he arrived at work to continue programming an update for one of the blandest website projects the company took on. At least that was what he meant to do, but something drove him to open up facebook again. “Messages... What the? I can’t believe she’s engaged... man alive Derek looks wasted... hmm.” Devin opened up a trailer for a new movie about yet another comic superhero. His little cubicle had walls that were made of wood covered with a small cotton sheet that was all covered by thick greyish-purple strands of meshed wool or something. The walls were five feet tall and his desk was just a heavy plank of wood supported on the cubicle wall that was five feet across and two feet deep, pretty basic. His chair had one of the arm rest cushions coming off. Last week he had stapled the plastic-like rubber to the styrofoam underneath; it will last him another three months. That shelf above his computer screen held about half of the programming languages - Java, CSS, HTML and so forth, along with the Adobe Dreamweaver Guidebook. He didn’t have any pictures on his walls, no painted paradise, just a couple of sticky notes reminding him where he was at on his programming. But the most valued tool of Devin’s was his rear view mirror. He kept it tacked just under the shelf but above and behind the computer screen, in that little crevice so it wasn’t obvious but still could be fully utilized.
Devin watched the movie trailer in silence. He didn’t wear ear-phones, he didn’t turn the volume up. He just wanted the images. If it was good he would watch it with sound when he got to his computer at home. “I’m going to see that when it comes out...” he thought “‘just watched Hawkman trailer and loved it!’” Devin posted on facebook. He kept browsing down his wall, ignoring the ads that wanted to sell and sell quickly. “What the heck is that?... Ho, that’s hilarious... Oh!” Devin minimized his web browser window and just started to open up Dreamweaver to work on his files when he heard soft steps on shallow carpet. He watched in his mirror as one of the guys three or four cubicles down walked past to see Devin busy at work. With his files now open he went back to his facebook page.
One day when there was a guy changing the lightbulbs above his desk he asked the guy if he could rearrange his cubicle. “Could you put the desk on this side?” he asked pointing to the left wall in his cubicle, as opposed to the center wall.
“What, you don’t like people spying on your porn addiction?” the old electrician asked. He laughed “I swear, this is the fifth time I’ve changed this bulb. I think I’m going to have to re-install the whole fixture,” he said as he wobbled down the ladder.
“It’s been blinking constantly all month, can you just take the lightbulbs out?” said Kirk who was on the other side of Devin’s cubicle wall.
“I’m going to have to.”
Devin closed his facebook page again and started to dibble around with the code for that website update. He spent about fifteen minutes on it and then had that urge again, but this time he signed into his twitter account.
“Hey, did you see the new Hawkman trailer?” Kirk asked when he peeked over Devin’s cubicle wall. He could barely see over the shelf and just saw the backside of Devin’s screen. Devin sat there staring intently with light spilling on his face, giving him sunburn, not looking up. He was working hard.
“No, is it good?” Devin asked.
“It’s going to be better than the Hulk for sure, but I don’t know if it can top Spiderman.”
“Yeah? Well, maybe I’ll check it out when I’m done with this project, or during lunch or something. Shouldn’t you be working?”
“I take small five minute breaks every hour; that way I don’t go insane, you know.”
Devin clicked on a link to news about a new set of eyeglasses that projects text messages, emails and facebook statuses onto the retina of a person for personal viewing. “Well, just make sure that you get the project finished. You-know-who might curse you if you’re not finished.”
Kirk laughed. “Well, maybe we’ll have to start a little DA.”
“Yeah.” Devin was was on Flickr by now looking at all the pictures from photographers he had subscribed to.
After some time he opened up his brown paper lunch sack without taking his eyes of this screen. One hand was trying to unwrap the bag while the other hand rapidly clicked the mouse, firing Flickr images by on the screen. He pulled out his sandwich that had bread dry as the paper, the flour weak from all the added chemicals, processing, bleach and weeks of sitting in a bread cupboard. Stale rags might have made better bread, but he ate it along with the mayo and slices of turkey and tomatoes.
Devin stopped and took a little longer at a painting that showed an old hag standing in front of a naked woman. He looked long and hard at the woman. He payed no attention to the king who was making decisions based on suspicion and ignorance. He didn’t notice the other woman draped in red who was repenting, or the beautiful details in the architecture. All he saw was the naked woman standing at the rear of the procession. A tomato slipped out of his sandwich and landed juicy on his thigh. He picked it up and slurped it up and took one last look before he clicked the mouse again to look at more pictures. He clicked and clicked and clicked, all through lunch and beyond.
One of the first things Devin did when he first got the job, and logged onto his computer, was to change the cursor. Instead of one of those sharp arrows he changed it to an 8-bit Mario character with a blunt red hat. Each time he clicked Mario would jump and make his classic “doying” sound. It was a constant reminder of his wasted childhood. He was so clever.
Devin kept clicking and Mario kept jumping. “What am I doing?” Devin asked himself. He was on image 58 when he asked himself this question. “I’ll just click to 80 and be done.” He got to 81. “Alright, 100 and then I am going to plow through that website design.” He closed the tab when he got to 100, but his twitter page was still up in the browser. “I’ll just check this real quick... No you moron, you’ve already wasted half the day... Oh, Apple is releasing augmented reality glasses to compete with Android’s version... No, you idiot you’ve got to get back to work. Look, I’ll just finish this article and check facebook and then—”
Devin jumped in his seat as he stretched his fingers in a quick keyboard combination that closed his web browser immediately.
“Get out of my chair,” his boss said. He stood there with his shaved head and pug nose, his mouth agape.
Devin swiveled in his chair. His boss looked down at the tomato stain on his pants. “What?” he asked.
“Go home Devin. You’re fired.” By this point a couple heads popped up throughout the barricades.
Devin’s face went red, like the tomato stain on his pants. He looked down at the ground and took two long blinks.
“This is the fifth time I’ve caught you on social networks doing nothing. I’m not going to pay you to hang out with your friends online. I’ve seen enough and you’re fired. I don’t care if it takes you... I don’t want to see your face staring at that screen anymore. Pack up your things and don’t come to work tomorrow.”
Devin’s boss walked away. Heads disappeared quite quickly and keyboards started to tack-a-tick a little louder and faster. Devin slowly slung around on his chair and put his head down on the keyboard, which groaned with system warning sounds until he picked up his head and stared at the screen.
The longer he stared the faster his heart beat. His eyes weren’t blood shot from staring at the screen. He signed out of Flickr. His head was lolled back. His eyes were dead. He signed out of twitter. His fingers were the only things that were moving. He signed out of facebook. He thought about slamming the computer screen in front of him on the cubicle wall. He thought about throwing it through his boss’ office window and then making a break for it. “Moron.” He stood up, swiped the books of his shelf and walked out of the office.
Devin’s eyes were now bloodshot from staring, but you wouldn’t be able to tell in the pitch black of his room. His wife was asleep on his left her bottom to his bottom.
When Devin got home the first thing she asked was why he was home so early. Devin said nothing, but pushed past her and went into the back room and locked the door.
“Is everything alright?” she asked after tapping on the door.
“... Sweetie... Devin? Devin, I don’t want you to ignore me.” She let her voice drop to a whisper, but Devin couldn’t hear her say anything, and he didn’t hear her walk away to pick up the screaming baby.
Devin was in the room with his head on the desk and his arms dangling down to the floor. He sat up and wiped his face with both hands and stared at the empty computer screen in front of him.
He tapped the spacebar and the login window came up.
He logged in.
Later that night his wife knocked again. “Sweetie, dinner’s done. Are you going to eat?”
“I’ll just leave it out if you want some.”
Later that night after the sun had set, after the babies had stopped crying, after the house was silent, after the computer was off, Devin crawled in bed in the pitch of night and laid staring with bloodshot eyes at nothing. Nothing nothing nothing nothing.
His wife turned over and started to snore. He tightened the blanket around himself. A baby started to cry. Both babies were crying. Devin stared with his bloodshot eyes at nothing. There was nothing nothing nothing, except the babies’ cries growing louder and his wife’s snores growing louder, and his nothing growing louder, and the cries and snores and nothing growing louder, and his eyes growing louder, and his muscles growing louder, and the babies’ cries growing louder, and his heart growing louder and his mind and nothing growing louder and louder and louder and louder!
And then silently, quietly he stopped breathing. He held his breath and squeezed his eyes. His teeth were clenched as tight as his fists. And then silently, quietly he cried. All the heat and noise dripped out of his squeezed eyes and open nose. He cried with his children and sobbed with the snores of his wife and breathed in rhythm with the spirit who possesses his eyes during the day, the same spirit who sat, with his head down in the dark, at the foot of his bed thinking about nothing nothing nothing except the dark screen of the computer in the room downstairs.