“Today’s the day I fucking ask her!”—This is like seriously the one and only thought racing through Giacomo’s brain as he elbows his way though the revolving glass doors and barges into the translucent Coliseum with a double thumbs up to the one-eyed security guard picking his eye patch behind the reception desk and like not even looking up or acknowledging our favorite superhero as he gladiator-charges across the amphitheater’s roaring lobby—Giacomo swiping his photo ID card, Giacomo tumbling over the clapping turnstiles and faceplanting inside a metal Rubik’s Cube. Dusting off his go-getter’s green sweater, pressed up tight at the front of the elevator, our favorite superhero gives a quick violent nod to his smartphone-gripping comrades, the two or three of them totally silent, totally smothered by their Brooks Brother’s egos. Giacomo nods then closes his donkey eyes and waits for his second or third daily dose of autobiographical screenshots to play across the magic lantern insides of his eyelids . . . There’s a townlike city on a massive lake. There’s a South Side story with a trash-tough widower and four or five hungrier than hungry stomachs. There’s violence, heroin, teenagers and gangs. There’s anger. There’s anger everywhere . . . But even all the anger in the world isn’t enough to keep the banners from fluttering. To keep the banners from fluttering above this no-exit income level like street-shedding butterflies. Giacomo Jones now growling and groaning and howling out his valedictorian speech over his cheering high school. Giacomo Jones howling and howling until a drive-by shooting behind the podium sends all the baby butterflies fluttering for cover . . . But two or three bullets later and our favorite superhero is on a full-ride scholarship to the University of Illinois. There’s four years of late-night study sessions. Of working part-time at the IT department. Four years of sex. Of drunk bliss. Of sober bliss . . . There’s a Chicago winter and a midnight fire . . .Wincing, blinking, wincing our favorite superhero watches the floors go counting up. Because even though he’s like always had these Monday morning reveries—or as he likes to call them, “The Fucking Tweets of the Techie as a Fucking Young American”—the picture quality just keeps on getting sharper and sharper by the week. Painfully sharp . . . The elevator doors slide open. Rubbing his ox eyes and opening wide his jaws, Giacomo Jones, one of the two or three cofounders of an early-stage tech startup, steps out onto the fortysomethingth floor of the somewhat recently completed One World Trade Center (that 104-story bottle of China glass almost known as the ‘Freedom Tower’). Giacomo Jones steps out and sneezes all over Lower Manhattan. Sneezes twice . . .
This sparkling architecture. This streamlined décor. These relentlessly buzzing servers.
His neon-pink messenger bag strapped tight across his chest Giacomo Jones starts off the morning, every morning, by walking—well, at this hour it’s more like a really laidback stroll—from the elevator to the all-purpose game room tucked tight at the end of the floor. Where there’s everything a preyuppie needs to make it bigger than big . . . There’s coffee, there’s tea. There’s a foosball table and a keg of Trappist beer, energy bars and cans of diet soda, instant oatmeal, candy, an electronic drum set, candy, a full bar, a pair of really comfortable bean bags, candy, energy drinks, candy, two or three pinball machines and an octagon in the shape of a sofa, candy, a dart board, a pool table, ninety-nine flavors of Greek yogurt, a projector screen, a ping pong table, a beer pong table, peanuts and pretzels, bananas, caffeine pills, cyanide capsules, who knows how many flavors of e-cigarettes, who knows how many sex toys, old and new school video games, a Jacuzzi, a sauna, a steam room which doubles as a confessional, and of course, more coffee. Yawning, burping, yawning Giacomo’s superhairy fingers hack through the plastic packages—back and forth, back and forth—until they pinch on tight to a deliciously bold Sumatra blend. Following instructions our favorite superhero shoves the plastic package ‘this side up’ into the mysterious machine. Giacomo now scratching his crew cut and wondering, worrying even, whether or not the coffee grounds inside the plastic packages are like actually organic or not. And if they are, if they pass that litmus test, are they like actually fair trade or what? He wonders about these things. He wonders about these things and gives the foosball table a spin . . .
Two or three morning miracles later and Giacomo figures there’s like obviously no easy way to tell and he obviously doesn’t give a flying fuck. He flicks his extra-large wrist—one of the foosball figurines scores a goal from half field . . .
Second or third cup of coffee in his gut Giacomo plops himself down on his baby blue exercise ball, at his comic strip-cluttered desk, one of ten along one of ten rows reserved at the back of the fortysomethingth floor for his company—Beloved Entropy. (Even though at the moment Beloved Entropy only actually has two or three full-time employees, Giacomo included, and one unpaid intern who doesn’t actually count as a real human being, let alone a W-2 employee.) By now, at 8:15 on a Monday morning, Giacomo Jones is already staring harder than hard at the four flashing screens which, depending on what side of the sofa bed he woke up, the size of his hangover, the day of the week, and the general mood of this 3rd planet from the terminally ill sun, are like either his bestest bestest friends or . . . or they’re like actually and have always been and will always be the most artificial, most intelligent, most uncanny enemies of all that is sweet and nice and totally true! . . . At the end of the aisle, to our favorite superhero’s far right, above the headscratchingly high-tech water cooler, a 42-inch flatscreen keeps a really silent lookout from up on the off-white wall, the wall totally bland and boring except for a colorful patch of Happy Thanksgiving stickers—a skinny pilgrim, a plump turkey, a burning tepee. The mute newscaster on the TV switching back and forth, back and forth between miming the monthly unemployment numbers, playing a game of charades with the weekly weather forecast (rain with a chance of hellfire), and using sign language to update the empty seats on any new details surrounding a brutal Central Park homicide—the streaming subtitles like always a word or so off and never ever matching Big Brother’s lemon lips. But since almost all of the office space on the fortysomethingth floor has yet to be leased out, for now our favorite superhero doesn’t have anyone to growl to about this mind-souring, Ministry of Revelation oversight. For now all we see and hear are the hundreds and hundreds of empty offices, empty chairs, empty recycling bins and those relentlessly buzzing servers . . . Taking another glance at the TV, Giacomo notices that Big Brother is wearing an itsy bitsy teeny weeny yellow polka dot necktie this morning. Giacomo slurps on his coffee and wonders how many South Side liquor store robberies that fucking tie’s worth . . .
Just then, swigging on his morning milkshake (cookies and cream with a shot of espresso), in his trademark silver hoodie and trademark silver sweatpants, Peter Winnerbilt, one of Beloved Entropy’s other cofounders, rolls up the aisle—literarily rolls up the aisle on his inline rollerblades.
“Sup, Giacomo,” Peter slapping Giacomo on the back and rolling toward his desk. “Where the hell’s that lazy intern?”
Giacomo turns, nods. “No fucking idea. How the fuck’s it going?”
“Oh you know, just another Monday. How was your weekend?”
Peter swaps his rollerblades for a pair of five-hundred-dollar flip-flops, then tosses Giacomo a New England Patriot’s autographed football. Chatting, procrastinating, chatting the two or three cofounders toss the football back and forth, back and forth . . .
Proudly tracing his genealogy all the way back, back, back to Plymouth Colony and two or three passengers on the Mayflower, pouty-lipped Peter Winnerbilt could easily serve as the poster boy for the ideal Wall Street male during those profitably decadent years before the 2008 financial crisis. Born and raised in Boston, the youngest son of a private equity bigwig, Peter had spent his middle school summers lifeguarding in Nantucket, spent his high school captaining the water polo team at his New England boarding school, spent his college years rowing the crew team at Yale to multiple national championships, and had spent his twenties making a name for himself at one of the bulge bracket banks, on the mergers and acquisitions team. In his thirties now, his personal net worth valued in the millions, his family fortune in the billions, Peter is quicker than quick to explain to anyone who might even be thinking about asking—that his reasons for leaving Wall Street had nothing whatsoever to do with the financial crisis. Nope, not at all. It was just that he couldn’t stand to spend all day in a suit anymore. Not to mention that finding the time every two or three weeks to cut his head-turning head of shiny silver hair had seriously become a logistical nightmare. So it was really more of a lifestyle choice than anything else. A simple lifestyle choice . . . Giacomo just nodding and grinning whenever he hears this total fucking bullshit. Because he’s like definitely heard all the whispers about pouty-lipped Peter having had some sort of American Psycho-type meltdown which pretty much like totally guaranteed that he’d never ever work in finance again. But either way, true or false, Giacomo doesn’t really give one flying fuck as long as his business partner keeps the money flowing in. And that’s exactly what Peter’s been doing ever since they met two or three years ago at a ‘Who’s Who in Life’ networking event, when Giacomo had just moved to the city and was being hailed in all the industry blogs as the most brilliant software engineer to ever work at Google. In a rented tux, stumbling drunk, our favorite superhero had just been way too busy growling and groaning and thoroughly enjoying his high society debut to watch where he was going or to notice Peter, on ‘leave’ from one of the bigger than big investment banks, causally flaunt his silky smooth nobility into the black-tie affair in the off chance that he might possibly find something worth staying kinda interested in life on earth for. He sincerely doubted it. But just as Peter Winnerbilt was flaunting his blue blood up to the open bar, one pouty finger tapping away at the pouty cleft in his pouty chin, Giacomo Jones had tripped on his slippery South Side genius and slammed his bulging bronze forehead into Peter’s pouty but surprisingly unyielding, swimmer’s pecs. Massive force fields collided. And while they then chugged champagne and did lines of pure Columbian cocaine in a bathroom stall (Peter’s get-to-know-me treat), our favorite superhero definitely didn’t waste any time in pitching his idea for a new type of online dating site. “Now here’s the fucking thing,” Giacomo rubbing his walnut nose. “Everyone fucking knows that the fucking problem with all these fucking dating sites is that they match fucks based on a fucking arbitrary measure of compatibility. Personality surveys, hair color, religion, dietary restrictions, if you like it up the fucking ass or not—whatever. But here’s the fucking thing. Those fucking amateurs don’t know shit about shit above love. Because truelove can’t fucking be determined by static fucking variables. I don’t give a flying fuck how many motherfucking filters you apply to the fucking data. It just can’t fucking be done because truelove doesn’t have shit do with a fuck’s pre-stress equilibrium. You’ve got to apply the fucking pressure. Listen. Truelove is a fucking dynamic process which only takes place in a fuck’s psyche when at least two or three fucks respond to a threatening situation as a cohesive unit. That’s when you fucking bond. When it starts becoming Us versus Them,” Giacomo snorting another line into his brain. “So I fucking say we just speed up the natural fucking process. I say we fucking make a dating site that doesn’t match user profiles. No fucking way. That’s bush league. That’s a total waste of fucking money! What we do is we fucking build a site that matches user profiles with life-or-death scenarios. That’s fucking right. All we have to do is fucking optimize which life-or-death scenario will have the greatest likelihood of causing a fucking massive psychological breakdown in each user. (Of course we make sure that every motherfucker who wants to use our site signs a fucking waiver and pays upfront.) Then, once at least two or three fucks have been separately matched to the same scenario, we send a fucking van to each house, we blindfold them so that they don’t have a chance to make any superficial fucking judgments about each other, and then we fucking drop their asses off in a warzone or a radioactive marsh—whatever their fucking profiles call for. All we have to do is sit the fuck back, crack open a beer, and wait for their broken psyches to fucking fuse into a mutually dependent fight for fucking survival. Into a symbiotic shield against reality. We wait for true-fucking-love . . . Ey? What the fuck do you think?”
Peter chugged the rest of his Don Pérignon. Then said, “I think, Mr. Jones, that you might be the first real genius I’ve ever met. When can we get started?” And right then and there, in the bathroom stall, so that our favorite superhero could spend the next two or three years developing his genius “sans worldly distractions”, pouty-lipped Peter Winnerbilt, his patrician nose totally white with cocaine, took out his Revolutionary War-era checkbook, and in exchange for a 33% stake in Giacomo’s future, granted Giacomo an undisclosed, all-expenses-paid reprieve from life on earth. The very next day, in his Superman pajamas, Giacomo Jones walked into work seven hours late, grabbed his superhairy nuts and howled “Fuck you!” to each and every one of his coworkers at Google. Ex-coworkers, obviously . . .
After thirty minutes or so of playing catch and listening to Peter’s weekend adventures—what clubs he and his Boston brahs balled up at, how many high-class hoes licked his lollipop, where he took his Connecticut fiancé to Sunday brunch—the two or three cofounders bunker down and put their game faces on. Time to work, time to blackout. Fighter pilot headset on (strictly 80’s and 90’s hip hop), our favorite superhero picks up where he left off this weekend and gets back to coding the ridiculously complicated algorithm responsible for matching psychological profiles with life-or-death scenarios. A couple of empty desks down the row, in his silver hoodie, in his silver sweat pants, Peter leans back in his ergonomic chair and props his five-hundred-dollar flip-flops on his desk. Milkshake in hand, he hits the phones. He calls potential investors, he calls marathon organizers, Tough Mudder organizers, he calls the mayors of the most dangerous cities on the planet, he calls whoever is winning the current conflict in various regions in Africa and Asia, he calls United States Central Command, he calls his NATO contacts, he calls his friends in Tijuana, in Juarez, in Rio, he calls lawyers, he calls insurance agents, he calls whoever’s willing to talk to him about the company, about the money. As Peter calls, as Giacomo codes, on the other side of the floor, over the endless rows of empty desks, vacant cubicles, we can hear their only other neighbor, the Anti-Aging Angels, filing in one by one from all across the Island Kingdom, from the bridge and tunnel fiefdoms and beyond—the eternity-thirsty researchers easing themselves into another Monday morning with a chorus of squeaky chairs and whispered Namastes, with sips of antioxidant green tea, Botox injections and Bible verses, with Kabbalistic permutations and testosterone therapy, multivitamins and hot yoga . . . A lavender bait suddenly swirls up Giacomo’s runny nostrils. He almost sneezes but stops short when he sees her purple and red plaid shirt come gliding up the aisle. Oh boy, oh boy! Here she is! Ladies and gentlemen, hailing from saltysweet LA, the one and only, Sophie Strudel!
Her freckly face glittering with bluegray mascara sprinkles, Sophie glides to a stop and rests her Louis Vuitton handbag on Giacomo’s comic strip-cluttered desk, her milk chocolate hair pulled back and up into a ponytail, a bobbling ponytail. Sophie smiles a homecoming queen kind of smile. “Good morning, boss. Did you have a nice weekend?”
(A really talented web developer and Beloved Entropy’s first full-time hire, Sophie’s in charge of doing pretty much everything related to the launching of their website—design, content, navigation, etc.—and it obviously goes without saying that Giacomo Jones has a massive crush on his really smart, really sweet employee.)
“Wasn’t too fucking bad,” he answers with a sniffle. “How the fuck was yours?”
“Oh it was nice. Relaxing. I finally had time to visit a few museums, and like just hang out in my apartment.”
Giacomo nods but then snaps his head back to keep the snot from running down his muzzle.
Brushing layers of laughter out of her greengold lamb eyes Sophie Strudel reaches into her handbag and whispers—“Here. Use this,” handing our favorite superhero a tissue.
“Eh, thanks,” pressing the lavender tissue up against his walnut nose. “Yea, I need to get the fuck over to a fucking museum one of these fucking days.”
Sophie smiles but there really isn’t time for anything else. As Sophie then takes her seat down the row, next to Peter and his ringing phones, Giacomo sneezes, sneezes twice, then wipes his muzzle with the lavender tissue and realizes with a horribly horrible groan that he like totally forgot to ask her! Ugh, what a fucking fuck! He grits his canines and swears that he’s gonna fucking do it soon. Like real fucking soon . . . But apart from that sugary blip, Giacomo’s morning, like every morning, goes by in a bitter fast-forward blur—lines of code zipping across the four flashing screens, superhairy fingers fingering the keyboard keys, time ticking, time ticking, Giacomo coding and coding and like actually not registering anything other than the four flashing screens till 12:30 PM, when he hears Peter turn and order Ian the Intern, who was more than two or three hours late because both his grandparents died or there was a hostage situation on the subway or he had an orthodontist appointment or no one really cares, to make up for his hillbilly tardiness by getting his fat Alaskan ass over to the greasy joint around the corner and buying them two or three pepperoni pizzas. Snap snap . . .
Fighter pilot headset still on Giacomo eats his four cheesy slices at his comic strip-cluttered desk, on his baby blue exercise ball, in front of his four flashing screens. He eats and codes. Eats and codes. All by himself in this totally barren programming space . . .
2:20 PM. With his Midwestern locomotive quickly losing steam as the afternoon drags on, Giacomo slowly, slowly tabs through his favorite websites. He yawns and checks all the social media sites. Reads up on a little bit of celebrity gossip, a lot of tech gossip. He doubleclicks through the local news, skims over the national and international headlines. He watches random video clips and sports highlights. He streams a few episodes of the only cartoon show he ever watches (Loony Tunes, obviously). He twiddles away ticking time ticking time . . . At 4:35 PM, still coding, still slurping coffee, Giacomo thinks really hard about maybe possibly getting some work done on the Presentation—the Presentation which he and Peter will soon be flying out to give to a boardroom of cash-fed investors. The Presentation which will include a demonstration of their proprietary matching algorithm, a preview of their truelove website, and an in-depth explanation of how they totally intend to meet (and obviously exceed) their five-year growth figures. The Presentation which is everything and anything. The Presentation which is the beginning and the end—alpha, beta and omega. The Presentation . . . But then our favorite superhero burps, burps twice and decides to put off working on his speech for another day or so. He takes a minibreak. He waddles over to the floor-to-ceiling windows, presses his bulging bronze forehead against the dizzy glass and stares out over these bottomless crayon canyons, these reefs of structured desire jutting up through the yellow surface. And for the first time in a really long time, standing up here on the fortysomethingth floor of the Freedom Tower, Giacomo Jones wonders what his older brothers and baby sis would have been up to right now if they had like ever made it out. If they had like ever made it to New York City . . . 5:05 PM. The code seared into his retinas, Giacomo doesn’t even see the numbers and letters flashing across the four screens anymore. No, he feels them deep in his brain. Like self-replicating leeches. Each line on each screen its own kind of draining headache. Ah, Giacomo! Ah, Humanity! His fingernails start to bleed, his scalp starts to itch and sizzle. But our favorite superhero definitely doesn’t stop. Can’t stop won’t stop. No way. Not yet. Not now. Never! . . .
As usual, Sophie’s the first to leave. At 6:00 PM she grabs her Louis Vuitton handbag and glides back down the aisle, her greengold lamb eyes stopping to flirt over Giacomo’s four flashing screens—to say bye-bye with a wedding cake kind of sparkle—before then disappearing out into the world to go do whatever it is that smart, sweet, plaid-shirted people like Sophie Strudel do after work on a Monday. Giacomo watching her milk chocolate ponytail bobble over the vacant cubicles, over the endless rows. Giacomo sucking on his extra-large thumb and wishing he knew a little more about her. Wishing it didn’t take 1000 lines of clean and bug-free code a day to finish this ridiculously complicated algorithm in time for the Presentation. Wishing he didn’t have to work on his speech. Wishing—but before he can get himself too worked up he tells himself that he’s definitely definitely going to ask her out soon. Like real fucking soon . . .
A few migraines later, talking on one of his ten smartphones, roller blades back on, Peter slaps Giacomo on the back and rolls out the aisle, leaving Giacomo all by his-groaning-self with the endless rows of empty desks, vacant cubicles, with a different lemon-lipped reporter on the TV, and not one real human to talk to. He codes. He codes. He codes . . . 7:00 PM. After coding the day’s last line, Giacomo rips off his fighter pilot headset, shuts down his computer, waits for the four flashing screens to fade to black then nods to the nonentity that is Ian the Intern. (Because even though he obviously doesn’t count as a real human being, Ian the Intern is obviouslyrequired to stay longer than all real human beings). Finally, finally, he’s off. Giacomo bounces off his baby blue exercise ball and takes the elevator down, neon-pink messenger bag strapped tighter than tight across his chest. He’s off, he’s off!
Ground Zero. Our favorite superhero nods to the one-eyed security guard picking his eye-patch behind the reception desk. Our favorite superhero sneezes, sneezes twice, and with a “Fuck all you motherfuckers!” front kick breaks though the revolving glass doors. Fuck yea, he’s made it. He’s happier than happy to be outside feeling the last warm waves on his muzzle. Happier than happy to be outside in all the unrecycled noise, the contrasting colors. He checks his smartphone—7:35 PM. Fuck! The dark be closing in. And fast! Taking two or three growling glances up at the spiraling city, the violet hour tightening its shadow over the Island Kingdom, Giacomo Jones grits his canines and charges after the dying day—