There was once a boy who, during his first year in the virtual world, decided not to announce the date of his birthday. He thought it was fake and flimsy and not at all advisable. He felt like the brief moments of these wishes in this strange, un-real world were too ephemeral, that they passed too quickly by, and he questioned the reality of these waves of greetings. He thought and thought and thought and berated the very idea in his head, the emotion and excitement that it would provoke, lamenting the hollowness of it all. When the day of his birthday came that year, there were no phone calls and no one knocked on his door to give him a sweetbread or a can of beans. Not one present arrived. Not even an email made its way across the ocean or from the other side of the country or the city or the street he lived on. The only person to remember was his grandmother who weakly congratulated him, sticking her head through the boy’s doorway after he’d already tucked himself into bed. His inattentive mother called the following day, scolding him for not posting the date in the virtual world. She coughed out a kind of scratchy congratulations, which sounded more like a hack in the throat. His brother forgot too and called a week later with the same reproaches and then had his son sing the traditional birthday song over the speakerphone. In years past, his family and some friends had always remembered, but not with the advent of the new virtual world; it seemed everybody had stopped keeping track of birthdays. Everyone had ceded control to some strange virtual birthday god who would keep track of them himself and inform everyone when it was time to send funny comments and wisecracks on the occasions of friends’ births. As if now, with everyone plugged into the virtual world, his birthday had simply, disastrously ceased to exist.

When the next year’s birthday rolled around, the boy’s entry into the virtual world was complete; in fact, the virtual world had come to take up as much time in his life as his real life, if not more. He would spend hours checking up on his virtual friends, long-lost friends, friends he’d met briefly or spontaneously in some playground or encounter or street corner. So that year, he decided to put his birthday into the virtual world so that the whole wide net of friends would see it there and he would see what happened. The congratulations began to trickle in a few days early, people who were obviously getting it out of the way beforehand just in case they forgot. Then at 12am on the day of his birthday, he was at a festival in the street alone and amazingly a flock of acquaintances and semi-friends all knew about his birthday. They came up with kisses and drinks and good wishes and he wondered how everyone knew and then he remembered that they had found out in the virtual world. The flood of emails began at 12am as the virtual birthday cards and virtual birthday cakes and virtual birthday wishes piled up in astounding wave after wave after wave. Phone calls poured in from across oceans and wide expanses. Midday the next morning, a girl showed up on his porch with a sweetbread. Around noon, another girl put a can of beans on his doorstep after he stepped out to the grocery to buy some fruit. His mother called and his brother called with his son, all on conference call, and they all sang him the traditional birthday song. He even had invitations to go out at night, run around the neighborhood with the cool kids from the virtual world. He said no though. That just wouldn’t feel right.

That night, alone, the boy thought about all this, thought about the virtual god who had made sure to inform everyone in an appropriate and timely way about the anniversary of his birth, thought about all the small notes and birthday wishes, thought about all the moments that all those people took to think of him and to wish him something, something however fleeting and small as a wish that his birthday be happy. The boy just thought and thought and thought. In the end, he thought and thought and smiled.

That night, very late, after he’d unplugged from the virtual world, he sat at his desk wondering what he should do now, feeling empty as he often did after unplugging his brain from the rushing tide of virtual stimuli. He heard the low buzz of the TV his grandmother was watching in the other room and got up to go see her. He told his grandmother everything that had happened and how different this year had been from the year before. Then he sat down on the couch and watched the TV. A few minutes later, his grandmother told him he’d done the right thing. She turned to him and, shutting off the TV and standing up, she wished him a happy birthday.

No hay comentarios.: