This isn’t that classic conceit where you tell a story about someone and it’s really just a story about yourself.
My story is pretty simple:
About two years after being graduated from college with a degree in unemployment—my thesis was on Metaphor—I’d moved from New York to Berlin to work as a writer, though perhaps that’s not right because nobody in Berlin works. I’m not going to get into why that is here. This isn’t history, isn’t an episode on The History Channel.
Take a pen, write this on a paper scrap, then when you’re near a computer, search:
Alternately, you could just keep clicking your finger on that address until this very page wears out— until you’ve wiped the ink away and accessed nothing.
However, my being a writer of fiction was itself just a fiction and because I couldn’t finish a novel and because nobody was paying me to live the blank boring novel that was my life, I was giving up.
After a year in Berlin, with my German-language skills nonexistent, I was going back home. Not home but back to New York, I was going to business school. An M.B.A. It was time to grow up because life is short and even brevity costs. My uncle told me that, and it was his being diagnosed with a boutique sarcoma that—forget it.
Yesterday by close of business was the first time my portfolio ever reached seven figures, so if every author needs an occasion, let this be mine. Sitting in an office when I should be out celebrating my first million—instead remembering these events of five years ago to my keyboard, my screen.
But as I’ve said this is not about me—no one wants to hear how I’m currently leveraged or about my investments in the privatization of hospitals in China.
I met Mono—I’ll always think of him as Mono—only once, a week before I left Neukölln forever. Left the leafy lindens and sluggish Spree, the breakfasts of sausages and cheeses and breads that stretched like communist boulevards into late afternoon, the stretch-denim legs of the artist girls pedaling home from their studios on paint-spattered single-speeds, the syrupy strong coffees the Kurdish diaspora made by midnight at my corner café and its resident narcoleptic who’d roll tomorrow’s cigarettes for me, ten smokes for two euros.
I was at a Biergarten, outside on its patio overlooking the water. The patio was abundant with greens: softly flowing ferns, flowers in pails, miniature trees packed into buckets to cut down on the breeze from the brackish canal. It was summer, still the evenings sometimes blew cool. Not this one. This evening was stifling. A few punks, scuzzy but happy, sat mohawked, bare chested, feeding decomposing mice to their domesticated ermine. I was about to follow suit, had my shirt halfway up my beer gut when he sat down—just when the sun was coming down.
Prose descriptions are safer than photographs (pics) and movies (vids). No one would ever identify the hero of a novel, if he’d come to life, solely by his author’s description. Let’s face it: Raskolnikov—“his face was pale and distorted and a bitter, wrathful and malignant smile was on his lips”—is not being stopped on the street.
Across from me Mono sat reading that novel, in English of course. And English led to English—he asked what beer was I drinking, an Erdinger Dunkel, and ordered the same.
To make conversation I said, Too bad we’re being served by the Russian. The Turk—turning my eye to the eye of her hairy navel—is way hotter.
This is not to my credit. To his he just smiled.
It was a tight smile, lips chewing teeth, as if he wasn’t sure how fresh his breath was.
I don’t know why Mono made an impression on my premillionaire self—maybe because when you’re young and life’s a mess, the world is, too: young and messy. It could also have been the beer, hopped on malt, its own head turning my head to foam.
I was in my mid-twenties, actually in that latter portion of my twenties, spiraling, like how a jetliner crashes, to thirty.
But Mono was young.
He had his decade in front of him.
We covered thirty: scary, scary.
Also we discovered we were both from Jersey—me from South, he from Central, but still.
It was important to deliver this offhand. All expats worry about coming off spoiled or ludicrous, insane.
Why I came here was to write a book, I offered, which isn’t working out.
He brought his mouth to his beer, not the other way around. The beard was still growing in.
He swallowed, said, Achtung, and as the sun disappeared, told me this story.
Back in Jersey—this was only two months before the time of his telling but anything Jersey felt like years ago, amenitized among diners and turnpikes—Mono was a deliverer.
Like a priest: delivering from sin?
Or a recent arrival from Fujian with the fried rice, the scooter?
No, what Mono brought were drugs.
Drugs paid well but only for those actually supplying. Mono merely supplied the supply. This was not the ideas economy—whatever was supposed to save this country once we’d stopped physically making anything of value.
This was effort, was pick up, drop off, keep all names out of it and deal exclusively in cash. (FYI, Benjamin Franklin is one of only two people featured on bills never to have been U.S. President.)
Mono worked for a man—and he was a man with multiple children and women and not a lost lanky kid like Mono—who called himself Methyl O’Nine (as in cocaine, benzoylmethylecgonine, also zero and nine were the last two digits of his retired pager).
He was a short, slim but muscled, comparatively black man with a ritually dyed henna fleck of a goatee discreet beneath voluminous dreads, like plumbing gone awry.
Mono spent weekends moving his product.
Methyl was a hushed seclusive type—not just careful but temperamentally dervish in his sandals and gangsta hoodies—and never wanted his deliverers to know where he lived or with whom he supplied, and so he’d meet Mono as he’d meet all the others who did Mono’s job, on discrepant dim corners in Trenton.
Whenever he called, Mono went and Mono went wherever Mono was called, which meant a lot of driving the Ford from near campus to fields and wharves and the parking lots of mid-priced restaurants.
Ford: bad brakes, transmission with the shakes, used to be his mother’s.
Campus: a fancy private university approximately an hour south of New York.
Methyl’s customers were mostly students—the idle rich, studiously clubby douches and athletic fratters, the occasional slumming neo-Marxist—but there were also the professors both adjunct and tenured. Some needed the drugs to write the papers, others needed the drugs to grade the papers, all needed the drugs—which they’d snort from atop the papers with rolled paper bills.
The students lived in student housing, the faculty lived in faculty housing (most student and faculty housing was identical), but Mono lived just outside Princeton—sorry, my mistake—in a collapsing bleachers of an apartment complex tenanted exclusively by the lowest-paid support staff: the sad diabetics who mopped up the home-game vomiting and this one security guard who protected the academics on weekdays but on weekends was regularly arrested in spousal disputes.
Mono hated being thought of as a dealer, as a danger. No respect for his opinion, no regard for his mind. And so he’d intimate deadlines, make allusions to debt, often just outright say it.
Enrolled but in another department.
Grothdyck? I snoozed through his seminar last spring.
I’m not sure if any of the students believed him, though I’m not sure what reason they’d have not to believe him and anyway it wasn’t exactly a contradiction to be both enrolled and an impostor, a fine student and seriously druggish, deluded.
Mono’s father had taught mathematics at the university—he’d made major advances in knot polynomials, applied them to engineer a tamperproof model for voting by computer—and so was sure his son’s application would be accepted, despite the crappy grades.
But it wasn’t, it was rejected.
When he finally sold the house and moved away to chair the math department of a school in California—this was about six months before Mono and I sat together over beers in Berlin—Mono decided to remain.
Mono’s mother had died—an aneurysm after a routine jog, a clean body in a bloodless bath—three years before these events. Her death was why his father had wanted to move, though Mono thought his failure to have been admitted to school had an influence—his father’s professional humiliation (Mono was a professional at humiliating his father).
And the car his mother left behind precipitated Mono’s fight with his father—when the professor began dating a former student or began publicly dating her. She’d brought the largest veggie-stix-’n’-dip platter to the gathering after the funeral.
She was also from Yerevan—super young and super skinny and tall with curly red hair curled around a crucifix that oscillated between the antennal nipples of her breasts—and as long as we’re confusing ourselves with chronology, she was just two years older than Mono.
His mother’s ailing Ford became his because his father already had a convertible.
Then one afternoon his father asked, Could you lend Aline your car for the day? She wishes to consolidate her life before the moving.
Mono said he said nothing.
His father tried again, Could you drive her yourself, to assist with the boxes?
That was his father’s way of telling him that Aline was coming to Cali.
My mother’s car? Mono finally asked.
But you can forget about Aline. She’s pregnant with Mono’s half brother in Palo Alto and this is her last appearance.
At the time Mono’s name was not yet Mono. That name was as new as Berlin.
Like monolingual, he’d said when we shook hands (his hand was sweaty).
Whereas the surname he’d been given was much more distinctively foreign. Not that he was supposed to divulge that name to his customers—to them, until he ruined himself, he was only Dick.
To get him to loiter outside your dorm or stand around licking fingers to count bills on the rickety porch of an off-campus sorority, you dialed Methyl, who’d say, He be calling a minute before he shows. Name of Dick.
Dick would usually show up within a half hour and though he was supposed to only get paid and leave, he never followed Methyl’s instructions.
Instead he’d play older brother, stacking used plastic cups, making troughs of new ice, holding class presidents steady upside down for kegstands, reveling in free drinks and ambient vagina until recalled to work with a vibrating msg: NW6, say (Trenton’s North Ward location six, where he’d make the night’s next pickup—Methyl didn’t trust anyone out with more than three deliveries at a time).
Dick stayed out later the later in the night he was called, and so on a three a.m. delivery to a party that had run out that a colleague, Rex, had delivered earlier that evening, a party pumping for six or seven hours already through music playlists both popularly appropriate and of someone’s stepdad’s collection of Dylan bootlegs and whose mixer juices and tonics had been exhausted, Dick would not be moved, especially not when a girl—the same girl who’d called Methyl, who’d told his deliverer to expect a female customer—threw arms around him and said:
They sent you this time!
Dick, who prided himself on remembering all his customers, couldn’t be sure whether this girl, Em, was pretending to remember him or just wasted—and this should have been his first warning.
The couch, the absorbent couch, furniture in appearance like a corkscrew coil of shit—brown cushions, black backing worn shiny—soaking in the boozy spill and smoke of years, intaking fumes and fluids through the spongy membrane of its upholstery. They sat there, he and this girl who knew him only as Dick—this townie fake gownie and though he didn’t know it yet the daughter of a Midwestern appliances manufacturer who maintained, this daughter did, upwards of thirty anonymous Weblogs: Stuff to Cook When You’re Hungover, Movies I Recently Saw About Niggers, My Big Gay Milkshake Diary, The Corey News (which warned of the depredations of child stardom), What I’ve Heard About Bathrooms in North America—all irregularly updated but all updated.
They sat doing lines—is that my line? that’s your line? this line’s mine—and all was weightlessly intimate until Em turned to him and said:
This is from yours right?
Dick didn’t answer immediately so she asked again.
This is on you?
Dick said, Sure.
Whatever. We’ll figure it out.
Em said, No, not whatever. No figuring. Say it for me!
He felt like he had to stop himself from peeling her lips off her face as if they were price stickers, like they were designer labels as she said again:
Say it for me! This is your supply.
He said, This is your supply.
Okay, this is my shit. This shit is mine.
And she laughed and said, Dick! I’m so glad they sent you!
And he said, Actually only people who work for me call me Dick. My name’s really Rich.
Rich hard what?
I’d show you my license, if I had it.
He’d been craving this opportunity to brag.
I was jumped last month in Philly, rival dealers, took my narcotics and wallet (a lie: he’d been drug-free on his way to a job interview as a bartender, the muggers barely pubescent, three kids as stubby as their switchblades).
You don’t carry ID?
He reached into a pocket, found his passport, passed it around.
Em flipped through it, Did you enjoy Mexico?
I went with my parents.
You were an ugly child.
Discussions were: over changing the music and so changing the mood, about what band was good or bad in which years and with which personnel—is playing the bass harder than it looks? does a true lead singer have any business playing guitar?
Anyway what kind of person would say which—personnel as opposed to lineup? lead singer as opposed to frontman?
Is this coke cut? Is all coke cut? And how is that not the same as lacing?
What innocents they were, Dick thought—the purity was theirs, not the drug’s.
This one guy said, There was this girl I used to go out with who was the transitional girlfriend of a kid who starred in like every fucking movie.
Who was it? the party wanted to know. What every fucking movie was he in?
The guy told them.
Famous right? Crazy crazy famous? Girls saved his face into screen savers, produced ringtones out of his voice. She was with him for three months off and on. Then I was with her and after our third or fourth date we had sex and you know what she said to me after?
She said: Peter, before you having sex was just like staring at the ceiling.
Again: Like staring at the ceiling.
And that night that coital praise became an inside joke, like, whatchacallit, a party trope.
When someone went to the kitchen, opened the fridge, and retrieved another beer for you it was, Before you drinking beer was just like staring at the ceiling, when someone tapped out a thick fat line for you with their parents’ Platinum Plus Visa card on the glass slab tiered above the baize bottom of the house’s three-quarter-size poker table it was, Before you coke was just like staring at the ceiling, then that prefatory endearment was dropped with the tense and it was only, This couch is just like staring at the ceiling, This floor is just like staring at the ceiling, This ceiling’s just like staring at the ceiling.
You had to be there, but you’re lucky you weren’t.
Somebody left to buy the ingredients to bake a pie, somebody left to buy a pie, somebody left.
Cakes v. pies were debated, cupcakes v. muffins were, too, the salient differences between them, the identities of the world’s greatest lacrosse players were discussed, various names proposed both at the college level and pro. Pressing questions asked and answered: What’s more degrading, working as a stripper or working as a maid? What’s the best position to have re: Iran—preemptive strikes or sanctions inevitably targeting women and children? What’s the best sexual position for virginity loss—for a man, for a woman, for a child? Is there a future for campaign-finance reform after the veritable abortion of Citizens United v. FEC? If you could repeal any amendment to the Constitution, which (no one allowed anymore to pick the first ten, whichever amendment repealed Prohibition, or the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth)? If you were a fart, what type (how wet, what smell)? Ten Most Mortifying Moments? Most egregious party foul? If you could describe your entire life in only one word to only one dead grandparent, which grandparent and what word?
Mono’s apartment had been advertised as a one-bedroom but having remitted the deposit he admitted to himself, why not, it was a studio. What the realtor maintained made it a one-bedroom was a small little nothing nook by the door so minuscule that whenever Mono wanted to open the door he had to move the television onto the bed. His TV slept better than he did. The door’s peephole had been blackened for a robbery. The window opposite gave onto parking lot, he never kept it open, gas. On the floor, lotto stubs, scratchers he’d scratch with teeth. Underlabeled whiskey under the label. Flies at the bottom of a liter of cola. In the bathroom clothing hung from the showerhead smelling alternately feculent and moldy. The sink was mustached with shavings. He’d been using takeout napkins as toilet paper for a month. The sounds he’d hear by morning were those of mice the size of his pinky sprayed newborn from the walls or, once, the whining die of the smoke detector’s batteries. The apartment had no light because the bulbs had burnt out and he never remembered to replace them. Anyway Mono was rarely home at night and the television was enough light and the computer was sufficient, too.
Mono was ISO work. He was perpetually interviewing and applying himself to applications because what’s life for a man in the middle?
Interrupting binges where if you didn’t have what they wanted you yourself weren’t wanted.
Meeting people furtively but trying to be kind. Yet having that kindness misinterpreted.
I don’t care what you think about the Yankees’ outfield, one kid said, I just want my fucking drugs.
Yankee wants his fucking drugs? Mono unsure of what to say.
The kid apologized.
Accidental, his initial involvement. Mono had begun delivering when he began owing Methyl money—short one night on an eightball he was supposed to have split before a food court coworker bailed (that one week Mono worked at Quaker Mall).
He knew he had to get out when this past New Year’s down the Shore at a condo shuttered for the season a fierce former valedictorian who’d strolled with him along the snowy beach had said, Let’s continue this conversation some other time—a convo about renewable energy—like when I’m sober and you’re not my dealer.
Mono had had sex with her lesbian friend that night: she was stretch mark–mangled, solicitous. She’d feigned abandon, collapsed on the bed, but just when Mono wanted to fall asleep she went to the bathroom to brush teeth, which was tender. The next morning she picked his jeans up from the floor and turned the pantlegs rightside out while Mono repositioned the pair of athletic socks in his jacket’s breast pocket—an advertisement for his packing a gun. That was the only time he’d had sex this year.
The résumé he’d been sending around he’d falsified: his experience including six months as executive assistant in a film production company he’d created, a year as a consultant to a pharmaceutical consulting firm for whose HR hotline he gave his own phone, figuring he could talk drug distribution with the best—while his other references tended toward the suspiciously familial: his cousin who’d developed a dating Web site and was too lazy busy getting laid to pick up the phone, another cousin who did the ordering for but did not own as Mono had stated Trenton’s North Triangle Liquors—though when it came to education he demurred: granting himself only a B.A. if cum laude, supplemented vainly by a Dean’s Award in English.
Despite this, he’d become inured to rejection: Never called back by that Suburban Poverty Task Force that needed someone with a liberal-arts background to disorganize their archives, bend paperclips into helicopters and swans. Refused by that talent management agency requiring a front-office rep, or receptionist (he was overqualified, they qualified). A limousine driver, a limo dispatcher (ditto). Each being the juniormost position each business offered.
Monday punctually at noon the phone rang and Mono answered and a voice said, Mr. Monomian (the pronunciation was passable), I’m calling from Skilling Militainment Solutions.
Mr. Skilling, Mono said.
There is no Skilling. This is O. J. Muggs, recruiter, ret. capt. Marines.
Mono, sitting up in bed, said, Sir.
I’m afraid we can’t offer you the position.
You can’t? The position? But I haven’t even been interviewed.
You won’t be. This does not constitute an interview. Please say yes, indicating your understanding.
No, I don’t understand.
Don’t fool yourself, son. Not even civilians are exempt from civility. Security isn’t just armed convoys, it’s also a sound reputation.
What’s unsound about my reputation?
What you do in private is your business, until it becomes public, and then it’s your employer’s business, especially if your employer’s employed by the government of the United States. War’s all about image—and effective chaplaincy and counterinsurgency.
You need to clear your profile, son.
My profile, what about it?
Your presence, you need to clean your presence.
I’m not following, and Mono canvassed his apartment, wondering whether the man had a camera focused on him or was just intuitive.
The Internet, Muggs said, are you aware of your Internet?
Mono was not aware of his Internet. He’d never made a habit of googling himself—it was too depressing of a venture.
Previously his life had passed undetected by bots. His life too modest for hits, too meek for the concerns of blog postings and tweets.
Mono had always taken such paucity personally—virtual presence being, to him, presence nonetheless.
Whenever he searched there were only two results, two matches found: the first listing his name along with others of his class from Princeton High, the second aggregating what had to be all the names of all Jersey high-school graduates ever to redirect them to wealth-management services and medical-tourism sites.
But now still abed, after ending the phone call, tugging his computer close and keying in monomian—typeable with two fingers, every letter but one kept to the right of the keyboard—he found a third.
The blog was called Emission.
The link was that optimistic bright blue that after Mono clicked would turn to the drab abused and nameless color of vomit.
The post’s heading richard monomian.
Mono withheld his vomit.
He scrolled to the end and the post was signed with that single name, Em, time-stamped midday the day before.
But just as he was about to read the whole post from the top his computer emitted a pop—his father was messaging him over chat:
That was Mono’s birthname, before Richard.
Why are you not returning my calls?
cant talk now dad, then deleted.
its rich dad, then deleted again.
His father messaged:
Diran, it is my hope you are not ignoring me.
Mono clicked the chat box shut, blocked his father from chatting.
He read on:
Friday night @ party with RICHARD MONOMIAN. He brought ‘snax.’
Thats what he does for a living. He brings snax that are OK priced but also of crackhead quality.
Were all just hanging out smoking getting our drink on telling stories about former bfs and gfs when RICHARD MONOMIAN tells us this story.
About another party he went to.
A highschool party.
Now when the guy who brings the snax begins doing the snax and telling stories about highschool you know its time to bag for home but for some reason we didnt.
This was spring break, end of senior year.
Before P’ton, obvs.
It was a big houseparty at a big house with the hosts parents away— remember those?
It ended with everyone oblitermerated passed out on random beds in random rooms and RICHARD MONOMIAN searching around for an empty bedroom to crash in.
And he found like a guestroom or spare for using the computer or phone in room and there was a bed in the corner or like a foldout sofa.
A girl was sleeping.
RICHARD MONOMIAN said he didnt remember her name but even if he had remembered it and told me I wouldnt repeat it, thats not my style.
RICHARD MONOMIAN said this sleeping girl was cute, I guess not cute enough to rape.
Instead he pulled his pants down below his ass tits and pulled down his underwear also.
RICHARD MONOMIAN grabbed his penis and stroked—he stood over her and stroked it!!
Dick fisting his shit! Dick fisting his shit!
Dick grabbed his hard dick hard and below him the girl kept sleeping.
He was on MDMA I think.
I think ecstasy and weeds.
Suddenly he came: RICHARD MONOMIAN blew a load that landed in her hand.
RICHARD MONOMIAN said he didnt wipe it up because he didnt want to wake her, he just pulled up his underwear and pulled up his pants and fell downstairs and out the door for home.
All the deets I have.
Retardedly I didnt take a pic of him last night and cant find a pic online but Im sure one of my readers can and if you can then fwd: because I sometimes need a pic to look at to get less horny, Subject line: because I sometimes need a pic to look at to get less horny,
(And if youre that girl who woke one morning on a strange sofabed in a strange house with a jizzy palm worried about what happened, maybe you ran out to get tested, maybe you ran out to get the pill—this is it, youre welcome, be careful where you fall asleep, sista.)
At least his pic wasn’t available. That was the best benefit of his previous anonymity.
Mono tried to remember what pics of him were around. Not many, few digitized. School portraits, a few snaps with friends moved away to colleges and family poses, most of which his father had storaged. Easier to imagine a picture of yourself than to imagine yourself. He thought, why is it so hard to remember colors? And did anyone else think of death while being shot for an employee ID? (Besides the passport the only photo of himself he had was just that, from that week pretzeling at Quaker Mall.)
He stayed in bed, blowing through what cash he had left ordering to his door medium pizzas and Asian noodle decoctions waiting for Methyl to call with his next assignment as the legitimate world with its legitimate rewards stopped calling, stopped responding to his calls—him sitting up in bed, with the pillow verticalized between his legs as stuffed buffer between computer and any Monomians to come, searching himself, researching his name, “within quotes.”
Three results went to four when another blog he suspected this Em of hosting linked to the Emission, then four upticked to six when two readers of those blogs linked up from blogs of their own.
Sometimes it was just an embed singly described, Disgusting, at other times it was a capsule blurb that transclused: Em, a college girl from Jerzee who’s been keeping a party diary, writes about a guy masturbating on top of a sleeping girl . . . NSFW.
But that was a particularly responsible example and most of the keywords were rather: Wrong, Sinister, This is just totally scrotally insane.
People thinking this funny precisely because it was legend, social lore—it didn’t happen to them:
next time sleep with an umbrella
next time my girls not in the mood im gonna give her a monomian
Within a week a hundred-plus results all replicated his name as if each letter of it—those voluble, oragenital os—were a mirror for a stranger’s snorting, reflecting everywhere the nostrils of New York, Los Angeles, Reykjavík, Seoul, as thousands cut this tale for bulk and laced with detail, tapped it into lines and his name became a tag for abject failure, for deviant, for skank.
To pull a Monomian.
To go Monomian.
No one, had you asked them, would have thought that he was real. Only he knew he was real. And he only knew that, he thought, by his suffering.
Mono was on the Internet all day but did not masturbate. Porn sites went unvisited. He’d type in half their addresses then stop and delete, hating himself because the computer couldn’t hate him instead. The nonjudgmental nature of technology, if technology could have a nature—that struck him as unfair.
He restrained himself from leaving comments on Em’s blog or from responding in any way by starting to blog himself because already people were posting under his name, were posting as him: Richard_Monomian, Rich_Monomian, Dickhardmon, Monosturbator69, each claiming to be “the real meatspace Monomian.”
IRL I jerked in my own hand then inseminated her preggers (wrote Modick).
Actually the bitch was so passed out I gave her an anal alarm clock (wrote Dicknass).
The more the commenters commented, the more accurate even their inaccuracies felt, the more their elaborations felt essential.
The weekend after losing out on a janitorial job then failing to obtain two other minimum-wage positions (jeggings folder, organic waiter), Mono began searching for something else, not for this proliferating porno about himself but for a number of basic variations: “how to get something off the internet,” “how to remove stuff from the net,” “slander on the web,” “info on online defamation and how to fight it,” “how to destroy a website entirely forever,” “is destroying a website technically legal if the work is contracted to someone in another country,” “how to knock out someone’s server if you don’t know anything whatsoever about hacking or even what servers are.”
He found a forum dedicated to cybersecurity that counseled a girl whose ex-boyfriend had uploaded a sex vid to contact a lawyer and sue for removal plus compensation.
One chat room included a comment from a genuine lawyer—“A Verified User”—advising a man whose wife had put up a Web site accusing him of being a compulsive gambler and not paying child support to contact him, he’d send a Cease & Desist for cheap.
That must have worked because the link www.myexhusbandrandyisalying degenerateteenfuckinggamblerwhosbadinbedanddoesnotpayforhisonly childsfoodandmedication.com was no longer functional.
Also the lawyer advised him to pay his child support: Buddy, that’s just Christian.
Mono searched for lawyers in his area by typing “lawyers in my area.” The number-one result was a Web site called “What Is a Good Web Site to Find Lawyers in My Area.” Like digging a hole to find a buried shovel to use to dig a grave.
Then Mono typed in “how to get people to take down libel from online,” adding the local zipcodes.
At the bottom of the first page of results, the tenth hit, was a link to a digital paralegal.
That’s what the header said, Da Digital Paralegal.
Mono didn’t hesitate, his connections did: B4UGO Network gave two bars, Chuck’s Den gave three, Sally Sally Wireless Home—finally full-strength.
He arrived at a site either terribly low-tech or trying to keep the lowest of profiles: a page all blank white like paper with only a single address centered, the contact, email@example.com, not even clickable—it had to be typed into the To: line of an e-mail.
What Mono sent this address was tentative, vaguely worded: Hello, my name is Richard and I am inquiring after your services, and though it was very late at night—though these were his normal working hours, beginning around midnight when, if Methyl had called, he’d be commuting the speed limit down U.S. 1 South between campus and the strip joints of Trenton—the DP wrote him back within the minute, before he had the chance to sign off, amid a last reloaded scan of the news:
Climate change was being called a sort of temperature socialism—it redistributed warmth to the colder months. This winter had set records. A woman gave birth to triplets, her twin to quintuplets. The father of all—the nondescript fertility doctor.
Elections don’t end wars.
The DP’s e-mail, terse:
U still up—just call me, then it gave her number. Her name, appearing not as a signature by dully fonted macro but as if by regular typing, was Majorie.
No reason she’d let it ring ten times.
Yes, the voice lidless, up, what time is it?
You asked me to call.
No, I know. I’m aware of my e-mail.
This is Dick.
Reluctance then because he’d have to say it anyway, Richard Monomian, and then he spelled it out.
It’s good to meet you M-O-N-O-M-I-A-N.
Behind her voice he could hear a toilet flush.
How does this work?
You were rather unclear in your initial query. But let me tell you to start, investing in taxi medallions is 100 percent safe and legal—a burgeoning business. I myself own ten I’ve leased at absurdly favorable terms.
You’ve lost me.
I have a comprehensive information packet if you’ll only give me your mailman address.
My mailman’s address? I’m calling about the Internet.
A pause and then, Mailman’s address is just a code, of course—if you were active in the Celebrity Privacy movement you’d have answered my mailman has no address, then we’d be talking business. I take it you’re no technophile.
No, I’m a courier.
A courier. Is that your only problem?
Now after the toilet a sink ran. Majorie might’ve been washing her hands. Which Mono chose to take as the mark of a professional.
And you’re a paralegal?
In the interests of disclosure I’m a paraparalegal. It’s the same difference pretty much.
And where are you located? Could I come by your offices and talk?
Majorie gave a cough or burp, an unforthcoming eruction.
Excuse me, she said, I’m out-of-state.
Don’t you realize we have the same area code?
I prefer to do business over the phone.
Are you recording this?
It’s a federal law that you have to tell someone when you’re recording their conversation.
Are you telling me that you’re recording our conversation?
Mono suspecting now that her office was her residence, which was a disaster, had to be. He heard—suspected he heard—junk-food wrappers crunch under slipper as she stalked around, as if testing the echoes of a floor’s worth of partially furnished rooms in an old drafty inherited house: from the reverberant bathroom she, they, seemed to be now in a larger room or long hallway.
She told Mono she could help him, that she did this type of freelance all the time.
Her voice was backed by clacking keys or particularly strident cicadas.
First I customize a letter for your situation then I e-mail it to the Webmaster or mistress of the originating offending URL—that’s Uniform Resource Locator.
What does this letter say?
It’s your standard-issue unequivocal demand: remove the original post from both Web site and cache and post instead a short retraction.
This post has been removed. Or would you prefer a public apology?
I think the less said about it the better.
Then I’ll ask the Webmistress to sign her name to another e-mail acknowledging the site falsified its information before sending that around to every linking site asking them to likewise take down content and threatening suit if they refuse to comply.
Every linking site?
Tell me this: is what Em wrote true—did you really spray all over that girl?
Mono, stymied, asked, We can’t be sure that Em’s her real name, can we?