Tell-tale signs that life’s a glitch

THE FIFTH COLUMN

Over dinner the other night my girlfriend and I had a lively discussion on Elon Musk’s theory — which she believed to ring true — that life is a computer simulation.

I told her not to trust the opinions of people named after deodorants and that civilisations normally wipe themselves out before sending thrill- seekers to places like Westworld.

She didn’t seem to buy into the logic of that and shot back.

“It’s pretty obvious if you think about it,” she exclaimed. “What happened at the Oscars has never, ever happened before, and neither did an oaf like Trump getting elected, which means there’s a glitch in the matrix — a big one.”

“Even gamers have off days,” I said, sarcastically, to try to lift the mood, but the gesture was met with a cold stare I’ve come to associate with the start of an argument.

A muscle in my shoulder twitched — a tell-tale sign that I was under pressure, brought on by the fact that I’m not exactly sure what a matrix is.

“I hate to break it to you, honey,” I went on against my better judgment, “but besides those two things nothing else out of the ordinary has happened in the world, which once again proves that Americans think they are the centre of the universe.”

My argument seemed to strike a nerve, or a wire, which made her drop her cutlery and look me straight in the face.

“Oh, so Zuma and his cronies bleeding the state dry is a perfectly acceptable narrative for very ordinary times,” she said, combining irony, anger and defiance to great effect.

“And 17-million people not receiving a pension next month and cellphones exploding and cars burning and Brexit and One Direction — these are all perfectly normal phenomena indicative of a perfectly normal society.”

My stomach dropped and I felt what I thought was the earth move beneath my feet, followed by a strong sense of déjà vu that that exact thing had happened before.

A song I had in my head since kindergarten days started up as hiccups from eating too fast pressed up into my chest.

A hadeda sounded in the distance, crossing Hout Bay in the middle of the night; a bruschetta fell from the table and hit the floor face first.

“I like your sex pack,” I blurted out suddenly. “Must be from all the crosstit.”

It was getting awkward. The fridge whirred to life and a car alarm sounded in the distance.

I tried to figure out what my partner was thinking, but couldn’t. My face was burning up as I sat in everyman’s land not knowing what to do or say next.

The thought of spending my golden years wilting away in an old age home with Alzheimer’s — a life wasted on resetting modems — flashed through my mind.

A neon light on the kitchen ceiling pinged off and came back on again.

“It does that,” she said. 

JS Smit

JS Smit

JS Smit is a Cape Town-based freelance writer. Formally trained as a copywriter, he took a break from ads in 2010 to write a blog for the Mail & Guardian's Thought Leader and since 2015 has written for the Mail & Guardian. Read more from JS Smit

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