Instagram is the Worst
I’d been selfish. God, I’d even become beautiful.
But I needed to feel lonely.
Home this spring break was Northern Massachusetts (set of Girls Gone Wild). From a bridge, I stared onto the wide country river my family lived on. It was a natural Blue 40, calm as the calm morning it reflected, unmoved by the flamboyancy of even small boats. It felt classically beautiful to me, overgrown—but streaked by red canoes, and dry reflections of condos, enough to speak on modernity. The nostalgia of local fathers was still alive. Fathers calmer than I, and stronger in the upper body. I hadn’t canoed in years, but I was about to Instagram the ones sleeping before me.
Lately, I’d been thinking—lazily, but at least, perhaps, for the benefit of my spirit—how Instagram had perforated whatever solitude I’d held onto. With every picture I took—a mewing church in the moon, my cat in the street—the first-person narrator of my novel interrupted his thought process, turned to the readers, and winked.
In my recent thinking, I’d broken down the procedure; I found a scene or detail beautiful, and as I was devastated, the moment I reached for my phone was the “boiling point,” when I predicted, without Instagram, I would be delivered from evil; struck like I must have been a year ago.
My problems…have expiration dates, I thought, sitting cross-legged on the bench of my school’s garden. Hydrangea leapt over the fence; sunlight got its prison jumpsuit caught in the cherry buds. What was more timeless, I was hoping, and pitiable, was the problem of my tension between modern practice and soul; I wanted a self-clarifying solitude, a more visceral experience of scenery. I wanted transcendence.
I glanced at the license plates mounted like bear heads on the wall of Spike’s Junkyard Dogs. Each one from a different state, I presumed, of those who’d finished The Monster Dog. Surely, one picture more wouldn’t mean my ennui.
I mowed into my relish dog and curly fries, also Instagrammed. Thoreau’s wife was patient. She sat by the window, ovulating till her husband returned. He would walk up the dirt path, she knew, and lay her back in his arms, whispering—in poetic detail—about the forest he slept in, the lush elegies of factories.
Just kidding, Thoreau was gay. (Trust me. My friend stick-and-poked the Walden SparkNotes on my ribs.)
As the second weekend of spring break lit up, we drank Powerade Rubinoff in a guy named Mike’s dorm. I was visiting my friend Doug at his university in Boston. Selena Gomez seeped from the speakers, the context of which I was unsure. I hadn’t been “out” (in the sunlight / not at my blender) in a while, so, ebullient, I asked my new friend Mike to Instagram Doug and me. A friend shot, I begged.
A little tipsy, I wrapped my arms candidly around Doug. He smiled professionally. He didn’t have an Instagram.
I always had a social boner. I loved to joke, obviously, with close friends, and even friends, and even acquaintances (whom I’d always greeted with the most flare). Scrolling through my Instagram feed, it was not devoid of heart—in this constant gallery opening were the narratives of my loved ones. I couldn’t help, though, feeling like I was reading their SparkNotes, like I had come to undervalue their stories.
“I went to Coney Island this weekend,” a friend shared.
“Yeah, I saw,” I would say suddenly, without thinking. Story over.
Sunday morning, what the Lebanese call “not hungover,” I said goodbye to Doug and took the Green Line from Copley to North Station. I had forty minutes, I checked on my phone, before my train left for home. I wavered, a small human, under the larger Tobin Bridge. With its great support beams of white, converging at Heaven, the bridge had been designed to look like a book, proudly being opened by the cars.
At night, the shafts glowed bright violet.
The smell of hot construction rubber poured over the islands outside North Station. The patient bridge looked over me.
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