“She’s buying rocky chunk now,” calls Bill Munchberger, the CEO of Omni Biometrics of America (OBA). I watch and pretend to be engaged by flexing my upper lip toward the columella part of my nose. Mr. Munchberger, some senior-level managers, an assortment of DevOps engineers, a few data sales trainers, and one other principal architect are reviewing the new biometric data from 67A23, an ice cream display at superstore12. Both screens in the conference room are covered in a checkboard pattern of profiles. Next to them are their facial matrix score (FMS) with any score above 95/100 or below 25/100 automatically pinned for review by the team.

Mr. Munchberger hovers over her global unique identifier (GUID) until her face appears next to her FMS of 97/100. “She’s one of our greatest resources, always buying something new. And it doesn’t hurt she’s a looker too.” He moves the cursor, hovering over another profile until the face of a skinny and harsh looking man the team’s nicknamed Miserable Pete comes into focus. Next to his photo is his FMS of 23/100. Miserable Pete is not a dynamic buyer and he can never remember his flavor of ice cream; he just stands there in front of the display, attempting to figure it out while the camera records a range of emotions that can be graphed from pain to amorousness to uncertainty; the last reaction being the worst. “This guy is always mucking up our data,” calls Mr. Munchberger, vigorously scratching the center of his forehead. “I wish we could just delete him and save time.”

“Why?” asks Sarah, a new member of the data sales training department.

Mr. Munchberger scoffs. I believe he’s pissed. “Because he’s an idiot and can’t remember what flavor he’s supposed to get. Last time it was…” Mr. Munchberger pulls up his buyer history. “Rocky road. The three times before that it was rocky chunk and now he’s buying rocky road again. He’s got a conversion time of five plus minutes for churned milk.”

“Maybe he’s just debating which one he liked better?”

“Sarah, when you talk to clients, I hope you aren’t as…” Mr. Munchberger stops himself. “Deciding and idiot have two very distinct facial recognition patterns.” Mr. Munchberger pulls up the facial matrix then places a set of the woman’s saved facial icons next to a set of Miserable Pete’s. “Deciding,” he says, clicking on the woman. “Idiot,” he says, clicking on Pete. Mr. Munchberger rapidly cycles through the images. “Deciding. Idiot. Deciding. Idiot. See the brow and the tilted back ears comparable to the startled facial expressions on a number of bovines? That’s idiot. I want to believe the real problem here is the marketing copy. I told the advertising agency the names were too similar. We have to keep introducing new algorithms not only for the Petes of the world, but now for inept copywriters. Charley here,” Mr. Munchberger points at me until everyone looks, “is working overtime solely on states of confusion.” I nod at this asymptotic truth.

Seemingly satisfied, Mr. Munchberger moves back to the image of the woman. “This was her first rocky chunk conversion.” He overlays the facial matrix, highlighting her eighty nodal points. “Intrigue, clarity in product differentiations—despite the copywriters—meditation, and lastly, happiness.” Mr. Munchberger zooms in on her lips, nose, and eyes. “Total time for conversion, four seconds.” He pulls up her frequency at display 67A23. “This was her third time seeing the product. Two seconds the first time and five seconds the second time. Both times displaying semblances of curiosity and review.”

Mr. Munchberger leaves her picture up. I stare at it while he talks about superstore9 and superstore8, product placement, interference analysis, e.g., moving the frozen vegetable display further away, and the big release tomorrow of a client’s new video display (VDSS1224) at superstore12 and our expected metric gate.

When the meeting is over, I go back to my desk and pull up the woman’s profile; she has smooth, damp lips; an elegant nose curvature; high zygomatic bones producing deep eye sockets with strong projections in sectors twelve and thirteen: she is hot. She is also a dynamic buyer with a mean FMS of 98/100. A dynamic buyer is a buyer that is not only a frequent convertor, but is also pliable. Indiscriminant buyer or shotgun buyer are the slang terms.

Although the data we distribute is entirely anonymous, what is not is the information combined through an application program interface between our OBA software and the superstore smartphone app and Wi-Fi ISP. It produces a geolocation, latitude/longitude, of frequent locations with extreme prudence. Using a thing I call a Woogie, I can pinpoint her apartment to 1200 Columbus Ave, Apt A. San Francisco, CA 94133. If I run this address through any popular search engine, I can find the mailing address is registered to a Jasmin Bennet. If I then comb through various social media platforms using her location and name, I can find out just about anything. My facial matrix confirms that the person in the Facebook profile picture is the same person in superstore12, and even though certain features of her profile are set to private, her birthday isn’t one of them; it’s June 3rd and she is thirty-three. Happy belated Birthday, Jasmin.

I haven’t always been interested in biometrics; it wasn’t until many years after I was diagnosed that I developed the intent. I was eight when I was formally evaluated and I know now that what I did was wrong.

At the time, I didn’t know he didn’t like it. I’d seen other boys wrestling and I wanted to give it a try. I remember twisting his arms behind his head and listening to him scream with excitement. I heard a pop and something that sounded like someone was walking on loose gravel, and I knew I was doing a good job. I kept twisting because he kept screaming and making a face like he was eating really cold ice cream. When the teacher grabbed me, he was screaming too. Opening my grip on the boy’s arm, he asked what I thought I was doing. I told him wrestling and I made the cold ice cream face. He took me to the principal’s office where they called my parents. I watched out the window as an ambulance came to the school and took the boy to the hospital. That’s the last time I saw him, any of them for that matter. I’ve always wanted to tell him sorry, sort of.

When we met the doctor, she was calm and direct. But my parents, well, they were all over the place when she said I wasn’t neurotypical and that I’d have difficulty identifying feelings in myself and in others. She said my life would be one of struggle and a constant battle to connect emotionally with people, if ever. At first, I think my parents thought I was some kind of psychopath. It began with questions every time we went somewhere. How was I feeling? Am I angry? Did I understand that people, and especially the next door neighbor’s dog, Willy, who came into our yard frequently, had feelings? That I shouldn’t touch, do things without asking, or chop anyone up. If I didn’t know the proper response, I should just excuse myself. For the next eleven years I lived under a surveillance state. What the doctor should have told my parents is I’d develop into a boring thirty-one year old virgin working in biometrics in San Francisco—Richard Franck had it right, necessity is the mother of invention. Now I always know what people think, even Miserable Pete.

 

Among some other regulars, I remotely follow Jasmin mostly on her lunch breaks as she walks the long, sensory rich aisles of superstore12. She starts in the home goods, then moves to electronics, and then through the foodstuffs beginning with the produce. Like I said before, she is always buying something new; this time it was rocky chunk ice cream, yesterday it was a USB drive doubling as a spoon. Last week it was an automatic melon slicer, Bluetooth headphones, a pair of running shoes and sweat-proof socks. The week before that she spent three minutes watching a video presentation on a clean water initiative in Tanzania. At the 1:26 minute mark, during the most poignant part of the clip in which a young boy is seen walking what seems like an endless distance for fresh water, her face tightens, surrendering her eyes while clenching her jaw in a firm swallow: conversion. She bought a case of water, a tribal African painted vase in home goods, and donated twenty dollars at the register. Now, she’ll receive ads on her phone and cross platform devices thanking her for her donation and asking her if she’d share a post on social media. She’ll also receive ads for rugs that match the vase’s aesthetics.

Tomorrow, based on Jasmin’s prior timestamps, she should reach VDSS1224 by 12:36 p.m. It is right between home goods and electronics and the item for purchase is a cruise to Alaska. It can be conveniently purchased right from the display or scanned with her phone for a later buying option. The video showcases an amalgamation of people taking a voyage of a lifetime up to Alaska to see wildlife and glaciers: whales surface next to the boat, grand walls of ice reach into the sky without showing signs of melting or fracture. The landscape is endless and serene, an escape from the doldrums of life. Our test viewing showed the film’s first ten seconds instill wonder and awe, the next five seconds certify affordability, the next three inculcate deservingness, and the last two seconds, as the boat returns to port just a mere five days later, highlights radiant expressions of pure happiness. I’m not entirely sure Jasmin will convert, but I can guarantee she’ll watch, thus increasing our data, which will be translated in next year’s cruise to Jamaica.

On my way home, I stop into superstore12 to make sure everything is up to specifications. I’ve never been inside this particular store and I usually assess and quantify the environment’s variables using a relay of camera angles from my desk. I’ll review a few preliminary samples—off the record—then adjust the data field before the official launch.

When I reach the display, it’s positioned optimally in a high-traffic area in the part of the store I like to call the kill zone (KZ); it is where all linoleum roads meet and no entrances or exits can be spotted. An analogous example can be found in a casino. One of OBA’s largest clients owns sixty-five-percent of the metropolis known as Las Vegas; the auspicious million-dollar jackpots slots are found on the edges of the kill zone.

Superstore12’s KZ, besides our video display taking center stage, is surrounded by an AT&T smartphone kiosk with a waived fee if you switch providers today and a display for Samsung’s new smart TV with an affordable twelve month financing option. Closest to VDSS1224 is the subliminally acute aisle-ender of save the whale and climate change t-shirts, coffee mugs, magnets, and other kitsch. The video display, waiting for interaction, flashes, yet in a soothing heartbeat pulse, the words, See Alaska Today. As I draw near, the video begins.

 

It’s late and I can’t sleep. I was thinking about tomorrow’s video release, anticipating the results, mostly for Jasmin, but then the residents above took to engaging in coitus of an extreme nature. Now, I’m drinking a Mountain Dew and sitting on the floor with my back against the refrigerator. The hum relaxes me. OBA reviews the biometric data of millions of people a year using the software I wrote, a guy who can’t understand or properly place emotions. I smile at this. The most motivating thing about biometrics was the revelation that most people are unhappy even with their ability to express their displeasure. Why is this motivating? You’d think in a world where everyone can read each other’s faces, it would be easy to be happy; that when someone sees a person that looks unhappy, maybe they’d should do something to cheer them up. If a person is sad, maybe they should give them a hug. If they are tired, give them a hand. That people should tell jokes, dance, and sing more because when they do, other people smile. Me, I don’t have this ability, but through biometrics I’ve realized most people don’t use their superpower anyway, this ability to affect the world with a look or by their response to a look. When I sit against the fridge, I ponder this and wish I could tell them all that the facts are in the numbers; people are growing increasingly unhappy. One day, I’ll show them the data and make my suggestion of how to change the world. I’ll tell them the answer is written on the faces around us.

I’m sitting at my desk. It is exactly 1:15 p.m. and I would say I’m back from lunch, but I ate here. I pull up Jasmin’s profile. Her latest engagement entry is for 12:38 p.m., superstore12, VDSS1224. Like expected, her FMS is pinned for review. I open the file and see 8/100 blinking in red. I think there must be some kind of mistake so I pull up her video and overlay the facial matrix to see what went wrong.

00:01: she stares at the screen with disapproval.

00:02: still staring at the screen with disapproval.

00:03: sadness is emerging from sectors four, five and six.

00:04: complete sadness.

00:05: Jasmin’s eyes are closed. A whale is surfacing by the boat.

00:07: Jasmin’s eyes are still closed.

00:08: lacrimation has started in sectors seven and eight.

00:09: Jasmin has stopped interaction with VDSS1224. A large glacier looms off the bow of the ship as she walks away from the display.

I watch the video again. I pull up her buyer history to see if there is any affliction for cruises or whales or ice; there isn’t anything qualifying her response. She even bought a snow jacket off a retargeted ad nine months back. I wade through hundreds of her conversions before I pull up the origin of her GUID and initial conversion; it was 962 days ago. It came from a video display for San Francisco Giants baseball tickets. Each ticket came with a promotional baseball glove and t-shirt. She bought three tickets. Shirt sizes selected: Men’s. Women’s. Youth. Baseball glove sizes: Adult x2. Child x1. I run a search for youth or men’s products in her history. Nothing after this date. I watch the video again and a feeling that I’ve never felt before pokes right above my belly button and into my sternum. It’s abstract and I can’t decide if it is just indigestion or something else. I drink some water.

 

VDSS1224 has been running for five days and Jasmin hasn’t been back to the store. In a week or so, the team will review her FMS in the conference room. She’s not only pinned, but has recorded the lowest FMS to date. Mr. Munchberger’s going to insist my program has made a mistake, he’ll want to justify the anomaly to the client. I thought only a person like me could see a woman crying and debate perhaps that they were tears of joy. I pull up Jasmin’s social media profile, but it offers no ancillary information. When I click on Jasmin’s picture, the one where she is showing off her teeth in all their glory, my chest grows tight and my head becomes cloudy.

Mr. Munchberger was okay with me taking the rest of the day off, though I think I registered in him a look of suspicion. I haven’t missed a minute since I started here six years ago except for the voluntary holiday given after New Year’s. I didn’t know it was voluntary at the time or I would have come in.

It isn’t a long walk to my apartment from my office and by the time I get home, the feeling in my chest and the cloudiness in my head have died down. I untuck my shirt, water my plants, and hang around just long enough to make the decision to head back to superstore12.

When I get there, I stand near the KZ and observe people interacting with VDSS1224. Even without having my facial matrix program, I can tell that people are enjoying the video by the number of phone swipes and by their time spent watching it. Offering no further introspection to the situation, I leave.

I shouldn’t tell you, but right now I am standing in front of Jasmin’s apartment building. I know; what the hell am I doing? If I knew that I would tell you, as this is a live confessional, a 21st-century streaming epistolary if you will. Something about Jasmin’s video has attached itself to me and I can’t think of any other way to describe it. I’m not even sure if the correlation I’ve made between her FMS and her buyer history is factual or that I care; gut feelings aren’t my strong suit. The only thing I know is that when I see Jasmin’s face on the video, my facial matrix outlining the elegant sectors of her consciousness as some unknown rottenness turns them foul, I become trapped.

At home, I sit with my back against the refrigerator again. Her name was Rebecca, she was a forty-two year old divorcee that I had met through an online dating service a few years ago. She liked to grab my crotch in public places. She would tell me my penis was her penis. And then she’d squeeze it. She said she wanted me to always walk around with her flaunting a semi-hard-on. When she couldn’t see its outline through my shorts, she’d grab it and massage it, licking the top crease of my ear. She said she liked the fact I was young and fun, not like the older men she was used to. Half of them couldn’t even get hard cocks. I could walk around with one.

One night, on the way to her apartment, she gave me my first kiss. She’d stopped in front of a restaurant, staring in the window at a couple eating and drinking. She waited until the couple looked over and then grabbed me. Her lips were rough despite their soft appearance and our teeth crashed into each other. I couldn’t breathe, but worst, I couldn’t swallow my spit. Her tongue ran itself around the insides of my cheeks gathering my saliva and when she pulled her mouth from mine, a foot-long loogie hung between us. Shaping my fingers like a pair of scissors, I cut it from my lip. Like a rope swing, it swung over and dangled from her mouth. I’m pretty sure it was shock on her face. Yeah. I would put money on it that it was shock. And it seemed like an eternity before she finally wiped her mouth with the back of her hand, the wad of spit falling to the ground with a gooey slap.

I followed her eyes back to the couple inside where the woman now covered her mouth with her hand and the man shook with laughter. Then, turning back to me, she ended things; there would be no more cock pulls. “How can you look the way that you do and be such a fucking weirdo?” she asked. I didn’t think it was so bad; I liked it really. People on the street and inside the restaurant were looking at us. “Are you a fucking retard?” she yelled. I began to say I was sorry, but then I shrank back into a little box at the center of my mind I like to call the safe. I retreat there and become rigid. In the last 0.09 seconds of Jasmin’s video, I noticed she has a safe too; a place where she keeps things from destroying her.

It is 12:35 p.m. and I’ve decided to take my lunch break at superstore12. It’s been a week and a half since Jasmin’s interaction with VDSS1224 and her FMS is up for review in two days. I walk around the store in the identical route she takes, eating a sandwich that I bought from a cooler next to the produce, which if I must be honest, took me a few minutes to pick out because they have quite the selection. I relate to Miserable Pete.

In the different departments, I stop and look at past items Jasmin has purchased, trying to infer a pattern. I pick up the melon slicer, the sweat-proof socks; I moll over the rocky chunk ice cream; I even find the retro Orange Is the New Black boxset she purchased twice last Christmas. I look for anything I can find of hers that’s been pinned for review. Nada.

Then I see her. She just passed from home goods into electronics. Before I can decide, I hear my voice excitedly calling her name like I know her. She turns and looks at me. I can surmise, from the daily study of her face, it is a look of bewilderment.

“Are you talking to me?” she asks, looking around.

“Yes,” I say confidently.

“How do you know my name?”

“I work at OBA. You’re one of our valued customers.”

“What’s OBA? Is this some kind of prank?” She smile-ishes; things are going well so far.

“OBA is a biometrics firm.” Now a look of confusion, I think. She’s really cycling through expressive states. “I wrote a program that quantifies people’s reactions to new products by designing facial recognition software that graphs emotional ranges over timelines. It is used by companies to adjust their marketing efforts for more conversions.”

“And this has to do with me?”

“I already told you. You’re one of our most valued customers. A dynamic buyer.” I insert a double eyebrow raise here.

“A what? Did I sign up for this or something?”

“Nope. A dynamic buyer. It means you buy a lot of different stuff.” I list off her previous thirty-or-so conversions, which gets me a look I am not sure how to measure.

“And you know this again how?”

“Cameras throughout the store.”

“You watch me shop?”

“Everyday. Well not in person like today, but from my desk. Biweekly, the whole team reviews your FMS,” I say jovially enough.

“My what?”

“Your FMS, your facial matrix score. It is a nodal…”

“Security,” she says in another smile-ish expression.

“No wait. We work for the store. Sort of. I work for things inside the store, like your melon slicer?”

Jasmin starts quickly walking away from me, but I stay at her heels.

“Security,” she says again. “Stop following me.”

“I’m not trying to upset you. Are you upset with me?

She looks over her shoulder at me. I stop guessing her mental state.

“Upset with you? I don’t even know who you are. Just get away from me.”

“How silly of me. I’m Charley.”

“Go away Charley.” She is really walking fast now.

In a last-ditch effort I blurt it out, “What happened with Alaska? What happened to them?”

Jasmin stops. I try to make a genuine face or a less curious face, a safe face.

“What did you just say?”

“What happened to the man and the boy, the one’s you bought the baseball gloves and t-shirts for?” Jasmin is sad. I can’t believe I know this. Lacrimation starts in sectors 7 and 8 confirming it. I want to comfort her. Her brown eyes look heavy like two anvils waiting to drop.

“Please leave me alone.”

I feel a hand on my shoulder. “Excuse me, ma’am. Is this guy bothering you?” I turn to see a rather sturdy man standing behind me.

“Yes. Get him away from me.”

“But wait, I’m–”

“Sir, you need to stop talking to her and you need to leave.” I try to sidestep him, but the man grabs me good by the collar of my shirt, forcing me toward the exit.

“Would you man-handle another patron of the story like this?” I shout. He doesn’t say anything. I tell him to let go of me. I plead to be let go, I just have to explain. I look for Jasmin. I don’t see her anywhere; she must have disappeared down one of the aisles.

I’m standing on the sidewalk out front of superstore12. The security guard has succeeded in removing me and keeping me out. He guards the door even though I assure him I won’t try to get back in. I think about waiting across the street for Jasmin to exit when I spot Miserable Pete strolling down the sidewalk. An obese woman rides next to him in one of those electric scooters, holding his hand. When they get to the door she pulls off to the side and parks outside by the exit near to where I am standing. She calls to him, rocky road. He responds (inaudible to me, fucking city buses) and moves past the security guard who is still eyeballing me. I think about calling after Miserable Pete, but remembering that’s not his name, I don’t. I decide not to wait for Jasmin either. I’ll see her again.

I call Mr. Munchberger and I tell him I’m sick for the rest of the day and for tomorrow. Mr. Munchberger reminds me off the importance of the FMS review coming up for the video release. I tell him I’ll be there for it. He doesn’t understand that the program pretty much runs itself. I haven’t figured out what to do about Jasmin’s FMS and oddly enough, the closer the review gets, the less I care. Seeing her just now in person made me want to know everything about her: her favorite food, her last dream, the songs that make her cry, the people that make her laugh. She was cordial to me, a stranger, and a meddler of delicate information.

I know I startled her, I didn’t mean to. I just couldn’t help myself. It’s like what people describe happens when they see their favorite movie star in a random airport encounter and because they’ve watched everything that person has been featured in for the last 20 years, they think they know them. Unprepared for this once-in-a-lifetime meeting, they approach and totally freak the person out. It is not like a stalker freak out, because it is a chance meeting. Well mine wasn’t by chance, but that’s not the point. I think the term is star-wowed. No. Star-eyed. No. Star-struck. Star-struck! That’s it. Something like that happened. I’ll have to excuse myself for it by apologizing. I’ll have to work on a declarative face for that.
 

 

It is 5 p.m. the following day and I am waiting for Jasmin on the stairs that lead up to her apartment. I know what you are thinking, so let’s just skip over that. I wouldn’t say I’m dressed up right now, but I think I look professional and I did my hair. I may have a bouquet of flowers in my hands; I’m in uncharted waters here.

When I see her coming toward the apartment I stand up, straightening myself. She has her head down and doesn’t spot me until she is right in front of me. I lull her expression of fear with the flowers. “I’m sorry about yesterday,” I say, handing them to her. Insert my practiced apology face here.

“How did you find me?” She doesn’t take the flowers. I lay them down on the concrete between us, freeing up my hands for trained, sympathetic gestures.

“I can explain everything. Just give me a few minutes.”

“You have exactly one minute and I am calling the cops.”

I run through the entire story without pausing to take a breath and I don’t even try to measure her response. I kind of blacked out halfway through it anyway. She hasn’t reached to pick up the flowers, I know that at least. She asks me the name of my company and I watch her record it on her phone. I tell her my boss is Bill Munchberger, he can back me up on this. She jots that down too.

“So,” I ask.

“So what?”

I don’t know either. I totally forgot to think of what I wanted to accomplish. I am blanking here so bad. Was it just answers? I almost start all over again with the story. Then I come to it, what I really want to know.

“So what about me?”

“What about you?” She is definitely smiling now, that’s a good thing. I smile back nodding my head. “I think you are a sad little person who has a lot of problems most notably with boundaries. I think you work for a company that is evil, which also has the same problems as you, and is trying to reduce everything private and sacred about humanness to a few upticks on a sales chart. I hope I never see you again, and if I do, I’m going to call the cops. Are you hearing me? Stop making that face?”

“Yes, of course. What face?”

“Like you don’t understand me.”

“Oh, I understand. I can tell you’re upset and very depressed and that’s a big move in the right direction for me. I’m sorry the Alaska cruise reminded you of them.”

“Stop saying that. I’m not depressed and…” lacrimation is starting in sectors…sorry reader, she is starting to cry. “I’m going to report your company. I don’t know to who yet. But I imagine a lot of people will want to know about the OBAs of the world and how you are spying on us and sending their employees out to stalk us.”

“I think you’re the most wonderful person I’ve ever met.”

“You don’t even know me.” She is either overheating or blushing. “And you and your company will never write a program that allows you to see me. I think people like you sit on the lowest rung of civilization and should die.”

A woman a few windows up starts clapping. “Tell him, Jazz,” she calls down to her. “Let me know if you want me to beat that stalker’s ass.” Now two people have used the word stalker so it is definitely permanent; I was hoping to avoid the term. I feel like something has just wrapped its hand around my spine and is about to shake.

“Can I just–”

“You can fuck off now.” Jasmin steps over the flowers and walks by me. She climbs the steps without looking back and enters her apartment. I call after her, “Happy belated Birthday, Jasmin.” The door closes and a pain that had started in my chest explodes through my limbs, like a fire spreading through a high-rise building. If this is what heartbreak feels like then I don’t ever want to feel this again. Humphrey Bogart was right, my guts really do feel like they are hanging out and there is now way to push them back in. I pick up the flowers as the woman from the window above me still claps. “Get the fuck on,” she says.

The conference room is full when I walk in. I should have been here earlier getting all of this set up, but I couldn’t do it. I can’t eat, I can’t shower, and I could barely get out of bed this morning. I don’t want to see Jasmin’s face again. I can’t watch the video; I can’t watch as my program simplifies the meaning of her experience, the entirety of her story, by how likely she is to buy something. She was right. What a jerk I am. I hate myself. No one acknowledges my brooding this morning and Mr. Munchberger is too busy pulling up profiles with pinned FMS scores to care, not that he would anyway.

Jasmin, Miserable Pete, and a few others come up, along with a new GUID that has 18 pinned for review FMS scores. I notice the new profile’s correlation report (CR) has a 99% match to Jasmin’s profile. I haven’t discussed correlation reports yet because they haven’t entered the story until now. CRs are used to compile similar accounts into list for targeted marketing initiatives; it’s a premium feature that our data sales team options up to our highest paying clients. I already know the match between Jasmin and I is only 99% because of the sandwich I ate. I will say I wish it was 100%.

Mr. Munchberger slowly scrolls over to the new profile and I watch as my image comes up on the screen. At first no one is sure what to make of it. For more than half of them, it takes a few moments to register that it is me they are looking at. Mr. Munchberger is one of these people. I wait as he figures it out. He turns around to find me at the table.

“What is this?”

“Yeah. I totally overlooked this happening in all the emotion. I mean commotion. I mean, it’s me,” I say brazenly.

“I know it is you. Why are you pinned for review eighteen times?” He clicks on one of the scores: 11/100. “Are you trying to ruin our data? What are you doing at superstore12?”

“I was there making sure everything was working right.”

“You’ve never gone to the store before, have you?”

Maybe he doesn’t notice the CR. Never mind, he’s clicking on it. “Why do you have 99% match with profile—”

“That’s Jasmin,” I say. It is a bit high for a random occurrence I have to admit.

“Who’s Jasmin?”

“The profile ID belongs to Jasmin.”

“How do you know her name?”

“She asked that too.”

Mr. Munchberger scoffs extra loud. “What do you mean she asked that too?”

I imagine if the FMSs were being measured in the conference room at this moment, they would graph somewhere around Mr. Munchberger’s bovines discovering they could fly. “Well. I talked to her. I waited for her at the store. And once at her apartment, but the apartment was a terrible mistake. I know that now.”

“How did you find her apartment?”

“The same way I found her name.”

“What did you say to her?”

“I just told her about us. What we do and how I came upon her. There was so much more I wanted to say, but the moment was bigger than expected if that makes sense.”

“Did you say you worked here?”

“Not the first time at the store, but I did when I was at her apartment. She wrote it down. She said we are on the lowest rung of civilization. After careful consideration, I’m going to have to agree with her.” Mr. Munchberger is shaking his head violently. I can’t tell what his face is doing.

“She wrote it down? Have you lost your mind? What were you thinking?”

“I think I love her.”

“You what?”

“I don’t know. It’s a first for me as well, but I ruined it. I’m sure of that.”

“This guy has to be kidding with me?” Mr. Munchberger begins walking around the table toward me. John, a senior-level exec, stops him a few feet from my chair.

“Someone call legal and get security up here,” says John.

“You’ve really done yourself in,” Mr. Munchberger says. “You’re so fucked.”

“I know it,” I say. “That’s twice this week with security.”

It’s been two days since I was let go from OBA and the rest of that scene went cautiously and judicially just the way it was supposed to. That doesn’t matter. Right now, I’m standing in front of VDSS1224, watching the video for those first ten seconds designed to elicit wonder and awe. A child has just run to the stern of the ship and points at a flock of seagulls that are weaving back and forth in the ship’s airstream. The child is never joined by anyone, and just stands there unsupervised by the railing, mocking the seagulls with his own interpretation of bird calls. As the video cuts to another shot of a whale surfacing, I swipe my phone, purchasing two tickets. I know I’m being pinned for review so I wave.

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