A small crowd mills around on the sidewalk outside an art gallery. I am waylaid by an acquaintance who introduces me to his friends: a pair of women who are making the rounds. It’s fashion night, so, naturally, they are at an art gallery.
It quickly becomes apparent that we have nothing to offer each other.
“I have no nocturnal energy,” I say to one of them, a blonde from Texas.
“Maybe you need a stimulant,” she says.
“You don’t take stimulants?”
“Only during the day,” I say. “What does one do at night anyway but wander around drinking and making small talk with people one doesn’t care about?”
Her friend is thin and pale; she is wearing hot pants and high heels, and she has eyes of such vacancy that they are frightening to gaze into. Thirty seconds after being introduced to her, probably figuring that I’m not young, famous or wealthy enough to bother with, she returns to texting.
A fat man in shorts, T-shirt and baseball cap walks by.
“Obviously he’s out for fashion night,” I remark.
“What?” yelps the brunette, annoyed to be interrupted by a demand upon her attention in the non-digital world. She seems affronted that somebody might have the audacity to possess a sense of humor, maybe even a personality, which immediately marks them as an alien being from the real world, beyond the borders of the art-damaged sphere she inhabits.
I repeat my observation but she has already returned to the urgent business on her iphone, an aimless creature of the night, a black hole, looking for action, for the next place that she can stand around texting at.
I excuse myself and enter the gallery, where clusters of young people stand around playing with their cell phones and quaffing cans of Tecate.
A slightly raised circular wooden platform with lights around its edges occupies the room. It was once part of a famous singer’s stage set. An artist got his hands on it, and now it sits, stripped, in the middle of a gallery. Now it is art. Although, if it wasn’t in a gallery, one might not recognize it as such.
Every half hour the artist crouches down on the floor and spins the circular platform slowly around while fiddling with various switches that cause the lights to flash on and off. This performance lasts two or three minutes, for the duration of the song by the famous singer that is playing on the artist’s headphones, unbeknownst to the attendees. For this work the artist has received a substantial grant.
Back on the sidewalk, due to the exigencies of social protocol, I am once again thrust into conversation with my acquaintance and his friends.
“What were you doing in Dallas?” asks the Texan woman.
“I was with a band,” I reply.
Instantly, the stringy brunette looks up from her texting, her dead eyes come to life and something resembling an expression flickers across her pallid features. The magic words have been spoken. I am now worthy of interest.
“What band?” she asks.
“It doesn’t matter,” I say, refusing to gratify her feeble attempt at curiosity.
She returns to her texting, and I walk off.