Angel

    With the development of the app Angel, misunderstanding and spite were eradicated from the land.  Foul and offensive speech were eradicated from the land.  People became perfectly pleasant towards one another.  Black got along with White, and White got along with Yellow, and Yellow got along with Brown just the same.  There were no tribes; tribes were figments of unenlightened minds in other, far off lands.  When someone laughed, everyone laughed.  There was no hate.  When you walked the dog in the morning, every neighbor you passed by you liked.  Whenever someone had a party, everyone was invited.  Sometimes people came; someone people didn’t come.  It didn’t matter to the party hosts.  Even if no one came, the party hosts were never offended.  They would just barbeque and laugh all by themselves as the crab dip was attended to by nobody.  Everyone trusted each other.  Everyone liked each other just the same.

    “Hi, Bob,” Larry said.

    “Hi, Larry,” Bob said.

    “Boy, the weather is great today.”

    “The weather is great today.  

    “Great to see you, Larry.”

    “Great to see you, Bob.”

    There was no need for a police force, because there was no crime.  Everybody knew what to do at all times.  They knew because of Angel.  Angel was always with them.  Angel was with them since they were 1 years old.  Some of the older folks, the really old ones, they remembered a world without Angel.  Life back then was scary.  You never knew who you were going to run into, or worse, what kind of political views they had.  What if they were mean – or worse, racist or sexist?  What if they weren’t explicitly racist or sexist but implicitly racist or sexist?  That would put you in danger.  The older folks remembered in the old days many years of protesting.  The government twiddling their thumbs.  They remembered years of race wars, class conflict, politicians saying empty and dishonest things like ‘we should all try to understand each other’ while actually just sowing hatred and spite and misery.  There was a lot of misunderstanding and bad things in the world back then.  But not anymore.  Thanks to Angel.  

    Larry walked down the sidewalk and saw his Black friend Kathy.  Larry had many friends.  In fact, everyone was Larry’s friend.  Including Black people.  Black people were definitely Larry’s friend.  

    “Hi Kathy,” Larry called from across the street.

    “Hi Larry,” Kathy called back.

    “Kathy, I wanted to let you know that I respect you as a person.”

    “Me too, Larry.”

    “I am your ally, Kathy.”

    “Thank you, Larry.”

    That was a great conversation for Larry.  He continued to stroll across the street, smiling and waving at all of his friends.  Black, White, Yellow.  Larry was very glad to live in a diverse community.  So glad he told all hi frisends.

    “Joon Wong,” he said to his friend Joon, “I am so glad to live in a diverse community filled with diverse people like yourself.”

    “Diversity is important,” Joon said, nodding and smiling.  “I am glad to add to the diversity of this population.”  

    “Well, goodbye to you Joon!”
    “Goodbye to you, Larry!” 

    In those days, no one was married.  Marriage meant people liked each other too much.  It was preferential treatment, really, and Angel’s developers couldn’t allow that.  If a man preferred a woman, what next?  Would he then prefer his own kids?  And his kids’ kids?  Would they not then form a tribe and prefer others within their tribe?  That could not happen in a land without tribes, where everyone understood each other.  So the solution was obvious.  No one gets married.  No one has kids.  However, to keep the population growing, every man would send in sperm and every woman would send in their eggs to a government lab.  They would all be fertilized at the lab.  Then, all the kids were born to nurses who would treat all of them exactly equally – with the help of Angel’s direction, of course.

    Larry understood the logic of why no one should get married.  He was usually pretty content with that logic.  If you like someone too much, you might prefer that person over someone else.  And preference always leads to competition.  And competition leads to disliking others.  And disliking people is bad.  Really bad.  Larry understood this logic very well.  In fact, the Angel app on his phone would repeat it to him every night while he was sleeping between the hours of 2 am and 3 am.  That’s how well he understood the logic.  

    Still, sometimes Larry would glance across the street and see his neighbor, Georgia.  She had long, dark, straight hair and thick eyelashes.  Georgia was a nice lady, like every lady.  She was not married.  No one else was married, so of course she wasn’t.  Sometimes when Larry would pass by Georgia’s house and Georgia was mowing the lawn or sitting on the porch or something, he would wave, but his heart rate would go up.  The Angel app would notice this and suggest Larry say something like “Hi Georgia!  I hope you’re having a pleasant day!  You are a great friend!”  And Georgia would say back, with a bit of a Spanish accent, and accent that Larry would sometimes mull over himself, “Hi Larry!  You are a great friend as well!”  The genius of the Angel app, the reason why it works, say the developers, is because it can process both sides of the conversation.  Make both sides of the conversation as pleasant and non-intrusive as possible.  

    Larry passed by Georgia’s house today again, and Georgia was at the mailbox, getting mail.  The mail was basically always from the government; ever since the government adopted the Angel app as its main peacekeeping directive, it exclusively sends out feel good messages about how great and inclusive this land was.  Georgia was reading the letters in front of her mailbox.  

    “Hi Georgia!”  Larry said, waving.

    Georgia turned towards Larry.  “Hi Larry!”  Larry noticed for a brief second that she had a polka-dotted dress on.  It was purple and gold.  His heart rate went up.  The Angel app responded by sending a message through the earbuds Larry wore to listen to Angel messages.  I hope you’re having a pleasant day!  You’re a great friend!

    “I hope”- Larry stopped.  Georgia was closer to Larry than he had ever really been to her before.  Normally they would just wave from the lawn or the porch.  Now, Georgia was only about six feet away.  He could even touch her.  

    You’re having a pleasant day.  Angel reminded him.  

    It wasn’t good to touch a woman.  Touching a woman was bad.  It led to sexism, actually.  Even if it didn’t, it often led to misunderstanding.  Larry knew this ever since 2nd grade.  His teacher always said: misunderstanding people is bad.  And Angel would repeat in the children’s ears: misunderstanding people is bad.  And the children would say: “misunderstanding people is bad!”  So Larry was very proud of the fact he was never misunderstood.  Everybody liked him and everybody liked him equally.

    You’re having a pleasant day.

    “I hope you’re having a pleasant day,” Larry said, smiling.

    You’re a great friend.

    “You’re a great friend,” Larry said.

    Georgia smiled back.  “You’re a great friend too, Larry.”  And she turned to her driveway and walked back to her house, where she lived alone.  He, too, lived alone.  He wondered briefly why he needed all that space to himself.  He was always capable of sharing.

    Good job, Angel said.  You earned 10 peace points.

    When Larry went back home, he took off his earphones.  Georgia said his name.  Larry.  He didn’t care, of course.  Everybody said Larry’s name.  Everybody liked Larry, and so did Georgia.

    But he didn’t mind.

    Congratulations, Larry.  You earned 23 peace points today.  You can spend it on a peace trophy.  

    Larry had a whole collection of peace trophies in his living room.  Nearly a hundred, actually.  Every time they came they came in a different color and had a different andogynous-looking plastic figure put on top of the trophy.  It was a pleasant trophy.  He had 97 trophies.  Only three more to one hundred.  Once he got one hundred peace trophies, he could receive a certificate of inclusivity.  That would be an accomplishment!

    Larry smiled.  His microwaveable dinner was finished.  He took it out of the tray and put it on the table.  It was roast chicken with vegetables.  He sat on a chair and looked at his dinner.  Across from him was another chair.  It was a sturdy chair, made out of mahogany wood and leather, different from the plastic chairs everyone else got.  One time there was a merchant from a far away land who came to the town square.  He didn’t seem to be from around here, but of course, that didn’t make him a bad person.  All immigrants were welcome to this land.  He sold furniture, but he wouldn’t accept peace points like the other stores did.  He wanted dollars.  Dollars were not illegal to spend – nothing was illegal in this land – but the government stopped printing them about ten years ago.  Still, Larry had a few dollars that he had kept around, and he gave the merchant a few of them to buy a set of four mahogany chairs.  He was lucky he bought them when he did, because the next day, the merchant vanished, and he never saw him again.  Oh well.  He had all of these other friends around.    

The empty chair across from him carried some appeal, however.  Maybe he could invite Georgia over for dinner.  After all, they were friends, right.  Or maybe he could invite her to that one restaurant he liked to go to every month, the nice steak restaurant you have to mail in a coupon of entry to get into.  The government wanted to make sure everything was fair, so they would mail coupons of entry to every person in the neighborhood every month.  But Larry didn’t go to the steak restaurant last month, so he had an extra coupon.  Maybe he could give one of his coupons to Georgia and maybe Georgia could come to the steak restaurant with him.  The waitresses there were nice.  Everyone was nice.  The steak was good.  Larry wondered if Georgia liked steak.  

Larry, the Angel app said on speaker, please put your earbuds back on.  

Larry did.

***

    Larry loved going to parks.  All the parks were sparkling clean here.  Nobody ever vandalized them.  Vandalization was not something people did anymore.  Why would someone write something hurtful, or even racist, on a piece of public property?  That would be a great misunderstanding.  And that would be bad.

    Larry was walking along a trail in the park when he turned the corner, and saw Georgia.  Georgia was running almost straight towards him.  She looked fit.  Her dark hair was tied back in a ponytail.  Larry stepped back in surprise.  “Georgia.”

    Hi, Georgia, Angel corrected him.

    “Hi, Larry!  How are you?”

    I’m good, thanks.  How are you?

    “I’m good, thanks.  How are you?”  

    “I’m good too.  So nice to run into you.  I like your shirt,” Georgia commented.  

    “Why, thank you.”  Larry beamed.  He had on a dark blue polo with birds on the cover.  He particularly liked the way Georgia pronounced ‘shirt.’  The subtle Spanish flavor, he liked it.  He really liked it. 

    Good to see you.

 “I like your necklace,” he said, bypassing Angel.  Georgia was wearing a bead necklace that looked rather ancient.  He wondered if it was produced here.  “What country does that come from?”

It was at this point when Georgia winced.  Larry could actually hear Georgia’s earbuds make a muffled sound.  Was it a sharp noise?  What was Angel transmitting?  Georgia seemed to be battling with something, some noise, some pressure in her ear.  Maybe it was a malfunction.  Larry wanted to take off her earbuds so she could hear him clearly.  He reached over and touched her shoulder to try to get them off.  Immediately Georgia recoiled and lept back.  Larry retreated too, horrified.  His eyes grew wide, a rush of something very unpleasant coming down in him.  He hadn’t felt something this unpleasant in many years.  He felt like he had broken her trust.  Violated a code.  He shouldn’t have touched a woman.  And yet he felt exhilarated.  

“You’re a great friend,” Georgia said, but she wasn’t smiling.  She was sweating.  One of her hands was clutching a large boulder behind her.  The other was raised up almost like cat ears.  She kept looking at the spot where Larry touched her, on her left shoulder.  This was not peaceful, Larry realized.  This was not peace.

You’re a great friend too.

“You’re a great friend too,” Larry said, confused and mesmerized by what he had just done.  But somehow, for some reason, he felt even bolder than before.  

“Good to see you.”  Georgia began to back away.

“Do you want to go to dinner with me?”  Larry leaned forward as if almost to grasp the words from the air as they came out, but they were there, and it was too late.

A jagged silence came over them.  Georgia, her hand on a boulder, Larry, his feet planted, dug into the dirt, bracing for impact.  The only thing that broke the silence was a barely audible sound of Georgia’s Angel earbuds mumbling something to her.  

Georgia’s mouth froze in place as she absorbed what Larry was asking her, and then absorbed what Angel was telling her.  Her eyes darted to the left, then to the right.  

“Larry, I like you as a friend.  I think you’re a great guy, and I think we should keep being friends.  I value your friendship.  Let’s continue to be friends.”

Larry looked down.  Now this was unpleasant.  Now there was definitely something brewing in his stomach.  Something he knew was bad.  He would come to reflect on this moment, months later, and realize it was for moments like this why Angel was invented.  So there would be no misunderstanding.  No tension.  Just peace.

And it was that moment when Angel washed over him, calm, soothing, with the right, the exact words to say.

I absolutely respect what you say.  I will absolutely be your friend.  I never wanted anything to come between us.  Let’s just drop this and forget about it.  No hard feelings at all.

Larry said every word that Angel said to him.

“Of course, Larry.  I’m glad for your friendship.”

“And I’m glad for your friendship too, Georgia.”  

    “Goodbye, Larry.”

    “Bye, Georgia.”  

    Larry did not see Georgia for several days after seeing her in the park.  He would pass by her house on his daily walks, but she wouldn’t be there.  He would not bother her.  There were many other friends he could see.  His friend Joon, for example.  He liked to talk about diversity with Joon all the time.  It was a very pleasant topic.

    “Diversity is great, isn’t it, Joon?”  Larry would say.

    “Of course.  Diversity is great,” Joon would say back, and they would both smile.

    Larry would more or less amble around the neighborhood and to the store over the next few days.  Until about seven days after encountering her on the trail, Larry noticed a large truck in front of Georgia’s house.  It was packed with furniture and clothes and dresser drawers.  Georgia was coming out of the garage with another chair and a set of plates.  When she saw Larry she set down her plates.

    “Hi, Georgia.  What’s going on?”  Larry said from across the street.

    “I’m moving, Larry.”  Georgia walked towards the edge of the driveway so she could lower her voice.  “I got relocated to a new job.”

    “Where?”

    Georgia paused for a moment, allowing Angel to say something.  “Somewhere nice,” was what came out of her mouth.  

    It was all nice in this land.  There was no one place better than the other.  Larry didn’t see a reason for her boss to have relocated her exactly, but he didn’t see a reason for why he wouldn’t have, either.  After all, everyone is friends with each other equally in this land, no matter who they are or where they live.  And every job is equally important, too.  No job or place carries more honor than the other.  Larry remembered that being taught to him at a young age.  Sometimes, people move.  Don’t feel sorry for them, his teacher said, because they will go to a place where they will meet all new friends, friends just as good as the old friends they had.  Friends they would value in the exact same way.  That made Larry smile.  How nice.  Georgia was going to meet an entire group of new people who would become her friends.  It was nice to be her friend while it lasted, but it was all for the best.  That’s how we have peace in this land.  Knowing that whatever happens, it’s all for the best.

    Good luck, Georgia, Angel said to Larry.

    “Good luck, Georgia,” Larry said.  

    “It was nice to be your friend, Larry.”  Georgia said, before turning back to her garage, her body now in shadow.  

    “It was nice to be your friend, too,” Larry said, this time only to himself.  

    Georgia moved away that day.  Larry sat at his table, eating another microwaveable chicken dish by himself.  He thought to himself maybe he would miss her.  No – she wanted to be his friend.  Friends don’t miss each other, because you would be expending useless energy missing someone when you could be friends with the people who you don’t miss.  Besides, missing someone is like preferring someone.  Preferring someone leads to tribalism.  And tribalism is bad.

Someone once told him a long time ago, at a library back when there were libraries, that Angel was a Demon application.  Except he pronounced it weird.  He said Damon.  Maybe he had a Spanish accent.  He said that Angel would run background processes that required no intelligence.  He said that that was constitutive of a Damon app.  But that was silly, Larry remembered thinking, because Angel was an Angel, not a Demon or Damon or however he pronounced it.  He remembered the jingle that got everyone to download the Angel app: let us be the angel on your shoulder.  That was good.  He liked having angels on his shoulder.  

    The question, however, did dart into his mind, briefly, unexpectedly, a question he didn’t even think was ethical to ask himself, because it might interrupt the peace he was feeling that day.  But he let the question manifest itself in his mind.  Was it possible – did he dare proceed? – was it possible that had Angel not spoken to Georgia in that moment, that Georgia might have come to a different conclusion about his question?  

    Not that it mattered, Larry apologized to himself, because it didn’t.  Larry shook his head and tried to forget about it.  

    Occasionally, through the next months, Larry would circle back to that question.  He remembered, in that frozen moment when he asked her to dinner, Georgia listening to both Larry and Angel.  He remembered the open mouth.  The shock.  The recoil.  Maybe in that moment Georgia… maybe in that moment… something could have happened.  He didn’t know what.  He was even confused as to what he was even expecting.  

    Although he would struggle with it in spurts, eventually Larry would reconcile himself to the notion that his feeling of disappointment over Georgia’s offer of friendship was irrational.  After all, friends are good.  They’re really good.  They mean peace.  They mean harmony.  They mean a great quality of life.  In contrast, that feeling he got that day asking Georgia to dinner was unpleasant.  He didn’t like feeling unpleasant.  Unpleasant feelings can lead to hatred, bitterness, and jealousy.  That leads to misunderstanding, and then there would be no peace.  Better to stay away from those in general, he reasoned.  Better to listen to Angel, who unfailingly provided pleasant experiences for him.  

    Larry stared at his meat.  It was half-eaten.  It wasn’t restaurant-quality, but now he had two coupons to the steak place.  He could treat himself twice this month.  That would be nice.  

    Angel buzzed.  Congratulations, Larry.  You have earned 42 peace points today.  You may spend it on a peace trophy.  

    Larry smiled.  Peace trophy number 98.  Just two more to a hundred.  

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One thought on “Angel

  1. Angel reminds me of a synthesis of Orwell’s 1984 where Angel app would be the newspeak from loud speakers, and Huxley’s Brave New World dystopias, where children were bred and raised by state

    One of Orwell’s short stories is poignant, considering current abuse of power under color of law, by many state governments.

    The story is about a man who walked alone at night seeing no one. The character walked nightly past well kept homes with well kept yards, with clean streets and sidewalks. Their conformity and precision, symbolic of oppression. (Current Lockdown & Sequester) The story ends with character being arrested

    Orwell like Henry David Thoreau died of tuberculosis, coughing themselves from this world into the next one. For such a short lives, both prolific writers.

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