“Steve’s Attempt at a Comprehensive Autobiography (an excerpt),” by Peter Dabbene

Nov 16th, 2011 | By | Category: Fake Nonfiction, Prose

Woke up 7:33 a.m. Urinated, got the coffee maker going.

Hold it. Let me clarify—the urine didn’t get the coffee maker going. I switched the coffee maker on with my handsAfter getting out of bed and before turning on the coffee maker, I urinated—in the toilet.

I stood and watched it make coffee. The coffee maker, not the toilet. That would be something, though, wouldn’t it?

Here we go again. Just woke up, and I’m falling behind already. Trying to write fast. Sacrificing clarity for brevity.  Requiring corrections. Coacting retractions. 7:38 a.m. The present. But not anymore. Now it’s the past. When the coffee was done, I added a teaspoonful of sugar and a splurt of milk.

Smart phone is ready. Switch to present tense. Now thinking: present tense is great and exciting but also a lot of pressure. Must type quickly before present becomes past. Otherwise will have to switch back to past tense. Confusing.

I hold up my smart phone and snap a photo of the mug of coffee. I take a sip. It was good. I mean, it is good. The coffee, not the photo. Though that was good too. The coffee tasted good.  I take another picture of the coffee.

The coffee tastes creamy and delicious. I realize I am waxing poetic about the coffee, so I pull up my Twitter account and write, “My coffee this morning is creamy and delicious.” Somehow this does not fully document my coffee experience, but luckily I have photos. I pull up my Facebook page and upload the coffee photos—before and after my first sip.

I collect my Twitter and Facebook descriptions, plus the photos, and merge them into a cohesive unit for my blog. I begin to write this account, to better document the missing elements: my waking time, and the urination. However, I am no longer waxing poetic. Wax on, wax off.

My girlfiend emerges from the bedroom. Personal interaction adds a layer of complexity. “This coffee tastes like pee,” she says. “And stop writing down everything I say,” she continues. “It’s annoying. ”

She enters the bathroom and locks the door. She is correct about it being annoying trying to write down everything she says. I wish she would stop talking.

My coffee has grown cold. I write this on my Twitter account. Then Facebook. Then the blog. This still does not capture everything I have done, everything I have experienced, all that has befallen me.

I am updating my Twitter account, informing my followers that I am about to update my Facebook page. On Facebook, I write that I am about to update my blog, which has fallen several minutes out of date. On the blog, I explain to my readers the problem: I cannot keep up, I am falling behind, details are falling by the wayside. Pictures are worth 1000 words, so I take several pictures of myself, and the cold coffee, and upload them to the proper recipient sites. This slows the rate of undocumented occurrences, but does not stem it completely. The only way to catch up, it seems, and keep the world properly informed of my activities is to stop doing anything. Fewer activities equals fewer descriptions needed, equals extra time to more accurately describe what has occurred.  I say as much to my Facebook friends (in a 420 character status update), and to my blog (in more traditional paragraph form,  with hypertext markups). To my Twitter followers, I tweet the words, “Hibernation mode. Catching up now.” I refer my Twitter followers to my Facebook page for more details. Then I refer my Facebook friends to my blog for more details. I take three photos of myself doing nothing, for documentation, and upload them to the blog. 3000 words.

I am trying to catch up. I am perfectly still, but panicked. I write these words, “perfectly still but panicked” to my Twitter account. Which is a lie, of course, since I am now typing, and no longer perfectly still. Which requires further explanation on Facebook, and the blog. I e-mail a few people who are not socially networked, and text message a few who shun computers altogether. What we have here is a failure to communicate, combined with a failure to disseminate. It’s a vicious cycle. I will make one final attempt to redouble my efforts. I tell everyone this, across the broadband spectrum. There is no reason for them to know, except that I have decided to share it with them. I am a generous person.

I have successfully linked my Twitter and Facebook accounts. Whew. That will mean less writing. But while setting up the link, I have fallen behind again. What would Proust do?

He would continue. It’s a lot of work, and a great sacrifice, but I am certain that after years of documenting every experience, however inconsequential, a cohesive whole will form, and the meaning of my life will ascend from these texts like the theme from a great literary work.

The birds outside are singing. Tweeting. I go to Twitter and tweet about the tweeting in fewer than 140 characters.  I link my blog to Facebook and Twitter. This is progress. But progress requires the passage of time. And so many undocumented moments…

Start again. I tweet “I am sitting/breathing.”  I post “I am typing the word ‘typing’” but that is already out of date, insufficient, untrue.  I take three pictures of myself at the keyboard, and one of the cold coffee. I upload them to my blog with the description “I am uploading photos.”  I tweet “Now I am typing sentences,” followed by “Now I am typing a period.”  Ahh. Success. Take a picture.


Peter Dabbene’s stories can be found online at www.defenestrationmag.net, www.mcsweeneys.net, www.piginpoke.com, www.wordtriot.org, and elsewhere, and his comic book work is forthcoming in the graphic novel Ark and the magazine Futurequake. His poetry has been published in many online and print literary journals, and collected in the book Optimism. He has published two story collections, Prime Movements and Glossolalia, and a novel, Mister Dreyfus’ Demons. He writes a monthly column for the Hamilton Post (viewable at www.mercerspace.com/blog/pdabbene). His plays have been performed in New Jersey and Philadelphia venues. His website is www.peterdabbene.com.

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