Farmville, Avocados, Demi Lovato
There’s this pub near my house called the Hotel Rozelle. The first time I passed it on the 518 I dug my fingernails into my palm so hard that when I reopened them again my hands were red and bloody. Now, it’s fine. Now, I just exhale, put on my sunglasses, and try not to think about why the pub couldn’t have been called the Hotel Rotelle, or the Hozel Rozelle, or some other combination of consonants that actually matched.
A couple of other strange things happened that first time I saw the Ho_el Ro_elle (consonants omitted for sanity). One, this woman about 2 rows away from me on the bus took her shoe off and lifted it to her ear, as if she was Steve Carrell using his shoe-phone in the 2008 movie Get Smart, or Don Adams using his shoe-phone in the 1960’s TV show Get Smart. Two, I found a 50-cent coin on my street that, on closer inspection, was not 50 cents at all, but rather a cardboard cut-out shaped like a 50-cent coin that someone had painted silver and glued to the asphalt. Three, I saw mum crying through the front window as I got home, but when I went into the living room to check, she had fallen asleep — or pretended to — on the sofa. When I asked her later, over dinner, about whether she had been crying, she didn’t respond but merely said: my crops died today. I didn’t know our backyard was large enough to hold crops.
Later on I realised that she had been talking about Farmville, an online game where you pretend to be a farmer tending to virtual produce and livestock. I thought the concept was laughable; why would someone actively choose to be a farmer, I thought, when they live a comfortable life surrounded by so much privilege? Why not play SecondLife, and pretend to be a college football player, or an alien royal?
I heard her crying again in her bedroom that night. It was different this time — small, contained sobs muffled by pillow and lace, not the endless weeping that I’d seen earlier. I thought she must have lost another set of crops on Farmville, or maybe she had been equally as perturbed by the Ho_el Ro_elle as I had.
After a while, perhaps after she thought I’d fallen asleep, I heard her quiet, carpeted footsteps shuffle down the hall before stopping at my doorway. She stood there for maybe 10, 20 minutes like an apparition while I tried as hard as I could to count the rhythm of my heartbeat. By the time I’d deduced it was going at 120 beats per minute, she was gone.
She never mentioned Farmville again after that. Not the next day, when I saw her tapping away on her phone. Not the week after, when I finally acquiesced to the flood of automated Facebook invitations begging me to drop everything and become a simulated farmer. Not years later, when dad accidentally let slip at a barbecue that “the only reason she played that bloody game was to stop her offing herself, y’know”, and then kept turning sausages as if he’d said nothing at all.
It’s 1997. Against all odds, you’ve survived your mother accidentally taking an indigestion medication that should’ve left you at best deaf and at worst dead and now you’re finally reaping the rewards of your stronger-than-average immune system. Suddenly, all around you is bright, and you’re being cradled in sheets so soft that they’re the softest sheets you’ll touch for the next 7 years. “He’s got a big mouth, this one,” a nurse says, and she laughs. Your mother cries. You cry.
It’s 2009. You read a novel by Ben Sherwood called The Man Who Ate The 747, about a man who ate a 747 and won a Guinness World Record for it. There was also some love subplot involved somewhere, but you don’t care about that as much, because no one cares about love or subplots when they’re 12. When you watch the Guinness World Records TV show you see a man gyrating with no less than 109 hula hoops around his body. Then you see a dog with a glass of water on its head walk 20 steps back and forth. Then you see a woman eat 19 avocados in one minute and you think, if a man can eat an entire plane then you can eat 20 avocados in 60 seconds! So you train. The first week, you eat an avocado at breakfast, and one at lunch, and one at dinner — sometimes two if you’re feeling peckish. The next week, you double that amount. And soon enough, you’re guzzling overripe avocados with all the fervour of the man who ate the 747, except you have no love subplots weighing you down. “Everyone always said you had a big mouth,” your mum says, and you want to ask “who?” but your mouth is too full of avocado to respond. Suddenly, all around you is bright, and you’re being hustled on stage by Grant Denyer, and a minute later you’re surrounded by 20 avocado seeds. The crowd goes wild. “How do you feel?” Grant Denyer asks. Your mother cries. You laugh, through teeth stained green.
It’s 2017. The restaurant has those red and white checked tablecloths you see in old Italian movies, and unlit candles in little coloured cups of plastic. You stare at the doorway for too long in case you miss the person whose face you’ve only seen once, pixelated, on your screen. You still swiped right, though, and when they finally arrive you’re relieved to find that they actually resemble their photo. It only takes 4 minutes this time before they say “hey, aren’t you the guy who ate 20 avocados once?” You sigh. At least they’re being direct. Sometimes they skirt around it for an entire date, even let you pick up the bill, and then ask. That night, you sit on a dark couch in a dark apartment, only illuminated by the glow of your aimless swiping. As you wait for midnight to tick over you call your mum; you haven’t spoken to her in two weeks. The line purrs for a while — long enough that you think she’s asleep — before she finally answers. In the background you think you can hear sheets rustling, the echo of a man’s voice. “Is everything okay?” she asks. The sound of lips smacking against skin. More rustling. “Yeah,” you answer, and trail off with a hurried promise to talk later. In the distance, your mother laughs. You cry.
I was four and hungry when I saw them collapse for the first time. A lot of people my age like to say things like: “Oh, I was four, but I knew something terrible was happening”. I didn’t. I only watched the footage for a few seconds before I remembered my hunger, and went to the kitchen in search for snacks.
Exactly 14 years later, Demi Lovato tweeted: “About to put this airline on BLAST”. Minutes later she followed up with an apologetic reply — “Omg wrong wording... I’m so sorry.” She was nine when it happened. Maybe after a few glimpses, she also went to the kitchen in search for snacks.
Sometimes when I’m at a crossroads, or in an awkward conversation, or sometimes even when I’m struggling to fall asleep at 3AM doing nothing of significance at all, I let Demi Lovato guide my life choices. What Would Demi Do — like a Disney Channel version of that catholic-school adage What Would Jesus Do, sans the moral high ground. Would Demi Lovato watch another episode of Riverdale or go to bed? Would Demi Lovato order the Vietnamese noodle salad or the chicken and asparagus pizza? Would Demi Lovato congratulate her Uber driver’s new baby or would she simply smile and look out the window?
Truthfully, I don’t know what Demi Lovato would do in any of these situations. I don’t think Demi Lovato would know, either.
Lately instead of thinking about what Demi Lovato would do, I’ve also started wondering what Demi Lovato was doing at certain points in my life. For example: when I was at work this morning, Demi Lovato was practising vocal trills (I know this, because I caught the last seconds of her online live-stream). Or even better: when I was at Frankie’s, and this guy was telling me about a terrible taxidermy shop in London where the walruses were so overstuffed that they had no rolls of fat, I like to imagine that Demi Lovato was thinking about her 9/11 tweet, and all the ways she could have rephrased it. Or better yet: when I went to the kitchen in search for snacks, maybe Demi Lovato was doing the exact same thing, 15745 kilometres away.
It’s an unnerving concept — me and Demi Lovato performing the same action simultaneously — although I have no doubt it’s happened more than once. Perhaps years ago, Demi Lovato ate a bagel at the same time as me. Perhaps she and I sat down on the toilet together at one point.
Perhaps she’s thinking about me right now as well.
About the author
Michael Sun is a 20-year-old writer and designer from Sydney who misses being able to call himself an angsty adolescent. He’s been published in Hello Mr. and Honi Soit, and creates work primarily about weird Internet tales and memories from suburbia. Check him out on Twitter or Instagram.
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