Facebook Newsfeed by John Passadino
Johnny couldn't keep his eyes closed. The crippling insomnia was back, but he was determined to stay off the benzos. He could not and would not give in to the physical and psychological addiction that tortured him. Waves of anxiety gripped his soul as his noise machine brain churned out message after message of doom.
This time it's for real. Your heart is gonna give out on you, sonny boy.
Heart disease is an epidemic in your family, fool.
She will find your dead body tomorrow, and she will be the lonely widow with your neighbors flying around her like vultures, waiting to claim her innocence.
3 am, time to die!
Johnny tossed his body onto his side so he could gaze upon his gorgeous wife's face. The covers were long gone from his body. He had tossed them off, then she had stolen them, and he was left alone, abandoned and waiting for his imaginary death to come. His feet were ice cold, and there was nothing he could do about it but try to tuck them under his legs while he stared forlornly at her chest rise and fall under the heat of the comforter.
It was time to turn again as if the physical labor of turning would wear him out and put him to sleep. This time he turned toward his nightstand where his Samsung Galaxy Note 9 was resting, attached to its umbilical cord that streamed a steady flow of power into its core. The lights on it were flashing idiot lights to indicate incoming messages from other insomniacs and from apps that never slept, that continued to send charges of bits and bytes at lighting fast speed across the microchips inside its central processing unit.
Johnny had not had the phone in his hand for five minutes. Usually, it was in his hand, at this side, or resting on his chest. Sometimes he would set it on its stand while his eyes darted across the shatterproof screen with a screen resolution specification greater than his TV, PC, and tablet. His hand felt baron.
He had also removed his earbuds which he usually squeezed into his ear canals, twisting them with an exact torque and angle so they wouldn't fall out and so they would deliver high fidelity sound waves directly to his eardrums.
He picked the phone up with his right hand and deftly flicked off the power chord with his pinky as his index finger swiped his fingerprint across the reader. His left hand was busy feeling for the pulse in his chest as he expertly played the part of a hypochondriac turned google trained EMT. The middle-aged heartbeat felt steady and robust, but pangs of fear continued to envelop him as his right hand revealed a screen filled with folders containing dozens of apps, awake, like him, and waiting for interaction.
I can't look at the news folder. But, of course, that's a nonstarter at this time of the morning, remember?
He looked at the digital readout in the center of his screen. Time: 03:05 am, Temperature: 34 degrees Fahrenheit, then viewed the humidity, precipitation, and sunrise projection. His head turned to look at the bottle of generic benzos on this nightstand. He then reached out with his left hand and quietly opened his nightstand drawer, then shoved the brown plastic bottle into it. The bottle didn't rattle or make any noise when it fell into the drawer.
Not tonight. I won't take that stuff again.
The insomniac then poked the alarm button on his smartphone.
Damn it, why did I have to volunteer for that shift that gets me up at that time. I will be dead on my feet by 10 am today.
His part-time job as a guard at the mall was punishing for a person who didn't sleep. There was zero stimulation. He would be dozing off at his makeshift desk at the entrance to the main level. The teens would make him the laughingstock once again. The day before, they took his hat while he slept and put it on a Halloween Skelton in front of the costume store.
I can still salvage an hour and a half of sleep. After that, I need to occupy my mind with something inane but light.
He rolled onto his back, keeping his right toes under his left calf to warm them. Then he held the phone up over his face, careful to tilt it to the left so that the nighttime blue light rays didn't penetrate Mary's space next to him. She was a heavy sleeper, but any false move on his part would activate her spousal alarm. The inevitable obvious and annoying questions would follow.
"What are you doing up?
"Why don't you go to sleep?"
"What are you doing on your phone?"
"When did you drink coffee last?"
"Why don't you close your eyes and go to sleep?"
Then she would roll over, face the other way, and immediately be asleep. He turned his attention back to the mini-computer in his hand.
Let's see, games, no, too much tension. Photography, no, too much concentration. Ah, social media. Here we go.
Just then, Johnny's heart skipped a beat.
What the hell was that?
A surge of adrenaline shot out of his adrenal glands and circulated through his bloodstream, activating other sympathetic nervous system symptoms. His head started to ache. He felt tingling in his arms.
Damn it. I'm gonna die.
He began to breathe faster.
No, get busy, remember what the doctor said!
The newly hired amateur mall cop took a deep breath and flicked open his Instagram app. He instantly saw a stream of stories having to do with the last search he did. There were fitness gurus and fitness wannabes posing sideways, front and back. Their bodies were perfect, muscles jutting out of every body part. Fake sweat glistening over their spray tan as they did funky shuffle dances and made idiotic proclamations.
No, no, no.
He tapped his home button and slid his thumb up and over the app, closing it down, then spied the next app in the row.
Sure, why not, he said as his hand left hand rose to massage away the thud inside his skull.
YouTube opened. More stories appeared across the middle of the screen.
Dodger fans in a bloody altercation. Multi-cam, full version!
Foot-brawl, Carolina Panthers wield their helmets at the Cincinnati Bengals!
World's greatest UFC chokeholds, including a fatal submission!
What the hell! No!
Mary babbled something in a dream state, and he looked over at her, tempted to wake her for assistance.
Please, Mary, I can't sleep again, and I think something's wrong. Please stay up with me. He imagined saying. But this would be the third night in a row this had happened, and she had to get up at 6 am for her job. The idea of screwing up her day stressed him more, and his heart once again skipped a beat.
Shit, shit, shit. Hold on, Johnny!
The clock now displayed 3:25 am. He looked over at the dark wood nightstand drawer.
No, I won't take that poison again. I can still get an hour in. Breathe, breathe, you're okay! You've been through this a hundred times. No one has ever died from an anxiety attack!
Facebook opened seamlessly and instantly blasted multiple options onto his high-definition screen with the battery-saving, nighttime dimmed light.
Here we go.
Johnny's thumb glided up the center, careful not to inadvertently like a post but making sure to stop to comment or choose the appropriate option.
A wedding, lovely. I didn't know, Stephanie, sorry but this is all good, God bless!
Sweet, Charlie's taking one last sail for the season. Have fun, friend!
Hmm, oh yes, Pete's demoing another original song, nice! The first part sounds incredible. Bring it back soon with the rest!
Aww, look at that puppy. Good luck and enjoy!
Ha! For sure, that's the cutest cat I ever saw!
Hey Brian, the family looks incredible as always. Enjoy all you can eat pasta, my friend!
A new selfie for Joey. Nice, perfect. Keep it. Make that your profile pic, bro!
Dad, you're on Facebook? Since when? Nice to see you out there, pop! Love ya!
Mom? Are you here too? Well, saints be praised as you always said. So, imagine that my mom and dad are on Facebook, finally!
Jimmy, happy retirement to my BFF! I thought you were going to hold out two more years, but this is a pleasant surprise!
Mary, you look beautiful! What a great idea to post that memory of us at our wedding twenty years ago. So proud you are still my bride!
Hey, Joanne, you look so young, sis! What's the occasion? And why do you look so sad?
Saint Teresa class of 1976 reunion! Hey kids! Sorry, I missed the get-together. Can someone photoshop me into that shot? Ha!
Data Star company holiday party 2021! Everyone looks amazing!
Holiday party 2021? There are Christmas and Hanukkah decorations. Someone should change that date. That had to be 2019. We didn't have a party in 2020. Remember? Duh, Pandemic! And the 2021 party didn't happen yet.
Oh well, that's Facebook for you. Someone fact-check these posts! Ha!
This newsfeed is working; I'm feeling sleepy. My headache is gone, and I don't even feel my heartbeat! Thank you, Facebook! Who said they manipulate people with drama and negativity? Tomorrow morning at work, I will post something positive too.
Johnny's eyelids were sandbags drooping onto his face. Next, his right hand fell with his phone still in hand onto his chest. Next, his left hand flopped over his right hand, cradling his cellphone. Finally, the newsfeed surfer's head sunk into his shiny white pillow.
Mary woke with a start. "Johnny?"
"He loved his phone. It brought him peace," Mary said, adjusting the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 that sat up between Johnny's cold, stiff hands.
"Look at that smile," Joanne said, standing next to Mary.
"I'm sorry you didn't make it to retirement, brother. Love ya, my friend," said Jimmy, wiping away a tear from his eye.
"Rest easy, son. We will all join you once again someday. Love mom and dad."
The elderly couple kissed Johnny on the cheek, then turned away as the caretaker closed the lid of the casket.
Johnny peacefully smiled as he scrolled endlessly through the joyous news of the day.