Dear Ada Lovelace,

I know you’re wondering why I’m even writing you. You’ve been dead for over a century, after all. Well, Counselor Watkins says she thinks it’s best if I write a journal to deal with my thoughts as I adjust to this new place. And if I’m going to divulge such confidential information, it might as well be to the Mother of Modern Day Programming.

We have a lot in common. Like your mother, mine has been embittered by my father not being around. Dinner always turns into these odd sermons about the devil, sin, boys, and booze. Mostly booze. She often spins these R-rated tales about Uncle Roland’s drunken escapades. Many are reruns and I’m pretty sure thirty-five percent of them are subplots from the movie Hangover. Still, I let her vent. I’m told it can sometimes be healthy.

I’ve also been working on this app. It’s like this all-encompassing app that controls your phone activity to maximize productivity. I call it Ubiquity. It’s really rudimentary and won’t be nearly as groundbreaking as your Bernoulli Algorithm, but you’re only the second person I’ve told. 

My friend Cate likes it, but she likes everything I do. She’s my own personal gothic cheerleader. So instead of pompoms and perkiness, she wields darkness and death to motivate me.

If you don’t publish this app, I’m going to punch you in your left boob every day until the day you die.

As persuasive as her argument was, I wouldn't find time to execute her request, because a shooting star was about to enter my world.

That star was named Gavin Turner. He was the first teenager that gave me the opportunity to use "cosmopolitan" in a sentence. Part of every club, every social circle. Well, except mine. Mine is kind of a social line segment consisting of me and Cate.

I could probably make a program calculating a million computations a second, devising numerous scenarios. And in none of those scenarios would have involved Gavin Turner walking up to me. But that’s exactly what happened in Computer Science class. Everyone was picking partners for an upcoming assignment and of course, there I was, the invisible girl in the corner and the most amazing miracle occurred. Up walked High Heart Throb, Gavin Turner.

He said hello to me as I sat there in a state of suspended animation. Then he mentioned how he had "noticed my work". At that moment, I did recollect how he would surreptitiously look over at my test from time to time, but the thought was reduced to a flicker as I realized he was asking me to be his partner. Of course, I said yes.

But let me tell you, you have never known stress until you’ve had to team up with the hottest boy in school. Terrified you’ll make some stupid minor mistake in the program like putting a semicolon in the wrong place.

Stranger still was walking around with him on campus when we went to the computer lab. For the first time in my life, people were noticing me. Of course, affection, intrigue, or even adoration would have been preferred emotion from onlookers as we crossed the hallways. But the glare in their eyes was so distinct, they might as well have been wearing signs. It was envy.

I’m not saying I liked it, but it felt better than the ghostly status I had previously endured. Once we did well on the assignment, we became inseparable, forming study groups. All innocent though.

So I was surprised when he asked me to a party tonight. Drinks will be there. I know my mom would hate it, so I don’t plan on staying long...

One drink won’t hurt though.

-Janie Quinn

Dear Ada Lovelace,

Would you believe it? Gavin and I have been dating for four years now. I followed him to college and everything, both of us studying computer science.

Cate comes to visit sometimes mainly to voice her suspicions of him. But, keep in mind, in addition to the government, Big Pharma, and corduroy, she also has an automatic suspicion of cismen with stereotypically masculine traits. So, all Gavin needs to do is sneeze and it’s the same thing.

I know a great place where we can hide the body.

Despite her paranoid objections, I continue to stay with Gavin. I can’t imagine being without him.

I’m sure I’ve told you before about his eclectic taste. A night with him is like being invited into a new world. The things the average eye ignores -- the dive bar on the corner, the jazz club in some abandoned district, some nondescript forest on the other end of town -- he has this keen sense of searching them out without prejudice.

The problem comes when this eclecticism translates to a wandering eye. Wherever he goes, a throng of girls appears -- largely due to him making himself the center of attention. It’s not that I’m jealous, it’s just that when they appear he makes me feel… invisible.

Is that how it felt when you married Earl William King-Noel? Despite all you had to offer, did you feel like a supporting character in his own play?

I don't know how I feel.

It’s like... I have this hipsy dipsy philosophy teacher. We place our chairs in a circle and talk about life and our feelings. Today, the teacher asked the weirdest question.

“Who are you?”

I know it’s not good for your GPA to look at your instructor as if she has two heads, but that’s exactly what I did.

I stuck out my chest and answered, “I’m Janey Quinn.”

She didn’t seem to buy it, “No, who are you?”

I answered again, “I’m Janey Quinn” but with less feeling. It was like her doubt had seeped into my own consciousness. I spent the rest of the day wandering around campus wondering what she meant. 

Later that night Gavin and I met at the on-campus pub and discussed my app Ubiquity over drinks. I had put the project on the back burner since we started dating, but after a conversation with Cate (involving a few subtle threats of violence), I had thought about starting it up again. The excitement in his eyes as he said what a great idea it was made me smile from one end of the room to the next. 

That all came to a standstill when a woman sat on a stool beside us and his eyes turned to her. Gavin is not one to be rude, so he included her in our conversation. Telling jokes, and moving ever so subtly in her direction. Not wanting to be the jealous girlfriend, I handled the situation like I always do: I signaled the bartender to give me a double.

That brought my instructor’s question back to me. Who was I?

Maybe when she asked who I was, she wasn’t asking my name. Maybe she was asking my identity. If you took the words away, how would you define me? That question, also, made me draw a blank.

As I sat at the edge of the bar, this extra woman with luscious red curls nudging me from existence, and the prestige and whirlwind of lights spinning in my periphery, I wondered: would I be anyone without Gavin Turner?

-Janie Quinn

Dear Ada Lovelace,

Right now, I’m at work reminiscing about my wedding. You should have been there. It was beautiful. I even convinced Cate to wear something other than black. Getting her to leave her knife at home was a little more challenging. Her reason for needing it was predictable as ever.

Just in case the bastard forgets to say ‘I do.’

Nonetheless, I convinced her should it come to that, she could always fashion a weapon out of an empty bottle of wine. Fortunately, “the bastard” remembered to say ‘I do’ and the wedding went without a hitch.

The honeymoon was crazy though. This one night we went to this fabulous party in the hotel ballroom. There was this immaculate food dressed up so beautifully it almost rivaled the women’s fancy dresses as they paraded in donning every color of the rainbow. There was dancing until my legs damned near fell off. There was drinking, and between me and Gavin, I think we drank enough to start our own brewery. And, of course, there was sex. 

I regret to inform you, Ada, that the sex didn’t involve me.

I caught him with her in some backroom closet. She was half my age, Ada. He just stood there pressing her against the wall. It was a full two minutes before they noticed me and that’s only because I coughed. By the time he looked up, it was too late. I departed to the sound of a constant stream of 'Janie's from his pathetic little mouth. And despite the temptation, I never turned back.

So, yes. I’m at work, but my mind is in another place. It’s been that way all day as I’ve been fighting off yet another hangover. 

We have one of our meetings today which I've fondly nicknamed A Jackhammer to the Cranium because I come out every day with a more pounding headache than I had when I entered.

Today was no different as I barely paid attention to my boss, Mrs. Watkins. I was abruptly snapped out of my daze as she looked in my direction to speak.

“Rosy. Do you have something you want to contribute?” she asked.

“My name’s not Rosy,” I remember responding only to realize that I’d been working at this damned place for five years and no one even bothered to learn my name. I had broken away from Gavin Turner’s orbit only to still be invisible.

The realization would have made me snap had Cate not showed up with a couple of Frappuccinos from Starbucks. She had a tendency to take advantage of the honor system by stealing other people's orders from the pickup counter, so I didn’t ask whether she paid.

Taking the drink I just plopped into my chair griping about how much I hated this place. How much it felt like a prison.

I could burn it down if you want.

I politely declined the offer as she took a seat and began to address the obvious root of my distress. It would have been our anniversary today. 

Cate, of course, consoled me the only way she knew how. By indulging in a good, old-fashioned revenge fantasy. This one involved Gavin, a blow torch, a pair of pliers and a boa constrictor. And, oddly, balloons and candle wax. The entire explanation lasted a little longer than a short film.

When she was done both of us laughed at her level of perversion and then we sat there in the company break room just enjoying each other’s presence. My supervisor was probably wondering where I was and for once I didn’t care. Finally, I said with some sincerity, “Don't you ever commit a crime, Cate. If you ever went to jail, I'd never survive without you.”

Then it was her turn to be serious as she suddenly shot up in her seat, spitting out her coffee, almost offended.

If you say that again I’ll slap you fifty shades of red!

She went on to explain, leaning in with maniacal posture.

Always remember. You don’t need anyone to survive! You’re Janie Fuckin’ Quinn!

-Janie Quinn

Dear Ada Lovelace,

There are two phases to dumping a person. There is the physical separation and then the mental separation. I had completed the first phase. Now it was time for the second. This phase had to be coupled with an act: releasing Ubiquity to the world. 

I went to the coffee shop to do the ceremonial deed. As I went to the Apps page on my phone, I started scrolling through the self-help section to check out the competition. Then, to my amazement, I saw an App very similar to mine. It was called Ubi. I clicked on the details and my jaw dropped at seeing the creator:

“Gavin Turner…”

This caused me to walk down four doors into the nearest bar. 

All at once, I started to consider what Gavin had stolen. From adolescence to adulthood he had stolen the limelight as I spent most of my life cloaked in his shadow. Now as I stepped out into the sunlight, he snatched away my sun.

Belly to the bar, I threw back a beer.

I thought about how much of a fool I had been. How he had cheated off my tests. Cheated behind my back.

I threw back another. 

Now, in the ultimate humiliation, he had cheated me. The way men tried to cheat you out of your rightful recognition for decades.

I threw back a third.

But as I stared down at the fourth beer, there came a revelation: Gavin cheated off of me all those years because he wasn’t that great a programmer. I was better. I didn’t need him. He needed me.

As I looked down at the negative comments on his Ubi App and the poor user interface, I knew my app would outdo his labyrinthine monstrosity with ease.

Would it change the world? I didn’t know, but I was going to find out. I went to my app page and with a click of the button, I released my creation into the universe. I went home to finish the celebration there.

To my surprise, I wasn’t drunk as I drove home. Just buzzed.

Unfortunately, it was just enough of a buzz for me to veer into the opposite lane and crash into a Cadillac.

You probably saw it on the news. The occupants were a mother and a four-year-old child. The wreckage looked like some twisted work of art. It certainly wasn’t recognizable as a car. Everything else is a blur. I think they came for me first but I refused. They saved the child and her mother. I was pulled out just as fire and smoke began to engulf the mass of metal.

So, the leader of my AA meeting is having me write this to gather my thoughts. And as I sit here, I’m truly grateful. I do hate myself for letting Gavin get to me one last time. I hate myself even more for almost killing that family. But I’m glad everything turned out OK in the end… 

Didn’t it?

-Janie Quinn

Therapist’s Journal 

Date: October 13, 2054

Over the past few years, we have had to fend with a disconcerting trend. Before, delusions of grandeur have been limited to religious figures like Jesus or Gandhi. Sometimes historical figures like Napoleon Bonaparte. However, in more recent years, people have begun believing themselves to be the legendary Ubiquity creator Janie Quinn.

To get a closer look at this phenomenon I have gathered four such patients to get an idea of how this manifests itself. I have had them journal their thoughts to get a deeper look at their psychosis. Each of their delusions have seemed to latch to a different time in Ms. Quinn’s life. I’ve tried to break them from their delusions but it seems deeply set in their minds, with the exception of one.

She seems to be coming to the realization that her reality is a tad distorted. Her recent journal exhibits doubts about her account of the wreckage on that infamous night. I did assure the patient that the mother and child were not harmed. However, I think it best that she come to the realization on her own that Janie Quinn died that night.

Assessment by: Peggy G. Watkins PhD

April 11, 2020 03:50

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