The world spins like a top, my dad had told me. Jeff Zebos was the point, and we were the surface he scratched to keep spinning.
But who could blame him? I spent my twenties on a hand-me-down sofa scratching my balls, watching my life fade into a cloud of thick, sticky smoke. The years dripped from the tip of my joint like the clocks in a Dali painting until, at the ripe age of 33, l found myself pulling on a familiar dust-colored jumpsuit under a sky of fluorescent lights, ready to greet the day with as much enthusiasm as an overstretched rubber band.
I took a sip of muddy coffee, slipped my lanyard over my neck, and walked to the loading dock. I pulled the heavy door open and was kicked in the nose by the smell of exhaust, ink, and sweat.
“. . . damn prick,” Jenn was in the middle of one of her passionate rants, “gives us a 10-cent raise every year just to use it as leverage in the media.” She tossed a parcel into the back of an open van. “I’m so sick of this shit. Morning, Colt.” She nodded in my direction.
I grunted a greeting as I made my way to my station, where a full shipping cage and a barcode scanner waited - a gift from the night crew.
Beep. . . The scanner chirped when it found its first barcode. I tossed the parcel aside and scanned another one. The room was alive with a chorus of soft beeps as the morning shift started loading the vans.
“You know he makes more in a week than any of us do all year, right?! A fuckin’ week, man. Every time he farts, he makes enough to buy one of those fancy-ass lattes. Meanwhile, I’m saving up to get braces for my damn daughter. It’s ridiculous,” Jenn said from the station next to mine.
“Remind me, how long’ve you been here?” I asked. She gave me a dirty look that didn’t put a dent in her scanning pace.
“Longer than you have, Colt-on,” she chewed my name into pieces and spit it back at me. “You’ve got what, three years under your belt now? Trust me when I say your list of gripes’ll get longer with time. But, you’re a lifer like me, so you’ll get there, sweetie. I’ll buy you a beer when you hit 10.”
My gut churned, and I swallowed. I looked down at the parcel I was holding. This one was headed to San Diego . . . beep . . . Los Angeles . . . beep . . . San Antonio . . . beep. My hand was shaking . . . beep . . . because I knew that Jenn and I’d be having that beer . . . beep . . . because you’re not going anywhere, son . . . beeeeeeep.
* * *
“You have a problem,” Jackson said with a smile. He handed me a package, and I ripped it apart, channeling the ravenous energy of a pack of wolves I’d seen on the Discovery Channel once.
“I have needs, actually,” I said, ripping the guts from the cardboard container. “Needs that can’t be fulfilled by you.” I gave him a wink, and held up my reward. A massage gun . . . no, the massage gun that Eliza Wyld, one of LA’s top celebrity trainers, swore by.
“Is that a … um.” Jackson blushed, and I laughed.
“Calm down, babe, it’s for my back. Eliza Wylde swears this’ll help with recovery after arm and shoulder days.”
I pulled the massage gun out of its container and pressed the trigger. I expected the tip to start vibrating like it did in her videos, but nothing happened.
“Eliza Wylde. That’s one of your, uh, virtual trainers?” Jackson asked.
I rolled my eyes, set the gun on the table, and started sifting through the cardboard carcass for the instruction manual. “I’ve been talking about her classes all week. Don’t you pay attention to anything I say?”
“Just putting the pieces together, I guess.” He picked up the gun and examined it. “I don’t know how you can afford all of this, Chrissy. I mean, we both work at the law firm, and I’m not living paycheck to paycheck anymore, but---”
“My parents sent me money for my birthday. I told you that already.” I cut him off with an excuse we both knew had passed its expiration date. It had been more than three months since my birthday.
He frowned. “Nice parents.” He handed me my new toy and left me alone in the kitchen.
I pulled the trigger again and, for a second, imagined the tip vibrating, punching the air at 3000rpm. I imagined the foam hammer against my shoulder blade, kneading the muscles into stretchy submission. I imagined the dynamic social content I’d create with the TriggerPoint+. Eliza would reshare my posts, and my follower count would skyrocket. I imagined smiling into a camera lens, radiating pure joy because my life was everything I’d ever wanted it to be.
“Batteries!” I yelled, grabbing my phone. After less than a minute, I’d received the familiar “Thanks for your order” screen, and with same-day delivery, I knew I was just a few hours away from truly living.
* * *
I’d made history . . . again.
I poured myself a glass of Dom Pérignon Rosé and toasted the empty room. The party was over, but my skin was abuzz with electricity that may have been from the champagne or leftover turbulence from the landing.
“Best. Day. Ever.” The headlines were starting to pour in. My stocks had climbed, shareholders were happy, and after 18 years of planning and just $87,000,000, I’d finally made it to space.
Too wired to sleep, I started sorting through the pyramid of congratulatory notes and gifts that my assistant had stacked on my desk. Most were from freeloaders masquerading as businessmen, whose success could be traced back to their contact lists or, in most cases, their lineage.
“Congratulations, Jeff! You’re ‘out of this world!’”- John Benson
I opened the small package he’d sent and pulled out a blue and green stress ball. It was a crude depiction of earth. A joke, I guess. I squeezed it and watched it transform back into a perfect circle.
Eight hours ago I’d been floating at the edge of space, looking down at earth, watching the clouds swirl around the marble globe. Below, on its surface, 500,000,000 customers, 1,510,000 employees, 40,000 vehicles, and 100 planes fed the machine I’d built, and for the first time, I could see it all. I squeezed the earth ball again and smiled because I knew that, after everything I’d built, this was still only the beginning.
I threw the earth in the trash.