Behaviors Built into the System

Putting on glasses was like that, like a video game abruptly resolving. Objects ceased to be pure shapes, grew individual and eccentric. Trees, for example, suddenly had leaves. It was beautiful in its way but he lost something too in the discovery. “Like losing the forest for the trees,” he joked, but no one ever understood what he meant. He kept telling the joke, always hoping a little wistfully that someone would understand suddenly what he meant, realize the poetry that lurked in him.

He taught himself to see people as individuals, not as abstractions, kept notes reminding him of their names, their stories, their histories, fought his tendency to make them always the faceless Other. After a while it got automatic. He had an algorithm, rules that told him how to behave. Don’t make this joke, laugh after this kind of sentence, make that kind of eye contact, don’t touch the bad touch. He fought for the leaves and only ever saw the shapes; complained to his optician, and wasn’t understood. “It’s like losing the trees for the forest,” he muttered, sadly, even as he wrote Dr. Everest in his notebook. ~5’10”, brown hair, likes baseball.