It’s 6 pm or maybe closer to 7 on a Friday, in the beginning of June, in Seattle, the year 2017, only a day after whatisface announced that he was ready to really destroy the earth. Really destroy it this time. I’m standing in line at Krispy Kreme. Every single teenage girl in Seattle is here. Every. Single. One.
They’re just being people, for the most part. They’re not being geese. They’re not being stereotypes. I wouldn’t even have noticed if I hadn’t noticed. Me, I’m here because I promised someone donuts as a kind of mea culpa. My wife has shanghai’d the gesture to get some donuts for herself and her parents as well. Fair enough. I’d do the same. I really like donuts.
And so does every single teenage girl in Seattle, apparently. No, really, there are a lot of them here. This is how many of them there are: if there were one more, it would be one less than too much. And one less of too much creates anxiety. Almost like, go ahead, squeeze one more in, let’s have that tipping point, let the universe collapse on itself here at the Krispy Kreme on 125th and Aurora under the weight of every single teenage girl.
That’s angst. But we’re still one away from that. The prepunultimate teenage girl is maybe that one by the door, with the blonde hair, blue eyes, braces, shirt, shorts, shoes, cell phone, donut-hungry grin. She represents pre-angst. Let’s call it prangst.
I am, me, hungry for prangst. I have been noticing a lot of things lately that are semi-connected which add up to a kind of frisson. I listened to a podcast today about Camus, and absurdism, which drifted into a discussion of Mindfulness. I have a friend who has been encouraging to me to try mindfulness, by coincidence. I have anxiety. But I value it because it makes me hypervigilant, which I take pride in. If I give up my anxiety entirely, I’ll lose my identity. But it’s making me miserable. I need to be almost anxious. Prangst.
And that’s where the frisson comes in. I am not worried, yet, that the number of teenage girls in here will reach a critical mass, yet. But I am maybe worried that I’ll be worried about it if one more comes in. And, here’s the thing, I’m being very mindful of my worries. I am in the moment. I am surrounded by almost but not quite nearly too many teenage girls.
At no point whatsoever do I wonder, at all, WHY there are so many freakin’ teenage girls here.
Somehow, the lines moves, and I’m in front of the counter. I look back– the line is exactly as long as it was when I came in. For every teenage girl that left, a new one has come. I don’t know you, whoever you are, reading this. I don’t know what teenage girls symbolize for you. And I don’t want to guess, and I refuse to worry about what you think I must mean by saying I don’t want to guess. I’m just saying that these teenage girls are not a mass of individuals, but are collective consciousness, and they are timing their exits and entries with mathematical precision. I’d thank one of them if I thought she could speak for all of them. But of course she can’t.
The guy behind the counter asks me what I’d like to have. He is utterly oblivious to how many teenage girls are in here. That’s either because he’s not hypervigilant like me, or he’s used to it. Probably, this precise number of teenage girls has been here all day. Every day. Teenage girls, it turns out, existentially, are defined by how there are always the exact same number of them in the universe, and this Krispy Kreme on 125th and Aurora is a splinter of the hologram that reflects that entire universe.
I tell the guy I want three of those and two of those and one of those and one of those and two of those. He asks me if I want a free donut.
The question is so straightforward, so simple. “Do you want a free donut?” In any other context I would assume it’s a rhetorical question. I mean, the answer is always yes. Always. Even after I’ve chose nine other donuts that I clearly have every intention of paying for, the answer is yes. And so, despite myself, I say yes. It’s automatic. And he asks me which one I want. He doesn’t mean one of the ones in the box he’s building for me. He means a tenth donut.
I glance around. The line is now one teenage girl longer than it was before. I start to sweat. I need to leave. I tell him I’ll have one of the hot ones. He tries to hand it to me, I point at the box. I glance back at the door. There’s a teenage girl standing outside of it, dark hair, dark eyes, jeans with holes on the knees, baggy sweathshirt. She’s not coming inside yet, she just talking on her cell phone. A baggy sweatshirt in Seattle on absolutely gorgeous day, a warm sunny day. We’re all going to die.
The guy scoots over to the registers and I follow suit. You know those new chip-card readers? If you have a credit card with one of those chips on it, what you do is you try to slide it like you used to do with your older credit cards, and then the machine tells you, no, stupid, insert the chip part and wait. Well, this time I don’t fuck it up. I insert. The machine almost sighs. Like, finally. For myself, I am willfully not using my peripheral vision to see if that final teenage girl has come in yet. Because my peripheral vision has already told me that none of them have left.
The guy hands me my receipt. I try to grab it but I’ve already got my box of nine donuts plus one free one in my hands. I can’t use a number higher than nine anymore, because that’s one too many and I don’t want the impending teenage girl singularity and the donut singularity to fight over which one will collapse the universe and which one is just going to be along for the ride. I don’t even remember the guy handing me the box in the first place.
It occurs to me that whoever wins, the donuts or the teenage girls, I better call “shotgun” because you don’t want to be in the backseat when the universe ends.
But it doesn’t end, and I make it outside. I get in my car and sit there, looking at the teenage girls swarming in the door, out the door. I could say what it’s like, but I’ve already said I don’t know you, don’t know what you think of when you read the words “teenage girls.” So I can’t say what it’s like.
I start the car. The radio blares. The DJ is blathering about something, and doing an excellent job of it. Earning that daily bread. He says that I shouldn’t forget that today is Free Donut Day. I can here the capital letters in his voice.