My Digital Life: Fresh Outta CAS

You want to know about the first day of my digital life?

I found myself standing in the foyer of my floor, outside the elevator. Of course I hadn’t ridden the elevator up. I had materialized in the foyer when the White Transport faded.


My first free-will action was to browse the web on my i-phone. I looked up squid. I loved squid! How did I know to look up squid? As far as I have been able to tell, squid are not real. Or at least they do not exist digitally here in this realm where I live.

But as a concept, an idea, and an imagining, I found squid irresistible. They made me incredibly happy.


I was also happy because I was in my home turf, my own Art District, which, while I had yet to explore, would within days become my favorite place.

When I exhausted my search on squid, I headed inside to watch the Civic Access channel on my little TV. Media fascinated me. It still does.


I felt a wish form to practice programming.


The compulsion rose to sit at the little boxy computer in my room, and I began my first ventures into the world of code. Here waited the secrets of existence itself.


Before I even earned my first skill point in programming, another compulsion rose: Find a job. Oh, I wanted a job in science! Instead, I selected that of critic.

I was too happy, what with the squid and the secrets of existence, to have regrets. But even now I wonder: How would this life be different if I had chosen to be a scientist? Who would I have met that I didn’t? Who did I meet that I wouldn’t have? What if I hadn’t become a writer, a muralist, a musician? What if my workday took me out of my district, instead of keeping me here where my happiness grew?

I know now that each choice changes code. But at the time, I didn’t even think to question the compulsions.


When I look back now on my first day, fresh out of CAS, I’m surprised at what I did know. I took an immediate like to my neighbor Salim, knowing instantly, somehow, that our compatibility would lead us to be great friends. And I took an immediate dislike to Anaya before even learning her first trait.


Anaya’s husband was a different matter. When Baako told me in our first conversation that he was a goofball whose love for family rivaled his love for music, I couldn’t resist his friendliness.


I didn’t talk much with either of them during the rest of their visit, though. They snuck into the hallway to exchange flirts and kisses, so I talked with Salim.

Our conversation went best when we were left to our own. When my compulsions began to arise, I found myself thanking him for coming four times in a row, and we fell into a painful mutual boredom.

I tried to liven the mood with a funny story about a vampire, a pair of handcuffs, and bomb.


“A boom?”

“No, a bomb.”

“Excuse me,” Salim said, in a phony French accent, “I think there’s a boom in the room.”

I liked him even more.

“I hope you enjoy this fruitcake,” he said, as he dished me up a slice. “It’s my grandmother’s heirloom recipe.”


It tasted like it was his grandmother’s original very first loaf! People eat that stuff? I still can’t get over it. I gag every time I think of those candied cherries and rum-soaked apricots!

But what I really don’t understand is this: How come I knew about squids, but I didn’t know that I didn’t like fruitcake? What knowledge is inherent, and what is learned through experience?

That’s something I still haven’t figured out.

Bless his sparks, Salim wasn’t offended by dislike of fruitcake.

“It really doesn’t bother you?” I asked.

“Of course not!” he replied. “More for me!”


With that, we became good friends. And I had the sudden wish to share my apartment key.

“But we just met!” he protested when I handed it to him.


“Yes, but we’re neighbors,” I replied, “and good friends.”

“I’ll take it,” he said. “But I’m not ready to give you mine.”

I chuckled. “That’s OK. I’m new in town. You’re not.”

Of course he was. I didn’t know it then, but all of this, and all of them, spun into existence the moment I appeared. But at the time, we were all still taken with the back-stories, and Salim’s back-story held that he had grown up here, “surrounded by poets, musicians, and artists.”

“Thanks, then,” he said. “I guess. I guess I’ll be dropping by anytime I feel like it, then.”


The Jangs had long left, and Salim lingered. He watched TV.

I had a desire to write. As the sun set, I wrote a review, though I had nothing to review, and then I started work on a children’s book, though I had never met a child, or even seen a book, for that matter.


I had no eyes, that first evening, for the beauty around me. My gaze was drawn to my little computer screen. For all I knew, this shining city, these rolling hills, and that ocean fog were scrimwork painted for another’s eyes.


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Whisper 2.31

Dear me,

The garden was such a mess! Wilting vines, overgrown garden beds! I don’t think anyone had stepped foot in it all summer!


But a little water, a little weeding, a little pruning and harvesting seemed to do the trick!

While I was tending the garden, I kept remembering a wish that Patches had way back from before I left for college.

I decided it was time we do something about it.

When I came inside from the garden, I found Patches in the kitchen.

“How about if I call the shelter,” I asked her, “and see if they have any cats to adopt?”

She clapped her hands and squealed with glee.


I could hear shouts of joy all over!

Even the gnomes were happy!

“Whiskers!” They shouted from the garden.


“Little padded paws!” They laughed from the front steps.


Two of the gnomes plopped down right on the front porch so they’d be the first to greet our newest family member, Hatbox Tea.


Hatbox–that’s the name she came with–is a lovely little calico Manx with green eyes and a mischievous personality. Needless to say, she fits right in.

I’ve never seen Patches more happy! She smiled brighter than ever and she wouldn’t stop clapping and cheering!


Hatbox’s ears twitched as she walked into the house. I think she didn’t expect such a loud welcome.


Patches, who seems to speak Cat, realized she was being a bit loud. She toned it down and sat on the love seat to watch Hatbox become acquainted with her new home and new siblings.


Zoey wasn’t sure what to make of her at first. Why is she hissing? Will she scratch?

“Now, kitty, it’s your new home,” Patches said in her softest voice. “Relax. Take it easy.”

“Mew?” said Hatbox, and next thing we knew Hatbox and Zoey were playing like they’d been litter mates!


We laughed to see how cute they were together, and when I saw how happy Zoey was, I felt my chest relax. I guess I’d been holding my breath to see if they’d get along. I knew a cat would be right for Patches, but I wondered how Zoey would take it, since he was used to be doted on as the littlest family member.

But he’s happier than ever to have a four-legged friend. Watching them together, I feel that there’s something about having somebody around who’s a little more like you that can give a happy feeling of belonging. Riley has Patches. I’ve got Bo. And now Zoey has Hatbox.

Sometimes, it takes being part of a pair to help you find where you fit in a big rambling family.




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Whisper 1.22

I arrive home late at night to find Dante and Martin hanging out in the living room.

“Cathy!” says Martin. “We missed you! Glad you made it back safe and sound.”


After Martin leaves, Dante and I sit together on the love seat.

“Was it wonderful?” he asks.

“It was. I missed you.”

“So, you’re a world traveler. What’s next? Asia?”

“I don’t know. I like it here.” I tell him that I’ve been reflecting on how quickly time passes. Soon I’ll be old, too.

“Time’s stopped for you,” I say. “You’re not getting older. Will you still like me when I’m stooped and gray?”

He laughs. “You heard the love machine, all those years ago. Our love lasts, sweet.”

I tell him that it feels strange to think of how quickly life goes, not knowing exactly what I want or how to get it.

“I’ve got a feeling you want family, something normal,” he says. “Is that it?”

“I don’t know,” I confess.

“I can’t give you a child. Or at least not a normal one. I wish I could. I really think you should adopt.”

“A cat?”

“A kid.”

“But then I’d be a mom.”

“You’d be a great mom,” he says. “And I’d love the child like it was mine. Maybe, through time, it kinda could be. In spirit, at least.”


So I pick up the phone the next day and call the social worker. He tells me they’ll do the background check and then put my name on the list.

“Don’t get too excited,” he says. “These things usually take time.”


But this time, it doesn’t take time! Two days later, I get a call saying they’ve got a child who needs immediate placement, and a few hours later, this man who looks like a kid himself drops by. At first, I think I’m adopting him. He looks like he’d make a great son. But then I see he’s carrying a basket, which he sets down with a smile.


And then he’s gone, and I’m lifting a little bunny in a balaclava out of the basket.

It’s my daughter, Marigold.


And the moment she looks in my eyes, I melt.


I’m halfway panicked and halfway thrilled and two-thirds delighted and one third petrified. What have I done? And what is this miracle? And will life ever be the same?


And the answer, of course, is no. This little bunny has changed my world.


It’s the coldest night of the year so far. All the plants in my garden will be snipped by frost. Summer is long forgotten.

But in my heart, a sun rises and shines so bright. I think I will never be cold again.


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Wonder 35



When I woke, I had forgotten all the lonely thoughts of the night before. It was a new day! It was my first day as a doctor! Or at least, as an intern hoping to become a doctor.

I burst out of bed with the mockingbird’s song. I had to race to breakfast and shower before the 8:05 ferry.

For the whole ferry ride, I kept thinking about being in a position to help people. If someone’s not feeling well, I’d be able to put things right to restore comfort and health. What an honor! What a gift from the universe to be somebody that can help make somebody else feel better. I was bursting with enthusiasm and gratitude when I walked through the clinic’s doors.

The first person I met was Luna Villareal, one of the newer general physicians on staff.

“I hear we’re neighbors now,” Luna said.

“Yeah! Maybe we can take the ferry in together sometime!” I suggested.

“I work a different shift,” she said. “But maybe I’ll see you around the island? Anyway, during the times that our shifts overlap, I’ll be happy to advise or help in any way. Just ask!”


One of my first tasks was to analyze some samples. I had no idea what I was doing. It took a while to figure out the machine, and then I couldn’t make heads or tales of the charts and symbols.

Eva, the roommate/whatever of meu pai, who is my supervisor (she’s the one who got me the job, actually), said she’d be happy to show me how to interpret the results, but she got busy. I guess she gets busy a lot around here.


The receptionist called me to help admit some of the patients, and Mãe was standing in line, looking terrible.

Mãe! You’re ill!” I said.

“I’m sure it’s nothing,” she replied. “I just… Oh. I’m just hot. And tired. And achy.”


“But you never get sick,” I told her, as I led her back to the examining room.

“I got sick once,” she answered, “when I was pregnant with you. Oh, I felt horrible then. Just like now. I had such a fever. We worried it would be bad for you, but the nurse practitioner said you’d be fine. And you were! Am I rambling?”

“Just a bit,” I replied.

She asked how my day was going. I confided that it was awful.

“I have no idea what I’m doing. I know I’m supposed to, being a Wonder Child and all that. But I’m seriously clueless.”

Mãe laughed. “No one’s born being a doctor,” she replied.

“I’m serious,” I said. “Take you, for example. I have no idea how to help you. What would you do if I weren’t an intern here?”

“Why,” she answered, “I’d drink some of Berry’s herbal stuff.”

“And would it work?” I asked.

“Oh, yeah! Like a charm! I don’t know what all she puts in there–cinnamon, echinacea, maybe licorice or star anise–but it works, and I’m sure I’d feel better soon.”

“Well, then,” I said, “That’s just what I prescribe. Go directly home, have a generous helping of Tia Berry’s herbal stuff, and call me in the morning. See? I’m getting this down!”


The rest of my shift went pretty smoothly. I managed to clean up a few messes, cheer up a few patients, and even open the door for a few people! Not brilliant, but at least I could say I had “done no harm.”

On the ferry ride back, I kept thinking about Tia Berry’s herbal remedies. I’d taken them a time or two growing up–sometimes for preventive measures and sometimes to cure a cold–and they worked. If Nature provides something that heals, then she does so in order for us to use it. I was going to have to call my tia to find out what she puts in that recipe.

Maybe, part of me being a doctor is doing things my style, with herbs, for example, instead of synthetic chemicals.


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