BEGINNING AGAIN WITH zer0
Natanya Ann Pulley
Lia’s password was gazelle712. Its numbers, her home address. But not the home now, the home before. The one with the green trim. The one she remembers most for its lazy summers in the yard—even though she was not there long as a child and was told they had no yard. “gazelle” because she dreamed she had one once. It was a very small gazelle and did not speak to her, but nudged her leg and sat on her shoulder.
gazelle712 became gazelle715 after three months. After Lia moved to a smaller apartment and broke up with her boyfriend. Or broke up with her boyfriend and moved to a smaller apartment. The two events seemed to conflate when she thought too long about them on her morning commute on Lakehurst Drive, a conflation that always occurred when she drove past the house at 712 Lakehurst. By the time she’d pass 715 Lakehurst, with its tiny walkway through overgrown rose bushes and its fence which threatened to dismantle itself right then and there, she’d properly scolded herself for conflating again, and that it was enough to make her change her password to gazelle715 when next requested, and when she wanted to forget about 712 because it was a part of her childhood she’d told to her ex-boyfriend, late at night, not in his arms, though close enough.
gazelle715 didn’t last long, a week maybe, before it became Lakehurst715. That was after Lia had heard the name “Giselle” three times in one day and hated her own body whenever she ended up thinking of the model Giselle and not her dream-animal. Lakehurst715 served its purpose for several of her accounts, but not for a new one that required a special-character. The special-characters were always to her a tedious choice. They were little nothings that took up space and were only remembered when needed. Like many special things, she thought.
For special-characters, Lia would be forced to look down at her keyboard and to re-position her hands and to press the keys more firmly than at any other moment in her day (except when she was fighting with her now ex-boyfriend and was writing him long e-mails and instant messages that seemed to say the same thing in a variety of ways, as if she kept writing things to him she might one day stumble on the perfectly-pitched exclamation that said: Fuck you, loser!—even though she had to admit he really wasn’t a loser and was actually a very decent guy).
When changing her password to include special-characters, Lia thought she’d change Lakehurst because it was a name she thought she might one day forget, though she never had. She replaced it with a new password that she did, in fact, forget. Locking her teeth into tiny concrete walls, she decided it was time for a new password that was not associated with dreams or boyfriends or far-off places or nearby places or with silly special-characters that took too much time to find on her keyboard. Vertigogo1! lasted many incarnations. Lasted as Vertigogo2@ And Vertigogo3#. She thought she was clever. Thought she had a system that took a movie and a symptom she felt drawn to and turned it into something very hip like the name of a cocktail or club that an alter ego of hers might go to to be fabulous and to never have to notice that her skirt was crooked or that her blouse hung sadly off her chest or that while she was running around being fabulous, feeling fabulous and thinking fabulous, that in all those moments a bit of something gray-white and smudgy like gum or toothpaste had pulled strands of hair together into a clump at the side of her face. She even managed to combine her fabulous nightclub cocktail password with a number system that wouldn’t elude her. She could simply try each number and its shift-counterpart until she arrived at the correct password.
Simple enough, until her bloated, brittle-haired office friend with posters from the newest teen-vampire movie draped all over her cubicle, explained without malice that she did the same thing herself. With the numbers at least, at which point Lia knew any number-special-character sequence of Vertigogo became a new ex-lover. One that crept into her life and her secrets farther than any man-boys of her time had done before as it opened e-mails and bank accounts and secret shopping sites that housed more fabulous things for her alter ego. And Lia, afraid of going back to a street she saw every day, or to a dream-animal that never sprinted or leaped, or to a number-sequence that let her know exactly how many identities she had sprawling across the internet waiting to be mismanaged and forgotten, she began all over again with zero, spelled out with an 0 for o and dragged down by repeating only lonely period marks, as many as it took to fill the required character length— zer0....................................
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