App

The Office was a co-working space somewhere uptown frequented by web developers, software engineers, and startup founders. It buzzed with activity and energy during the day, and at night, as you can imagine, the place was bleak and desolate. Ryan liked to go there in the evenings because A, the bulk of his clients were based in the Western Hemisphere, and B, he detested people, or rather, he abhorred direct social interaction.

He parked his car in his usual slot, grabbed his backpack and “lunch” from the backseat, and made his way to the rear entrance. As usual, the Office was going to be all his again tonight. He will hole himself up in his cubicle and code for hours, prowl its dark corridors during his breaks, and convert its couches into his makeshift bed.

He held his proximity card in front of the electronic reader and pushed the glass door open. The scent of coffee immediately greeted his nostrils. The staff always made sure he had enough caffeine every night by preparing the coffee maker for him before they logged out of their shifts.

He closed the door behind him and slowly walked down the hallway.

What he saw, upon turning a corner, almost struck him dead. A girl was walking directly in his direction, carrying a mug in her hand. He couldn’t make out her face clearly, but it was surely a female, and he could see that she, too, was frightened out of her wits by the suddenness of their unexpected encounter. Her gasp was audible to him from where he was standing. The next moment, however, the girl let out a laugh and exclaimed, “Gosh, you scared me!” She had an accent he’s not familiar with.

Extending her hand, she said, “Grace.”

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“I’m Grace,” she repeated when he did not respond. “And you are?”

For ten long seconds he could not, for the life of him, recall his own name. No one had ever asked him that before. Not point-blank, that is. He scanned his brain but was unable to retrieve the word that designated his person.

“whoAmI[‘name’];,” he muttered in panic. “console.log(whoAmI[‘name’]);”

“I’m sorry?” the girl said.

He didn’t hear her.

“const whoAmI = {
name: ‘ ‘,
age: ’25’,
location: ‘Cebu City’
},” he said. “console.log(whoAmI[‘name’]);”

She laughed again, and this didn’t help him at all. Blood rushed to his cheeks and all he could say was, “The name property is the object is empty incomplete. It can’t return my name.”

They didn’t speak much after that for he had marched straight to his cubicle, his head bowed down, and did not dare go out again. She did not have her own cubicle, so she took as her spot one portion of the long table directly outside his space. This table was reserved for those who did not want to rent their own private office.

He tried to code but couldn’t get any of his syntaxes right. He could hear her footsteps outside his door. She was talking to someone on her phone.

He stared at his monitor but couldn’t make sense of what his client was really asking him to do. He must have read the instructions a dozen times by now and checked the mockup twice as much, but none of it was registering to him.

He closed all of his applications, restarted his machine, and started afresh. He always did this whenever he felt like he was hitting a brick wall. It was a sort of ritual for him: whenever he was stumped by something — a User Interface he couldn’t render, a feature he couldn’t create, a problem he couldn’t solve — he always resorted to deleting his app’s codebase and begin again from scratch.

In a way, this kind of behavior paralleled his personal life: every time he couldn’t make things work out with someone, for example, he reacted by “deleting” this person from his life. This was what he did with Tanya, almost a year ago now. After telling him that all they could ever be were “friends”, he simply stopped seeing her, ignored her calls, and suppressed all memory of her down to his subconscious mind. He’s pretty sure he’s going to forget her name, eventually, give or take another year.

The knock on the door jolted him out of his musings.

“Hey, sorry about earlier,” the girl called out. “Did I embarrass you? I felt as if I did. If so, I apologize.”

This girl was very sharp. He had spent less than a minute in her presence and already she has read him through and through. Among all the other species of females, he thought, this type was the most dangerous.

“Are you there?” she said.

He had to make some sort of a reply. “Yeah,” he said finally after clearing his throat. “No need to say sorry. It was my fault.”

“Truth is, I’m really glad I’m not alone tonight,” she said behind the door. “This place gives me the creeps, to be honest.”

She waited for his reply.

“Are you new here, too?” she said. He still hasn’t opened the door.

“Yeah, I mean, no,” he stammered. “I’ve been here a while.”

“Oh. I’m new here. Obviously. Tonight’s my first night,” she said.

She waited again.

“So,” she continued. “Where are you connected?”

“I work freelance,” he said.

“Great,” she said. “Are you a developer?”

What gave me away, he thought. “Yes,” he said.

“I guessed as much,” she said.

He felt like the rudest human being on earth for not opening the door for her. Even a weirdo like him knows that he should at the very least open up and invite her in, but he figured that if he only waited for a few seconds more, this conversation, awkward as it was fast becoming, was eventually going to wind up, and she will go away and leave him alone.

It did not end, however, and she did not go away. They talked for a few minutes more. Their conversation was interspersed by numerous bouts of silence, long pauses, and embarrassing “dead airs”, but it stretched on and on and on. He found out that she has just started her own startup and that she was scouting for a technical co-founder. He learned that she’s originally from Sweden, but that she grew up in Germany, finished university in Amsterdam, and is currently traveling Asia to do two things: first, to “find herself”, a very cliche and unoriginal undertaking, she said, and second, to build a company around a tech product she has developed as an intern in Google. She’s a software engineer, too. She did the first phase of her goal last year and is now intent on doing the second.

And the funny thing was, he didn’t mind all this interaction at all. He found that the more he listened to her, the more at ease he felt around her. The more she spoke, the lighter his mood became. And the more he opened up and responded to her, the more he “found” himself, if that makes any sense. He loosened up and rediscovered the joy of “small talk”.

In fact, he got too comfortable that he finally stood up and slid his door open.

You can understand a program. It has its own logic, rules, and algorithms. You can comprehend a component. It has its own language, codes, and syntax. You can definitely cognitively grasp an app, which is composed of programs and components. You can break it down into smaller pieces and make sense of it. You can hold it up in your mind’s eye and peruse it. And that is what he’s been doing all these years — staring at applications upon applications. Analyzing them, thinking about them, and deriving satisfaction from having understood them.

He felt like he can stare at this girl for hundreds of years and not come close to any satisfaction of understanding her. There’s something about her that glows and bursts forth out of her face and skin. Seeing her more clearly now under the orange light above her head and at a closer distance than earlier, he is utterly, completely perplexed. She was her eyes yet she was not her eyes. She was her nose and lips yet she was not her nose and lips. She was her shoulders and arms yet she was neither of those. Her meaning was not contained within any of the physical parts that compose her. You cannot break her down. You cannot make sense of her. She doesn’t have definite properties that you can analyze and map as data, but it’s undeniable that some sort of language was flowing from her, whether she opened her mouth or not.

He took a deep breath and leaned on to his desk for he was quickly losing his balance.

“Ryan,” he said. “Yes, that’s my name. My name’s Ryan.” He remembers it now.

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