Waiting for Doctor Who

Composed on the 12th of June in the year 2014, at 9:13 AM. It was Thursday.

Alan and Philip are sitting on a couch, illuminated by a small lamp and a reddish glow emanating from the television. Philip is staring at a laptop on his lap, Alan is holding a PS4 controller and staring at the TV. There is a bottle of wine, two half-full glasses, and another laptop on the table between them and the TV. They are British, because British accents are cool.

ALAN: Is it out yet?

PHILIP: I don’t think they’re even done with filming.

ALAN: They must be done.

PHILIP: Then there’s post-production.

ALAN: We’ll never see it.

PHILIP: We’ll see it.

ALAN: How do you know?

PHILIP: They said we would.

ALAN: They could lie.

PHILIP: They can’t tell us they’ll do something and never get around to it without consequences. It’s not like a government.

ALAN: But when?

PHILIP: I don’t know.

ALAN: Fine. Let’s see what’s on Netflix.

PHILIP: Nothing’s on Netflix.

ALAN: That’s ridiculous. There are a million movies on Netflix.

PHILIP: Well, nothing I want to see.

ALAN: How do you know that? Have you watched them all?

PHILIP: I watched enough. The rest don’t look like anything I want to see.

ALAN: Have you looked lately?

PHILIP: Yes.

ALAN: When?

PHILIP: Lately.

ALAN: You’re lying.

PHILIP: Yes.

ALAN: Why don’t you want to look?

PHILIP: Because we’ll scroll through two hundred movies, like we always do, and we’ll look at every single one and read the description, like we always do, then we’ll look a few up on IMDB, like we always do, and nothing will quite sound exactly like what we want at this precise moment in time, and, like always, we’ll end up watching Star Trek, and I don’t want to watch Star Trek right now!

ALAN: You don’t have to be mean about it.

PHILIP: Yes! Yes I do!

ALAN: Just like a Scorpio.

PHILIP: Really? Astrology?

ALAN: You don’t check your sign?

PHILIP: I don’t know what it is.

ALAN: What’s your birthday?

PHILIP: I’m not telling you.

ALAN: I check mine. Don’t really believe in it, but it’s a fun way to think about things.

PHILIP: It does sound hilarious. What’s your sign?

ALAN: Well now I don’t want to tell you.

PHILIP: Guess I’ll have to wonder forever.

ALAN: You really don’t know anything about astrology?

PHILIP: I know that whenever Mercury is in retrograde I find out which of my Facebook friends are idiots.

ALAN: Oh, it’s not so bad. Exercise in disassociation. Helps deal with things.

PHILIP: We shouldn’t be dealing with things by disassociating. Superstition will kill us all.

ALAN: I always assumed brain death would kill us all.

PHILIP: So now you’re a literalist?

ALAN: When it suits me. Hulu?

PHILIP: Fine.

Alan presses a few buttons on his PS4 controller.

ALAN: Daily Show must be on vacation again.

PHILIP: Again? For Chrissake … .

ALAN: Well I can understand.

PHILIP: Taking every other month off from an eighty-minute work week?

ALAN: You’re not being fair.

PHILIP: I’ve never tried to be fair. Always sounded like a tiring pursuit.

ALAN: The point is look at what they deal with. They spend all day searching for the most ridiculous and awful things people are doing in a corrupt world that’s buggering us for fun and profit, and then try to make it entertaining. Sometimes I have to turn it off it makes me so angry, and they don’t have that option.

PHILIP: Oh, I’m sure they cry all the way to their Teslas.

ALAN: I would!

PHILIP: Not if you had a Tesla.

ALAN: Not the point! They spend all day looking directly at exactly the thing we’re avoiding when we’re watching Star Trek. I just read something …

Alan opens the laptop on the table.

ALAN: What was it …

PHILIP: Will I cry at number three and have my mind blown by number six?

ALAN: Shut up. Huff … gawk … twit … here! Look at this. This. They’re giving bullet-proof blankets to schoolchildren.

PHILIP: Not a bad idea, really.

ALAN: Not a bad idea? Not a bad idea! They decided the school shooting problem is an arms race! Why not just give guns to the children?

Philip sighs.

PHILIP: Look, you live in a world where the first reaction to children getting shot is a bunch of YouTube videos of people saying, “Well sometimes kids have to die so I can keep my guns.” If I had a child I couldn’t ship to Finland I’d dress it in body armor and lock it in the basement.

ALAN: That’s my point. We’re all reduced to paranoia and avoidance.

PHILIP: Your point was the Daily Show people deserve their vacation time.

ALAN: Well I think they do. They do more than we do.

PHILIP: Well, what should we do?

ALAN: Something! Aren’t you angry?

PHILIP: Of course I’m angry! I’m also terrified. I’m waiting to die from small pox because people are afraid of a chemical they don’t understand that isn’t even in the vaccines that don’t cause the things people are afraid of. I think you fail to grasp the depth of the problem.

ALAN: Shouldn’t we start somewhere, though?

PHILIP: Where? With the people who can’t think or with the people who don’t care?

ALAN: Just because it’s bleak doesn’t mean it’s hopeless.

PHILIP: Well take that to Twitter and see what happens.

ALAN: You think anything will happen?

PHILIP: I think if we plugged Marshall McLuhan’s coffin into a generator it could power Seattle.

Alan sighs.

ALAN: We need someone clever.

PHILIP: Who?

ALAN: Exactly.

Philip looks confused for a second, then scowls.

PHILIP: Guess I walked into that one.

Alan clicks a few more buttons.

ALAN: They’re never going to to release it.

PHILIP: They’re going to release it.

ALAN: When?

PHILIP: I don’t know.

ALAN: Can’t you google it?

PHILIP: I’ve googled it five times today.

ALAN: He’s busy writing Sherlock, I bet.

PHILIP: Now there’s a clever man.

ALAN: He’s not clever. He’s just a walking Wikipedia with microscopes for eyes.

PHILIP: Sounds pretty clever.

ALAN: That’s not clever! That’s just knowing a lot of things. No deduction about it.

PHILIP: Well there’s a little.

ALAN: Yes, when it’s written into the dialogue by people who already know what’s going to happen. It’s the whole problem with how people think about intelligence. They think if they memorize some obscure fact and get a chance to use it in conversation they’re a genius. Meanwhile, they paste a quote about knowing yourself on a picture of a flower and think they’ve made the world a better place.

PHILIP: You’re being unfair.

ALAN: Well there’s a lot of that going around, isn’t there?

PHILIP: Fair enough.

ALAN: I would take a Sherlock about now, though.

PHILIP: As would I.

Alan tosses the controller down and sighs.

ALAN: There’s nothing new.

PHILIP: You could read a book, you know.

ALAN: I know.

PHILIP: Don’t strain yourself.

Philip takes a sip of wine.

PHILIP: You’re wrong you know.

ALAN: About what?

PHILIP: We don’t need another clever person. We have lots of clever people, and they all go around being clever at things. Nothing is solved by being clever anymore. We need nicer and more patient people who at least know how to change their minds, even if they don’t like doing it. Clever people solve simple things quickly, and that’s great, but we’re done with simple things. We have to tackle the big things now.

ALAN: But The Doctor—

PHILIP: —is a very nice man who doesn’t have to be patient. He has a time machine that drops him exactly where he needs to be whenever he turns the damn thing on. Being clever is fine, especially when you’re a walking Wikipedia, as you say, and you have a magic wand.

ALAN: But that’s not what’s great about him. What is great is that he wants everybody to live. He really wants everybody to be okay. Happy, even. He says live! Everybody gets a chance! Everyone deserves a chance. That’s a big thing. Putting yourself in danger to protect people trying to kill you.

PHILIP: Fair enough. I’ll put that on Facebook and see if it does some good.

ALAN: Of course you’re on Facebook. How’s Alice?

PHILIP: Who cares?

ALAN: True, true. Poor girl. How do we know her?

PHILIP: I’m not sure that we do.

ALAN: Oh, is she one of those?

PHILIP: I expect so.

ALAN: So strange. I wonder if friend means anything anymore.

Philip stares at Alan for a second, then taps on his computer.

PHILIP: Friend.

Philip clicks something.

COMPUTER: Friend.

PHILIP: “A person whom one knows and with whom one has a bond of mutual affection, typically exclusive of sexual or family relations.”

ALAN: Clever.

PHILIP: I thought so.

ALAN: We’re never going to see it.

PHILIP: We’ll see it.

ALAN: Would be nice.

PHILIP: Yes, I suppose it would.

ALAN: Would be nice if The Doctor showed up.

PHILIP: Oh for—

ALAN: I meant for real!

Philip stares at him.

PHILIP: … Fuck’s sake.

ALAN: But he could help.

PHILIP: Could he? I haven’t seen a Dalek since Tuesday. Not sure our problems fall under his expertise.

ALAN: You don’t think so?

PHILIP: Our problems are a world economy built on the backs of child slaves. Fixing that would be like trying to replace someone’s skeleton without anesthetic. Our problems are men shooting women because women don’t shut up and fuck them enough. I don’t think a gripping speech or a sonic screwdriver would be particularly helpful.

ALAN: Well, not those problems, but—

PHILIP: Oh, and look here: The Washington Post recommends women avoid violence by getting married. All fixed now.

ALAN: That’s appalling. You sure that isn’t The Onion?

PHILIP: Who can tell? Between the lunatics and the satirists and the trolls I’m not sure of anything anymore. Sometimes I do wonder what friend means. That’s why I look it up.

ALAN: What did I look up the other day?

There’s a long pause.

ALAN: Bourgeois.

PHILIP: Are you sure?

ALAN: No. Why was I looking up bourgeois?

PHILIP: Probably so you could spell it.

ALAN: I think there was another reason. Can’t remember much of anything these days. Gave my memory to Google, I suppose.

PHILIP: Yes, well. Memory was always overrated.

ALAN: Was it? I have to look up words I learned as a child just to be sure. We learned not to trust our memories, but now we don’t even try. There’s always the nagging doubt we’ve been using a word wrong our whole lives because now we always double check. There’s no solid ground to our intellects, nothing we have to beat into our heads, so everything’s always in doubt. There’s always the fear that we don’t have any idea about what we’re talking about.

PHILIP: Everything was always in doubt. That’s why we watch television, and drink, and start wars, and … you know, things like that.

ALAN: But now it’s personal. Now we cling to anything too easily because we’re afraid of our own minds.

PHILIP: Still nothing new. Just a little bit faster.

ALAN: Too fast.

PHILIP: As you say. I’m still holding out for the nanobots.

ALAN: Why?

PHILIP: They can fix everything.

ALAN: Or they’ll destroy everything.

PHILIP: Of course, but at least we’ll get it all over with one way or another.

ALAN: You don’t think we could stop them?

PHILIP: Stop the robots that live in our blood if they turn on us? No, I don’t think we could do much about that, but I admire your optimism.

Philip takes a drink.

PHILIP: I say toss the dice.

ALAN: We’ve tossed too many dice.

PHILIP: We’re always tossing dice.

ALAN: Should we though?

PHILIP: Can we not?

ALAN: You’re just playing word games.

PHILIP: Who’s playing word games?

ALAN: He often does.

PHILIP: Now you’re doing it.

ALAN: I often do.

PHILIP: Too much.

ALAN: Such much.

PHILIP: Much such.

ALAN: I can’t find anything on Hulu.

PHILIP: Well try iTunes. Show some initiative.

Alan exchanges the controller for an Apple TV remote.

ALAN: Fine, but we’ll just end up doing the same thing we do with Netflix.

PHILIP: We can’t. We have to pay for it. More risk to take, more risk taken.

ALAN: Never thought about it like that.

PHILIP: Maybe you shouldn’t. Could be risky.

ALAN: I think loving risk is the same as hating yourself.

PHILIP: That seems dark.

ALAN: It all seems dark.

PHILIP: Are you always going to be like this between Doctor Who seasons?

ALAN: Might be.

PHILIP: Thank God you don’t read fantasy novels.

ALAN: Why?

PHILIP: No reason. Oh, now this is interesting.

ALAN: What?

PHILIP: A computer passed a Turing test.

ALAN: When?

PHILIP: A week ago? Not sure.

ALAN: How?

PHILIP: Oh. Less interesting. They pretended it was a teenager who didn’t speak proper English.

ALAN: Who?

PHILIP: No, not him. Somebody who’s known for trumping up ridiculous claims. Oh well.

ALAN: Why do people do that?

PHILIP: As you said, memory is fading. Immediacy is the key. Say something topical and wild and people’s heads explode. They prove you’re a fraud and everybody stops caring, but you still raked in advertising revenue. People remember your name next time, and not enough of them will know why to stop you from oozing a little farther up the ladder of relevancy.

ALAN: Then it doesn’t matter what you say.

PHILIP: Of course not. You just have to say it well.

ALAN: Are we frauds?

PHILIP: I suspect we are. Not very good ones, though.

ALAN: Why not?

PHILIP: We don’t make any money off of it.

ALAN: You can be a fraud in other ways.

PHILIP: Less useful ones, I suppose.

ALAN: I was a fraud in my marriage. The whole thing, really. I told her I was hers completely. I never was. I was always mine. Or trying to stay mine. I kept a few secrets, just to be sure. You know what I mean? You keep a few things to yourself and those define you because there’s nothing to change or look up. You don’t even know if they’re still true, or if your memory’s started lying. But you hold them, because that’s the guarantee that there’s some unique reason for just you to keep going on and on and on. I could never give that up for her. Maybe I was terrible to her.

PHILIP: You didn’t beat her, did you?

ALAN: Of course not!

PHILIP: Ah, good. Suppose I’ll have to think of something else to write to the Post.

ALAN: Am I just fodder for your trolling?

PHILIP: That’s not all you are.

ALAN: You’re addicted to that thing.

PHILIP: I can stop whenever I want.

ALAN: Yes, that’s what she said.

PHILIP: Hah!

ALAN: No, really. Then she divorced me.

PHILIP: I remember your marriage very differently than you do.

ALAN: Did you expect not to?

PHILIP: Maybe not. I remember it being unhappy.

ALAN: Funny thing is I don’t remember being unhappy. I remember knowing I was unhappy later.

PHILIP: Perspective is a bitch.

ALAN: You would say that.

PHILIP: I often do.

ALAN: Nothing to be done about it, I guess.

PHILIP: I’m coming around to that opinion.

Alan makes a face at the TV.

PHILIP: God, you’re giving me that look again, aren’t you?

ALAN: Am I?

PHILIP: I’d hoped you would go away.

ALAN: Me too. A lease is an unpleasant thing.

PHILIP: Well, celebrate and open another bottle of wine.

Alan picks up the wine and unscrews the cap.

ALAN: Do you remember when screw-top wine was embarrassing?

PHILIP: Dimly. I was drunk a lot in those days.

ALAN: You’re drunk a lot now.

PHILIP: As I said. Dimly.

Alan sighs and fills both glasses.

ALAN: What are we waiting for?

PHILIP: Doctor Who.

ALAN: Who indeed. I feel like we’re starting the conversation over.

PHILIP: I feel like we never finish.

ALAN: Could ask the NSA, I suppose. They’ll know.

PHILIP: Yes, but they won’t tell us.

ALAN: Won’t tell us about the conversation we already had?

PHILIP: They’ll say they cannot confirm or deny the events of the day you and I were having the conversation we’re asking them to remind us of.

ALAN: But we know we had it.

PHILIP: Do we?

ALAN: We’re having it right now!

PHILIP: Prove we didn’t just pop into existence two seconds ago.

ALAN: Nobody can prove or disprove that!

PHILIP: There we are then.

ALAN: We have to rely on something!

PHILIP: You can rely on me to be unreliably responsive to your meandering conversations.

ALAN: You seem pretty reliable.

Philip says nothing.

ALAN: That’s a response!

Philip says nothing.

ALAN: That too. See, you’re making meta jokes. Silence speaks volumes.

PHILIP: Come off it! You don’t get to redefine my boredom and serve it to me with a cliché.

ALAN: Got your attention.

PHILIP: Fair.

ALAN: Do you think the NSA is really listening?

PHILIP: I don’t know. I doubt it. Who are we?

ALAN: People?

PHILIP: Well maybe, then. Sometimes I hope they are listening. It’s validating to have someone pay attention to you.

ALAN: Really?

PHILIP: Which part?

ALAN: The hope.

PHILIP: No. Just trying to find a bright side.

ALAN: Can we stop them?

PHILIP: Probably not. Unaccountable agencies beholden to nobody. Unstoppable fortunes wielded by oblivious heirs. Science committees run by people who don’t know what science is. Can we stop them? I don’t even know how they started. It’s a world of ideas gone amok, running down humans as if they weren’t there.

ALAN: I was taught an idea was a powerful thing.

PHILIP: An idea is a powerful thing. As long as enough people hear it.

ALAN: How do you get people to hear it?

PHILIP: Megaphones or money. And everybody hates megaphones. You’ve been looking at iTunes for ten minutes, you found anything yet?

ALAN: No.

PHILIP: Are you looking for Doctor Who episodes?

ALAN: No.

PHILIP: They could lie indeed.

ALAN: Shut up. Can you google it again?

PHILIP: No.

ALAN: We’re never going to see it.

PHILIP: We’ll see it.

ALAN: I’m bored.

PHILIP: Well? Shall we do something else?

ALAN: Yes. Let’s do something else.

They don’t move.

You got the wine bottle! Drink!

Hi there! You should totally go buy my book for the low low price of 6.66! It's like buying me a beer at an out-of-the-way dive bar in Brooklyn! Not in Manhattan. Manhattan prices are ridiculous, though there are a couple of decent Irish dives where you can snag a drink for five bucks. Otherwise, you're looking at a two or three book beer.
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