The Grind

Everything is fine in this simulation called Stanford

Jan. 31, 2022, 7:43 p.m.

Hi! I mean, hey. Yeah. Hey. You know how everything is fine? In this simulation called Leland Stanford Junior University? Yeah. Everything is fine!

Stanford is beautiful. Like a perfectly manicured country club. The roaming tourists, the palm trees and the landscaping have won over my heart. Yet I smell uncertainty, something doctors haven’t figured out yet. I’m searching, blindly, for the key to the black box of the unknowable horizon. What lies beyond? 

The dining hall serves me an endless feed of scrambled eggs. I stare at my plate, wondering about the chickens and what they’re like. You know, how often they call their moms and such. But aren’t we all the chickens, cooped up in the halls, teetering between classes and meals, between reality and something else? Was that a glitch? Maybe my brain is the scrambled eggs. Everything is fine.

Conversations are cyclical. “Week five, am I right?” How do I know my “five” is the same as yours? “Oh my gosh, it’s been so long!” “We should grab lunch, but like, actually!” Actually? I don’t know her. Everyone knows the ritual greeting, which perhaps makes it a meta-ritual. But where’s the meta-meta? Perspectives abound, slippery and pervasive, but I don’t know where they converge. What is

I open Grindr to an endless feed of faceless torsos. Hung4now. 18. Cuddles? Gamified microporn, swipe and taps. I view you, but do I see you? Have any of us seen each other? “Send an ass pic,” he says. Expectations are premeditated resentments; maybe I’m just projecting myself onto a shifting cluster without inherent existence. Dates would be nice, but can someone rail me already? Still, all my targeted ads are for PrEP, the gay sex drug, so I know someone’s watching.

The automatic lights follow me down the halls of EVGR. People say it feels like an asylum, but the lights make me feel important. Is this dissociation? We get emails reminding us not to hang up artwork in the halls. Who knew neutral could be so aggressive? For a “smart” building, an awful lot of rooms have been flooded by toilets in the last year. The magical ego-projection of “Res-X,” transcending geography, scatters this building everywhere and nowhere. Neighborhoods? Do they know we’re not an Ivy? Also, where are they hiding all the stoves?

Hoover Tower is a phallus looming over our collective consciousness. If you have one foot in the past, and the other foot in the future, you’re just pissing all over the present. It rests one foot in the past, the grand “archives.” It rests the other in the future, the elusive “entrepreneurial spirit.” In this way, it claims to rule over time itself. Yet it only sprays nonsense all over campus, and I can only take cover for so long. Everything is fine!

I’m blasting Olivia Rodrigo in my headphones. It all started with this popular song about how she can’t drive or something like that. “She’s so real,” they say. She sings in dulcet tones about how “it’s brutal out here,” or how she’s “anxious and nothing can help.” There’s gotta be a better way! I suppose that is real. But why all this talk about reality? What’s outside? What is this?

Everything is fine, really, I mean it! I’m staring in the mirror, putting on my clown makeup and watching a single tear inch its way down my face. I know I’m not dead, but I’m not sure if I’ve lived. Scurrying around in our bodies but stuck in our minds. Is this the beginning, middle or end of a deep slumber? Everything is fine! Really!

Really? Reality seems to be everywhere and nowhere. I suppose the cat’s out of the bag even while she refuses to leave. I’m indeterminate, as per Mr. Schrödinger. Liminal. An observer might pin me down, but I’m not sure whom or if they’re even sexy. Is there even a “there” there? In here? Out where? 

Everything is fine. Anyways, let’s grab lunch sometime! Also, I love you. Love who? No, yeah. Everything is fine!


My forthcoming book, Coming Out as Manic, is a Stanford-based story that explores uncertainties in queerness, health, religion and, yes, reality. See the first teaser here, and please reach out if you’re interested in sharing your own experience!

Contact Vivek ('22) at vtanna ‘at’ stanforddaily.com.

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