Emile looked at his Facebook news feed and frowned. Sometimes, he wondered why he bothered to keep reading. “I could turn it off, and not come back. Ever.” Emile always laughed when he thought that. “No. I don’t give up.” So, he continued reading.

The posts were all over the place. Some of his Facebook friends were happy, even virtually giggling, or virtually dancing. Like Sally, “My daughter rolled over today! On her own! For the first time!” Or Michael, “I got a raise!” Then there was Amiee, “You guys! You guys! He proposed!”

Balanced against the happy stories were the sad stories, like Barbara, “We had to put Spunky down today. I’m heartbroken.” Jim told the world, “She left.” That’s all he said. “She left.” Suzie wanted to know if anyone in her part of the world could give her a ride to work for a few days, since her car had died. “I’m broke. I can’t get it fixed until payday.”

Then, there was the news people shared. From Kansas, Oklahoma, Iowa, Illinois, Virginia, Arizona. The story of the US Senate approving a measure to abolish the National Parks System. The state senator who refused to waste her time talking with constituents who didn’t agree with her. Yet another rant against the US President, and how he was destroying the country. More stories about men being stupid, like the judge who reduced the prison sentence of a child sex offender, because the 12-year-old girl he raped was pretty, and he couldn’t help himself.

He remembered the words of his doctor, “Block it! Filter it, so you don’t see it.” Laughter, he found, was good medicine, so he laughed, “I’ve learned, Doc. I can’t. Because I have to read it to find it to block it. It’s a can’t win deal.”

Yeah, he said that. It’s a can’t win deal. But, he’d been learning that wasn’t true. He could learn. Emile had always been able to learn. He’d learned how to program computers, how to repair them. He’d learned to express himself in written words. How to wash dishes. How to fold laundry. He’d had fits learning to fold his wife’s undies. He’d gone from, “You’re not supposed to see these, let alone touch them,” to “You get to fold them and put them away so she’ll have them to wear during the week.”

Emile had parts of himself that always hurt. Not that anyone knew it. He didn’t show it. He didn’t act like anything hurt. He’d taught himself which aches and pains were normal, which ones were always there, and how they always felt. The pains that were normal didn’t matter anymore. His ankle cracked when he flexed it. He was picky which shoes he wore because if he wore the wrong shoes, it felt like someone was hammering a nail through his foot, into his ankle.

“I know how to do this.” That was his goal, to learn how Facebook was, and as long as it was how it that way, he would be OK with everything on his news feed. He’d expect the happy news. The silly news. The absurd news. The sad news. And the global stupid news.

“You’ll become jaded. Cold. Dead. And accept the awful things that turn up on your feed.” That’s what his doctor told him. But, that’s not what would happen. Emile wouldn’t become jaded. Or cold. Or dead. He’d be himself. He’d talk with his friends who were sad. He’d share news stories that pissed him off. He’d share science stories that excited him. Pictures he took. Stories he wrote. When he was happy. When he was sad.

He’d use everything he learned from watching Facebook and use it to understand the way Facebook and his news feed were. How they’d always be. What normal was on his news feed and he’d be OK with its contents, so long as it stayed nomal. When it changed, he’d notice.

That’s what he’d learn. That’s how he’d use what he learned. “It’s called knowledge. And knowing how to use it.”

With that, he resumed his studies of his Facebook news feed. It would take some time. But with each day, he’d figure a bit more out. And get better at recognizing how his worked. And when it was showing him something abnormal.

Because, to Emile, knowledge was everything.

It’s April 13th, the 11th day of the 2015 A to Z Challenge. This is the 11th of 26 pieces I’m writing in April. Today, the letter K. Tomorrow, the letter L? Even I don’t know what I’ll write.


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