The thing about keyboards is this: even if you never lay so much as a finger on them, they will eventually attract dust and other stuff not conducive to a long, happy life. Actually pounding on them seems to bring in more of said stuff, and if you are hardy and/or perverse enough to snack at your desk well, this means you're going to be doing some cleaning. A lot of cleaning, actually.

The state of the keyboard on that December evening was rather sad. I thought of administering a spritz from the Can O' Air, but that has the disadvantage of making a lot of this gunk airborne, so I resorted to the quick-and-dirty expedient: raise keyboard, invert, shake it but don't break it, sweep away the crumbs. I'd gotten just barely into the second step when I saw it.

little red heartNow the general order of precedence, from smallest to largest, in terms of this keyboard at this particular installation, is thusly: crumbs too small to be identifiable, hair, dust, dusty hair, hairy dust, crumbs large enough to be identifiable. As a rule, none of these items tends to be shiny and red. "Where in the world did this come from?" I asked. There being no answer, the usual case when I'm alone, I opted to pick up the little whatzis and relocate it out of range somewhere else on the desk. Plucked from the ancient woodgrain and parked on the white surface of the monitor stand, the whatzis was more easily identifiable, but no more explainable: why is there a little red heart on my desk?

No explanation presented itself, so I went off to the kitchen to scrape up something vaguely dinner-like. But all through the meal, that heart kept pushing its way into the front of my brain. Obviously I hadn't brought it there, and I had nothing resembling a good explanation for its arrival. Perhaps this was an omen of something. Then again, you don't get free-standing omens: it has to represent something, otherwise, well, it's not much of an omen, is it? At first, I considered the most literal proposition: that I ought to take care, lest I suffer some form of heart failure that will drain both my strength and my savings. For just a moment, I placed my hand over the organ in question, which seemed to be doing the same thing it always did, and I remembered that I'd received much stronger reminders in the past, which always proved to be false alarms. I poured the remaining two ounces of pasta onto my plate, and resolved to put it out of my mind.

Actual physical hearts, of course, don't at all resemble the stylized version we know so well, so eventually I was drawn back into the puzzle, wondering if there was an emotional condition on the way. The most obvious one, I dismissed right off the bat: I've managed to attract somewhere in the general vicinity of zero female attention in the past twenty years, and nothing about me has changed enough to suggest a sudden upsurge. I've doubled the number of my social connections recently, but twice zero is still zero; if women follow me on Twitter, as more than three hundred do, it's because they think I might say something interesting, not because they're in any way warm for my form.

I pondered briefly the possibility of something going on at the family level. I concede that I have not been the greatest parent of all time, in the same way that Shaquille O'Neal was not the greatest foul shooter of all time; but even Shaq clanked one in now and then, and over the years I've somehow managed not to alienate the children, and possibly even the grandchildren. Am I doing anything to jeopardize that relationship? If I were, you may be sure, the kids would be telling me: they seem to have inherited my propensity for speaking up when it's necessary, and sometimes when it isn't.

Is one of my dreams about to come true, perhaps? I have no reason to think so. Then again, I've done nothing out of the ordinary to make it so. I was reading Jamie Kitman's column in Automobile this month, in which he describes his acquisition of the car of his adolescent dreams, a 1936 Riley Kestrel Sprite, and for a moment I was prepared to wonder if there might be something in the air after all; but then, about halfway through the piece, Kitman disclosed that to pull this off, he'd had to make "optimistic internal accounting assumptions of a sort that would have made JPMorgan Chase blush at the height of the mortgage-securitization boondoggle."

No closer to a solution, I turned my attention to Twilight Sparkle, whose visage doesn't exactly smile down upon me from the upper part of the desk. "Does this mean anything?" I asked. She made no reply, which at first I assumed was due to a most lamentable lack of battery voltage. Then again, if there were the slightest hint of an answer, surely she'd tell me.

The little red heart remains on the monitor stand, much more visible against a white background, still refusing to give up any of its secrets. Perhaps I'm going about this the wrong way. It may be simply that the heart was intended to remind me that regardless of my ultimate place in the puzzle, love, like life, like the Dude, somehow abides, and I should perhaps do a better job of keeping that in mind. But that still doesn't explain how it got here in the first place.

The Vent

  16 December 2013

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 Copyright © 2013 by Charles G. Hill