While I was on a pirate website I saw an app called Name2Face. It was a facial recognition app. It was supposed to hook up to the cloud and match faces against a billion images. According to the docs it used the Russian VK database, but had backdoors into Facebook, Google, and Shutterfly. It claimed 99% accuracy. Normally €199.99 but they had a hacked version for free. I snatched it.
You know, there is reason that you shouldn’t download apps for your android from anywhere except the Google Play Store. What that reason is, though, escapes me from time to time and I give it a try. If you are really adventurous you can try some of the Indian or Russian sites and get some cracked premium apps for free. Of course, this is like going on vacation and leaving your condoms at home.
Name2Face was habit forming. There is a joke that if you walk down any street in New York and call everyone you meet an asshole, nine times out of ten you’ll be right. This is probably true, but now I knew all of the asshole’s names.
Turn on the app and a splash screen comes on with the image of a shield with some Cyrillic text. Press the button on the left (I figure it is the Russian word for OK) and hold up the phone to a crowd of people. Little boxes appear around everyone’s head, and in a second their name appears. You can tap the name and go to their Facebook wall, or Twitter feed, VK, or their Instagram account or some sites in Russian and Chinese. You can send them an email or text. Pretty cool, don’t you think?
To give an example, I was walking down Broad Street on my way to work, when this drop dead gorgeous woman crossed in front of me going across on Wall Street. She had to have been a model or actress or call girl. The app was on and it caught her face. One tap later I had her.
Mindy Mossfirth it said. I followed after her. Age 28, Vice President of Angular Investments, Inc. There was a list of her social accounts, her email and a few phone numbers I clicked on the first one and sent a text: “Dinner Tonight?” I watched as she pulled out her phone and tapped it. She looked puzzled, tapped again and put the phone in her pocket.
“How about lunch?” I texted.
Again she discarded the message.
I tried again, “Sex?”
She didn’t even take the phone out of her pocket. Oh well, it was her loss.
It was fun. I could walk down a street and say, “Hi Bill,” “Hey Frankie,” “What’s up Estelle?” and get these surprised faces. I would just keep moving, leaving behind some confused people. I got into the habit of doing it every morning while waiting for the train, and in a while I was getting people saying “hello” to me before I even got their names on the screen. Someone called me Carlos one morning while waiting for the 8:19, and then everyone was saying “Hi Carlos.” My name is Anthony.
Every few days I would see beautiful Mindy and she would get a dirty text from me. This went on for a couple of weeks until she turned around and slapped me in the face. I guess she figured it out. It was not a coincidence that I was always there when she got the texts.
The other women I texted like that never did catch on.
At lunchtime there was a guy who sat on a park bench near the corner of Broadway and Chambers. He always looked out of it. He would eat a sandwich and feed bits of bread to the pigeons. He was dressed well enough, but his clothes didn’t seem to fit right. He was overweight and had one of those mashed potato faces. His name was Roland Mitchell.
One day I sent him a text: “Roland, Why don’t you just give up.”
He reached in his pocket and tapped his phone. My phone buzzed when he answered, “OK.”
I saw him the next day. “End it now. You’ve got nothing to live for.”
The next day I sent him: “Just fall down in front of a bus.”
The next day there was a pile of flowers on the park bench.
What a loser.
The app was not 100%. Several times I saw Tommy Rivera, who had died riding the top of a subway car through the Bronx when we were 15. The train passed under a low clearance ceiling and scraped him off. He was my best friend until then. I nearly fell down the first time the app said Tommy Rivera, because it was him. He hadn’t changed a bit since we were in high school. The person, who was not Tommy Rivera because Tommy was dead, must have worked near the World Trade Center because I kept seeing him down near Battery Place. Maybe he was Tommy’s cousin or something, but I never asked.
I saw Roland Mitchell again and he wasn’t dead. He walked by me and stared me in the face. The app said it was him. Before I could text him, the guy, who couldn’t have been Roland Mitchell, gave me the finger as he passed me. When I turned to yell back at him he was gone.
The app made a few weird mistakes. I saw Alfred Hitchcock, Woodrow Wilson and Kurt Cobain. The app was right except that they were all dead. I kept seeing them. Once I said “Hi Kurt,” and the guy said “hey,” and kept walking. I guess he was used to it.
Jesus Christ was a frequent visitor to Wall Street. I guess he has some work there. He was an Arab looking guy with a short beard. He was dressed in a gray business suit. I think the app may have been confused because he wore sandals, although I doubt the real Jesus wore his sandals with white socks.
Whenever I met Jesus, he would smile and nod to me. The app said he was Jesus Christ, or sometimes Jesus of Nazareth, but he was always seemed a hell of a nice guy.
Now this is the bad part.
One day I saw Death. That’s what the app said.
The first time I literally felt cold chills up and down my spine. There was this guy two blocks in front of me, but he was tall and I could see him clearly. The app said “Death” with a capital “D.” He wore a black hoodie, black skinny jeans and black high tops, but you couldn’t see his face. All I could see when I passed by him was the glint of eyes in the shadows of the hood. He looked me in the eye; he just stared right at me like he was waiting for something.
Every few hours I saw the guy. He was always standing still, and it was always a good distance away. He was always looking right at me. If I tapped the box around his head, there was nothing there except a website link, but if I tapped the link I would get this “Server not Found” error.
I tried to make a little sense out of everything. The app was definitely wacky. It worked well on most people, but when it failed, it failed on the weird side. The main trouble is it kept on showing me dead people.
For example, on one walk from the subway exit to my job, about six blocks, I saw Tommy Rivera twice, my Grandfather, my Father, Uncle Frankie, my second grade school teacher Mrs. Riesman, Albert Einstein, and five presidents. It was like there were more dead people than live ones on the street that day.
One day I saw my cousin Shirley (Mom’s sister’s kid). I walked over to talk to her, but she was gone. My mother called me that night to tell me Shirley had died of breast cancer about the time I saw her.
My Grandma Torino claimed to be psychic. She said she always knew when someone had died or someone was in trouble. She dreamed about my Grandfather dying the day before he had the heart attack. She liked to look at you and read your future. She always told me that I was headed for a bad end if I wasn’t careful. I’ve always proven her wrong, even if I’ve come close a couple of times. Maybe the app was bringing out the same talent in me. Maybe this was my talent. Maybe I could see Death.
I stopped using the app, but now that I knew what to look for I kept seeing Jesus and Death, and, for some reason, an old time actor named Ronald Coleman.
I decided that I needed a change so I took some vacation time and went to a resort hotel on Cancun.
It didn’t help. Death was still death and Jesus Christ went swimming with one of those teeny weenie euro-trash swimming trunks. At least he didn’t go commando like some of the people there.
I used the app to chat up a pretty woman in a bikini. She was a few years older than I and a little overweight, but I wouldn’t kick her out of bed, as they say, and I didn’t have to. She took my mind off of things. She was from Boston. I gave her a fake email and promised to call her. I doubt if I will.
Life is too short to worry about this stuff. I came back with a new attitude. I didn’t have time to think about Death and the dead people. They were just annoying things that sprang up from an app that encouraged my imagination to work overtime. You could see animals in the clouds, faces in the grain of a piece of wood. You could see the shadows move; sometimes when there was nothing there.
The app, like the human brain, is a liar. It likes to connect the dots when the dots are just random. Anyone could find patterns in randomness. Anyone could hear music flowing in the traffic noise. Anyone could see Death standing behind every door. The app was just a simple version of a human brain looking for patterns and finding them whether they were real or not.
It was my own damn fault for letting it get to me, and I found it easy to cut it out. As soon as I stopped looking, I stopped seeing. I kept my phone in my pocket and never started the app. I looked straight ahead and stopped making eye contact with people on the street. I didn’t see Death. All I had to do was stop looking for him. If I didn’t see him, he wasn’t there. That’s the way I approached it.
Of course Jesus Christ still smiled when I crossed his path, but that’s because I had been saying “hi” to him for so long. I kept seeing Roland Mitchell standing in the middle of the street while I waited for the light to change, but the buses went around him. Mindy Mossfirth still crossed Broad Street on the way to work, but she never showed signs of recognizing me. I owed her a nice juicy text, but why bother? She was out of my league.
That’s not to say that I never used the app again. It was useful. There was an old time guy named Big Jim Farley who owned a Library. He was supposed to have kept a book of everyone’s name and particulars so he could walk up to you, look you in the eye and make you feel like he really remembered you. The app was my “Farley File.” I sometimes had meetings with high level clients, and it was useful to walk up to a guy you may never have met, look him in the eye and say “Hi, Maxwell, how’s Irene and the kids?” Whenever I was in these meetings, though, Death stood in the back of the room and just watched. He never raised his hand when I asked the eventual, “Any questions?”
The last time I used the app was at this big shindig for the some high mucky-mucks from the London Stock Exchange. It was held in one of the big meeting rooms at the Andaz Hotel. They had a tacky champagne fountain and pretty girls carrying plates of spicy fried squid and other stuff you’d never touch if it wasn’t free. I went for the open bar, but I stayed because it was a fun place to use the app.
I harassed several tall thin women in spike heels that were either trophy wives or hired escorts. I said hello to heads of state and asked about the health of their grandchildren. I hit on the wives of Wall Street executives. I had entirely too much fun.
I walked up to a delegate from the Russian embassy that looked lost and alone. “Hey, Serge,” I said with a wink, “How’s the back? I heard you sprained it. Too much rough sex?” I knew about his bad back because he had posted about it on VK, the Russian Facebook. I knew about his special interests because he had two accounts and the app knew both of them. One was definitely not meant to be public.
I slapped him on the back and he grunted in pain. I think that is when I screwed up. I turned and held up my phone looking for something else fun to do, and I think he saw the screen and recognized it. Maybe, though, the app was monitored and I was getting a little too much use out of it on a connection that was not meant for the general public. It could be that the SVR RF (Russian CIA) was tracking me. I may have over utilized the app in the party at the Andaz.
A couple of hours later I left the party, feeling no pain. I had been drinking $50 shots of single malts. It was lucky that I didn’t have to drive. I could take the water ferry up to 40th street and the cool river air would help me sober up.
I was walking down to the dock at the foot of Wall when two guys in dark suits came up on either side of me and held my arms. One reached into my jacket pocket and pulled out my phone. They pushed me down and by the time I stood up they were gone.
The next day I got a new phone. I restored all my data from the cloud, but the app, since it had not been purchased, had never been backed up. I looked for the website where I had downloaded it, but I couldn’t find it. That’s OK. I’d had my fun with the app. I didn’t need it.
A week later there was a stock market “correction” and my firm needed to lay off a few hundred people so I was out of a job. I have money squirreled away, so I was not too concerned. A smart guy like me wouldn’t be on unemployment for long. I started my job search. I missed the app, especially for interviews. It would have helped.
After a few months of fruitless job hunting, I would just go down to corner of Broadway and Chambers and sit with Roland on the bench and watch people.
I don’t really need the app. I can tell you the name of almost everyone that passes by. Lots of them are dead people. Albert Einstein is cool. He always gives me a high five when he goes by. Tommy Rivera is definitely not cool and doesn’t even talk to me. Everyone knows me as Carlos, still, so I guess that I am Carlos now.
My life now is watching all the people go by on Broadway on their way to meaningless jobs. I know their names and I know their stories. I think I am waiting for something to happen. I might get a job. Someone might like my resume. I’ve got time. I don’t spend much and I won’t need to work for years. I get the feeling that something is going to happen eventually. Maybe there is an app that will tell me.
They say “there is an app for that,” but what if you need an app but don’t know why. Is there an app that will get me a job? Is there an app that will stop me from seeing dead people? Is there an app that will tell death to stop following me? Is there an app that will make sense of my life? Is there an app to tell what app I need? I guess I can Google Ukrainian pirate sites and browse the hacked apps to find what I need.
Death sits right next to me now, although he doesn’t talk. His bony fingers point to someone from time to time and I know that their time is nearly up. His hoodie has the Nike logo on the back, and I try to peek into the hood to see his face, but I can only make out the shine of his eyes.
Jesus stands still on the crowded sidewalk. He smiles at me a lot and seems to be waiting for me to say something. I wonder why I see him and not Moses or Mohammad. Why not the devil or some Norse God?
I never talk to him. I don’t have anything to say. What do you say to Jesus, anyway?
I’ll be damned if I know.
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