I read the quote again. I know I’d seen it somewhere before; it was one of those famous ones that you heard all the time or saw printed over images on unimaginative people’s social media feeds. I couldn’t recall whose words they were, and the person who’d written this one (in the form of Facebook status update text padding the posting of a thirty-second video of a baby doing something adorable) had only bothered to put in a link to their own site rather than a proper attribution.

“Wouldn’t that be funny?” I said.

“Hm?” she asked, around a spoonful of yogurt. She popped the spoon out with an actual pop of her lips. I loved her best when she was that playful, it certainly beat the hell out of her darker mood swings. “What’s that?” She knee-walked over the cloudy mountain surface of the bed and draped her arms over my shoulders, laying her head sideways on one of them. Her hair draped over me, and I smiled at the perfection of it.

“If these quotes were all wrong,” I said.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, what if a lot of these quotes didn’t mean what we thought they did? Especially the ones that supposedly came from the ancients, from some centuries-dead Greek philosopher. How do we know that the translations are accurate, or even if the remembrances are any good? You’ve played ‘Telephone’ before, right? Imagine passing a message up through a few hundred years until someone bothers to write it down properly. How much is the meaning going to change by then?”

“Oh my god that baby is super cute,” she cooed, and tapped the video’s loop button. Once more the tiny human being slapped its awkward little feet across the parquet floor and fell face-first into a dog. The dog gave the camera a perfect ‘why me’ look and the loop restarted. The counter at the bottom of the frame claimed 1.2M views.

“Yes, there’s no denying the cuteness of the baby. But look at what’s written above the video.”

She mumbled into my shoulder, repeating the quote to herself. “Oh, that’s by what’s-her-name. The writer.”

That clue should have sent a name rushing into my forebrain and out onto my tongue, but it didn’t. I was no closer to remembering the name of the owner of the quote than I had been a minute ago. “That’s not the point. It’s not who said or wrote it, but whether it even applies here. Maybe she was just talking about her morning waffles that one time during an interview, and someone had taken the words completely out of context. Twisted and tied them up, repackaged them until they appeared, unwittingly, over viral videos of babies.”

She hummed into my shoulder and then sat up so abruptly that her hair sprayed all over my face, a blonde tickling rake that made me sneeze. “You’re bothered by that,” she said, “and not by the fact that the video likely doesn’t even belong to the person who posted it? We’re living in the age of stolen information.”

“I think you mean the ‘information age’, dear.”

“Do I? Maybe it started out that way, but now it’s all about how quickly you can borrow and recouple viral crap to suit your own purposes. I’m pretty sure this user put that quote and video together hoping for the perfect storm of fingers clicking ‘Like’ on their own page. I mean, it’s obvious: just look at where the main link goes.”

“Huh,” I said, at a loss.

“You should probably be doing more of that for your own site, don’t you think?” she asked.

2014.12.28 – 2023.07.30

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