I had almost become confused between “virtual” and “real.” I took my laptop to bed with me when I slept, so that the tink, tink of gmail messages would wake me — 8pm, 1am, 6am, noon. When I dragged my eyelids open, I already stared at the screen. Before I dragged my eyelids open, I thought I was staring at the screen. Black letters on white background in a blue-bordered box floating down at the bottom right hand of a larger, black-bordered box, the computer screen. As large as I need my world to be, maybe.

hey, you there, hello, hi hi hi hi hi, HEY, time to play, log in log in, game time. I blink the film from my eyes and tap out a reply. Minimize the window, find the icon, open the game. Inside the box inside another box inside a larger box, I see the virtual world I’d dreamt while I slept. I recognize it more than I recognize the world around my physical body, the hallways and rooms of my apartment.

I sit in my chair surrounded by dingy white walls surrounded by San Francisco and stare at a glowing 17.3-inch display and I am made of pixels, or is it voxels or texels, at any rate I have a CGI body. I am blue. I’m walking beside another CGI body, bony and green-skinned. Of course our bodies have no skin, really. We are flat on a screen. She pulls out a pair of knives and smiles at me. When I smile back, she thrusts the knives into my gut. I hunch forward, scrabbling at my midsection, gasping, choking. My body leans back in a wooden chair in front of a computer screen in my room in San Francisco, fingers of one hand toying with volume buttons, the other hand cupping the mouse.

Every time I leave the world in my laptop and walk down the street, I think of daylong jobs and nights flirting in bars; I think of going to the grocery store, figuring out what I can afford this week; I think of people on the sidewalk, looking at me, thinking things about me as I hurry by. How, I wonder, cananyone spend all their time out here? Why aren’t we all dissolving into telepresence?