Luke Perry

Jason Pierce Mallory
4 min readMar 11, 2019


“Luke Perry is dead” says the screen in the elevator at my office, a deviation from its usual slightly Trump-sympathetic news reports.

“Damn, Luke Perry is dead!” I write on Facebook Messenger to my girlfriend and again on gchat to my friends.

Luke Perry’s death will be announced all day by a variety of screens, each one programmed with its own small agenda. I always figured the future would have many screens but did not imagine each one would come with its own point of view, it’s own narrative to push. Naive on my part.

Later in the evening when I get home I will look out at the dogs running around my backyard and think about how I don’t always have to play a role in the world, sometimes I can simply look at the world, and I don’t even have to do that if I don’t want to.

I am a type of screen as well.

I broadcast information. I make announcements, I watch with my eye, all filtered through my own politics and point of view. I impose my own narrative on everything I present to the world.

Each screen can look as well as be looked at. Each screen with its own eye, taking photos through its point of view.

Photographs are proof of a moment, but the proof of the moment is given through the eye of the screen, all the evidence of what we capture forced through the prism of its point of view.

“Luke Perry is dead at age 52,” a notification on the screen in my hand says, as I scan it just before entering the crosswalk in Midtown Atlanta. I always make sure to look up when I put the first foot in the crosswalk, though. “Don’t get got” is my slogan.

I still hold my phone in my hand. It looks at the people passing me with its eye. All information is good to a screen.

Luke Perry was 3 years younger than my mother when she died. That’s all they got, who knows why. My mother never was good with computers. But she figured out gmail. If things had gone different I could have sent her a “Damn, Luke Perry is dead!” gchat.

She may be reincarnated as a kid somewhere right now. Welcome to the age of the screens, if so. After death, you become younger than your children.

On the other side of the crosswalk is a girl with a clipboard trying to get the attention of everyone walking by the door to my building. Normally I am good at the art of not catching the eyes of the people with clipboards.

The trick is not to avoid eye contact. There is no trick. Just stay outside their boundaries.

People with clipboards are not bad or good. But they only have so much reach. Know the reach of the people around you. Many people and things in this world announce the borders of their influence if you pay attention.

The other people with clipboards who previously stood in her spot told me that the code word to not be bothered by them was “mango.” Just say “mango” and they let you go on your way. Feels like a spell read aloud from an ancient scroll. Magic is real, it’s just rules like anything else.

She points at the bag of food I’m holding. My lunch. She says, “You get anything for me?” and points at the bag. I say “uhh.. what’s that word? Mango?”

She furrows her brow and says “You got me mangos??” I’m still in motion. I didn’t plan for this long of an interaction. She’s confused, but still trying to make it work, to banter.

In the past, “mango” has worked like a charm. The people with clipboards melt away and simply nod. Not a mark, not a rube. He works here, let him pass. Gandalf opening the doors of Moria.

“It’s the word they told us to say if we work in this building.” I point at my building, where the screens in the elevators announce the news: Luke Perry is dead. Magic is real, but every spell don’t work every time.

Damn, Luke Perry is dead.

She just frowns. I keep walking. She is bound by the invisible lines of her boundaries, of her reach. In our respective pockets both our screens sit and wait, blind but listening. Maybe tonight she will be served an ad for mangos on her screen. Or maybe dream of mangos. The dreaming brain just another screen for whom all information is good.

Later in the day, the MARTA train breaks down at North Ave station and won’t start again. I look at the people around me. A man’s gold rimmed sunglasses. A guy with a bunch of video game patches in his backpack. A worn skateboard poking out from under a seat. I am looking. All information is good.

Everyone is told to get off the broken train and walk around to the other tracks to get on a new train. The lights are turned off in the bad train and it sits on the tracks muted, not humming, not going anywhere. A woman in a MARTA uniform moves from car to car checking things in the busted train. She is smiling, genuinely, to herself even though everyone on the platform is angry with her, asking why the fuck can’t they just move the train.

I could have told them: it’s just rules like anything else.

I finally get home and look down at my screen. The screen looks back with its own eye. What’s the difference if we don’t play our roles in the world, if all we have to do is look?