Password Stories

Sarah wrote her passwords as stories to remember them better. Former password-stories ran something like:

THE BOURGEOISIE DON’T USE BUFFETS

THEY ARE FOOD CONNOISSEURS

THEY CONSIDER BUFFETS TO BE NAUSEATING

HORS D’OEUVRES, FOR EXAMPLE, AREN’T EVEN SERVED

SO THE BOURGEOISIE GO TO CZECHOSLOVAKIA INSTEAD

She chose password-stories that centered around awkwardly spelled words, often French, or ones like ‘thermometer’ and ‘Presbyterian’. Her reasoning was that malicious hackers have grown so dependent on auto-correct that they wouldn’t know how to spell ‘baccalaureate’ if it kicked them in the ‘coccyx’.

The password-story changed every three years for purposes of security. The change wasn’t supposed to be a big deal, however, the changing of a password-story tended to coincide with a major life event. Her last password-story had ended two years ago, along with a relationship that had lasted as long as the password-story before that.

Sarah didn’t like thinking that her inner password-story world was linked with the outer one. It meant connection and Sarah didn’t like connection because connection meant depth and Sarah didn’t follow depth well. Sarah wanted life to fall out like the pink tongue of a happy dog. To think that life followed that pink tongue into deep and swarthy processes was overwhelming.

Her current password-story ran thus:

THE RHINOCEROSES NEED SURVEILLANCE

THEIR TERRITORY BORDERS THAT OF THE WILDEBEEST

THE WILDEBEEST IS NOT NECESSARILY VOYEURISTIC

BUT THEIR ELVEN MASTERS ARE

ELVES EMPLOY DACHSHUNDS TO WEEVIL

INTO SEEMINGLY IMPENETRABLE PLACES

THEREBY DIMINISHING A RHINOCEROS’

OTHERWISE ADVANTAGEOUS HUGENESS

She liked it. It had all the markers of a good password-story: respectable and well maintained; like clean underwear, if she were to die and be examined by strangers it would posthumously speak in her favor.

The only problem with the password-story process was thinking new passwords into existence. Sarah didn’t want to write a bad password-story. She had never written a bad password-story in her life. As much as she feared a malicious hacker attack, she feared writing a bad password-story more.

But the difficulty of creating new passwords had increased ever since Sarah moved in with Kevin. Kevin supported net neutrality. He supported net neutrality so much that he refused to pay for anything. So, Kevin not only subscribed to new things all the time, he also had to ‘refresh’ these subscriptions by creating new accounts before their free, thirty day-trial periods had expired. The burden of this was huge, and fell upon both of them equally, but Sarah felt it more keenly because Sarah held herself up to the high standards of a well-written password-story.

And then suddenly it was March. The monotony of the winter weeks had compounded like the snow and turned into a slippery rock face that sent Sarah tripping through time. She’d tripped from October to Monday to Sunday to March without knowing how she’d gotten there. She felt beleaguered and the thread of her password-story was making this woefully clear. The passwords seemed to be channeling the stress of their author. Just last week Sarah opened four new accounts that left her with:

THE ELVES HAD TOTAL CONTROL OVER

THE RHINOCEROSES, WILDEBEESTS AND DACHSHUNDS

AND PLAYED THEM AGAINST EACH OTHER

TO DISTRACT THEM FROM THE INEVITABLE…

It was the ellipsis that baffled her. She almost cancelled the GapBody membership she created it for. She never used ellipses in her passwords. The spelled out version of ‘ellipses’ could be useful, but to grammatically employ an ellipsis that left a password-story hanging signaled a lack of control. Her hold over her inner password-story world was loosening. She could see it in its accelerating recklessness. She was like a dog watching suitcases collect in the living room: something was bound to happen and there was nothing her sweet passivity could do about it.

Then the party. Everyone was huddled around her. They wanted a Madonna playlist without advertisements. Someone needed to create a Spotify premium account and it was her computer, her party, her boyfriend pushing the request:

“Babe, we need to do this,” he said.

But her mind was soggy. She couldn’t remember where she’d left off with her password story. Had they already done the inevitable thing? Or were they still waiting?

She sat down at the computer. An impulse stretched her chest. She opened her mouth to yawn, found herself on the verge of a scream, closed her mouth and re-directed the impulse to her fingers.

“Oh god,” she whispered, staring at the result on the screen, “That’s violent.”

She turned back toward the party. They were fishbowled around her. She felt like a fish.

“What? Sarah? What?” they asked.

No one could read the horrible incrimination. It was dotted. She was protected from their judgment. She turned back to it. Thank god. It was dotted. Oh shit. It was dotted. What was it?

“What! Sarah! What!”

Someone at the back of the room demanded Erotica.

“I don’t know!” she screamed.

Kevin reached over and finished entering her information. Erotica blared. She folded her hands in her lap and pretended to be high but all the while she was thinking: shit.


The next day, Sunday, their Netflix account reached its twenty-ninth day of activity. Sarah was required to make up a new one to avoid being charged. Kevin was avid:

“Babe, we need to do that now.”

Sarah automatically moved to the computer. She put her hands to the keyboard, awaiting the sonata, when it hit her: shit.

NOTHING — she thought — NOTHING IS HERE

She stood up with a jolt.

“I’m going to shower first,” she said.

She went to bathroom and turned on the shower, sitting cooped up on the toilet, thinking, watching the steam cataract the mirror and trying to avoid imagining the same thing happening inside her brain.

“Shit,” she said, “what was it?”

She recapped the night: there had been wine. She had drunk the wine. The label had been beautiful and she had wanted to appreciate it more so she drank more of what was inside. Then she went to the living room. A lull. Then they turned to her and she felt like a fish and then:

“Shit!”

The mirror fogged up. She dotted two eyes and streaked a frown.

“Violence,” she whispered suddenly.

She ran to the computer:

THE ELVES CUT LIMBS AND SOLDERED WOUNDS

Denied.

She tried adding an exclamation mark.

Denied.

She tried a period.

Denied.

She tried ‘12345’ afterwards.

Denied. Everything was denied. Life was denied.

“Babe, are you doing it?” Kevin yelled

“No!”

She went back to the bathroom.

“God damn it Sarah,” she whispered to the mirror, “You had to get drunk last night and be the hero. Violence. When have we ever used violence? How am I going to track that down?”

Her password-stories had never been violent. Her choice of Elves was more romantic than violent. She had been suffering from a lack of romance and Elves had magically entered her mind. She was opening a paypal account. Then she moved in with Kevin.

But this had been outright violence. What had happened? Had her appetite for romance mutated into this? Was this going to get sexual? Should she warn Kevin?

These were the deep questions that she hated.

“Shit.”

After the shower she returned to the kitchen. Quesadillas from last night were still on a plate. Her stomach flinched. Quesadillas should never be cold. Very little separates a cold quesadilla from a cold pizza and yet a cold pizza is divine. She frowned.

Kevin walked in:

“Did you do it?”

“Who ordered quesadillas?” she asked.

He looked at the plate.

“You did,” he said.

“I did not.”

“You made them.”

“What the hell are you talking about? I never make quesadillas. I hate quesadillas.”

“You made them last night.”

“Shit.”

Sarah struck the hard marble of the kitchenette. Kevin bunched up his brow like underwear bunches, at least, that’s how Sarah interpreted it.

“Did you make it?” he asked.

“You just told me I made it!”

“The account, Sarah. Did you make the account?”

“I can’t right now.”

“Hey,” he said, “you need to take an Advil.”

“Don’t tell me that. You know I don’t like it when people tell me I need to take things.”

“Babe, I can’t make the account. If I make the account, I have to make a new e-mail address and I already have too many.”

“Erase some.”

“That’s impossible. I’d have to set aside a whole day to figure out what to keep and what to throw away and today is Sunday. So I can waste our Sunday doing that or we can enjoy it together. Your call.”

“God damn it Kevin.”

“Just tell me when you’ve made the account.” He took the quesadilla plate. “I didn’t know this was going to be a thing.”

He raised his voice and bugged his eyes on thing, a clear antagonism that Sarah absorbed. Sarah absorbed many antagonisms but wasn’t sure if this was good or not. Absorbing antagonisms allowed her to tolerate more annoyances than the average person, something that she thought made her Zen, and she liked thinking of herself as Zen. But she wasn’t good at releasing the absorptions. They tended to fester. So instead of slowly aging into a tranquil-faced Buddha princess like she imagined she would if she continued being Zen, she felt herself slowly bloating like a puffer fish.

She slapped the hard marble kitchenette again.

“Shit.”

She sat in front of the computer. She hated her computer. It was the box-jawed cousin of the Cheshire cat, always grinning with its secrets, a cornucopia of modern fruit, floating in ether — shit — shit — shit.

THE RHINOCEROSES ANALLY IMPALED THE ELVES

Denied.

THE WILDEBEESTS SAT UPON THE DACHSHUNDS

Denied.

THE WILDEBEESTS SHAT UPON THE DACHSHUNDS

Denied.

FERAL EVERYONE WENT FERAL 12345

Denied.

“God! Shit!” she screamed.

“Are you doing it?” came Kevin’s voice.

“No! Why violence!” she asked herself out loud.

Violence had never been in the picture. What influence had pushed her to choose violence? Had she seen something that she didn’t know she saw? Was she angry? What the hell?

Kevin walked into the room:

“Did you do it?”

“What the fuck did I just tell you Kevin? I said no.”

“Jesus,” he closed the door.

This was bad. If Sarah couldn’t remember this then she’d have to write a new password-story from scratch. She would not only have to go through the mental barbwire of changing years’ worth of account information, plus countless frivolities of Kevin’s, but she would also have to think of an entirely new story to contextualize everything so that she’d remember it. She wasn’t ready for that. That meant deep shit.

“Shit. Shit. Shit. Shit.”

She went to the balcony and got out her yoga mat. She entered the Lotus position. She tried to Zen — Madonna — ‘Like a Virgin’ was blaring from the living room. She ran back in.

“How are you into that?” she said.

“Babe, it’s Madonna,” Kevin replied, “Who’s not into that?”

“No, the account! How’d you get back into the Spotify account!?”

“I didn’t get back in. We were always in.”

“We never logged out?”

“We never log out. You know that.”

“So we’re already in,” she shouldered Kevin out of the chair, “That’s why nothing worked when I typed it in this morning. We were already logged in with this e-mail address. Oh my god — wait. So I can just…request a password change?”

MISCELLANEOUS LOVEMAKING

Done. The password was changed. She immediately went to Netflix:

THE MISCELLANEOUS LOVE CHILDREN

Other passwords dominoed out for future use:

IMPROVED SPECIES RELATIONS SUCH THAT

THE RHINOCEROSES, WILDEBEESTS AND DACHSHUNDS

BECAME ONE SUPER LOVE SPECIES

THAT SUPERSEDED THE ELVEN SUPREMECY

AND PEACE REIGNED WITH AN IRON FIST


They spent the rest of their Sunday domestically blissful. Sarah felt good. But once, back in the kitchen, she caught sight of the empty quesadilla plate and her stomach flinched.

She hadn’t corrected her mistake. She’d only gotten lucky and luck doesn’t change a person. It just changes the person’s direction. The violence of her drunken indiscretion was a result of something that she still possessed. The only difference was that now she knew it was there. Was this good or bad? She closed her eyes and racked her brain for the specifics of a quote that talked about this. Brad Pitt had said it in that movie where he had had the bad haircut — but she couldn’t remember.

“Shit.”

After settling back on the couch, she shivered.

“Cold, babe?”

Kevin grabbed a blanket and spread it over them. She pecked his cheek. They started in with a new series.

AND PEACE REIGNED WITH AN IRON FIST