“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a polite stranger as much as I’ve seen you in the last few weeks.” Jacob Hartman said to me as he took a sip of his beer. He was sitting across from me at Clive’s, a small, rustic hipster bar that seemed always empty yet could somehow afford rent prices in Williamsburg. I looked over at the lady bartender who smiled at me. It was a warm, familiar smile like we’d both been to the same summer camp as kids. I sipped a six dollar PBR and turned back to Jacob.
“What can I say, you’ve been a big help so far.”
“So you said something about double over the phone.”
“We can certainly talk about that. Later.” I reply.
“What do you want to talk about now?”
“You were right, I’ve been too much of a polite stranger. I think at this point I should tell you something about myself.”
“I’d say it’s only right.”
“I grew up here. Lived my whole life in Brooklyn. Went to school here, got a CS degree that I never used. I wasn’t the best coder in the world. But I could write, so I started making blogs, building traffic, selling the ad space, and then selling the site wholesale. It worked a few times but I hit a wall. I decided to expand. Got some help, made The Edge.”
“That’s quite a summary.”
“I want to know more about SSL. Have you heard of Perfect People?”
“Perfect People?” Jacob laughed, “yeah, I know someone who knows them.”
“Who are they?”
“They run SSL. Or at least some of them are mods.”
“I figured as much. How does your friend know them?”
“Not really my friend, she’s my ex. Sally Winthrop. Have you heard of her?”
“Yeah, she used to talk about this person she knew back when we were dating that could get any fucking drug under the sun. It was this dude, forgot his name.”
“You want to give me Sally’s contact info?”
Jacob laughed. “Like I still have that shit. Besides, she’s probably changed her number three times over. She’s gotten pretty famous with that installation at the MoMa.”
“Right,” I said and looked away from Jacob for a moment, thinking of a solution. I turned back to him when I thought of another question. “What’s the deal with the name? SSL?”
“No clue, probably some gibberish inside joke from the neckbeards that designed the site.”
“So, with Winthrop, can I tell her you pointed me in her direction?”
“You’re like me. You’re from the internet.” Jacob said with a smile.
That evening I ended up at Celia’s house to plan Carl’s birthday. Carl was one of our oldest writers. He’d been one of the first hires when I started the edge and was a loyal, quiet journalist who made a point to edit all of my pieces with serious caution to my writing style. For that, I sort of loved Carl, and Celia knew I’d help her plan his birthday, because, why not do something nice for quiet Carl? Celia’s apartment was close to Ridgewood, above a liquor store that sold fine French wines to Dominican junkies. The interior of her apartment had endless stacks of textbooks and books by modern pop philosophers, the closest of which to me was a copy of Slavoj Zizek’s Event tossed lazily on the ground next to my foot. Celia was better than office-hot. Her looks were dampened by her conservative clothing style and black-rimmed glasses, but also accentuated by her conservative clothing style and black-rimmed glasses. She knew what she was doing.
“We should do something better than Mona’s,” Celia said as she looked down at her Smartphone. “I mean, aren’t you tired of that dumb place?”
“No, I am. But I also don’t want to get a drink anywhere else in Brooklyn. Maybe we could find a restaurant in the city. What’s that place in Harlem? Blue Rooster?”
“You think he’d like a restaurant in Harlem for his birthday because he’s black?”
I shrugged. “I don’t know. Wouldn’t he? Shows we see him, you know. It’s personal.”
Celia laughed. “You’re joking.”
“I actually don’t know if I’m joking,” I said.
“I know the feeling,” she replied, still smiling. “I’ll check if they have reservations. Should we go to a bar before?”
“Does Carl even drink?”
Celia shrugged, and we both started laughing. “I’ll ask him what his favorite bar is and do some digging. Speaking of digging, you talked to the contractor, yeah?”
“I was able to meet with him today. Turns out he knows Sally Winthrop.”
“The artist?” Celia suddenly perked up.
“Yeah, that one. I’m going to have to talk to her if I want to follow this lead.”
“How are you going to get a hold of her?”
“It shouldn’t be too hard to find where her next installation is,” I said confidently.
“Can I come? She’s kind of a legend.”
“No, I only interview alone. I’ll tell you about her though.”
“Why can’t I come?”
“Because you’d ruin it,” I say smiling.
“You’re a dick,” Celia said.
I nodded to her in agreement.
Sally Winthrop (real name Jessa Bridges) was a modern artist from England. Her interactive set pieces were usually some combination of re-purposed technology and lots of meaningless wires. She specialized in visual installations that The Times once called, “a technological intersection between the absurd, the mundane and the disturbing.” The New York art community had been sucking her off since she had her first breakout show at the MoMa where she put a CCTV camera in front of a hatching egg and then played a video of a dying bird on a tube TV. Or something like that. I only knew about her because her name came up in any Arts and Culture section I happened to skim through when I read local publications. She was the embodiment of what every art school girl in the city wanted to be: hip, contemporary, and extremely expensive. Her latest installation was in a small gallery in Chelsea. I found her name easily, by doing the simplest and most straightforward research I could: I Googled her name while walking to the subway stop near work.
When I arrived at her gallery I walked into the white-walled space and a desk attendant looked up at me and smiled.
Editor’s Note: If you enjoy Adam’s writing, be sure to check out his previously featured works with Big Easy Magazine here! Also, be sure to read some of our other short fiction. This includes works from Nolan Storey, Margaret Marley, Camille Goering, and Fritz Westenberger!