She is twenty-three years old. She is sitting on the subway, gaze trained on the smartphone cradled in her hands. Her biggest problem right now is that her preferred hair salon is closed for the next two days, and her bangs need a trim. Fine, feathery strands flutter over her brow and into her dark eyes like hanging vines.
She navigates to Instagram and progresses through a CAPTCHA, shaking her head gently to shift her bangs out of her vision. Her wrists ache with the weight of her bangles, two on each side, each adorned with a series of tiny gold flowers. The CAPTCHA is a three-by-three matrix of blurry, pixelated red chalices in seas of green. Please click on images with a red rose in a garden.
The doors open with the sound of recorded bell and a stranger sits next to her. He rests his head back against the frigid glass, discretely watching her fingers fly across her screen. With Instagram unlocked, her feed is a ribbon spooling out: multicolored, endless. Her thumb pulls the forward motion of her feed to a stop on a video post called, tantalizingly, HOT GIRL TIPS. The woman presses play and bows her head over her phone, submerging herself in the world conjured by her AirPods; the stranger leans over, as subtly as possible, to read the parade of subtitles moving briskly in the bottom-half of the clip. His glasses slide down the bridge of his nose, coming to rest at its bulbous tip. The wheels of the subway car clatter noisily as it turns a corner.