Like many artists, great and slight, Thing's sense of direction was not navigated so much by map as by intuition. Sometimes she'd have the whimsy to get out of a taxi four blocks too early, only to discover that she was standing in front of that shop where she had seen that dress she had thought of buying at the end of last month, when unhappily, her ten thousand dollars a month had run out. (And look, coincidence of coincidences, now she had the money!) Strictly speaking, Thing was so very sensitive that it did not take a thought at all, but the mere echo of a thought to inspire her to action. Her wants were virtually preverbal -- an infant's craving for that stuff out of reach. And as for her discovery by MTV, it was quite fitting -- as, ever since grade school, she had wanted to be a star. And not -- no, no -- just any star. Not just some Hepburn or Monroe. She had to be more. She had to be the most. That was all she wanted. The only little thing. And aside from that, she had no particular loyalty to anything -- not this ethic or that revolution.
To her, all these cultures and identities, which the world so treasured, they were no more than eggshells -- while we ourselves were more prone to scrambling. Indeed, it was by attempting to preserve the eggshell (culture, identity) that world suffering was brought about -- for the eggshell was a refuge inherently doomed. As a species, we were overly sentimental about language and religion, and all those other trappings of life that we found so extraordinary -- which were really just rote and mundane. Honestly, nobody cared one whit for any of these allegiances, except in the respect that if it was all they knew, why then, it had
to be good. But Thing, she sensed the truth -- that assimilation was our friend, and that humankind had to embrace the leveling of tradition. And yes, it was nice that it so happened that it was precisely her own cultural milieu that was the most powerful -- and the one doing the leveling. But even if that circumstance was a relief (which had, possibly, saved her, on the way to stardom, a little time and effort here and there), she was nonetheless convinced that had she been an Ethiopian, or any other ilk of underprivileged person, she would have found a way to be leading exactly the same life she was leading now. It was simply inconceivable that her good fortune could have anything to do with luck -- as anyone would tell you that you made your own luck. Why, that was a medical fact! Her psychiatrist had told her. And her psychiatrist would know, as her psychiatrist was rather lucky, well, quite fortunate herself. By willpower alone -- the sheer force of positive thinking -- had Thing achieved the correct socialization and taste. No, no, no, not by chance, but by hard work was she in perfect sync with the global standard -- which might even be an intergalactic standard, as she had often heard it called "universal." And by that, this guiding principle of the universal (and yes, she was absolutely self-assured in this conviction), anything deemed weird or abnormal, or even just weak or secondary -- well, it would have to be forgotten. She knew (and she knew she was right too) that only if we were to aspire to utter homogeny might we expect peace and harmony -- and that conversely, to aspire to individualism, we might expect trouble.
Suffice it to say, Thing understood television.
Not to be misconstrued -- Thing didn't consciously understand it, and television was terrific, and none of that homogenization was to create any unity, or movement, or any such dark and foreboding thing, but rather, a crowd, an audience -- a happy-go-lucky assortment of good scrambled eggs. A world of swaying spectators. Of course, to avoid any variety of unfortunate melee, they'd have to be just different and isolated enough to, somewhat, resent each other's company. A certain level of autonomy (if not actual individualism, which was fine, in groups) had to be encouraged. Nothing too genuine, obviously (authentic emotions tended people towards outbursts of emotion), but just bits and pieces from so many sources that it could never add up to a whole -- just a confused kind of medley that might mask as a whole, and be insecure and envious enough to be threatened by other confused kind of medleys -- thereby preventing any ill-advised collusion.
The ideal thing was to promote autonomy without identity, to make people just separate enough to have their own separate "interests" that kept them from assembling -- that kept them, for the most part, alone, suspended in a state of perpetual yearning in front of their own separate computers or televisions. And even then, when they did get together (and they would too, because, like so many of God's creatures, they had that irrepressible drive to flock, herd and swarm), it'd be over something delightfully peripheral -- like music, or sports. Nothing that could really matter, to any sane person, one way or the other....
There were high points.
Among the 162 minutes of Thing's sixty-two spots (thirty-seven aired), there were moments when she attained, if not true perfection in the sublime, true perfection in the burlesque --
These were the good things, and dubbed so, "the good things," by her editors and producers. Here were the five shiningest examples of Thing's accomplishments. These five things. Largely, with an accompaniment of maudlin Muzak, the quintet made up the best-of selects in Thing's year-end, farewell tribute.1. Swiss Alps, X-Games -- April
Freezing with snowboarders, Thing and her crew attempted to improve their ratings.
As it broke down, over Thing's year on the air, she'd wear three thongs, one pair of pants (a mistake), and thirty-seven bikini tops....
And it was on this occasion in the Swiss Alps that Thing's fiddling with her top reached a peak. It was as if, to her, the slippage of a strap or cup represented her flagging on-air popularity. Of all the types of bikini tops there were...well, she tried everything. And throughout, she commented, asked the camera --
"Or...lift and separate?"
The permutations were endless, and the team had not yet discovered the delicate balance -- though this was to be that world-rocking instant when that balance was first struck, and Thing and her producers discovered what it
was all about. For though she was right -- the Thing was the cleavage -- it was not merely the cleavage, nor even primarily the cleavage. It was, rather...
Thing in her thong bikini in the cold, well...her anatomy had the expected reaction. That is -- her nipples hardened. And, in her silky white top (after this, all her tops were silky, and nearly all, white), the situation was apparent. It mattered little what up, over, in or out Thing applied to herself, or indeed what wretched rhyme the poor snowboarders were attempting to execute -- Thing's stiffness was mesmerizing. At last, the ratings would soar.
Upon their first viewing of this triumph, Thing's producers would forge a couplet of their own --
Herein, herein, herein's the tip --
Stiffen those, stiffen those, stiffen those nips!
As far as what lengths those producers would go to do just that -- well, they'd go to great lengths. Extreme lengths...Any lengths.2. Cancún, Cinco de Mayo -- May
Sand, litter, blue ocean, and the roasted hides of mealy fraternity brothers. And Thing, on the beach -- doused in beer.
The emptied buckets clunked, tipped in the sand -- and suds ran down her body as she squeezed her breasts together with her forearms. And the wet, white bikini top, it stuck -- clung to her.
"Ewww -- it's chilly!" she shrieked.
Laughing their belly laughs, the beer boys nodded, delivered each other claps of congratulations, and thumped their meaty shoulders into other meaty shoulders.
And Thing was thrilled. Her wild, cold eyes apertures -- rapturous of those enraptured. The zoom lens delivered her goose bumps to all of America. Shivering, giggling, this young Thing found herself surprised -- elated by the dependability of her own physiology. She was just so fortunate, she thought (her eyes glowed with the blessing), so very fortunate that her plastic surgeon hadn't severed any of those nerves that had turned out to be so crucial!
So, smiley, Thing's glance fell to her own chest -- while, likewise, beside her, equally smiley, and awed, the beer boys who had immersed her, they too watched, and waited....3. The Grammys -- May
Thing was setting the scene --
"Fame, wealth, beauty, extraordinary talent -- the atmosphere here is positively intoxic!"
This said, Thing's breathy phrases abruptly expired -- and the VJ took a moment to meditate not only on her own perplexity (for something, somewhere in what she'd said, she suspected, was amiss), but on her fascination with her own perplexity. Her own stupidity, well, at times, it was riveting -- shaded by deeper meanings, perhaps, or even genius. And though the specifics of that genius, in this incidence, as in most others, were just slippery enough to elude her, nevertheless, she decided -- it was impressive. Thus, she looked down to check that her nipples were still there. They were. Impressed with herself in that too, she resumed --
"Here we be! The red carpet. Oh look, it's Hugh!"
The aging publisher wore satin pajamas and dark glasses. A short hop behind him were six of his bunnies, and Thing primped and pursed her lips with rivalry. (The camera loved her collagen pout.) And behind the sextette of fleshy midwesterners (just moved to California!), there stumbled the target of Thing's interview. Lecherous and impaired, Tommy Lee bobbled a cocktail in the crook of his claw.
Thing thrust up her microphoned hand like he was the teacher and she had to pee, "Ew, ew." She panted --