Signal to the Noise

The First Party


In truth, he didn’t have to do much talking. Only the barest amount of small talk, whatever would make it appropriate for a simple touch. A hand shake. A pat on the arm. Sometimes Vinnie didn’t even have to open his mouth. The ballroom was so crowded he could pass off his hand brushing against someone as an accident.

At first, it was manageable. A trickle. He introduced himself as Corbin Lecoeur to a woman who looked forty but was surely over fifty and took her hand lightly.

where is that man, where is Collier, he said he was coming tonight, he told me he was coming tonight and if he told me it was because he wanted me to be here so where is he, is he avoiding me? If he’s avoiding me I’ll kill him, I swear to god, I’ll-

This is, of course, a loose translation of what went on inside Vinnie’s mind as he held the woman’s hand. People had this idea that their thoughts flowed in a straight line, one thing after the other. Which was ridiculous. If people could only think one thing at a time humanity would have never moved past flinging their crap at each other from trees. Maybe something even earlier than that. The inanimate objects he touched broadcast a single channel, a single image or line or feeling. Touching a person was like having a television that somehow managed to show all sixty channels at the same time.

So, when he touched the woman he managed to distill it all into a few broken sentences. Really, he heard those broken lines, felt the impatience and anger rising in her, saw this man Collier in several states, including a naked one which he was not a fan of no matter how ripped this Collier man actually was, and saw all the ways she imagined killing him to the point where by the time he took his hand back he wondered if he should warn Collier.

I hate these things, I really do hate these things, I could be in my two million dollar home right now, I could be back in Westchester right now in my underwear eating my nachos in my underwear I could be watching sports I don’t even care what kind of sports I just don’t want to be here, these people are terrible and

look at that one, ain’t she pretty, oh no that’s one prettier, I’m going to find the prettiest and I’m going to be so smooth and all the ladies will say oh, James, how are you so smooth, I am smooth, smooth like peanut butter oh shit here she comes is my hair

no one’s paying enough attention to me, this is ridiculous, I am clearly the best person in here by any metric all metrics all the metrics I need to do something for attention, any attention at all, I’m going to waste away and die if someone doesn’t look at me no not you, someone else

macho macho man I want to be a macho man nacho nacho man I want to eat the nacho man poncho poncho man I want to meet the poncho man

Fifteen minutes. The clock above the bar told him it had been fifteen minutes. It felt like it had been fifteen hours. He stood on the other side of the ballroom, staring at the clock, hoping if he stared hard enough at the clock face he could ground himself. It was too much input. He kept his hands in his pockets. He tried not to barf. He hoped the people around him couldn’t tell he was sweating, trying not to pant.

Worst of all, his own mind had become a jumble. The signals of other people interfering with his own. It was too much. One person, one at a time, could be too much, and he had just parted the Red Sea. And gotten nothing. If he focused, he could see Joey, still sitting at the bar, laughing with the bartender but looking through the crowd at him, looking to see if he had any answers. Nodding his head to the left. Nodding his head to the left. Nodding-

Some gear in his brain finally fell back into place and Vinnie looked to his left. Standing only a couple of feet away was a tall man with broad shoulders, wearing a suit, standing alone with his hands clasped together in front of him. He might have looked like another wallflower. If you were particularly stupid. With a deep breath, Vinnie bent his knees and squared his jaw and let his hand fall on the man’s shoulder.

bored bored BORED like anything is actually going to happen nothing is going to happen no one even knows about the safe

There it was. Vinnie was so excited he almost threw up. The security guard had pictured the safe, pictured where it was. He knew where it was in relation to him, and he broadcast that knowledge out without ever knowing he did.

And now he was looking at Vinnie with dark, suspicious eyes. Because he knew Vinnie knew? Oh. Wait. No. Because Vinnie had touched him.

“Bathroom?” Vinnie asked.

His voice was a terrified squeak, and he was sure the security guard was going to see right through him. Open his mouth and tell him to come with him and then grab him and Vinnie only hoped he grabbed his arm and not his hand, please don’t touch me I can’t-

“Over there, man,” the guard said, pointing. “Looks like you’ve had too much.”

Oh. Right. He must have looked as bad as he felt. Vinnie grunted out a sound that was part laugh, part urp.

“You have no idea.”


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