A man, unexcited by his own possessions and increasingly confused as to why he collected all these things in the first place, decides to hire someone else to live amidst his books and clothes, DVDs and framed photographs, so that he can learn how another person might more intelligently put it to use.
Perhaps, then, he thinks, he'll come to appreciate what he owns.
So he submits an ad to Craigslist, interviews dozens of candidates, and soon settles on a one-time professional actor who has since fallen on hard times. They negotiate a one-year contract; catering details are worked out; bank transfers are made. The man's girlfriend even agrees to take part, as she had once been a fan of the actor's films.
Then, on a warm summer day, this new man moves into the house.
Overseen by a network of surveillance cameras, he settles into a life amongst the possessions of another. He establishes a breakfast routine, eating from the owner's tableware, and he familiarizes himself everyday with the material nooks and crannies of another person's life history, that sediment of souvenirs and home decoration that has developed over time.
The owner, meanwhile, insufficiently awed by the experience of watching someone impersonate himself – wearing his clothes, reading his books, watching his videos, flipping through his college photo albums – finds himself slowly accumulating more possessions. One day he simply gets tired of watching this actor make love to his girlfriend – so he buys a novel to read. But then he finishes that novel.
So he buys another one.
He then ruins a shirt one evening, tearing it on a kitchen implement – so he buys a new shirt. But it comes with 50%-off of a second shirt (so he buys two).
Etc.
Gradually, the memory of those previous possessions – there on film being held by an actor – begins to fade. He no longer misses his girlfriend, and what was once a distracting labyrinth of things that, long ago, lost their attraction becomes something even less meaningful than that.
Soon, he is just watching an expensive folly: a man he doesn't know, interacting with objects that mean nothing to him.
When it becomes clear that no moment of reconciliation is on its way – no point at which he will learn to love the things he's accumulated over a lifetime – he simply abandons the project altogether.
He leaves the house and everything in it to the actor, and he waves goodbye to his now ex-girlfriend – who has since fallen in love with his surrogate.
And he walks away.

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10 Comments:

Blogger grant said...

I was wandering around my apartment today, surrounded by unfinished tasks and their relevant tools, wondering what I should do with my time.

Auditions are open!

May 06, 2009 6:26 PM  
Blogger Ian Aleksander Adams said...

beautiful

May 06, 2009 8:42 PM  
Anonymous Frank said...

Excellent short story to start my new day.

It somehow reminds me of Kafka.

May 07, 2009 2:24 AM  
Blogger Nick said...

"It somehow reminds me of Kafka."
Probably not the one I know then.

Interesting though.

May 07, 2009 3:03 AM  
Anonymous g said...

Not far from http://www.withyou.co.uk/

May 07, 2009 6:22 AM  
Blogger Kevin Broome said...

Love this. Reads like a Charlie Kaufman script.

May 07, 2009 12:08 PM  
Anonymous jgl said...

someone's been reading Paul Auster?!

May 07, 2009 2:43 PM  
Anonymous Morgan said...

You better write this out or copyright it somehow, otherwise it will be coming to a theater soon I bet. It's a beautiful, compelling idea. Somehow reminded me of Eternal Sunshine for a second, although they're not really similar...

May 08, 2009 2:31 PM  
Anonymous sherief said...

Yea, I'm ok with this in a way, but way to compare a girlfriend to a DVD.

May 11, 2009 5:25 PM  
Blogger Daniel M said...

I know a pair of identical twins who were hired to manage a big shot hollywood producer's dvd collection. Their job sounds ridiculous. They've told me the numbers are in the 30,000 range, and part of their job is to curate forgotten videos and bring them out of the archive.

May 15, 2009 5:19 PM  

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