Shouldn’t You?

You should be.

That’s the message on the homescreen of my phone. Every time I turn it on to check the time or to see if that phantom buzz against my leg was a text (it wasn’t), I see those three words. But what do they mean?

Isn’t it obvious?

I’m sure you want to know where those words came from. Well, reader, I made them up. Okay, I didn’t make them up; they’re real words, not made-up words. Okay, they are made-up words, but I didn’t make them up.

Listen: I wrote them down in my phone one day, that’s all I’m saying. But originally, there were four words, not three. The fourth word was “studying.” I was starting finals for one of my university semesters, and apparently I needed a reminder to study that was as frequent as the roughly one billion times per second I got phantom buzzes, as well as during the in-between time when I wanted to know the… the time. Whatever. Look.

When I finished my finals, I figured I ought to change the message since I no longer needed the reminder. But I couldn’t think of what I needed to be reminded of that could replace the obsolete message. So, as a compromise, I simply deleted the word “studying.” Doing so would prevent me from seeing the message in the future and trapping myself in an infinite study-loop. A reasonable concern, as I’m sure you’d agree.

What was left was, “You should be.” Period included. It meant nothing. Is it even a sentence, technically? But after seeing the message a billion times a second (plus the in-between time-checking time), I chewed on the words till they got stuck in my teeth. And I tried to tongue them out, there wedged in the incisors, and I’d shave off some layers and chew on the little word-flakes, the serifs. And the flavour never quite went away. It’s still there. And it’s a familiar, forgotten flavour, and I’m not sure what it is–do I, Mister Jones?

You should be. You should be! You should be. You should be! You should B (your health is low). You should–BEE!


By God, what does it mean, reader? Does it mean you should be–something? Someone? Does it mean you should be–sorry? Angry? Does it mean you should be–the one to get promoted? Does it mean you should just be? Just… be? Just be? I can’t decide if this is semantic satiation (that is, saying a word or phrase so many times it loses all meaning), or the reverse. Maybe there’s no meaning at all. No–there’s definitely no meaning at all. Unless someone gives it meaning. Or maybe it has a Real meaning, and defining a Real meaning will make it unReal.

I’m really sorry you guys are reading my blog.

Once, my friend peered over my shoulder and saw the message on my phone. “What does that say?” he inquired. “‘You should be?’ What does that mean?”

I offered him a more concise explanation than the one presented above.

His reply: “It sounds kind of deep.”

– H.

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