The afternoon breeze blows gentle and warm, the white linen curtain billowing like a sail in a great, spacious room with high ceilings and large sliding glass doors. Sunlight, free and opulent, pours in from all sides and bathes the room in warmth. It also brings to light a figure bent over a desk made of dark wood, the face hidden by a curtain of short, cropped hair.

It is so quiet you can hear the slightest breath, the most momentary ruffle.

Quietly, the tip of my pen presses into not-so-white paper, letting pearls of glistening black ink roll out into soft cursive, looping letters and sentences, knitting a story word by word. Every now and then, the black pen stills, and the constant stream halts as I scour for just the right word, the right formulation that fits exactly in the space between the ideas I am trying to melt together.

Oh, the irony, the black screen next to me seems to say. 

I insist on it though. I insist on irony, incoherence, irrelevance, obsolescence. They lend something else to the writing, perhaps the very slowness we fault them for, that oldness and hesitance in the face of all else that is now swift and decisive. The writing I have come to love is made of a slow deliberateness that takes its own time to flourish, like the seasons inexorably draw out the buds and then the blooms from bushes and trees. Unlike writing that is like the frantic attention-grab of gaudy red roses showered in chemicals, grown under phosphorescent light in the back of a truck. Unlike these flowers that will wane and be forgotten, not even leaving a scent behind as they are soon replaced by others.

But I, I am a content writer, and I write for the algorithm.

Or I write for people who have had the deliberateness sucked out of them, always trembling from the fear of missing out, and drinking something akin to saltwater thinking it will quench their thirst. But instead, it leaves them yearning for more, continually. It can be lonely, isolating, feeding a mechanism like that. I feel like the ballerina in a music box, wound up and left to play, spinning hauntingly in a backalley, tossed in a gutter. I feel like a pianist playing to the ends of the universe on a space station as humanity falls. And music, the classic notes that have endured time with no trouble at all, echoes in the silent universe, with no ears to listen to it, no hearts to pierce with its debilitating softness.

Still, my pen scritches, scratches against the paper. The black ink flows, stains my fingertips, its coolness soothing the redness and slight swelling that always happen when I write that much.

The algorithm takes in the paper, unloops the cursive, transcribes the writing into uniform letters, and carefully takes it apart as though looking for parts. It stops, beeps when it has found what it is looking for : a keyword. And then another, another. Finally, the rest is discarded in heaps and tumbles of words. Again, it says. More. The algorithm drinks something akin to saltwater, too.

There was a time where, with words, I detangled symbolism from novels, tried to imitate what I could never produce on my own. There was a time when I wrote for people, even if it was only for myself.

I’m not sure where that time has gone now.