Anders Wenngren Illustration Essay

Who am I? That is a simple question, yet it is one without a simple answer. I am many things—and I am one thing. But I am not a thing that is just lying around somewhere, like a pen, or a toaster, or a housewife. That is for sure. I am much more than that. I am a living, breathing thing, a thing that can draw with a pen and toast with a toaster and chat with a housewife, who is sitting on a couch eating toast. And still, I am much more.

I am a man.

And I am a former baby and a future skeleton, and I am a distant future pile of dust. I am also a Gemini, who is on the cusp.

I am “brother” and I am “son” and I am “father” (but just according to one person, who does not have any proof but still won’t seem to let it go). Either way, I am moving very soon and not letting her know about it. I am asking you to keep that between us.

I am trustworthy and loyal, but at the same time I am no Boy Scout. No, I am certainly not. I am quite the opposite, in fact. And by opposite I do not mean Girl Scout. No. I mean Man Scout. And by that I do not mean Scout Leader. In fact, I am not affiliated with the Scouts at all. Let’s just forget about the Scouts and Scouting altogether, O.K.?

I am concepts and thoughts and feelings and outfits. And I am each of these all at once, unless I am in the shower. Then I am not outfits, because that would be uncomfortable.

To some I am known as Chief. And these are usually people who work in Radio Shack or try to sell me shoes. To others I am known as Buddy. These are people who dwell in bars and wonder if I’ve got a problem or what it is that I am “looking at.” And to still others, who are in that same bar, standing just off to the side, I am “Get Him!”

I am he and I am him. I am this and I am that. And I am, from time to time, Roberta, if I am in a chat room.

People have known me by many titles. In high school, I was Student and Key Club Vice-President and Queer Bait. In college, I was Pledge and then Disappointed and then Transfer Student. I am still amazed at how picky certain so-called “brotherly” organizations can be. And I am actually glad that they didn’t choose me for their stupid fraternity.

To some I am fantasy, and to others I am Frank, mostly because I have told them that this is my name—even though it is not even close to my name. I am a mystery wrapped in an enigma wrapped in a pita. Why the pita? That counts as another mystery.

I am everything and I am nothing. I am just kidding; I am not everything and nothing. That would be ridiculous. I am just everything.

I am what I eat. And I am this especially when I bite my nails.

I have been called Hey, You! and Get Out of the Way! and Look Out! And then, some time later, Plaintiff.

I am my own worst critic. I am going to give you an example. “That’s not me enough” is the kind of thing I am prone to say about myself. See what I mean? I am sure you do.

I am the silent majority.

I am a loud minority.

I am not talking about Puerto Ricans when I say that, because I am not a racist. I am just clearing that up. In fact, I am pretty sure I have at least one friend from each of the races (Hi, Guillermo).

I am friend. I am foe. I am fo’ sho’. What up, y’all?

I am sorry about that. I was just talking to one of my race friends, a black one. I am white and I am black. And I am both of these when I am dressed as a mime. And then I am sh-h-h.

I am Batman, but only on Halloween. And then I am not invited to many parties. But I am fine with that, because that just makes me an even more accurate Batman (because Batman does not go to parties as Batman but only as Bruce Wayne). I am right about this.

I am someone who likes to go to the park. But I am not the guy with the Labrador retriever and the tennis ball and the tattered book under his arm, who is wearing fleece and is kind of tan. No. I am not that guy. I am sick of that guy and all the women who talk to him.

I am the Walrus, but not the one you’re probably thinking of. I am the Other Walrus, the one who is less the Walrus in the sense of legendary music and more the Walrus in the sense of his tendency to lie around on a beach for too long.

I am bravery. I am courage. I am valor. I am daring. I am holding a thesaurus.

I am the sun. I am the moon. I am the rain, I am the earth. I am these when I am taking mushrooms with Kevin. I am good friends with Kevin. I am not sure what Kevin’s last name is.

I am sometimes referred to as Excuse Me in an annoyed tone of voice, because apparently I am in the way. I am so sorry. I am supposed to be some sort of mind reader, I guess. I am moving out of the way now as slowly as I possibly can. I am doing this and there’s nothing you can do about it.

I am often the one they call You but I am no more You than you. I am me. And I am more Me than you are or can ever be. And one time I was Corey for almost five minutes while I was talking with a stranger, until she realized that I was not her friend Corey.

I am neither here nor there, but there—a little to the left. Yeah. That’s me.

I am waving at you. I am waving right at you now.

I am looking right at you.

I am sensing that you don’t know me. I am starting to feel awkward.

I am getting out of here. ♦

Look what I just got! They’re not even knocking these off in China yet. Check out the memory specs. It knows more than there is to know.

—Battery? Doesn’t need one. Runs on cream of tartar.

—Uh-oh, an alert. Never mind. False alert. Previous model, you had to check for alerts. This one is twice as fast as itself.

—That connector there? The teeth-whitening feature.

—Yes, you can get the tracheotomy option, but it’s not compatible with most insurance plans. Or surgeons.

—This I love. Multi-tap here, and voilà. That’s me on the screen showing you how I can show you this right at the same time that I’m showing you. Watch. I’m sending myself a video of me showing you how I can send myself a video. How on earth did we ever live without these things?

—Huh? What? Sorry. Sometimes when I touch it I forget about everything else. O.K., so, anyway, you were saying?

—Wait! Want to hear our conversation as it happens in real time? Select “Listen.”

—No, no, no; braying is normal. Means it’s configuring to “Now” and also, yes, maybe that it’s a little radioactive.

—The protective glove is extra.

—Don’t be silly. The disclaimer applies to the other use.

—Not to worry. It always gets marginally heavier when it’s “Anticipating.”

—See how it scans the menu? It’s deciding what we want to have for lunch. Can’t handle daily specials, but, still, cool, isn’t it?

—Off switch? Hmm . . . discontinued on this version, I think. Maybe auto-wean?

—Ready for a holograph-a-ganza photo presentation? That’s me, Tuesday, 7:37 A.M., putting on my socks. Those are the paper towels that I prefer. That, of course, is the brand I used to like until they changed the perforations. Here’s a slo-mo montage of everyone in Bozeman, Montana, who uses paper towels.

There’s a closeup of something.

That’s funny—my colonoscopy. Gee. Thumbs-up from my doctor.

That was my wife, I think. That’s my daughter. Hold on. Is my daughter the other one? Don’t all girls look alike at that age, or whatever age the kid is? Anyway, there I am with the cast of “Glee.” Shit, I accidentally put it into Fantasy mode. That’s me at Yalta, me bringing the tablets down from Mt. Sinai, me wearing Gucci loafers, me getting a good night’s sleep . . .

—Hey, come back.

—Waiter! Do you have a sec? Look what I got! It’s so new, there’s still a waiting list for the previous model. Check this out. Click twice and pinch. This is me updating the settings, this is me being me, this is me aging naturally—

—Hold on, I’ve got an alert. Wow. That used to be my house. I used to live there. What’s the word for “banished”? Wait, wait, don’t tell me. This will.

—It’s doing it! It’s doing it! ♦

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