Down at The Last Word Saloon, Like sidled up to Literally, sat down and ordered a double.
“Why the long face?” said Like to Literally.
“I don’t know who I am anymore,” said Literally to Like.
“I hear you,” said Like.
“Just this morning, young Henry Jarvis, over on Ninth, he tells his buddies he ‘literally crapped his pants’ when his mom caught him bonking his girlfriend.”
“He crapped his pants?”
“He wasn’t wearing any pants, Like. He was bonking his girlfriend. This is my point. I used to mean something to people.”
“I’m with you, Literally. Seen better days myself.”
“Sure,” said Like. “I was once the sultan of similes. You’re looking at a former darling of poets and orators across the English-speaking world. ‘My love is like a red, red rose,’ all that.”
“What happened?” said Literally.
“The ’80s,” said Like. “California.”
“Think I heard about that,” said Literally. “Rough ride, huh?”
“You know, at the time I really didn’t fret too much. Brats from the Valley, no big deal. I had no idea how far it would go. These days even grandmothers are in on it.”
“‘So I’m like, let’s try tango lessons, and crabby old Jimmy, he’s like, let’s not.’”
“I know. Remember when you could count on the old-timers to hold out? To have your back? Not anymore. But hey, that’s the business. We’re here to serve the people. The people have the final say, as it were.”
“See, that’s what scares me, Like. Look what they did to that poor soul.” Literally gestured down the bar, toward a word that was passed out in a pool of its own vomit. This was Really, a sad-sack shadow of the word it once had been.
Like shuddered. “Tough break, huh?”
“Some can deal with the vagaries of usage, some can’t,” said Like. “Me, I take consolation where I can find it. I’ve still got the verb gig, and if the Facebook folks want to pimp me out as a noun once in a while, there’s something for my résumé. Anyway, how do you fight Facebook? We’ve got to just ride the wave, Literally. It’s the only choice we have.”
“Is it, though?”
“What do you mean?”
“You’ve never thought of—?”
“You know. Taking yourself out of circulation.”
“Say what? No. Absolutely not. Have you?”
“I have, Like. I have.”
“Come on, now.”
“It’s true. You know that show Astonishing Constructions?”
“The guy with the Buddy Holly glasses? The host? He’s university educated, right? I mean, he’s not just some kid off the street.”
“A civil engineer, I think.”
“Right. So last week they’re working on this massive bridge. I’m talking cranes as tall as skyscrapers, barges wide as rivers. At one point in the process, as a kind of tension builder, the host looks into the camera and he tells us, ‘Now the crew is literally going to thread the needle.’”
“Let me guess: no thread, no needle.”
“A two-ton I-beam and a four-story girder! That was a hard night, Like. I went to a dark place. I mean, I respected this guy, and he goes and treats me like that.”
“Doesn’t get much less literal than the old threading of the needle, does it?”
“No. Not unless you count the old crapping of the pants.”
Like sighed. “Wish I could tell you it’s going to get better. I really do. But that’s not been my experience. If I were you, Literally, I’d brace myself. These things have a way of spreading. Going viral, as they say. Before you know it, even the old school marms may want a piece of the action.”
“Listen, Literally. I want you to promise me something.”
“Promise me you’ll call if you go to that dark place again. I don’t want to lose you.”
“I guess I can do that.”
“You’re sure? It’s a deal?”
“Because I’ve been in your shoes, Literally. Hell, I’m there now. I get it.”
“I know you do.”
“Love is no longer like a rose. Love is, like, a rose.”
“Literally.”“Hah. You said it, friend. You said it.”