My name is Aleksandr Fyodorovich Sokolov. I was born on June 1, 1873, in the province of Vronsk. After a year of military service I enrolled at the University of Irkutsk State (go Landowners!), and in 1896 took my law degree. My interests: kneeboarding, aeronautics, a good Cobb salad. Favorite music: Huey Lewis and the News. Anything 80s. I have a brother, Andrei, and a little sister, dear Anya, who is often photographed at wild parties and wears her long brown hair in a braid. But you know all this. Now, thanks to Facebook’s new policy, which makes public information we once thought was private, everybody knows it.
I was strolling along the river when news of the Facebook changes came. The end of privacy, people screamed in the streets. Betrayal. And this is now the question: Where were you, what were you doing at the time? Every man, woman and child has a story. “I was tending my vegetable cart,” says Ivan Ivanovich, the farmer. “I was slapping my wife with a braised haddock,” says Arkady Vasilevich, the watchmaker. Poor Arkady Vasilevich, whose twin vices are an inability to tell a lie, even for his own good, and a tendency to lose his temper and slap his wife with fish.
I hear their stories in the village square. In the streets, I loiter and listen. No one says, “When news of the changes came, I was pleasuring myself.” Yet probability suggests that of all the villagers at least one was engaged in this activity. Probably many more. I do not see why that one person should feel bad. Father Piotr himself has admitted that it is a natural act. So why should one feel bad if, by coincidence, one is being natural at the same time news breaks?
The hours after the change came were filled with fear and uncertainty. My dear, hotheaded brother, full of youth’s passion, was quick to join the resistance. I laughed at the idea of joining a Facebook group to protest changes to Facebook policy, and pointed out the obvious irony, but Andrei glared at me with an intensity that filled me with both pity and admiration. He rose angrily from his seat and stormed out of the room, pausing only to spit fourteen times on my left thigh, as tradition required.
That night, Andrei deleted his Facebook account. In the days that followed, he walked freely in the streets and went about his life as usual, hanging around pawn shops and entertaining locals by staging mock debates with Corbin, his beloved pet newt. He boasted of his new freedom from Facebook’s oppression, but we knew they would come for him.
As we ate dinner a few nights later, there came a pounding on the door. Six armed agents entered, surrounded my brother, and demanded to know his favorite quotation. When he refused, they moved in closer, sneering, and we all regretted that Andrei was wearing a lobster bib that, ridiculously, depicted a smiling lobster also wearing a lobster bib. In spite of their demands, he would not speak. My mother cried out as an agent beat my brother across the face with the butt of his rifle and then forced him to read aloud from press materials praising “The Lovely Bones.” “Now will you speak?” he said. My brother, his nose bloodied, stared up in defiance. “You talkin’ to me?”
Dear Andrei had not seen Taxi Driver, and had no idea he was quoting it. One of the agents scribbled the line in a notepad, and they left us in peace. My brother, horrified at his unwitting cooperation with the Facebook brutes, walked slowly to the sideboard and picked up a revolver. Defying my mother’s cries, he stuck it in his mouth. He was about to pull the trigger but changed his mind when he heard Anya putting in an order for steamed pork dumplings from Big Julian’s. I will never forget where I was and what I was doing when the dumplings arrived.
Gregory Beyer is a writer living in New York. His journalism, essays and reviews of actual books have appeared in The New York Times.