Parasite Air

"Can’t be late for my monthly DNA drip!”

Autumn Ramsey, Short-tailed Hawk. 2016, oil on canvas. 28 × 22
Autumn Ramsey, Short-tailed Hawk. 2016, oil on canvas. 28 × 22". Courtesy of Park View/Paul Soto, Los Angeles.

A billionaire pays me to offset his carbon. He jets around the world while I do very little. Breach of contract includes:

  • Watching TV
  • Looking at the internet
  • Driving a car
  • Using a phone

So mostly I just sit at home and read. Which is fine. That’s what I used to do anyway, before our partnership began, back when I was what statisticians would call a discouraged worker. Now I am encouraged! We have a good library system in town. I walk to the nearest branch, check out a stack of books, come home to my apartment and read. I eat raw food. My personal footprint is minimal.

A camera mounted in a taxidermied hawk watches the corner where I read. I wear a wristband that keeps me honest when I’m outside the apartment. I’m not supposed to ride in anything that burns fossil fuels. If I accelerate suspiciously, the gyroscope in my wristband will know, and then my billionaire will know. The wristband also measures my heart rate, skin conductance, and receptivity to new ideas. It’s powered by the movements of my hand as I turn the pages of library books. That’s called piezoelectric energy. Technology these days, I swear. If you think about it, it’s practically a miracle.

My niece Clara wants to know what I do for a living. Clara is 7. Every Sunday evening I eat dinner with my sister and niece. I walk to their place. It’s an hour-long walk. When my billionaire brought me on board as his carbon-offset partner, I had to go vegan. It’s amazing: I dropped thirty pounds! But I guess my sister feels sorry for me, because when I come over she always cooks an extravagant meal. Or anyway, it’s extravagant for me, in that it’s cooked. Roast beef with scalloped potatoes. Roast chicken with artichokes. Roast anything. Cooked anything. Does that put me in breach? As long as someone else does the cooking, I don’t think so. Or maybe I am in breach, I don’t know—the contract I signed was pretty dense, and I’m no lawyer. I’m sure I’ll be notified if my behavior is out of line.

More from Issue 35

Issue 35 Savior Complex
Issue 35 Savior Complex
On the Mueller Report, Vol. 1
Issue 35 Savior Complex
Issue 35 Savior Complex

I usually worked with a camera in the room. That didn’t mean that the content of my work was performance rather than service.

Issue 35 Savior Complex
Predatory Inclusion
Issue 35 Savior Complex

I wasn’t selling furnace and duct cleaning. I was selling my voice, the fantasy it could embody. I was selling a myth of…

Issue 35 Savior Complex
The Feminist
Issue 35 Savior Complex

Is it weird to think that one day I could photoshop you out of all this? he said. That I could obscure your face with a brush,…

Issue 35 Savior Complex

In my dreams, I think I can conquer death.

Issue 35 Savior Complex
Dreams Are Lost Memories
Issue 35 Savior Complex
On Design Thinking
Issue 35 Savior Complex

More by this Author

Issue 28 Half-Life
Beast Leave