i can promise you i didn't do anything system-preferences-related that would have caused my laptop to delete all of the files on my hard drive and in my icloud account last night; the most exotic alteration i make to it is the application and removal of a triangular piece of washi tape when i want to reveal its camera for a zoom interview or cover it up for everything else. i can also tell you the cats didn't do anything weird to the machine, because i closed it and sat on the couch watching msnbc for like fifteen minutes before opening it to a blank desktop. just closing and opening, and there were a few drafts i'd put in the trash that i couldn't restore because they'd turned from word to excel files(?).

this morning i spent half an hour on the phone with a tech who ultimately made me a reservation at the apple store that turns out to be in the oculus down by the world trade center, a mall that seems designed to send people tumbling down wide flights of marble stairs. at the genius bar i was the undiagnosable malady of the day: my genius confirmed that i hadn't undone any of the protections that were supposed to prevent my computer from eating itself, and that all of my drafts, research, contracts, interviews, transcripts, invoices, pictures disappeared at the same time for secret reasons. "it even took all of your music," he marveled. he confided that he was an artist and didn't keep any of his drawings on his machines; they all lived on an external drive. he showed me an amazon product page that i photographed with my phone (i was later advised that if this freakish thing ever happened again i should jam my phone into airplane mode, which would maybe outrun the sync that would devour all of its files, too.)

we eventually figured out that about 5,000 files - a weird mix of my work, individual, like, live at leeds tracks i don't even remember transferring from a disc to the machine i had before this one, and a bunch of files i'd deleted intentionally in 2014 were wandering in some sort of digital bardo apple had recently created for people who i guess deleted all of their shit and then had changes of heart? but it wasn't searchable and it wouldn't upload in a batch, so i had to "brute force" it (per the genius) and hope the stuff i wanted was in there.

i walked home past trinity church and the supreme courthouse and thought about how while i wanted to revise the pain-in-the-ass super-science-y story i've been working on all summer i really just wanted to know that a little video of steve jumping for a mylar balloon still existed somewhere that i could find it, and i cried a little. i said that to another apple tech on a phone appointment an hour later. "i lost a cat earlier this year too," he said. "i'd raised it from when it was so small it fit in my hand, and then it lived outside, and i went out to a doctor's appointment for a headache or something and when i came back ants were crawling all over it." he said he had a little boy and he would be devastated if his pictures of him disappeared; what if, one day when he was twice as old as he is now, he couldn't remember his son when he was a little boy and he didn't have the photos to help him, what if they were just gone from his mind one night?

some of my batch-restoring attempts eventually worked (brute force!) and i found the steve video. his balloon is yellow mylar, star-shaped, and he meows questions at it before leaping in the air to catch its ribbon in his teeth. his back curves like it does in the tattoo luca font designed for me at the beginning of the summer; i had sent him a couple of photos ahead of time, but when i showed up for my appointment, he asked me where steve's stripes were when i remembered them. one of the things i have always loved about tattoos is the thought that they can't be taken away; no matter where i go or what i become, i have jude's three legs, chuck's shadow at my back, steve forever in the air.