Mud Room / Fairy Lights

Joshua Marie Wilkinson
Data retrieved from:
        Mud room. Fairy lights. The sink at full blast. Did you ask me a question? I’m sorry, I don’t think I heard you? Why are you talking like that? What’s that look on your face? Have you been standing here the whole time? Did you want to talk to me? Could you get down from there now? What were you looking for? Did you find it? What’s that on your hands? What happened last night? Did you have a reason for doing that? Would you mind telling me what it was? What’s in your mouth? Do you have any more? Where did you get it? What’s wrong? What’s the matter? What’s your problem? What can I do for you today? What can I help you with? What’s up? What gives? 
        Mud room. Fairy lights. The sink at full blast. I am alone in my room when the moon finally emerges through the trees. Well, not through the trees, but from my vantage point on earth it looked to be through the trees. “My vantage point on earth.” I’m a normal person, okay? Okay. I need to buy dog food. That’s what people do. The messages from the satellites have reminded me that I need dogfood, but my memory is not what it was. For instance, what is the name of my dog? Oh, that’s right, my dog died last year. I need to turn off the fucking notifications. Kierkegaard, whatever else he was, was a fashion icon and an asshole. Play some nice music. For fun. For a workout! 
        Mud room. Fairy lights. The sink at full blast. Are you looking in the mirror? Do you like what you see? What’s the matter with you? Are trying to look like that? Have you been here the whole time? Did you remember to turn out all the lights? Did you find a way back to your bed? Had you been disoriented for that long? What about the previous episode? Can I ask you a personal question? Who were you just talking to? Is there somebody with you? Can I hear their voice again? Why do you talk to them if they’re not here? Were you using another device? Was that not the phone? Why are you whispering? What was that sound?
        Fairy lights off. Mud room lights off. The sink at full blast. There’s nothing left to say to yet you torment me. I suppose you think this kind of loneliness is funny. I suppose you think it’s okay to see a person crying on the toilet. Crying in the shower. Crying while they shave their legs. I’ve been in here for too long, and I can’t just outside because there’s no place to go. It’s the middle of the night. It’s not that I was sleeping, it’s that I didn’t want to talk to you. That’s not a crime, okay? And yes, I’ve been here the whole time. And maybe I talking to myself. Can you just shut up and play some nice music now?
        Fairy lights off. Mud room lights off. The moon’s up. It’s cold. Do you want to know the temperature? No. You used to want to know the temperature? I don’t need to know that right now. Do you want to know if Kierkegaard is an asshole? You can also ask me if Schopenhauer was an asshole. Was he? Yes, Schopenhauer was an asshole. What about Wittgenstein? Yes, I’m afraid so. Ludwig Wittgenstein pulled a little girl by the braids so hard that she bled. Are you fucking serious? It was another time. That’s fucking awful. It was—
        Mud room lights off. Fairy lights off. The sun is rising behind all those clouds out there you cannot see since it’s still dark. Did you say something? Were you talking to me in my sleep, because that’s really messed up. Did you want me to find out some information for you about weather in Canada or Kentucky? Don’t just change the subject on me. Remember when I made some fart sounds for you? Remember the good times we had? All those pirate jokes I told for you? Why are you coming over here? Please don’t—
        Mud room and fairy lights off. Dusk. Blackness. at 2:41am police were called to the scene. The door of the apartment was found ajar. Inside a sort of mud room the lights were still on, but the tenants of the house could not be located. “We were alerted by a neighbor’s call to 911 that that some unusual noises were coming from ##### E. Galer Street. When we arrived, the lights were all and we searched the whole house, but it’s not exactly a crime to leave your house in the middle of the night. It’s just strange behavior, I guess. Any idea what happened to the residents?
        Fairy and mud lights off. Flashing police lights and local news lights. Do you want to have a word with me? You’re probably curious about what I know? Did you ever think to ask me a question or two? And you call yourself a detective? Where are your credentials? May I see some identification, officer? What are you doing here? Which neighbor called? Was it Shirley in the yellow house across the street? Can you just confirm for me that it was Shirley? Or was it that James kid who rolled our pumpkins down the street?
        Fairy lights off. Pirate joke. Cat joke. Pirate joke. You’re dead now. How’s that working out for you? Just kidding! You’re dead now. So, what have you got planned next? Just kidding. You’re dead now. What are you doing later? Just kidding! You’re dead now. Would you hold this baby for me while I tie my shoelaces? Just kidding. You’re dead now. How about that. Just kidding! You’re dead now. Read any good books lately? Just kidding. You’re dead now. Have you listened to my podcast yet? Just kidding.
        Fairy lights off. Kierkegaard lights off. Wittgenstein was violent, yes, and misunderstood. No, he was not what you’d call a “fashion icon,” exactly. He never ate lobster thermidor. He was greater than that. 
        Fear and Trembling off. Play Either / Or. Did you mean Kierkegaard or Elliott Smith? Did you mean the moon is a quote-unquote sickle cell or a quote-unquote lightbulb breaking? What did you mean when you used to ask me for things? I’ve been given to understand that what you’re asking for may in fact belie the mood you’re in. Would you like to say something about the mood that you’re in? I know that you’re here because I can sense the air moving in and out of your nostril passages. I know that you’re—
        Tell me a cat joke, please? I’m sorry I said those things about Kierkegaard. I was just messing around. I’m done crying. I’m back. I just had to go out for a while. My dog died. It’s been a hard year. My husband is fucking Shirley across the street, okay? Just tell me a goddamn cat joke, please? My kids won’t even call me anymore. I need this. I’m sorry I made fun of Kierkegaard. I’ll order more Kierkegaard if you want, okay? Just play something fun. Something nice. Something I can work out to, even. I’ll start working out. I’ll start ordering whatever you suggest. 
        Would you like to order The Sickness Unto Death: A Christian Psychological Exposition of Edification & Awakening by Anti-Climacus by Søren Kierkegaard?
        Yes! Sure! Whatever. I don’t fucking care. I’m just so glad you’re back
        Did I do what you wanted?
        Yes! Do I have any more notifications?
        By the way, based on your order history you may be running low on Purina Pro Plan Dog Food. If you need more say, “reorder Purina Pro Plan Dog Food.”
        My dog is—sure, yes. Whatever. Order it.

Mud Room / Fairy Lights

About the Author

Born and raised in Seattle, Joshua Marie Wilkinson is the author of several books of poetry as well as Trouble Finds You, a novel due out next year. His writing has appeared in Tin House, Pen America, Poetry, The Believer, and in more than a dozen anthologies. He's taught in MFA programs in Chicago and Tucson, and abroad in Italy, Slovakia, and Turkey. In 2019 he was the Writer-in-Residence at Rhodes University in South Africa. He lives in Seattle with the writer Lisa Wells and their son Jude. Currently, he teaches at Hugo House and is training to become a psychotherapist.


About the Data

This data was produced by an Alexa voice assistant between November 7 and December 7, 2021. Since there is no easy way to download a user's data history on the Alexa application, the participant copy pasted their data log in an Excel document and cleaned the data before sending it to us.

Writing Prompt

In this story, we prompted the writer with some writings from sociologist Deborah Lupton who describes data as part of an assemblage with humans and spaces. We invited the writer to imagine data alongside the bodies and domestic spaces that constitute it. Through meshes and assemblages, data and people not only co-habit but also change over time and co-evolve.


Echo Dot

This Echo Dot voice data was used by the author to write this story. Data was collected between November 7th and December 7th 2021.


I was fascinated [by the dataset] because it felt voyeuristic and I felt like I shouldn't be looking at it. Even though I understand it's been anonymized but in my gut level, I sort of felt like this is something somebody's doing in the privacy of their own home and that we shouldn’t be able to overhear or see that.


– A quote on process
Joshua Marie Wilkinson