Market Frankford Line
August 10, 2015
Every morning I ride the subway to work with Justin Bieber. His conversation is limited to desire, though not in the ways you might think. He doesn’t want to get me into a pair of Calvins, and he doesn’t want to talk about what happened between Usher and Chilli, even though what happened between Usher and Chilli literally destroyed my childhood.
What he wants—what he really wants—is to be my attorney.
Justin Bieber is willing to make all kinds of assurances if it means we can do business. I can call him 24/7, he promises, about anything: Any accident. Any injury. Any legal question. Any court appearance. Also, he won’t collect a fee until he wins me money. This is a relief, because I’ve started treating credit card offers like beach house invites from my best friends. Justin Bieber has a QR code and a website, and this, the website, is really where the conceit breaks down, because one visit makes it plain that Justin Bieber, while a Justin Bieber, is not the Justin Bieber.
For starters, Justin Bieber is older than Justin Bieber. Justin Bieber has less hair than Justin Bieber, and his smile oozes something altogether different from the epicene cockiness that ignites in male consumers a torrid desire to buy underwear.
Justin Bieber looks like a man who sheltered in the ontic certainty of being the only game in town until one day five years ago, when he bent over to pull a new clump of hair from the shower drain and heard Ellen shouting his name on TV in the other room. Did he stare blankly at the hair in his fist, suddenly aware of his cells dividing? Did he have the sensation of being uprooted?
Looking at his ubiquitous subway ads, one senses the injustice of a cosmic usury.
Justin Bieber is a man who rents his own name, who can only peer backward to a time when he wasn’t wholly absorbed in a solution of delirious cultural associations. A banner on his website shows a spear of lightning threatening the Philadelphia skyline beneath a terrible rill of clouds. Weather the storm, reads the tag, and I think of Justin Bieber putting on a brave face.
Probably I shouldn’t pick up the phone and dial the number for J Bieber Law, LLC tonight. I shouldn’t wait for the slight hitch of the voicemail greeting clicking on; I shouldn’t listen to the carefully varnished voice assuring me that I’ve reached Justin Bieber, Attorney at Law. I shouldn’t draw out a thin, brittle moment after the beep.
U got it bad, I shouldn’t say.
Carl Moon is The Brooklyn Quarterly’s Philadelphia correspondent. This is his transit diary.