Rectangular. Bright. Omnipresent. It made no sound, just picture. It harvested their attention as it buzzed a repressing silence at the humans in the room.
Across from the television, one sat in the middle, feet propped up on a hassock. His voice wavered, a low tenor that was almost baritone, "I h-heard on Oprah that--"
"Dude, Oprah?!" words came from the right of him.
"What the heck is wrong with Oprah? Hater's gonna hate," came more from the left, with more of a lisp.
There were two of them. They sat on either side of him, making him feel like a cartoon character with a devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other. Except he could never keep track of which was the angel and which was the devil. That was only slightly better than when he first met them a month ago, and could hardly tell who was who.
The three adolescent boys occupied a padded behemoth of a couch. They were not quite men, but technically so. Eighteen years young, inexperienced and immature.
The couch was even more lacking in past. It was overly post-modern, oddly designed to be unremarkable only in the background of a television show or a music video. It was hard to discern whether it was built for comfort, style or neither. The fabric was a rich dark green, mottled with a motley of evening garden shades. It was built like it was ready to go to war with the other furniture.
"I was saying," he began again, before the twins could squable further, "that on Oprah, I heard that the biggest fear teenagers in our generation have is loneliness."
"Loneliness? Really?" queried the one on the left. "I would have thought that technology and globalization would change that."
"Nope," said his brother. "You're wrong on that one, Diego. It's a bad substitute for the real thing. Social skills break down. People spend more time in one room, without another face, than otherwise."
Their friend in the middle nodded, "Yeah, what Dario's saying is exactly how they explained it. We remove the natural, necessary face-to-face contact, and it's making us freakin' depressed."
Diego made a face, simply by pouting his lower lip while moving his jaw to one side.
"Are you lonely?" Dario asked. "Are we bad company?"
Their friend shook his head. "No."
They looked back at the television screen. It was still on a commercial, which Diego had put on mute. He fiercely hated commercials. His insistence on muting them left an awkward silence that seemed to fill the house.
"Yes," he said, changing his mind completely amidst the blank expression below his bushy, immobile eyebrows and flat forehead.
Dario punched him in the arm playfully, realizing then how enviable his friend's new workout routine was.
"That's not what I mean!" he said, still facing the television.
"Then what do you mean, Landers?" asked Diego.
"It has nothing to do with friendship. It's just...-"
"Oh," said Dario. "A different brand of loneliness?"
"Yes!" agreed Landers.
"If this turns into an oh-no, pity-me, I-don't-have-a-girlfriend chat, I'm leaving," announced Diego.
"We won't make you suffer through that again, don't worry," said Dario. "Besides, I'm over her... I think."
"Knock on wood," suggested Landers.
Diego grinned at that turn of phrase, "You would."
Dario rolled his eyes.
Landers sighed as he finally caught the reference.
Diego unmuted the television, as the show they were watching came back on.
Despite this, Dario kept talking, "Y'know, I wouldn't. I'm sick of this! Everyone at school assumes that just because you came out of the closet, I will too just because I'm your twin brother. Well guess what!?"
Diego's mouth gaped ever so slightly.
Landers's eyes narrowed, he wasn't fond of conflict. The gelled black spikes of their faux-hawks seemed to bristle with a readiness for war. He eyed them both, as their Hispanic features glared at one another.
Nobody was willing to guess what.
"I'm not gay!" proclaimed Dario.
"Good for you, me neither, we already know... end of story," pronounced Landers, trying his best to shove the topic aside. He was sorry he'd alluded to relationships and loneliness in the first place.
Diego cast a sour glance at the television, fingers awkwardly groping his flamboyantly bright rainbow-motifed belt.
And that was all they said until the next commercial came along. They passed the grapes to each other without any yes-please's or thank-you's.
It was that same mind-numbing near-silence. It ate away at Landers's mind like a raccoon exploring a tipped over composter bin.
Then Diego spoke, addressing them both, "Ever considered using a dating website?"