Cherry’s Big Dream
Cheryl “Cherry” Baker stepped onto the set of the reality show Big Brother. Cherry had accomplished her dreams. All her efforts on Instagram, Twitter, and Tiktok posting three or more stories per day, saying empty, outrageous things, soliciting a follow each time she’d met someone, posting dance or challenge videos consistently, dealing with miscellaneous followers commenting creepy things, promoting herself like her own advertising agency, spending hours each day doing her hair and makeup, spending hundreds, thousands, to have the ‘drip,’ all of it finally had paid off, and Cherry’s profiles were about to reach the moon. Cherry was going to finally be an influencer, full-time, because obviously it didn’t matter how well she did on the show, her name was now out there for millions of people to hear.
Since middle school, Cherry had dreamt of becoming famous, which was easily within her reach, as her family was rich in real-estate investments, white, and they all lived in San Diego. To that point, she had been a bright, driven child. She loved to draw, read Percy Jackson and A Series of Unfortunate Events, and spend time with her mom and their dog, Chewie. Both of her parents worked, but her dad was largely absent, as he was off chasing real-estate clients constantly, holding open houses and coming home drunk at midnight or later.
However, when Cherry got her first phone, her life changed forever. Cherry watched people getting millions of views on YouTube playing video games or performing edgy skits, becoming the talk of her school by simply posting a video. She saw the rise of Instagram and Twitter as posts or tweets became headlines in the news. She knew early on that this was the new path to fame, the new way to ‘make it,’ and like her love for drawing or reading, became determined to achieve worldwide recognition riding the wave of her generation.
Then Cherry started watching Big Brother. She saw the nationwide attention they got, constantly monitored by HD cameras, playing games that seemed incredibly fun. Each contestant, planning to win it all, was prepared to spend over three months on the set, so they’d quit their jobs in search of the $500,000 that lie at the end of the competition. One person got eliminated every week and had to leave the house back towards their normal lives, but not without achieving some TV recognition that introduced a slew of followers into any contestant’s social media accounts. Some of them even went on to appear in movies or other TV shows.
“All they’re doing is living in luxury, playing games, only having to worry about each other, then getting famous on social media,” she thought innocently, “That’s what I want.”
Over time, Cherry started to draw less and less, and lost interest in books after reading just a few pages. Her grades dropped to the bare minimum; reaching the ‘C’ average required to pass each grade. She sought out the popular group at her school, forming an exclusive clique full of people that only hung out because they were attractive, and Cherry had the looks. Blonde hair, blue eyes, thick, wavy hair, and lips that could catch anybody’s eyes.
She became exclusively focused on self-gain, faking her way through high school, involving herself in resume-booster activities in which she was less than enthused about participating, but she knew that would get her into college, which would then get her on Big Brother. She became distant from her parents, spent time with them, yes, but was constantly checking her phone, never fully present with them.
She nodded the
“Uh-huh, school was fine.”
“Uh-huh, work was fine.”
“Uh-huh, the party was fine.”
And shook the
“No, I don’t want to go see Grandma.”
“No, why would I go hiking? Gross.”
“No, I’ll be with my friends that day.”
Her neglectful dad, always focused on work, never noticed nor cared about his daughter’s empty answers. He just wanted to go where the money was. Her mom noticed though, of course. Cherry’s mom became deeply depressed, and a rift in her marriage formed. The summer before Cherry went to college, her mother sat her down in Cherry’s bedroom, and an older Chewie hobbled in the room and laid down while they talked.
“Cherry, baby, your father and I are getting a divorce. We love you, but something’s just not working with us. Your dad… just…” She started sobbing.
Cherry got seriously uncomfortable. She seldom saw her parents display such emotions. She didn’t know what to say to something that affected her so… deeply. In defense, she raised her false persona up, her self-interested non-self.
Her mother kept crying.
“What’s gonna happen to me? Is my college still getting paid for?”
Her mother looked at her as if all hope had been lost. Tears streaming down her face, she stared longingly into her beautiful daughter’s eyes, then shook her head and paced out of the room.
“So…no?” Cherry called after her.
Cherry sat there, staring at a wall, thoughts coming like never, and experienced true humility, guilt, and regret for the first time in her life. She started crying, went to hold her mom, and they cuddled and binged Friends until they both fell asleep.
Cherry was still getting into UCLA with her parents’ money though, naturally.
She got over the divorce quickly after she left, traumatized by that moment with her mother. So, she dove deeper into her madness, especially after she was informed that Chewie died.
She went to college to study Marketing, adjusting to bring back her studious self so that she could get the best job with the best firm that paid the highest amount so that she could make a name for herself, have some sort of story to tell. Cherry became somewhat of a hermit, taking outrageous amounts of credit hours per semester, reading every book on Marketing even though they all had similar, cookie-cutter ideas. On the side, she made life hack and dancing Tik Toks, and garnered a loyal following because she posted every day, keeping up with trends and brandishing her looks across the platform like a ninja with a katana. She kept looking and looking for that something that would draw an eccentric attraction to her, make her stand out from other job candidates or social media influencers.
She found nothing in particular, except the separate identity that she had used on her social media outlets. She graduated with high honors, landing a job at marketing firm for Silicon Valley clients. Then, as soon as she settled in her new, luxurious apartment in San Francisco, Cherry Baker sat down at her computer and applied for Big Brother. She went through the half year long process, travelling to Los Angeles to interview with the producers, and since she’d read essentially every acclaimed Marketing book in existence, she nailed the interview, giving the producers everything they wanted to hear, creating a fake, flamboyant, eccentric personality that would garner views for their show. They told Cherry that she had made it, she was going to be on Big Brother. She walked out of that final interview, screamed for joy “YEESSSSS!!!” threw her arms in the air, and immediately called her boss and quit her job. They would easily find someone else.
So there Cherry was. As she walked into the extravagant house with colorful, modern furniture, she started to look back over her life. She remembered her early dreams of becoming famous, and here she was at fame’s cliff. As she thought back at her life, something strange happened. Instead of feeling the comfort of happy nostalgia, she dove into the meaning of all that she had done with her life to that point.
One of the producers came up to her.
“Hey, Cheryl, right? Yeah, we won’t take you through the house just yet. There will be a tour with the rest of the group soon once the cameras start rolling. Follow me, and I’ll lead you to the interview room where we’ll get your first interview done.”
Cherry was nervous, bad emotions started to bubble up. She couldn’t keep them down.
“Oh… okay, yeah, sure. Let’s go then.”
The producer noticed her discomfort.
“Hey, you alright? Get excited! You’re about to be on Big Brother!”
“Uh-huh. Yeah, I’m fine, let’s do it”
She followed the producer to the interview room. She didn’t say a word. Instead, her reflections kept bubbling, building to a boil within her psyche. She thought about all the meaningless, stupid shit that she had said in front of thousands of people that were only in her audience on social media because she was attractive. She thought about how many times she had used her body to get more views on a video. She thought of her envy for those who got paid through advertising on social media to travel the world. She thought about her high school friends that she felt nothing for now. She thought about her early loves, reading and drawing. Cherry thought about the ugly, one-dimensional identity that she had created to get here, and how she couldn’t tell if she was that person or herself. But who was she, really? She panicked further. Cherry remembered her dog, Chewie, and how she had paid less attention to him over time, and how he died without saying goodbye. She thought about her dad and felt a burning hatred for his negligence. She thought about when her mom sat with her, and told her that she was getting a divorce, and how inhumane she acted, asking if her college was still going to be paid for. She felt all of this at once.
“Hey, Cheryl, are you alright?”
Cherry was gravely pale. The lights in the hallway before the interview room were flashing overwhelmingly bright. Staring down at her violently shivering hands, she whispered: “What have I done…?”
Then her eyes rolled back into her head, and she fell to the floor, unconscious. Cherry tasted death in the form of a panic attack in the hallway facing her dreams.