Johnny Sedgwick stepped out of his house at noon. Not a second before. Not a second after. When the wrist clock struck 12 exactly, he took a step into the sunlight. He locked the door with more confidence in his bolt than was justified. He stepped into the river of pedestrians that flowed past his home. He stepped into the train without looking back. When the train left the station, Johnny went with. When the train came to a stop, so did Johnny. And he stepped off the train in another place. He stepped into a different river of pedestrians. "You can never step into the same river of pedestrians twice," he thought to himself. But then tried to forget the whole thing as it was not as clever as he thought it was. He looked at his wrist clock. It was 12:45 exactly. Not a second before. Not a second later. But now it was a second later. Several, in fact. So he stepped to the next place with great confidence in his mastery of transportation and time.
Now they're wheeling me through the hall on a squeaking gurney. I was following the premises all the way down to the conclusion. Now they're dragging me across broken glass and rose petals. I was trying to create a new thought. I was remembering my youth. I was pondering my future. Now they're reading me my rights and garnishing my wages. All our systems collapsed down on me at once. Now they're poking me with IVs. I’m on a slow potassium drip and my fluid levels are unstable. I’m on an oxygen machine, and my thoughts are disintegrating. I’m behind the second curtain, toying with the bed controls. I’m ringing the nurse’s bell and waiting for assistance.
Hunger taps against our inner resistance systems. It diminishes our honesty. We sneak and cheat and nibble the meat. Then we burst into the open for everyone to see, and make bombastic proclamations about religion, faith, and steadfastness of character. We greet the stranger on the street. We drop a coin in the panhandler's tattered cup. We smile and wave to the camera, and sign autographs on our "Be A Good Man" book (now in stores everywhere). Then there is that inner tapping. Subtle. Faint. Growing. We look around for a place to retreat. Our face takes on a slighted frown. We are no longer so high up. We're slowly coming down. The faces still smile at us and affirm our public testimony. But now we are scrambling to avoid their eyes. We are hiding in a corner drinking creamy beverages and cramming our mouth with salty fries.
My day is already rolling before I fully awake. I drag myself to the place, with slippers on my feet and bed hair over my face. The police officer asks me if everything is alright, and I put my hands in the pockets of my robe and stretch my arms as I shrug, "Everything's just fine, sir." There is a curious window on the other side of a shrub that I manage to bring myself to. It is a beautiful little window, far more ornate than one would expect on such a drab building. I step on the bucket and pull my eyes up to the ledge of the sill. When my eyes gain focus through the glass I see things that I was not meant to see. Things I can't un-see. And those in the scene that I have seen see me seeing them and they run for a door. I jump down and dash to the shrub, throwing myself haphazardly over the top and landing on a row of trash cans. I pull myself up from my wreck, and walk casual. "It appears I've lost a slipper," I whisper as I walk, with an eye tracking my bare foot. The officer sees me again and says "are you sure you're okay?" I nod with exaggeration and say, "Yes, I'm fine," and to put his mind at ease, "I'm a writer."
The machines are fattening us up for the slaughter. I eat so much my skin aches. I eat so much I'm afraid to burp. I'm trying to rise to my feet, but my balance is wanky. I step left and wobble, I step right and wobble. One more strip of turkey, gobble gobble. I widen my stance. I rest against the post. My girth challenges me to re-learn how to handle myself. The machines are beating me. I'm far less mobile than I ought to be. The drones swoop in and offer me pecan pie with whip cream. I shouldn't, but I do. One small bite at a time and that pie is mine. It is a part of me. The machines send out their clones. They pour me creamy beverages with alcohol and caramel. I tell them no! But then they pour it over perfect ice in clinking glasses, and a good stiff creamy drink is just what I think I need. The machines are crushing me. I try to run to the forest, but can't run without hurting my knees. So I amble out through the cold November air, past the streets and through the trees. I see no machine, or treat, but it is too late for me. My spirit is weak. All that remains is hunger pangs.
The people shuffle in with apprehensive steps and restrained expressions. How does one even present one's face in such situations? But the great man was there, weak and faint, smiling as much as he could in his condition. He made eye contact with as many of them as he could. The most prominent woman of the bunch spoke fearlessly. "You've been a good husband, and I will cherish our memories." The old man nodded. Then a boy, now a man, rested a hand on the bed rail. "You once told me I can do what anyone else can do. If someone else can do it, so can I. Thank you." The old man's smile was firm and formal. Then the girl, now a woman, approached. She looked like she was about to speak, but she didn't. Couldn't. The old man lifted his head ever so faintly and she leaned to him. He whispered to her, "life waits for no man, and bows for no woman. But it slows slightly for beauty, especially the beauty of a generous deed."
I don't remember the greatest thing I've ever seen. I'm too much in the moment and in the future. The past is spent gas. It's dissipated in to the atmosphere. There are things I would like to see, though. Like peace. Like a lion playing gentle with a lamb. Like a snake with no ill will, and no poison. We live in a finely designed ambiance. We are being tested from every direction. The conditions of the world push us and stretch us. We scrambled to make a dollar. We gorge ourselves on food. We abuse ourselves with exercise. We chart our every mood. I don't remember the greatest thing I've ever seen. That's not how it works. But I remember some horrifying things, which I will spare you from. No need painting pictures for the sake of pity-lust. We don't profit from that. We profit from using our today's well and positioning our destinations in the right places. We profit from building each other up, and positioning the right people in the right places.
Some days the toil and risk of this post Adamic life dances and bangs louder than other days. Some days the toil is undeniable. The danger obvious. It could be a rainy day. It could be a sunny day. Some days I do not feel safe. Some days eternal life seems impossible.
I sit in corporation-designed ambiances, sipping corporation-designed beverage products, while corporate employees prepare for worship--which is to say, they prepare for work. I don't know. I guess what we call "the rat race" just gets to me some times. It ain't a big deal.
It's just bad news coming. I know it's coming. Death is in transit. And little pieces of it appear ahead of schedule all around me. The stress, the elbowing greed, and the ugliness of aging. No, I'm not ready for delivery.
You have a sweet heart, coated in poison syrup, dripping through your fingers. You have a hot heart, steam fogs the windows of your phone booth. You have a bright heart. Nobody can see your smile. Enemies come and go. Lines grow and contract. Math holds our attention for a minute or two. But your heart ticks down. You have a consistent heart. Your heart is genre fiction. We can all read it and we all know how it is going to end. Your heart is love steroids. You amplify your sentimental reactions and hold a fragile hand over your chest. Your heart is magic marker, swiping impromptu lines and fond doodles on everyone you meet. Your heart is Christmas colored. Your family draws close to it to give gifts and strike affectionate poses.
Mandatory training bogs down the antidotes. Required courses tames the horses. I'm doodling my restless doodles. Hedonists talk about inane activities. "Is this hell," I accidentally ask out loud. Fortunately nobody hears me over their own verbal flow; their self-obsessed vocal show. They talk about all their stuff. Fragments and pieces loosely associated but tightly constrained around themselves. It's like listening to elevator music. It's like house staging. It's all nice and pretty, but inhuman, unreal, fake, dead. Dead in a fancy way. Dead in spirit. Dead in humor. Fat. The instructor says we can take a break. I drift off to far away places. Oceans rage. Zebras bey as the lion chases them. I'm watching God's show, where there is more to see everywhere you go. And more to know. And more to be.
We're trying. The smoke is clearing, then congealing. The structure is crumbling. I am trying to paint a picture while standing on platforms that are falling and shifting. My brushes tumble. Paint disobeys. Retaliation is futile. The enemy is imaginary. We are trying. We run. We pick up speed. But the flower ladies are drunk and the book advisors can't read. I keep finding myself on this same street. I keep forgetting where I was going. There are too many places to see. My bucket list is on fire, and I'm trying to do everything at once. And something is burning. It pesters our noses. It festers in our houses. It makes contracts with our social networks. We are trying the best that we can. But the clocks keep shifting. Nobody knows what time it is. We are trying. We really are. But the oceans are swallowing our lands. Corporations are creating ointments for our hands. And all our art has turned to sand.
I am a child of many fathers and a son of many mothers. Of course I have but one biological father and mother, but their ships have strayed. Their rudders cracked a whack, slipped the knack. Now I'm orienting my journey on self-selected parents. They shine like the brightest stars in the darkest night, and they guide me to my destinations. They set me on the right way. Some of these pseudo-parents died a long many years ago, but their guidance and advice is captured in dusty books with aging language. The language may age, but the wisdom remains. It persists through the decay. It manifests... wait, one of my fathers advised against using that word, and I think he is right. Sometimes my parents disagree. Their wisdom conflicts. But they have advised me to weigh the perspectives and make my own judgement. They have advised me to do my best. To try things out for size. To analyze my results. To evaluate the prize. One thing I know is that all of my parents love me.
Stack the teeter tottering commerce packages. Reduce the neon fever fantasy. Awaken drunk from midnight beverage choices. Happy people flood the commerce store. Sad people sleep in late to resist the waining morgue. I see mothers without their lovers. I see women without their grandkids. I see men too old to wed. They're all flooding the commerce store. Aching backs cause bad posture. Enthusiasm for one's daughters. Crinkled papers mock the lever. Just because it rhymes doesn't mean it's clever. I hate this sludge that lames my thoughts. I hate this fog that mocks my gods. I hate this angst that drugs my muses. Inconsiderate spirits, boozing floozies. I just want a room to write my stories. Someplace alone that opens early mornings.
I was chasing a giant inflatable pumpkin down a sad New Jersey street when I saw you there with some funny looking contraption on your head. "Have you ever heard of radionics," you asked as the giant pumpkin hurled over the top of an SUV, leapt atop a strip mall, and decimated a billboard, before disappearing over the building, where it continued its episode of manic destruction. "No," I said. You put the contraption atop my head, and my voice could be heard (though not from my mouth) saying "I hate pumpkins anyway." I ripped the thing off my head and said, with my mouth, "what the?" You said, "Radionics is the projection of your thoughts to the world around you." And I said, "But I love pumpkins." And then you said "oh, you must have it on backwards."
Satan has a heated blanket for you, and a turkey sandwich with potatoes and gravy. He is lowering his blanket over your fatigued head and it is melting down around your shoulders. Stop typing. Stop working. Throw yourself onto his cushy couch. Sip the...
Throw that blanket in the fire! Toss that plate of death to the dogs! You are tired and cold, and what's it to you? Step into the discomfort. Embrace the hate. Shake the fatigue. Your tasks are righteous and authentic. Your journey is important. People may be waiting for you. People may not remember you at all. But when you are finished with your task thing they will all remember your grandiose Lord. They will brush clean a space on the street and kneel their legs, lowering their torsos to the appropriate height for a long needed prayer. People are thirsty for devotion and they don't even know it. The work you are doing will remind them of their thirst. But it is cold and hungry work. So what's it to you?