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 their 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 their reading me my rights and garnishing my wages. All our systems collapsed down on me at once. Now their 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.
Think about what you've got. You're extant. You're extended. You occupy a shape in this realm, parallel to all the non-existing souls who will never fill a proposition referent to a real object. You're floating along on a magic mattress, half awake, half asleep. You're distinguishing what you see from what you dream. And images are metaphors that confront you, and prod you to be all you can be. You're shrugging off the scenes and humming down the street. Snowflakes are invisible in this 90 degree heat. But they are here, in a parallel universe, incubating. Evolving, growing. We will see them shortly after Christmas. And we will stop what we are doing and stare, as they gently flutter across our scenes.
"I'm not immortal," she told me, from a hospital phone. "In fact, I died." I got up from the couch and walked into the back yard. "Why are you calling me," I said, looking over my shoulder to ensure I was alone. "Because I died. I'm better now." I could hear the medical machines beeping and breathing in the background on her side of the phone. On my side, the frogs in the neighbors pond were beginning their all-night chorus. She continued: "Sometimes people connect at a certain time, and it is the wrong time. And it might even be the wrong people. But the connection was still right. And just because it was the wrong time, and maybe the wrong people, that doesn't mean there was anything wrong with the people." I agreed. My eyes were adjusting. The moon was now visible between some parted clouds. "I agree," I said.
I'm assessing all my symptoms and gathering up all my complaints. A busload of doctors are eager to see me, with their hypotheses and notepads. "How long has this been happening," they'll ask. And, "Does it hurt when you touch your toes?" I'll point out various observations and they will add these to their diagnosis criteria. "There's a clicking sound when I chew," I say. And, "When I dream I poop my pants." They'll recommend vegetables and exercise, then they will scribble out a prescription. Some sort of capsule that will alleviate swelling and foster neurobiological activity in the right areas.
Shake that vending machine, pilot. The good pilot and the dangling candy bar. That glass is so thin… you could smash right through it, if you had to. But if you just jolt it… If you jolt it just right, it should shake free and fall to your candy outlet. Push your hand through the door. Aaaah…. Heaven. And in heaven, at the gate, Peter. And staggering towards Peter, in a flowered nightgown, Betty. And Betty screams with joy at the marvelous wall and glorious gate. “Is this heaven,” she asks. “It is,” says Peter. And Betty spins around with her arms out, wearing only one slipper. And thoughts of eternity dance in her head. And she runs to Peter and embraces him. “Can I bring my couch in there.” No. “But I just bought it and it reclines.” No. “But I bought a 10 year warranty and I’ve only owned it for a week.” No. Betty stepped back and looked at the heavenly fortress and wondered if she could some how sneak the couch in. Maybe jolt the wall just right. Peter leaned back against the wall and scratched the back of his head, and said “In God’s kingdom, all are welcome.”
Fancy people stepping out into the sunshine. Bold steps to let the world know they exist. Proposal constructers shrugging off their woe. Sunshine steppers answering their phone and proposing where to go. Fancy people casting pertinent gestures. Murmur kings slouch in the shade. Gossip queens turn their head to let out the toxic gasses from their throats. Fancy people with ideas knock over tables and turn the water to wine. Rolling down the television, fancy people wave to lesser fanciness. Kings and queens decay in the streets. Tongue-tied salesman gesture to their product-things, which are meant to make your fancy lives easier and more enriching. Product-things that prevent drooling, gossip, and falling apart.
We sit in the middle of an intricate explosion of pathways. We rest at the precipice of infinite possibility. When I slurp the final drops of my comfort beverage and stand, I must decide. I can go here or there. Three hundred and sixty degrees of possible directions. And each path changes future actualities in subtle, imperceptible ways. Of course, some things are written in stone. The speed of the earth, the movement of light, the pull of gravity. But within these grand constraints there are a billion mazes, each one leading me to different pieces of cheese. I reach my foot out to step, then, at the last moment, pivot slightly. You must keep the calculators of fate, chance, and happenstance alert and engaged. You must always push against the constraints of your default inclinations.
There are these scary feelings that creep around my screens... Heavy-hearted feelings that slope my grin earthwards. A fear that... I can no longer translate to the page what I want translated to the page. A fear that I've lost control of words. They no longer obey my commands. They shrug off my requests and go their own way. Their own pedestrian, boring, sexless way. They walk in front of my readers and stimulate no winks and prompt no whistles and provoke no affection. I have this fear that my fingers no longer tap out the words so easy. It's like I can't focus like I used to, and my words now lack life. They are corpses on the steel table, under the bright light. I cut them open for the autopsy, but the cause of death eludes my analysis.
Tom was on call. He held his phone close to his side to be sure to feel it's gentle vibe. He held it firm, so as to not drop it on the street. He was on call, on the ball, one-for-all, clear in thought. Tom was waiting. Imperial nomads surround the wounded fly. Fiasco starters circled him with their chaos prods and blow-torches. Tom held his phone close. He listened. He watched. The mob encroached him, then gave him space, then encroached. Power play. Good-bye addicts. Memory stokers. Sinking ships aching to get to shore. Incompatible combination locks and wounded locksmiths. Tom's phone gently vibrates and he lifts it to his ear. "Hello?"
I stretch my arms like wings and push off the splintered moon towards a distant sun. In space there is no humiliation. In space there is no heat. There are billions of captives trapped on an orb beneath my feet. A blue orb that rotates, sloshing water all over the place, throwing wind in every face. I float through the gap. The endless gap. I feel like I am moving slower than a politician's apology, but in reality, I am moving faster than anything on earth could hope to move. Space is sweet. It's relief in a broad sense. It's full of danger and full of peace. I grab a planet, pull, and release. I'm redirecting myself towards a closer sun to get some heat. Icicles form on my beard and cheek.
The tramp points out the paparrazi to the chump. Dressed for success. Tropical suntans fading from their cage faces. Ageless faces formed with false plastics. We are looking through a glass. We watch them have their emotions and cast drastic accusations and propose shocking retaliation. They paint the enemy. They construct the monsters in the minds of their captive crowd. The sheep will be sheered. The sheep will weep. The tramp and the chump rub elbows with fancy bankers and angry oil barons. They laugh over cocktails on tropical beaches as they prepare to make their speech to the constrained sheep. Dressed for slaughter. Dressed for sheering. The chump points out the cameraman and they adjust their angry affects accordingly.
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."