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."
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.