It’s Tuesday, September 24th, 2013. I am somewhere in downtown Portland, Oregon, lasering a three-mile stare into the abyss through a flatscreen display convenient for hiding my face. The display is covered with the detritus of work I’m no good at caring about.
I have grey-brown hair in this light. The tips on each strand coruscate silver in the glare of five 15-watt 6500K 96CRI BlueMax® light bulbs, clinically proven to lie most effectively.
The light bulbs say: “Bro, friend, you work outside. Totally! Look, I’m bluish, right? I’m the sky — yeah, I’m the sky part of that whole ‘earth and sky’ thing. The earth and sky thing which would ease your sleep, wake you gently if you just paid attention. If you were just allowed to pay attention.”
“I’m the sky, I’m the sun, and you should get sleepy at ten o’clock tonight.”
I think I just saw something blink, three miles past the surface of that display screen.
Relentless, the light bulbs continue. “You, born in the 1970s, your only true memory of that earth and sky thing — it’s genetic. It’s certainly not a this-life memory, borne of your own experience.” After a pause, though, they’re more cheery. “Fortunately genetic memories are easier to fake out. I’m the sky, remember me? Psych! Am I right?”
The bulbs wink conspiratorially. A few extra blue photons land on cells in my retina, causing a synapse to fire here and there, nudging a balance of chemicals deep in the ancient portion of my brain. Deep in the portion of our brains which evolved to track the earth and sky. Deep in a human brain, still trying to do its job inside a fucking office building.
And that brain, conscious, self-aware, had been complicit: it tried to manipulate its own earth-sky tracker with trickery. It bought a light from Target with five heads and named it “The Squid.” It orchestrated the selection and installation of the BlueMax® bulbs which now vex it with their chatter. It — a brain whose lineage hasn’t even controlled fire a million years, let alone anything else worth mentioning — figured it would trick a battle-tested part of itself designed three hundred million years ago with some fucking light bulbs.
Maybe it’ll work.
“You should get sleepy at ten o’clock tonight,” the 75-watt sky says, showering energetic photons to punctuate its command.
“I should get sleepy at ten o’clock tonight,” I hope to myself, so maybe I can get up early tomorrow and come in to work and catch up on my tasks before I’m fired.
My dad’s getting a pacemaker today. It’s a little box with a battery and a couple wires that dangle in a vein, zapping his heart with electricity to convince it to keep beating within spec after ninety revolutions around the star that birthed it. Its own electricity is getting too weak. Copper-top to the rescue, right?
Things have been rough to deal with when it comes to him and my blood family.
Things have been rough to deal with. With you. With you. With you. With (my internal representation of) you.
Everything is written in sand, I hear whispered from three miles distant.
Everything. Including that.
And then a song comes up on shuffle and I just stop and I don’t cry in my $600 office chair:
i am nothing without pretend
i know my thoughts, can’t live with them
i am nothing without a man
i know my thoughts, but i can’t help it
i still keep my baby teeth
in the bedside table with my jewelry
you still sleep in the bed with me, my jewelry and my baby teeth
i don’t need another friend
when most of them, i can barely keep up with them
perfectly able to hold my own hand
but i still can’t kiss my own neck
i wanted to give you everything
but i still stand in awe of superficial things
i wanted to love you like my mother’s mother’s mothers did
until the end
(until the end)
Everything that ever mattered most to you; everything that mattered most to whoever mattered most to you, even the private things you never knew and wished a thousand times you could know — all of it — will be dust and the faintest expanding bubble of photons in just three generations.
No matter what the abyss whispers when you stare into it, you can affect things for the better, just don’t expect anyone to remember any of it.
Do your best, I guess. From today forward, I’ll probably fault you a little less when you just lay in the mud a while after the 538th time you trip and fall.