For more chickens than I can count, I tried to make sense of things. And stuff too. Like jamming canned, colored dough through a pasta press. Almost everything looks better when flattened and cut with uniform lines. But the two birds in the bush cackled and the one in my hand? Gone. I was grasping nothing. Maybe at straws of such exquisite wavelengths they slipped undetected between my cones and rods. The clocks ticked asynchronously. Microwave trays performed their slouched turns toward Bethlehem. And none of it amounting to a hill of ancient grains. Now, in the ungodly quiet of the midday, you can hear the permafrost cracking. The barely dried-again scabs on your neck begging your chewed nails not to scratch at the polystyrene tickle in your throat.
You are writing behind a screen. Two screens. Some call them eyeballs. Somewhere behind them electrical charges speak in a silent voice that churns thought into word transferred to letter and back to word on paper or screen. Another screen. There is always something going on in the background. Some of it you control, most of it you don’t. And none of it is seen or understood, but we trust that the outcome will mostly speak to others. Does it speak in tongues? Will it slip in through their eyes and proceed through the reverse electrical transformation. Stored. Saved. A memory of what you said/wrote. Some say the world will end in fire. But really it will be noise. The endless cacophony of a billion voices and all those words scrambling to get a foothold over one another, desperate to find a friendly eye or a considerate ear to enter. Desperate to rest.
As a child, I liked to lie on my back on the bed and hang my head off the edge so that my vision was parallel with the floor and the whole house was essentially upside down. Then I would begin to imagine the ceiling as the floor and what it would be like to walk through this upside down house (all furniture being affixed in its original position, or, at least, not subject to gravity’s pull). A tiny curb-like hurdle stood between all passageways. What was once a stairway became a safety ramp with its less smooth cousin following overhead. Foyers or other, odd open spaces would sometimes create little open-topped box holes in which to rest or hide. It was as if the whole structure were new and all its accoutrements mere decorative stalactites. The familiar flipped into a more austere modernity full of flat planes and emphasized angles and lines.
So simple a means to change one’s perspective and yet time erodes this skill. Devours it slowly and invisibly like termites eating a whole house. Until you’re stuck. Your vision is locked. Your reality is a solid, unchanging structure to which you may or may not be enamored. You can no longer walk on the ceiling. Forever, the floor has claimed you as its own. Permanence. An illusion that has become your reality.
Maybe you give into this. Maybe, instead, you awkwardly mount the bed, roll to your back… You hang your head off the edge wanting to recapture something you can’t quite remember. But the vertigo kicks in. Nausea. No longer dependent on your nose, your glasses slip off and clatter to the floor. You can’t breathe. It feels like you’re drowning. You’re either dieing or it’s a panic attack. You roll back over and gasp for air. Slowly, things right themselves. Your heart slows back to its normal steady beat. The vertigo recedes. Your throat relaxes.
If your hearing were better, you could hear the humming chorus of a trillion satiated termites.