What do you think Paul Simon is doing now that Carrie Fisher is dead? Carl asks.
Crying? I ask.
Yea. He says. Besides that.
I don't know how anyone mourns their abandoned loves. Do you cry over the ashes of the childhood home that you torched? Do you shake your head, remembering the rooms where no one hurt you but which had to be destroyed for your own sanity? What the fuck is wistful anyway? Why does our language have so many flavors of sadness but insist on a single version of history?
Besides that, I don't know. Why Paul Simon? Why not Harrison Ford or Bryan Lourd or Dan Akroyd? I ask.
Dan Akroyd? Carl's version of history doesn't include things like liner notes or Wikipedia, or even Cliff's Notes or SparkNotes. If a fact is not a headline, it has to be explained to him. The Ghostbuster?
They were engaged. When something is broken. A promise. An engagement. A rule. Anything but a heart. A leg maybe. Not a heart. When something is broken, a person has two options: anger or forgiveness. You can never have both simultaneously. You can forget you're angry with someone, and decide to forgive them, or you can forget you forgave someone and surrender to anger but you can not angrily forgive someone. During Blues Brothers, Akroyd proposed. They might have gotten married but then she got back together with Paul.
Carl wrinkles his nose. Paul Who?
Simon. I say. Paul Simon.
I don't know why people drift back together when they've come to the almost always correct conclusion that they don't belong together. Nostalgia? Familiarity? The desire to prove friends and family wrong? Because those who refuse to acknowledge history repeat it until they're doomed? Yea. They were a couple. They broke up. She got engaged to Dan Akroyd, and then broke up with him to get back together with Paul.
How do you know this shit? He asks.
I read things.
I read. Carl says. As though I've implied otherwise.
I have implied otherwise. Carl is a reader of license plates, if a car cuts him off, ingredients on boxes of frozen food, if he thinks I am watching, magazine covers while waiting in line at the pharmacy. An avid reader he is.
It is fine. I don't listen to music the way he doesn't read. I've heard music. I don't plug my fingers with radishes when I'm in the grocery store or start screaming when the background music of a film slowly encroaches until you can't hear the characters speak anymore, and what you're watching is less a movie and more a glorified music video. I've even been known to turn on a radio or put on a tape in a car. Though, it's been long enough that what I put in was not a CD or an iPod or a cell phone or whatever it is these days people would plug into a car in order to listen to music that wasn't selected by some stranger sitting in a booth hoping the radio industry won't die in their lifetime. I've even heard Paul Simon. When I was watching The Graduate. And probably over the speakers in one of the hipster department stores Carl likes to go into but never buy anything from. I don't know.
Why do you give a shit about Paul Simon anyway? I ask.
I don't. He says. I just know you like Carrie Fisher, and wondered. You know.
I like Carrie Fisher? I ask. God, I am made of questions today.
Yea. You have her books, and you like Star Wars, and, you know.
What do I know? I ask. I know hints and allegations. I know the difference between books and music. I know that Carrie Fisher had at least one lover who left her for a man. I know Simon and Garfunkel broke up and don't like to talk about it. I know that they still perform together when it suits them. I know they are unlikely to ever record another album together. I know Paul Simon wrote a song about Frank Lloyd Wright because he was asked to. Not because he even knew who Frank Lloyd Wright was. I know who Frank Lloyd Wright was, although I've never knowingly seen one of his buildings in person. I know architecture like I know music. I know Carl is hinting that I'm bipolar.
You know, he says.
And I do. But Tell me what I know, I say.
He does not. So we are just sitting here. In my bedroom. Both of us dressed and waiting for the other person to leave.
You didn't ask me how Iman was doing after Bowie died or how I need to stop making accusatory statements before I think them through to their conclusion.
You're trying to remember the name of one of Prince's ex-wives. He says.
Shut up. He's right, of course.
I don't know, either.
Finally something in common. Ignorance.
I feel that if I were to get up now, he'd think I am the one who's leaving first. I don't want to leave. I want him to leave. Still. If, a little less than I did a minute ago.
He starts cracking his knuckles. I flinch. He rolls his eyes. It's so much easier to talk this way.
go, I finish.
apologize, he says. I'm not trying to start anything. I don't think you're crazy anymore.
I feel crazy. Not like bugs under skin crazy or screaming on a bus crazy. I feel like confessing an affair to a stranger on a plane crazy or waking up in the middle of the night convinced there's a burglar only to remember that your exboyfriend is sleeping on your couch until he gets a new job crazy. Do you mean you no longer think I was ever crazy, or that you think I was crazy before but am not currently?
He looks at me as though that wasn't the obvious question. As though I haven't questioned every statement he's made since we started this arrangement. And the last one. And the one before that. As though I've ever done anything but question his intentions.
He looks at me.
I look at him.
He doesn't look angry like used to. So maybe, maybe we've finally reached the forgiveness stage of our over.
He puts his shoes on and stands up. He shakes his head and smiles at me. I've got to go. He says.
Nobody has to do anything they don't want to. I counter.
He rolls his eyes. He leaves.
In the late twentieth and early twenty-first century, even the educated people in the world believed in monsters called dinosaurs. Giant lumbering reptilian beasts of various shapes. Leathery-winged vultures, tri-horned hippopotamus, spike backed iguanas, angry land sharks with tiny hands. They spent decades debating how and why the creatures disappeared. Asteroids. Ice. Volcanoes. Blindness. Hunted by early man. Developed the technology for space travel. Carbon dioxide. When a person or idea aged into irrelevance, it was said to have gone "the way of the dinosaurs". But science kept evolving new theories about how the dinosaurs were actually birds, climbed into the ocean to reemerge later as mammals, were still living among humans after generations of inbreeding had shrunk them to manageable sizes.
In the late twentieth and early twenty-first century, the educated people believed in science. The study of nature and their environment using crude tools to try and imagine how society had evolved into the world they knew. They spent centuries trying to imagine the sky was filled with other worlds that followed their strict beliefs in atmosphere and elements. They stole the names of dead religions and pasted them on to pictures in the sky. If they did not believe in heavens, why did they name parts of the sky after fallen gods?
In the late twentieth and early twenty-first century, the educated people believed in more than they could see. They imagined their present somehow reflected their ancestors' world. Time always linear and made to educate them about their potential futures.
In the late twentieth and early twenty-first century, the educated people believed.
What is education if not belief? All facts are statistics memorized or recorded by people eager to support whatever belief their parents, intentionally or accidentally, imprinted on them. Science. Religion. Language. Self-worth.
I can not talk about how we relate to things now because now is an outdated concept. I can not say what we believe in because we do not believe. Faith has gone the way of the dinosaurs. Of the planets. Of history. I speak of the late twentieth and early twenty-first century as if I had any idea what that meant. I only think what I have read in books. I can not claim to know. I did not write the books. All narrators are unreliable. All facts are misleading. All conjecture, including this conjecture, is egalitarian bullshit. I think. There are no bulls left to compare anything to. Planets worth of shit still but no bulls. Bullshit is just another useless term handed down, I think, by the people alleged to have existed before us.
Here is what I think the most. I think I was born, though this is also conjecture. I do not remember much of the first six years of my life, and that which I do think I remember is hazy enough that I can't discount the theory that much of my childhood is just what I was told as a teenager. My, as far as I know, parents relate their favorite fables with a tenderness that I would like to think of as genuine. There are pictures, of course, but they are of a child that I do not remember looking like.
I think very much that I spent my teenage years listening to someone tell me that I couldn't just repeat what I was told, I had to think for myself. But I was often disciplined for not thinking for myself in the fashion that I was supposed to think for myself.
I think I look enough like the people in control that I am as safe as a person can be when they are not the precise person in control. I think I have enough ancestry in common with those in control that they do not bother to even imagine killing me. They tell me that it is very possible that some day I will be the person in control. They tell me so often, and look so much like me that I can almost think it is true. But I strongly think it is not.
I think what I do and who I speak to are important. I think the people who listen to me are indulgent.
I think what came before me wasn't important. I think it is purely fable. Lessons for fools who can not think.
I think there is no god besides consciousness. I think we would all be safer if we knew each others' intentions.
I think every love I've ever felt was a mistake. I did not learn anything more from love than I did from history.
I think every person has their own language, and that no science can properly explain how we understand and misunderstand each other.
I think our lips move out of habit.
I think our tongue was made for tasting, not pushing our thoughts on others.
I think our ears are warning systems not entertainment centers.
I think the future is a dangerous dream that will eventually kill us.
I think I haven't earned anything, just accumulated.
I think too much thinking leads to more thinking leads to more time not doing anything that might kill us. But eventually we must do something. We wan not think ourselves to immortality. We've been trying for as long as there has been thought.
I think eventually is the most powerful word I know. I think eventually would sneak up behind maybe and slit its throat. I think eventually carves power's tendons until it collapses to the ground.
I think the ground is eventually. I think the ground is all the shit accumulated from however many thinkers there were before us.
I think thinking has done more harm than any action. But is the only thing we do not know how to stop doing.
I think the dinosaurs were not reptiles, monsters, or birds. I think dinosaurs are just assemblages of bones with silly Latin names. Everyone wants to think that everything we pull from the ground is a piece of a fable. And that if we glue enough of our fables together then history will have a narrative flow that makes sense to us.
I don't think anything makes sense, and I worry what would happen if it suddenly did.
I think my own thoughts are dangerous.
The world that I have spent all of my life perceiving as trying to kill me is not a safe place for any history I've heard or read about.
The world is the only thing worth loving even if it is incapable of loving us back.
The world is going the way of the dinosaurs eventually, I think.
I need some help tricking my body back into sleeping. Nothing so severe as drugs or listening to recordings of my college professors reading my poems about heartbreak while ocean waves recede in the background. I do not need enough help to emit a shrill cry. Consider this a late night murmur. A secret you sort of wish you heard but not enough that you lose sleep over it. I do not want Your sleep. I want mine back. And, yes, I know what my sleep looks like. I've had doctors who must have firmly believed my sleep had run away for good, try to pawn off someone else's sleep on me. Dreams about bicycles and jellyfish. All those strands of al dente fettuccine tying themselves into knots to push the pedals forward faster than any human could, with no need for the ridiculous miner helmets I have to wear in the city. Bioluminescent privilege. Those were not my dreams. Even my resting brain is more practical. Lovers I forgot to pick up at the grocery store, even though they were clearly on my list. My laundry folding itself into human form and rolling my sleeping body to the laundromat to get the stains of my desire out. Maybe hem some of my supposedly reasonable expectations.
My roommate took some old photographs of my sleeping down to Staples, printed out some flyers, and posted them to the sexiest telephone poles in Camberville. I'm sure you saw them. What else are telephone poles good for in this future where everyone uses mobile phones and wifi.
Electricity? Why do we call them telephone poles if they're all burdened with power and cable now? Let's call them what they are: cylindrical wooden billboards. Homes for poorly xeroxed copies of missing pets and my sleep.
My boss suggested I post something on Craigslist. Like technology and the internet stopped in 2006 and people are still willing to contend with text based websites where sex traffickers and murderers have to guess if your photograph, if you've provided one, is real. He's a hoot. But not a hootenanny.
You remember my sleep, though, right? All those mornings you saw it splayed out on your couch when it missed the last bus home. How it used to massage my neck at work, tilt my head to the window on the train, and then hide behind the refrigerator when I wanted it in my bed?
This is getting as bad as the summer I took the job working the opening shift at my uncle's coffeehouse and I had to pretend I was always oversleeping so that no one would suspect that I lost the keys the very first week.
My mother sent me my childhood exhaustion via UPS. Like it would still fit me. Like I am not a foot and a half taller, and four times as heavy. Ok, sure, I tried it on when I was the only one home, but I could tell it looked ridiculous on me, like a sixty year old in a cheerleader outfit or a proctologist with a smile. I put it in the rolling tupperware under my bed. I'll probably forget it until the next move.
My dog's therapist recommended I jog or run with Sebastard at night. Who can sleep with a racing heart? Or a winded and flatulent Mexican Hairless? I'm going to need to find Sebastard an analyst with a better understanding of human physiology and dog psychology. I'm pretty sure "Doctor" Yolanda has some sort of deal with Petsmart, as Sebastard never plays with any of the toys she suggests might help him come to terms with his Resting Yuckface, and the doggy Prozac hasn't calmed either of us.
I've tried all the supposedly calming teas my father swears by. I just spend more time getting up to pee.
Yesterday, I was convinced I saw my sleep waving at me from my next door neighbor's roof but it turned out to be some guy attaching solar panels. Once I realized it was a stranger, I imagined that he wasn't so much waving at me as trying to ward off a swarm of hornets. Judging by his brief bursts of disgusted eye contact, I figured out that he was expressing displeasure that I was standing nude at the window, staring at him. Like I'm the one who told him to climb up on a roof at nine o'clock in the morning and look into nearby windows.
When I was a baby and couldn't sleep, my mother would drive me in circles around the neighborhood until I finally quieted. I don't know whether I should take a trip to the house where I grew up and see if my sleep went there, or if I should start checking the windows of passing cars.
Before you bother asking, of course I've tried masturbation. I've tried waiting to start projects right before deadline. I've tried counting sheens jumping over fences, drinking warm whiskey, calling my sleep and leaving a series of alternatingly calm or desperate voicemails. Nothing has worked. My methods are unemployable.
I read somewhere that the effects of three days without sleep is similar to doing LSD. This is well-rested propaganda. I haven't slept in over a week, and the only bright, pulsating colors I've seen have been the reflection of my neighbor's Christmas lights, which they put up before their pumpin rotted. Their rotten pumpkin is, of course, still there. Maybe they are hoping that their solar panels can bring it back to life.
For me, the effects of a week without sleep is merely boredom. I've run out of 80s sitcoms to bingewatch. I find myself rereading the same paragraphs in the same books I always read. Not because I don't understand them but because I'm hoping their familiarity will rock me into coma.
If you find my sleep while I am not at home, please lock it into Sebastard's cage. Leave a post-it note with the name of the person you would like rewarded (if you, personally, wish to remain anonymous). When I If I wake up after My Sleep and I wrestle our long communion, I will send that person half of whatever they feel they are most lacking in life. Be it money, scallop shells, or enough votes to get to the next level of whatever awful music show is currently popular on network television. I will very nearly be there for them.
If you don't find my sleep, please don't call or text me, asking if I've found it. You'll know, by galoshes, because you won't hear anything from me for weeks.