It’s Getting Harder to Pretend the Earth Isn’t Flying Around
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A man in an empty parking lot took pictures of our train as it passed. He made use of a tripod. Its shadow and his were a vanishing math on the pavement below. For a second I might have known anything at all about what it was like to live in his life. Then it was not that way. I saw vertical brick. I saw letters of words.
The man in off-white, painted in oil, hung in a room in that library. His name was engraved in a plate on the frame, along with his period of life. Certain kids felt that reading the plate would give them the power to study the man and laugh at his candid gravity. These kids were lost. We knew to avoid the man, and his room, and that building entirely.
I met with the meaning consultant for twenty minutes, which I could afford. I said she should probably charge more for her service, so people would enter less doubtful. “What’s the problem with doubt?” she asked. “Really?” I said. She studied me for a time. “Let me ask you this,” she said. But asked nothing. It began to get harder for me to act like the earth was not flying around, and with it our chairs, the floral arrangement, the paintings, the Tiffany lamp.
The ghost of Hollywood Boulevard forgets who she’s supposed to be. She elongates, spins. Maybe she was an athlete in life, a dancer, canting her way through the crowds without touching, like she was a child, like it was a game she could play in her mind. Maybe she hustled tourist groups, like this kid in the sagging Spider-Man clothes, crouching to smooth the cloth of the pocketed dollars he has acquired.
Bikers in leather appeared and filled the street with roar and glare. I asked my elderly mother if she wanted to wait it out. “All I do is wait,” she replied. I narrowed my eyes at this information. I wheeled her back into the day. “Afternoon, ma’am,” one biker said. They parted for her, Bible-style. “I paint horses on cigarette boxes,” another explained, handing her one. My elderly mother leaned toward the man, who bent so he could hear. She vouched for the toasted tuna melt at the café we had just been to.
You can’t tell people what they don’t want to hear. Try and they’ll make it all about you. They’ll say (without saying, because silence is power), Why do you care so much, anyway? What do you need me to think about you? I don’t care, I’ll say then. I’m not even here. Look through me. Look through everything. S.I.P., you know what I mean? No? That’s shop in peace.
Many years ago, I got lost in north Lake Tahoe. In the pines. Which pointed every way at once, without investment. This way. This. A particle light in the reach of the needles. This way here. Like it was some game. But I could not play, knowing neither the object nor the rules.
You don’t need to be that good at math to see how storing all of the off-shoot realities would become a problem. There was not enough space. Even though there was much more space than anyone could comprehend. It affected the program. Our ignorance was compromised. We had visions: something like a hand, and something like a kill switch.
I took a seat next to a talkative man, a tenor who put out architectures of grammar like it was his job. I wanted to pay him. The sound of his voice in my head was this endless fucked-up audio book I could populate with my own dreams, of—I don’t know, phantoms, and airborne contortionists, monkeys hanging out on clouds, throwing down pennies and seeds.