A heart heavy with things undone, with a life unlived is heavier than the feather and that heart goes back to try again. A life in which all I have is given away yields a heart lighter than the feather of Maat and I pass on…thanks Michael Meade for this story.
He is alone. There was a time when TV would turn itself off. The networks were done after the late movie after Johnny Carson. The rerun of the local news brought the beginning of the loneliness. As the sports reporting re-ended he would curl around the round couch pillow, pleated and gold with a gold button in the center. Looking back now he sees himself as a nautilus around that pillow, but then he was only sad, that it was ending, that the national anthem was next and then the color bars. When he was even younger, before the color bars, it was the Indian head test card, he thought it was mysterious, mythical, the Indian head.
This would take up the screen, static, for a few minutes. He would stare at it, trying to predict that moment it would end. At 2am the nothing began, the snow, and static white noise. The TV turned itself off, the networks actually turned the switch off on the signal and he would feel very alone.
It is years later. Of course TV never goes away, but inside he is alone, like the snow on the screen is inside him and the white noise too. He looked it up, the snow…
“Static on your television is random emissions of electrons from the cathode of your CRT onto the phosphor screen. Cosmic rays, (not really rays but protons or alpha particles), penetrate our atmosphere with extreme uniformity and the density is fairly well known. There is a statistical probability, then, that some of the dots on your screen are caused by them. But you can never know which ones. I learned once that if you turn down the brightness until you can hardly see any dots at all, then these cosmic particles will still be visible, but you can still never know which ones are coming from your TV and which are from outer space.
What I think would be exciting is if you see a streak across the screen, since this would most likely be a cosmic particle that hit it more or less on the same plane as the screen. I’ve never seen one, though. Happy cosmic-“ray” hunting.”
He is waiting for the streak of something to hit him, something on the same plane, but instead he imagines he feels the hits straight on in his gut. He smiles a little at the little, random, cosmic body blows of loneliness.
Bad things happened. They do to everyone. If I said it was no different for him, it might be the last blow he could take. But it was, I guess, no different. He just somehow knew about it. He was not the oblivious guy going to work and getting home after work, etc. He was, as they say, waking up and he was realizing he, his life, was nailed to the floor. Lots of people had it worse– tortured people, people being beat up for real, not just by cosmic particles inside him. But he knew it wasn’t true. Those people had action, at least, a fight. He was stuck, not out of fear anymore or even habit. Habit is repetitive action. He was stuck the way air is everywhere–it just is. He was stuck like the color bars, like the Indian head before the blank snow, stuck and waiting for a cosmic particle to glance his way. Wasn’t coming.
He smiled. His failing heart lurched forward. He had taken up smoking a few years ago. Once he had started smoking he realized that it was what he had been waiting for. The smoking was what made him happy. He was cut out to be a smoker.
It seemed crazy that this was what his life was meant to be, but in every moving part of him he knew it was. The smoking took him to the park with the other smokers, gave him the common ritual and the language to connect–”got a light” “Yeah, somewhere, here you go.” It was nothing but, of course it was everything and it healed him. Eventually he added chess in the square to the smokes. He made friends, walked home with Daryl each day after chess, stopping in together to the market to buy the day’s food; friends. They smoked on the stoop before calling it a night and he would go in and fall in to bed, tired and ok, light as a feather.
He was dying now. This lit, last cigarette was half on the table half off. He loved watching the smoke curl. It was like a cat that wants something curling around his legs. He, himself now, wanted nothing.
It really wasn’t that bad a start to a life. It was like millions. He was simply ignored. Because he was a kid and a kid has to get attention to survive he would clean. They, the people who generally ignored him, his parents, have to remember to feed him, for instance, and if they forget to feed him he will die, same for shelter, and, I guess, for love. He does not know any of these “reasons” for cleaning. He is surviving. He cleaned himself, the floors shone, the kitchen sparkled like a Mr. Clean ad. He didn’t know why. He could have made messes. Could have cooked. He could have run away to the circus. He could have played sports. For the food and shelter though, he had to do something. He sterilized himself, disappeared in order, became a right angle. He was there just barely enough to eat, to be fed. He stayed until he could get a paycheck and then he left.