Where did that sudden sensation come from, the one that burst through the wall of last night’s bedroom with a sudden tearing sound like bat wings, jerking you out of bed by your feet and shoving you into the night with just enough time to grab your coat? Where did it come from? Where did it go? And why did it drive you of your house and down the street, lingering always just a few paces behind, pressing your face toward the pavement and rhythmically swatting at your feet with a cracked concrete club like a city cop on the beat?
“Keep moving,” came the wordless reply.
Why did it bother marching you all the way to the corner liquor store for a bottle of Dr. Ordinaire’s Rose Wine, and how did it know you had just enough money in your coat pocket? How did it know you’d hand over the money without a word before turning into the night and wandering the streets with your collar turned up and your eyes turned down past average buildings full of slumbering, vulnerable people relying on nothing more than an old brick wall and a pane of dirty glass to keep the world at bay?
There were lights on in some of those boxes, and as you passed the open windows you could see people watching television. You imagined someone was watching while you were watching someone else watch television. It was at that moment you felt yourself sliding out of your own skin, a full glass on a long table in a big boat at sea, but you didn’t know how to stop yourself from spilling. The wine was kicking in.
The sound of sporadic gunfire popped in your ear like God’s bubble wrap from somewhere in the distance, and your blood ran cold on cue. The sensation, which hadn’t left you yet, tapped you on the shoulder and handed you The Fear. Chills ran up your spine. Those bullets missed you by a mile, but the sound killed something inside, pinching your soul like wet fingers to a flame.
Passing a dumpster, your nostrils cringed from the reek of rotting convenience. The legs of a scarecrow stuck out from behind it formed a bony valley for the spreading stream of piss, a man still capable of singing something you didn’t recognize. When your brain refused to accept what you were seeing, you quickly looked away.
But a voice spoke to you through the cracks, saying, “When you are dead and gone, you will be buried in your own trash. You aren’t like the Egyptians, for you have no use for pottery. You aren’t like the French, because you don’t understand beauty. You don’t have much use for old magazines, empty bottles, stained mattresses, spent cigarette butts or dirty diapers, either, but you’ll soon be buried under a giant mound of them. You create great things to destroy.”
“When you are dead and gone, you’ll have big-screen grave markers and leave behind obsolete computers with which to tally up your deeds. You’ll leave behind a transcription of your life so detailed and complex that it will be possible to hear your thoughts whispering and crawling like snakes under all that trash, and your descendants shall know nothing of peace.”
“Archeologists of the distant future will find you buried beneath your achievements, your bones fused with plastic, your hip made of metal, your ears hung with pins, your heart full of oil, your teeth made with gold, and your brain full of the shit born on the typewriter’s of early science fiction writers.”
“As perfect trash, your remains will be perfect. Your rotting corpse will smell like a new car. Your bloated rot will be polished and scientific. Your drying intestines will glow green. You were the first children of the digital age, but your earliest memories will be available on 8-mm.”
At this, your brain spun like small tires in deep mud. You looked down at a pain in your hand. The thick glass lip of Dr. Ordinaire’s half-empty Rose Wine had pressed against a finger and left a bruise. Just a few minutes ago, you noticed the sky was getting lighter. Soon, people would be turning off their alarms, and turning on the lights. They’ll be waking up, logging on, tuning in, punching in, perking up, stopping by, heading out, freshening up, and filling up. The machine will hum to life.
People will climb into their cars feeling personally violated because someone parked too fucking close to the driver’s side.
They’ll drive to thankless jobs and perform meaningless tasks in the corporate cock of concrete that sprang up in the field where your grandparents used to fuck.
They’ll make remarks about the kind of people who live in “that neighborhood” as they pass by the tired old hovel you call home.
So where did the sensation come from, where did it go, and what are you supposed to do now? You looked down at the bottle, made a face, chucked it into the weeds. You wonder how long it takes for glass to break down.
A lot longer than a man, that’s for damn sure.