30DEC2011 – Back from my bi-annual trip to Hoth to see the Padawan. I gifted him with Diamond Age technology and in return I received a mild cold. I managed to keep it from getting serious; I gulped down the Emergen-cee I carry in my bag and slept 12 hours. And at some point during that endless night I dreamed I still hadn’t graduated from boarding school.
I was in the bedroom I’d occupied at student home Plainfield, a spacious ranch house with its own dairy barn and acres of punishment lawns located deep in Amish territory. The desk was the same, as was the lamp, the too-thin bedspread and the cork board on the sliding closet door. Every detail, preserved just for me. Waiting for my return. Oh, no. Not here again…
Suddenly I felt as though I’d never actually left, as though I’d spent the last twenty years in a cobwebbed cryostasis, keeping mute watch over all the fictional characters I’d become as I evolved through the years, each one taking their shift at living my life for me. There was a sensation of unfolding hopeless helplessness and it felt like “forever” in the way that holding a snowball feels “cold”. There was no signal strength, no connectivity, and no memory. I’d never traveled the world, I’d never actually written any of the words I’d carved out on paper, and I’d certainly never fallen in love. There was nothing. How many times had I dreamed I was waking up and getting dressed and taking the subway to the office only to wake up and discover I was still in bed? My simulation had paused, allowing reality to come crashing in.
Presently I turned to the window and looked out upon a towering oil refinery that stood where farmland and cornfields once reigned. I used to hide in those fields on summer afternoons, holding my breath and listening hard to the tiny rifle crack of the dried stalks beneath my shoes and the buzz of the insects swarming around me. It was the first time I’d thought of crickets as tiny machines, built in a factory somewhere.
There was a great explosion somewhere to the right, and I could see clouds billowing and unfolding like a great flower, a shiny, shimmering burst of all the colors of post-rain oil sheen in strip mall parking lot. Then I could see heavy oil surging toward me and I reached out to crank the window closed, knowing this fragile operation would be enough to hold it back.
One moment ended, the next began.
Then I was sitting next to Romero Alverez in the main auditorium of Founders Hall, a great marble R2D2 where all the big events and assemblies were held. Inside the main rotunda were the flags of all fifty states beneath a vaulted ceiling so fucking majestic you could fly a UAV around inside without bumping into the great brass statue of Willy Wonka himself.
It’s not like Romero and I were friends, and I couldn’t tell you anything about him, really. We didn’t travel in the same social circles. (Come to think of it, I didn’t even have a social circle. More of an elliptical arc, like the Hale-Bopp comet.) I turned to Romero and asked him if he remembered graduating back in ’89. “I think so?” he said.
Maybe that’s what happened to my graduating class; maybe that’s why we appear to have fallen off the face of the earth. Because we’re all caught fast in the amber web of the same nightmare. Sleepers, sleeping.
Bottom line, I was horrified to be re-living this event again. How many more times is this going to happen? What does it mean? It was like climbing to the top of one mighty mountain only to open my eyes and realize I was still crawling around on the ground, and as I lay there panting with exhaustion I wondered how many layers I had left to go before the air tasted like air again, and the numbers on the clock would stand still long enough to be recognized.
We’re at the end of the year, now. Tomorrow night, Mickey will bring his big hand and his little hand high over his head and clap them once, just long enough to propel the whole wide world through the doorway of the universal danger room of 2012.