How Did We Get Here?

Like Dorothy singing ‘Over the Rainbow’ we imagine a better place because there has to be, because this can’t be it. To solve the dilemma of not here, not now, you think to convene a town hall meeting, but you don’t want to invite all to attend because you know there’s poison out there and you always recognize it too late, once it already circulates through your blood. You cut your finger to bleed yourself, and you think of leeches doing a job of good over harm. They’re black and ugly and you prefer the poison to their cure. How many times you’ve preferred the poison.

You don’t believe this is life intended. More like a rollercoaster that’s jumped its tracks and flies out of control still diving and twisting and turning out of habit, not because its wheels are held to do so. Everyone’s going crazy. Smiles drug induced because we’ve forgotten the art of conversation. We race past those with little voices not slowing to hear as we build walls of protection to keep out what we most need. Our filters are clogged and we no longer can distinguish the good from the bad. We run when we should walk and sit when we should dance. We’ve lost the ability to navigate, so we cruise like automatons unable to feel breezes and sunrays. Our skin burns, and we don’t know. Our lips grow cracked and dry, and only after the fact do we apply balm, a mere band-aid to the dysfunctional life society breeds when progress takes us backwards.

Dreams offer visions of marshmallow clouds but awakeness burns our retina. “Glaring pain,” you said, or was it I? Did I speak of the pain the last time we lunched or did I offer encouragement and platitudes. “It will all be fine.” But is that true with no one at the helm? Can we just trust the drive without a driver?

The only thing that keeps me going beside the dictatorial rant of the ticking clock are the images of fantasy. The small lives of microscopic proportions. The couch talking to the pillow. It’s the maybe’s and the could be's that I love. They ignore the clock for it doesn’t speak to them. They reside outside in a world they’ve conjured from knowledge through resistance. “We need not follow,” they say. “Your rules aren’t ours.” And I want to echo their words. “Your rules. Your rules.” No one cares about my rules. My rules unsanctioned sit on the steps of the pool tapping toes against water wanting to play. The fight in me diminishes and I think of running, but sprinters don’t carry suitcases and I have a dog. Once you’re in you can’t easily get out. That’s the fine print on the back of the birth certificate. No one flips the document until it’s too late.

Not too late. What would not too late look like? More no’s, perhaps. Shoulder shrugs. Why explain especially to ears that don’t listen? Cashing in and cashing out. Remembering sudden death that suddenly makes the money look sufficient. Yes, plenty to live until tomorrow. But you plan beyond tomorrow and then walk around in concrete shoes, box-like and ugly. “Who designed this fashion?” you ask, but passersby whiz in their dainty collection. They don’t feel your weight, but they also can close their eyes to slaughtered animals and eat meat, to bloodied children and wave the flag. Your eyes don’t close as easily so the pain sneaks in via your pupils. Too late you shut your eyes. Too late because the images are within and no matter how tight you squeeze your eyelids, you can’t stop seeing.

When you put color upon the walls you blot out the images, lulled into rhythm by the up down up down of the saturated bristles hued in the color du jour. When all the walls are covered, you panic because how now will you escape? You skittle through your house looking for scuffmarks on baseboards saying, “Hold on. I’ll fix you,” but you know the baseboards are fine and you’re fixing yourself. They know it, too, but don’t mind a sprucing up layer of white. “Spring time,” they say.

But then the baseboards are clean and all that’s left is to wash the brushes. Paint mixes with water and goes downstream trailing color like a road map. “Follow me,” it says, and you do until your feet are muddy and your legs are tired. You sit on the banks of the jungle river and sigh, “How did I get here?” And then a chorus echoes from behind thick vines singing, “How did I get here? How did I get here?” A musical erupts around you and you’re on stage with a smiling audience filling the theatre. The crowd sways involuntarily caught up in the music and you invite all to sing along, and soon an entire auditorium is singing, “How did I get here?”

The music ends and you take a bow. The orchestra packs up instruments as the audience exits through doors at the back, left, and right. Streams of people forget about the chant and forget about the questioning and get back on freeways to drive the speed of the car ahead of them. We once listened to radio but now we mostly talk on cell phones, which apparently is much better than actually driving over and seeing the person whose voice comes through our earpiece. If we’re with them we can’t do anything else, and in the religion of multitasking that would be a sin.

“Sinner!” they scream as they stone me, for I held a dinner party with no purpose of moving forwards. I refused to denounce my crime during sentencing, so the judge was harsh. “You’re sentenced to forever,” he said, which I found vague. “Forever what?” I tried to ask, but my lawyer shoved an elbow into my side, which made me buckle and lose my wind.

In my cell I reflect on my choices and wonder if I’d really earned punishment or if I’d just landed in a parallel reality when I finally got to slow down. “Maybe I need to be more specific in stating my wishes,” I think, but it hardly matters now for it’s too late to undo the confusion.

I reach for a piece of black coal upon the stone floor, rub it between thumb and index finger. I then turn to the blank slate of the prison walls and start to write myself out of my reality one coal mark at a time.


QT said...

I feel it too. Everything you wrote, I feel it too.

Very, very nice.

Girlplustwo said...

wow. De, you are really writing some incredible stuff. that retreat did you good, sister.

this is really amazing. publishable amazing. you make me think about the inanimate in a way that makes my heart beat a little faster.

Anonymous said...

God, this is so lovely. I think so many things when I'm reading - perhaps because I'm all caught up in The Tudors on showtime, I keep flashing to these times. But I also am reminded of 100 years of solitude and it's brilliant ending. Keep on keeping on girlfriend, you're writing is speaking.

Emily said...

There are parts of this that just jumped out to me and seemed to connect to what I've been thinking lately--the image of the shrugging of shoulders, the "this is not what life intended" Well done.

Willie Baronet said...

This is my favorite post of yours yet! It reads like a manifesto.

What a gift you have. And I changed "my day" to color, so there!