(Im)[in]patient

You can see through the symptoms, past the stigmas, bedlocked all day, getting up only to eat or shit, and there’s the not being able to pay for your meds and so taking what you have every other day, then every third day, and of looking into the mirror and seeing exhaustion, eyes hazy, cheeks hollow, and of waking up and holding your skull to figure out what’s really going on, with also of course the putting off hangouts, rescheduling, and then ghosting altogether, and there’s weeping in the morning and at night with no reason, of the way that people look at you different once you disclose your diagnosis: pity or fear or both, and then there’s going to one specialist, then another, and being (im)[in]patient, and there are the side effects, blurred vision and slurred speech and constant fatigue, and there’s taking one to counteract the side effects of another, then taking another to balance out the new side effects, and there’s finding the right pharmaceutical cocktail that will keep you alive, and then there’s getting cocktails with friends and the panic attack that comes only because of people being in your vicinity, and there’s bringing someone home and having to stop without knowing why, and to go out in a field where there is nothing but grass and open sky and to lie down in this and look up at this and there’s nothing more you can do now but to lie here and wait, and of course there’s not sleeping for days and having the delusion that you’re now in hell and your body is a macrocosmic vessel holding light and dark and you’re walking through the grocery store in clothes you haven’t washed in weeks, walking through aisles and seeing the lights all around, the cold air of the freezer section, and the faces of grocers are distending into sneers or ghoulish smiles and everything you hear is directed at you, and that you haven’t taken your meds in a week, haven’t slept, haven’t eaten or showered, and there’s making a concerted effort to get out of bed and get to your therapy appointment, and there’s tracing it back, or else trying to, back to the source, where it all began, and was it some instance in your childhood, eating paint chips or dust bunnies or teething on the electrical cord, what was it you want to know, and it’s so hard to remember when you haven’t slept, so you take benadryl like it’s candy and knock out for a day or two, get your shit together, wash, etc., and you’re still wondering what it was, sourcing it back to trauma that might’ve caused it all, and your family history becomes a set of Russian dolls, pulling out one surprise after another, and you’re unearthing bodies buried with concrete slabs on top of the caskets, and old wounds bleed freely as you lie in the bathtub with no water, grabbing the razor but not knowing what to do with it, and thinking of drawing the bath first, and the jumble that comes with counteracting your body’s natural instincts, fears, etc., and there’s putting down the razor, picking it back up again, wanting to cease consciousness, it’s here, the weight of being as you see it now, the supreme responsibility that comes with being alive, and you’re looking at your arms, the way the blood courses through your veins like miniature rivers, and you’re not a macrocosm after all but a micro-, and you’re still palming the blade, now testing it on a small patch of skin as if this is some sort of allergy test, and you let the blood trickle slightly down the flesh before pulling back and then wanting to do it and then wanting to do it and then wanting to do it and then not…wanting…but it isn’t clear which way this is going to go, and so you put the blade down to think it over, and in the process you fall asleep, and wake up half a day later, not even remembering why you’re in the bathtub, until you see the razor, and before you can stop yourself you throw it in the trash and take the trash out to the dumpster and don’t look back, and you come back in, and you sit, and you listen, and you cry, and you remember to breathe.

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Aesthetic Choices

You’ve made all the changes in your life that you deemed necessary on the path toward Moving On. You’ve arranged for yourself a space that is yours. No one can enter this space for fear of electroshock. You’ve taken all the necessary precautions. You’ve put newspaper around your couch. You’ve wallpapered your house in leaves that you collect right at the point of tree departure. You waited under trees, sometimes for hours, to collect these leaves. They had to be falling. You’ve made an effigy and burned it and in the process singed off your eyebrows. You played it off like it was an aesthetic choice. You’ll use the word aesthetic more, you decide. You’ve realized that there is no brilliant a-ha moment, and that it’s more like listening to a-ha on YouTube repeat with a pint of Ben & Jerry’s by your side, watching Take On Me until it means nothing at all. You’ll collect all of the waste you make and pile it in a room instead of in the trash. You’ll tell yourself that you’re building a modern art installation, try to figure out how to get people to come to a mini gallery that’s just your house. You’ve seen things like this before in art documentaries, so it’s okay. The singed eyebrows will give you an air of artistic mystery. You’ll do things like pile all the baskets into a shopping cart and then fill the baskets with groceries and unload each basket on the conveyor belt, one after another, because you like the look and feel of the baskets in there, littles to a big. You’ve looked out there for a person who says and does even a modicum of these things, but you haven’t found them yet, so you make spider webs of aesthetic choices in the meantime. You collect gourds and turn them into instruments with which you can play vaguely Renaissance type songs in your house that has been emptied of everything except for what’s in the Waste Room, which has now become the Everything Room. You consider breaking down the rest of your house until it’s nothing but the ER and living in that space you made. You could use the refuse of the house to build a fourth wall, but you might just bring the refuse into the ER too. You pile on shirts and pants at the resale shop until you become a rolly ball of a person and then pull the tags out, one at a time, to pay for them. You decide you no longer need a closet. If you wear all of these things at once, it’s like you’re not feeling anything at all. The way that you paint is that you place a canvas beneath you and crane your neck and pretend like you’re filling in the blanks in the sky. The resultant drops become the painting and you sell it right away through a garage sale that’s really just an art sale on your lawn. You only sell the one, but you are not discouraged. You are fierce. You’ve been living post-him for nine months now. You’re now able to chart the breakup in babytime. You consider finding mothers who just delivered today so you can find birth in death, but you decide that this will be a difficult endeavour. You break open a bag of potatoes and line them up on your kitchen floor so that they can build sprouts and you can have a potato garden for all of time. You won’t break down the house anymore, but will instead cover its walls with your work. You will run into the rain and let it plaster your abundant clothes to your skin, making you a soggy multicolored marshmallow. Some nights you’ll let the rain weigh you down and you’ll collapse on your back with the clothes as bedding. Some nights you’ll run naked through the streets and jump and grab at streetlights so that their power can be yours. Some mornings you won’t want to get up, but some mornings you will get up despite this. You will spite all the things that need spiting. You will jump through the sprinklers. You will open the fire hydrants. You will trail paint behind you, spilling onto the ground, because you’re Moving On.

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Blueshift

They got me through subdermal registration. I’d taken the precaution of digging the chip out of my arm, sewing myself shut, and letting it heal. Only thing is I didn’t take into account the nanos. As I tried to make it past customs, the nanos showed up on my scan like a thousand tiny internal bees, buzzing and moving through my circulatory system. None even at my arm, where the chip released them as a last ditch effort, but all throughout the rest of my body.

It’s a three strikes and you’re going to penal situation. Funny, no one’s played baseball in a couple hundred years, but the phrase still remains. Some things just stick. Anyway, they asked if I had anything to say about the nanos. I kept my mouth shut, but I was already incriminated. My parole officer gave up on me. Recommended I go to penal.

It’s a generation ship. Built to last a thousand lifetimes, and with the capability of sustaining all of those lives through nanosleep. No need for cryo or preservation, because the nanos do all the pruning at the cellular level. You could wake up a thousand years in the future and be just the same as you were when you went to sleep.

This ship has me thinking of Australia. Legend goes that before Austrolasia, Australia used to be its own continent. There used to be an empire called The Brits, and they sent their nastiest to a penal colony in Australia. (Still feels weird saying Australia instead of Austrolasia.) Anyway, move the clocks forward a couple decades and you’ve got a fully functional country born of the descendants of criminals.

Wishful thinking to compare this ship to Australia? Maybe. Either way, you wouldn’t want to be on board. They don’t have much in the way of actionable punishments other than The Hole.

They can’t execute you, but what they can do is keep you in nanosleep indefinitely. Rumor is that some of the guys have been in The Hole for hundreds of years. Hard to tell who, because when you peer through the thick glass of their pods, you see nothing but the standard issue morphsuits. Nothing to give them away like state of dress. Can’t judge by haircuts either, because they’re all bald. Nanosleep does that to you after a while. Like in the old days, before they cured cancer, people used to say you’d go bald just like that. No eyebrows, nothing.

So I got into fights. Out of camera range, away from patrols. I got guys so pissed off that they’d attack me in plain sight later on, get detained and put into nanosleep. Somehow I got through without so much as a slap on the wrist.

You forget faces after a while. I wish I could say that’s a reversible side effect, but it’s not. The disease is time itself. Your wife, kids, parents… All of them go away. Tabula rasa. Just wiped, man. Nothing.

It’s easy to get institutionalized if you’re not proactive. Dudes staring out the windows, watching as we blueshift from the ship’s speed. Their heads lolling, holes for eyes. We call them Husks. Might be a fate even worse than permanent nanosleep.

I keep myself busy. Read every book I can find. When after a few years I finish all the books in the ship’s scant library, I write my own. Work with the prison librarian to bind them by hand, produce covers.

I start my own library. The librarian helps me out with a number of volumes, but I supply my own, too. Most of them fiction, but some old books from what I can remember. I read, we fly. To where, nobody knows.

We’re not meant to know where the destination is. I ask the librarian. He flushes like the first time we met, when he wasn’t yet sure that I was one of the “good guys.” Funny term, that one. Everything is relative, not just time.

I read up on Einstein, find out about the idea of time dilation. Of something moving so fast that time is slowed down relative to it. Works with supermassive black holes too, but it’s more feasible for humans to get a ship going that fast than it is to make it out of a black hole alive.

It’s to the point where six months aboard a ship traveling at nearly lightspeed would be a thousand years back home. We’ve been blueshifting for months. Who knows what’s back there on Earth.

It’s hard to keep track of time, but one day we reach it. A nearly barren, inhospitable desert planet. We all hop off, stretch our legs like it’s been nothing more than a long car ride. We enjoy being in spacesuits for the first time. This is penal. This is a new home. So why does it feel so familiar?

I run the library for weeks before it hits me. I sneak out at night. Wait for a sandstorm that will cover my tracks. And then. And then:

Gleaming in the distance, planted in the sand. The Brooklyn Bridge. Spanning from one desert plateau to the other.

Huh.

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