Stationary Wandering

Guest post by: Ain Bailey

She makes lists of fantastic things. Scrawls improbabilities on crisp sheets of unlined white paper, or yellow tablets, creased and lined. It doesn’t matter which, she is merely daydreaming. Nonchalantly she admires the slant of her letters or the swirls of her words, downplaying the concepts behind them. She focuses on her penmanship and distances herself from ideas that ache.

She thinks maybe she is hungry for milestones. Eager for big events to mark the passage of time, to document her evolution, to prove that she is moving forward in the world. What else could it be? She was not the child who grew up believing in fairy tales. She did not fancy herself the sleeping princess nor the one locked in a tower waiting to be saved. Her hair was not overly long and golden and her father was not king. If she had any part in make believe stories, she was a fairy or a mermaid; petite, autonomous, unattached and free or a unicorn; rare, ancient and alone.

In her past there was no thought of love and its attendant minions. To her weddings, marriage, baby showers, and all that came after, were not even real enough to be fantasies. Now these themes spill into her most mundane moments, caress her face distractingly, when she is focused on other things. It is a tickle, a distant glimmer, an un-sneezed sneeze.

Maybe she is just seeking tradition, longing for special events to break the monotony and give her something to anticipate. When she thinks about it a part of her does ache to bring magic back to a Christmas ruined by retail work, by far-flung family, by growing up. She imagines her preoccupation with love is because she wants something to look forward to.

Some meaning that can turn a random Tuesday, or weekend, into something more. This is not a thing she will analyze because it is not something she can control anyway. This is one thing she cannot do alone.

In her youth, she envisioned a future as a single mom, shepherding her two children from school to home. When she even thought about it, at three year intervals, maybe four. She used to wonder then if she would remember being twelve and imagining herself at thirty with her children’s school aged hands held tightly in hers. She is thirty now and there are no children, no prospect or planning for them either. She starts to feel wistful, disappointed and maybe just a little old, until she remembers that nothing about her life now, is how she imagined it then. Small relief, but enough to push the question away.

Maybe she just wants to belong, to someone, to something. She doesn’t believe in cliques, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t need one. Maybe that is the reason why her pens run so quickly out of ink. She daydreams family, a small and new one, creating itself as it goes. She dreams of holidays that belong to only them. Plots them out on the calendar so that they fill in the days that society chooses not to celebrate. She names them, and then forgets the names.  She writes them down and then scribbles over them until it is like they never existed.

She dreams of vow renewals although she has never even been asked to speak them for a first time. She dreams of honeymoons each year, although she has yet to have the original one. She plans her wedding makeup and chooses wedding dresses in her head, accounting for her body type, of course. Her fantasies are realer than she would ever admit. But she is not admitting anything at all. She is nothing if not a realist.

She wonders if she should have stayed with those who were ready, who would have spoken, and meant in their way, the words she is just beginning to realize she wants to hear. Could she have swallowed her discontent for the promise of a dream that never used to exist and is still forming? Would that have been better than how she feels now, untethered?

She does not write these questions down. She is not analyzing this thing. Only scribbling meaningless words on the borders of pages and imagining how it might feel to believe in magic.

God

 

As a younger man, I was considerably more prone to philosophical waxing in my writing than I am now. Though it is often embarrassing (usually when I’m confronted with horrifically trite high school era poetry) every now and then I find something that surprises me with its competence. What follows is one such example. Though its linguistic pretension is occasionally unsubtle, I’ve always loved this piece. It says everything and nothing about a subject of little interest to me, but which at one time I felt was worthy of this small exploration: God.

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Currently, I am standing on a ball of infinitesimal size, hurtling through a vast and empty blackness, seemingly without end. I am standing on this ball and trying, in vain as always, to feel that movement. Alas, I cannot.  This does not stop me from standing, however, or walking, or sitting, as it were, all the while straining to feel that ineffable speed, awed by its scale.

Invariable I am confronted by a stranger perplexed or offended by my slack jawed mien. Whenever this happens I usually cease my sensory experiment and go about my daily routine which begins as follows: my first order of business is a visit to the bathroom to admire my haggard morning face, stretch, wash, et cetera, et cetera. When I am done with this, I commonly dress and begin my day in earnest.

This beginning to my day, as commonplace as it may seem, is anything but. Millions of cells working in concert are responsible for all of these actions.  They die by the thousands with every move I make, and are born in just as great a number synchronously. They themselves operate by mechanisms with strange names like mitochondria or Golgi apparatus which in turn are composed of even smaller particles called atoms which are made up of electrons, protons and neutrons and so on and so forth. In all likelihood, these atoms and ribosomes and cells, sad to say, do not care about me. This has no a reflection on my own intrinsic worth; it is merely a function of the nature of such things. I don’t much care about them ether, small stupid things that they are. And if I die, they die. It is also true, however, that if they all die I also die; so in that respect we are on even footing.

Digression aside, my contemplation of size on a universal scale is obviously futile. I have neither the frame of reference, nor the synapse strength required to fathom such a thing. I continue to try. This is not out of a stubborn refusal to accept my limitations, nor is it an innate arrogance which drives me to attempt the impossible. No, this is something much simpler: an inability, of sorts, to relinquish the nuances of a concept once introduced to the idea. Perhaps relinquish is the wrong word since, technically, understanding of the nuances was never really mine, nor anyone else’s for that matter. A man who could envision the boundlessness of space in its entirety would likely be driven mad. His insanity would not come from the vastness of his vision, but from his impotent fury at being trapped on this speck of a world hurtling through the heavens. And at the same time, his presumed insanity would merely be a function of our limited viewpoints. As sanity and its opposite have always been functions of the prevalent perspective, this, unfortunately, would make him no less a lunatic. And yet, still there are those like I, staring upwards into the night, worshiping that awesome gyration, gleefully attempting to calculate those eons of light, and clawing recklessly towards that beckoning madness.

Cells in my shins and femurs, eyes and nose, arms and heart, live and die almost infinitely, perhaps dreaming of endoplasmic reticula and cells, of bones and tissues… of organs at a stretch.

If they can imagine those things, and dream them as they are, as I, in my personifying arrogance might imagine, then they have transcended the scale of my dreams by fathoms; but still, they have never dreamed of me.