Being invisible was just the tip of the iceberg

Suddenly the Invisible Man is besieged by old snapshots.

Snapshots on the walls of his daughter’s empty apartment when he drops off something.

Including one of his wife wearing fairy wings and waving a magic wand while his daughter, as a child, regards the camera with a sober expression.

Snapshots in frames on his desk, or taped to the walls.

Including one of his wife smiling in a blue swimming pool, holding his daughter as a toddler, also smiling.

So much sunshine and smiling.

There are more. In one he carries his daughter on his shoulders. It is from before he became invisible. It is underexposed and he has black hair and a black beard and looks scary. His daughter is hugging his head. They are surrounded by flowers.

(It is the older daughter in most of the pictures, because the pictures of the younger daughter are mostly digital, and lost forever, or somewhere hard to recover).

Looking at all these pictures would be bad enough for the Invisible Man for the nostalgia alone but it’s worse.

The Invisible Man thought being invisible was bad, but it was just the tip of the iceberg. The snapshots goof up time and the Invisible Man becomes unstuck and encounters all his past selves, and the past selves of those he loves.

If you think being invisible is bad – and listen, it is, robbing banks is fun only so long – becoming unstuck in time and encountering all your past selves really sucks.

Because it turns out every single one is a stranger.

Those past selves you remember don’t even exist.

Memory is funny that way.

And in many cases, not every single one of these past selves is someone you’d care to remember.

There is a reason memory does that.

This is why forgiveness is so important.

Because sometime the snapshots add up and time dissolves and then what?

He calls his wife and apologizes.

Water under the bridge, she says.

Sunk cost.

Careers in Science: Hymnology

What was I talking about just now? asks the hymnologist.

Ffff, dunno, says his daughter.

Neither one of us is listening to me, he says.

I’m really tired, says his daughter.

Oh, right, slugs, he says.

Right, she says.

I feel better about killing them with beer traps than catching them and salting them on the sidewalk. Because one is murder, and the other one is their choice — hey look, beer! you know?

Right, she says. OTOH they end up dead either way. Although drowning in beer is maybe nicer?

But we’ll never know. Maybe they are paralysed and drown slowly and in great terror, he says.

It is a beautiful morning, with a variegated sky. They discuss meteorology. From there (spurred in part by their previous discussion of the ethics of killing slugs) they discuss human values, the nature of existence, the existence (or non-existence) of god, the relation between atheism and faith and agnosticism, astrophysics and the Big Bang, and economics.

At one point, the hymnologist avers that it makes no difference whether god exists or not because he does not intervene (since what would be the sense in that? If there is a god who creates the universe, it would only make sense if he did not intervene), and his daughter tells him he is an Epicurean.

We should like go to Colorado or Washington State and get high and talk about this stuff, says the hymnologist to his daughter. Once you’re over 21, of course.

They discuss the value of philosophy, and how impoverished a life without art and philosophy and other goofing around is.

Some days they sit in the car and don’t say a word to each other, but some days are like this.

 

What did the crow say

It is, in May, a pleasure to fly above a city aburst with life, juicy leaves and rooftops, worms in gutters garbage in backyards a god just standing there taking it all in and when it turns to June and just as green and warm sky blue or gray or rainy and animals and people doing their thing, it’s a pleasure it is.

And to sit on a wire or branch at midday and cars drive past below and dogs on leashes and people some fast some slow and the god of lunch sits on his bench and shares a sausage or crispy chicken, the sweet-sour sauce is sticky on the beak and must be wiped in grass, but the chicken is tender and still hot from the wok.

Skwerls clink to bark, they and everything else are in their place, the slain are on the battlefield the hanged hang everything is as it should be. A girl walks with her father and declaims the doom of all existence or at least humanity and right she may be and he puts an arm around her for a second or two and lets her go again.

Quickening

It’s Friday and on Fridays everyone has a two-hour lunch break (you do, right? If not, send a letter to your Congressman) and because OdinĀ  has time to meander a roundabout path he almost makes it to the store before the crow notices him.

Let me tell you something: having largish birds swoop around you close enough to hear their feathers on the air quickens the heart with joy, as long as they’re not pecking at you or shitting on you or something belonging to you or where you wanted to sit.

Heart quickened, Odin buys a mylar bag of cashew nuts and dried cranberries, and a small plastic bag of miniature dried sausages.

Odin eats some nuts and eats a sausage on his way back to the bench to share with the crow.

The atmosphere is cycling back and forth between the poles of nice, sunny, late-spring day and Is it maybe going to rain or not, without ever actually raining.

When he arrives at the bench, Odin is thinking about writing a love scene with the sentence, They kissed so hard a piece of dried sausage trapped between two molars was dislodged.

The grey crow has its rules of engagement, and they include not approaching closer than four feet. It will not come onto the bench for a bite of sausage. It hides the big pieces, and some of the nuts, and eats the small pieces and the rest of the nuts and cranberries.

On a two-hour lunch break, you have time to just sit on a bench in the sun/shade/sun/shade and rejoice in being a living thing.

Part of all this.

Just a part, one part among many.

What say the slain?

How fortunate you are, this very second.

And how I love you.

Der Traumpolizist

You are whining in your sleep. I pat your head and you stop.

At breakfast I ask you about the dream.

You tell me: powerlessness and loss, violation and theft, paralysis and loss of voice. Weakness, hopelessness and fear. Exhaustion and failure.

Every living thing must have dreams like this. Especially after a week like the one we just had. Fear of this disease or that, fear of going broke, fear of getting old and having nothing. Fear of cancer in me, or — a thousand times worse — fear of cancer in a 16 year old boy.

But then yesterday the reprieve: alles okay. Everybody healthy for now. Sometimes the universe just wants to give you a good scare.

Tonight I will be the dream police. I will find the robbers and get back your purse.

Don’t get off the boat, now with a 30% chance of cutesy alliteration

It was a weird, warm, wasted winter day, quiet in an eye-of-the-storm way and Odin sat on the bench, unfocused and confused — he had just called his wife and she had complained about confusion and lack of focus, too — sort of a postapocalyptic, full-moon feeling – and unpacked the curry chicken sandwich.

The crows were already waiting. Odin could see Huginn and when he tossed him a piece of the sandwich, Muninn swooped down, landing behind the bench and Odin gave him a piece. The third crow must have been waiting too, out of sight, because it showed up seconds after that.

In just a jiffy, everyone was eating.

Odin also had some cashew nuts and cranberries in a mylar bag.

I don’t know. Quiet isn’t the right word. More like, timeless. Some days life hurries you along, but on days like this, it’s like the temporal axis has just fallen off the graph completely.

Bare branches are black against bright grey sky.

This particular universe has been behaving oddly.

Like: Odin writes in his journal about the fact that there is actually only one day in all of time, and we just keep on repeating it, just with changed hopes and regrets; and then that same evening he visits a friend and they watch Groundhog Day.

Or, Odin writes in his journal about how everything is okay, and his friend sends him a link to a button online labeled “Make Everything OK” that you press, then there’s a loading bar, then it announces that everything has been made okay.

Or, Odin is waiting for a bus and a woman asks him something about the bus, and instead of waning, their conversation grows and is interesting and when the bus comes, after half an hour, it is too soon and the woman, who is a painter visiting town from Frankfurt to look at the Lucien Freud exhibition, gives Odin a catalog of her last exhibition saying, I brought this along in case I met anyone I wanted to give it to, and I’d like you to have it.

Sometimes things just go really right, sometimes, if you let them, Odin thinks.

So, Odin is trying to figure out why, when his wife asked him if he loved his life, he almost burst into tears.

Odin loves life, and he loves many of these universes, but don’t ask him if he loves his life unless you have the time.

In fact, don’t ask him.

In fact, it reminds Odin of Apocalypse Now, when they get off the boat and a tiger attacks them in the jungle and the guy hollers, Don’t get off the boat.

What say the slain?

Same as always.

What say the hanged?

He owed me money.

He threatened me.

I didn’t even see him.

I thought he was a wild animal.

 

 

Little red hat

2014 is going to be the year Odin streamlines his life. The year he throws old crap away.

Like all his t-shirts with clever sayings on them.

Or not — his kids might want those, so he’ll hang onto them.

But his workshop, all this junk! And on top of that, the new beer making kit he got for Christmas. And not even counting the wet plate camera he hasn’t bought yet. Where to start?

Odin is sitting in the attic, telling his wife what’s in boxes so she can inventorize what they have in their attic prior to throwing stuff out. Odin is like, why not just throw it out and save a step. And he is also like, old magazines in this box. Painting canvases. Some sort of plumbing fixtures. Travel case for a harp.

In another universe, Odin has a temporary job taking inventory for some company. He is standing in front of a wall of televisions in a shop, counting them. The Space Shuttle takes off and then explodes. Odin sees two dozen images of debris angling through the sky, leaving a white trail.

Odin and his wife are doing pretty good in the cellar. They donate a lot of old clothes. Then, this box: ballerina duds. A princess dress. Like that.

A little red hat.

There is another universe, 20 years ago, it is the carneval season, children are being led through games at a public carneval party in the city hall.

About 20 years ago. Or only 12 — Odin gets his universes mixed up. It would depend which daughter, Thor or Loki.

Christ.

Through the blue haze of all the smoking mommies, Odin can see her, in her red hat, covered in confetti, wearing the red hat, dancing.

There was also a lady bug costume, he finds the hat to that one too.

Odin remembers a lady bug dancing, spinning in circles.

Odin and his wife box the red hat back up.

So anyway.

Today is the first work day of 2014. It is quiet out. Odin is not hungry at lunch time but he wants to check on the crows.

Odin strolls to the store. It is warm for the second day of January. The small grey crow swoops down and accompanies Odin to the store, where he gets peanuts and a curry chicken sandwich.

He sits on the bench and all three crows are there waiting.

It is such a quiet day, like the end of the world. Like the world could still decide 2013 was the final year.

The four of them eat sandwich, they eat peanuts.

What say the slain?

I dreamt someone on a motorcycle whipped my leg with a strap and captured me, I was balanced on the handlebars and gathered myself and kicked them to get away, and woke myself up kicking in bed. I asked the dream what it was and it said, what supports us binds us. It said, love. It said, vitality. It said, escape.

What say the hanged?

Memory is not carved in stone after all. It is reinvented all the time. It is stories you tell yourself, and you know how reliable stories are. You find a little red hat and make something up, because you know who wore it, and you know how much you love her.

May we always remember.