Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Sensitivity training

Writing by hand, the physical act of setting ink to page. The pleasant and familiar curves of one's own letters! Bringing forth memories of past encounters with the task.

A keyboard only confuses; forcing one down twisted, unnatural paths. For example, one hunches more uncomfortably forward when one must also stare ahead into the screen.

The impression my pen makes on the paper, however slight, is also lasting; it is testament. And I am God, delivering the word. These are my lines, and can be made by no one else.

One freezes in mid-step on a cold rainy day. Holding an umbrella, you’ve nearly stepped in a puddle! The puddle looks up at you. “Get the fuck out of my face,” it says.

You’re not surprised. This sort of stuff happens all the time. You know you’ve gone mad. Who knows how long you’ve known? Years maybe.

You step wide of the puddle and turn, bending down to face it.

“I said, get the fuck out of my face!”

“You can’t really be talking, I know that,” you say.

“Then you must be crazy, right?” The puddle chuckles. “Come on bub! Can’t you do any better? I’m a talking puddle for godsake!” You're distracted by the clearly agitated ripples upsetting his face.

“Are you talking to me?” You ask, as if he were not there, feeling strange, queasy, like you've done this before, and you know it's really gross. “What am I doing,” you ask, “am I talking to myself?”

“Talking!?” The puddle laughs, causing more ripples, “do you hear anything? Maybe you really are mad! Standing here, on this—what?—street?”—More laughter—“Deep in conversation with a puddle!? And not just that, but one inside your head!? Haha, that’s a good one! A knee slapper!” You could swear that if the puddle had knees, he'd just slapped them for emphasis.

“Then what?” you ask, not really paying attention. You look around. "How many people are watching me have this conversation right now?"

“I think you need to focus more on yourself. You know, what role you’re going to play.” You notice the puddle adjust itself, sending small waves to collide about haphazardly. They settle down and a very arrogant, straight-backed man appears, reflecting off his surface. “Or you could focus on me, I am after all a very important element here. A so-to-say Estragon to your Vladimir, if you can pardon my pretension.”

“But you’re just a puddle.”

“Just a puddle!?” Rain drops begin to sound against your jacket. “So I’m just your average talking puddle then?” The puddle replies. Umbrellas pop open as the street quickly empties of unprepared pedestrians. As the raindrops cascade and impact the puddle's face like tiny meteors, he turns violent; his surface ever shifting and crashing into itself. “if I’m nothing special, why don’t you lean over and take a look at this?”

Intimidated and curious, you bend over even further until your face is hovering just above his surface. You strain to see through the thrashing waves, droplets getting getting in your eyes and making you blink. Is some object hidden there? Your strain to peer within. “I don’t see anything,” you say.

“What do you see?” The puddle asks impatiently.

“All I see are rain drops splashing into to you.”


“Exactly what?”

“Where is your umbrella?”

You stiffen. Standing erect, you look about. Where is it? Nauseated now, you turn around to search behind you and in every direction.“My god! Where is my umbrella!?” Shading your eyes against the rain, you shout, “I don't even remember bringing it with me!”

The rain stops, the puddle settles down. He'd look smug, if a puddle could look smug. “Do you doubt my power now?” He demands. His voice rising from below.

“That’s not fair,” You turn to face him. Feeling childish, you have to stop yourself from stamping your feet. “You’re just fucking with me.”

“I am not!” The puddle grows still. “In this, your—our—story, I make your umbrella disappear!”

“But how is that possible?” You ask.

The wind blows a flutter of tiny waves across the puddle’s face, making it indistinct, like the skin of an old woman. “Are you an idiot, boy? How do you think it’s possible?”

The question deserves some thought. Clasping your hands behind your back, you squint up into the sky, ostensibly contemplating the question. After sometime, you muse, “I’ve gone mad, my original explanation, seems very likely.”  You hold your fingers in front of the puddle, ticking them off, as though adding up a simple sum. Clearing your throat in imitation of one who has reached a serious conclusion, you say, “It’s clear to me now.”

Silence stretches, long but not uncomfortable. You've been distracted by birdsong and have almost lost interest in the puddle. Finally, he scowls and says, “Mad!? You? Don’t anthropomorphize so much!”

“What?” You ask, confused.

“Nevermind. There’s not really anything more to talk about.” The puddle sighs and appears to stretch itself out, like an old man preparing to sit and relax in his chair.

A bell! It rings high-pitched and clear.  Instinctively, you jump back. A biker in tight, colorful shorts speeds swiftly through the middle of the puddle, scattering its watery guts. The puddle screams out in shock and pain!

Surprised by the recklessness of the biker and the suddenness of the puddle’s scream, you reflexively cover your mouth and shout out, “Holy Jesus fucking Christ!” The biker glances back at you, a scowl on his mouth, his sunglasses yellow and green reflective insect eyes.

The moment passes. “Puddle?” You ask, heart pounding, waves of paranoia—the urge to run—growing more and finally less intense. “Are you ok?”

“God, you really are an idiot, kid,” he says, his face still tossing wildly. “Of course I’m alright. What the fuck could happen to me? I'm a puddle.”

“Then why did you scream?” You ask.

“To fuck with you, kid.” The puddle grins despite the waves, “here, let me tell you something: as it stands now, I—both you and I actually—have a very real, a very near-at-hand (if ever tenuous, mind you) possibly of actually existing. The possibility of really being in the world, being a part of it! And not just that, but actually existing—actually being—for a very long time to come, in perpetuity perhaps! (Though I imagine many small changes must happen first)” The puddle winks at you conspiratorially.

Is this some kind of lesson? You can hardly believe you're being lectured by a puddle. “Well that’s good news, I guess,” you say, reluctant to take the bait.

“Exactly!” The puddle continues enthusiastically. You're pulled ever closer to its grinning surface, although it's against your will. You're so close now and you wonder how you got there. “Now," it continues, "you were right to comment before that I am just a not-so-special puddle.”

“Oh!” Straightening up again, feeling embarrassed, you interrupt, “I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings by it.”

“Whatever. You were right. I am, ultimately, wholly uninteresting,” says the puddle cheerfully.

(“That’s not true!” You feel obliged to add. But you're not sure if you say them aloud.)

“Yes it’s true. And so are you!—not very interesting I mean,” a watery finger emerges starkly from the middle of the puddle. “But!” It exclaims, “We—you and I—might be lucky enough to remain just so uninteresting for the next thousand, even ten-thousand years!”

“Interesting...” you try to begin—

“Wait!” The puddle, ecstatic, is hopping around. “The point is that nothing bad can happen to me here! To us both! Here we are safe, and someday maybe immutable! Do you understand? Here we might grow to become who-knows-what!" He stretches himself upwards, as if drawn by some force, until he's nearly at eye-level with you. "Here, you and I, son, are God!”

Finally, spent of energy, it collapses limply into itself.

Another pause. You gather your wits.

“Ok, listen puddle, I think I get it. But I don’t have time for your philosophizing. I’ve lost my umbrella—I need to retrace my steps, and it is beginning to rain again. I might still be crazy, I haven’t made up my mind yet. (God knows we’ve had our share of strange looks throughout this conversation!) But all that aside, I’m going now. Goodbye!” You turn to leave.

“If that’s what you wish. See you again!” The puddle waves.

Already on your way, you call back, “Probably!" And you smile. "That was pretty cheesy by the way.”

Then, swallowed up by traffic, forgotten.

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