March 30th, 2022
Meditation During An Existential Emergency In A Midwest Cafe
At Lola’s. Again. Staring out at Dodge and the cars passing like metallic streams of green and grey and red, streams of blue white and black. They pass and disappear past the glass. Left to right. Right to left. A double-sided steam stream. Liquidity of rubber and combustion on to other things. For better or worse. The flux of who’s-to-say-whether-it’s-good-or-bad.
I watch the older gentleman at the table in front of me. His lips moving rapidly as he reads from the notes he’s made on a spiral notebook on the table before him. I try to discern what he’s saying but the lips move in unarticulated rhythms. Silent mumblings I can’t seem to understand. His words like the direction of those lives driving by my window, those strangers of the same stream.
The girl to my left is working on math equations. I want to lean in and ask her if she can solve the problem of my unemployment. My finances. Look, I’d say. I’m trying to solve for y. As in why can’t I find a job that wants what I have to offer. I’ve got it all laid out. The skill set. The proofs that I can do the work. See?
Here it is! Only I can’t seem to come up with a solution. One that gets me money benefits and food benefits and health benefits. Is that so much to ask for. I’m no bum. I’m not asking for handouts. I want to work. Use me. I’ve got the gumption to let my soul bleed-out. Let it wash over everything.
Only I say nothing at all. I just let my eyes wander around the place. At all the people hovering over their screens. Working away. Looking languid. Lugubrious. Drained. A couple tables are bright and cheerful in their chatter. I come back to my own screen. Read an email that says, “Thank you so much for your interest in the position. Unfortunately at this time, they have chosen to proceed with another candidate. We appreciate your time and I wish you the best of luck!”
At this point I’m not discouraged. I collect the unforuntately’s. I frame them and hang them on the wall of my office. I sit back and admire them.
No, I’m more tired than anything else. Tired of thinking that possibility of opportunity is solidified in interest. And it’s not. It’s only a door. And each door opens to its own experience. Some I’m not ready to open. Some still locked from the other side. And no matter how many times I bang my head against it it doesn’t change the possibility that they’re the wrong doors.
In my disillusion I become confused and a combination of sadness and rage begins rise up. The emotions fill me. Flow through me to the point of tears and madness.
I imagine myself flipping the table in front of me. Throwing the glass decanter of water through the window. Screaming out in frustration, fists clenched and convulsing.
It is an impulsive wrath that lacks a rational temperament. But it’s important to feel. To know what we’re capable of. I choose not to act it out. Remain calm. That’s the difference between vision and fantasy. I take a breath. Clasps my hands against my lips and breathe steam into my fingers. In and out. Out and in. Stoking a fire in the machine. Making sure the explosions are contained to the right places.
My eyes go back to the window and try to make sense of the black letters S E H C I W D N A S stuck to it, thinking that they somehow hold meaning. That they might tell me something I don’t know. That they’ll change from what it is to what it is not. But it will always read S A N D W I C H E S from a different point of view. Another way to see the arrangement.
A plane is out there, just beyond the apartment building towards the east, streaking white across the blue. A fading line of trajectory. It was only a couple days ago I was up there. All my worries 35,000 feet beneath me. 500 miles an hour behind me. A different time-zone away.
Up there nothing matters. The lives of the passengers partially in the hands of the pilots’. Mostly the algorithm’s. Variables out of our control.
The guy next to me was folding a piece of paper smaller and smaller until he could no longer fold it while staring down at the earth below us. When it was small and tight and compacted to its smallest form he unfolded it and started the whole process over again. Across the aisle a military officer sat watching a war movie on his laptop. I wondered who invented the camouflage pattern, who figured out the science behind it. Why it was the way it was (Later, when we landed, he told me the army started using camouflage in the 80s and hadn’t owned the rights to it until they made their own three years ago).
Up there we are all at the mercy of a mathematical equation. A percentage. Murphy’s Law and all that. Sooner or later catastrophe will happen and who’s to say the flight attendants can keep their cool. Remember their training when shit hits the fan.
Most people would probably look to the man in uniform. As if he was master of his emotions. As if he actually paid attention to the safety demonstration before the flight. Knew that the seat was a flotation device.
Some girls were giggling somewhere onboard. A woman in front of the officer sat with her eyes closed, rubbing her hands together.
I took out the three-fold brochure from the back of the seat before me and studied the images. To prepare for impact it suggested I put my head between my legs. Assume the position as it were. I figured that was a sure way to get my head up my own ass and see what I was really made of should the plane plummet into and crash into the Earth.
Soon the plane had flown out of sight and took my worries with it. I don’t have time to be afraid if I fall flat on my face. Or what will happen if I can’t pay my bills. Afford dental. Put gas in the tank. That only gets in the way of the immediate, the thing I have to focus on in order remedy that possibility. It distracts from the real work. The thing that matters.
The most valuable commodity in the world, more than precious gems and rare metals, worth more than all the profits made on pharmaceuticals and presidential elections, is attention.
And I’m not ready to give that up to something out of my control.
So I put my fingers on the keys and go to work.
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