At first my world consisted of sunlight and lake water and swingsets and brownies that came in a little plastic package. Before then, even, my world was tarot cards with my Aunt Kathy and pretend psychic abilities and barbeques at my mother’s best friend’s house out in the boonies of western Massachusetts. It was innocent cheek-kisses and singing in chorus and pleasing my teachers with my grades despite regularly goofing off in class. It was writing, all the time, writing. My world, at one time, was the way the lake water under the floating dock glowed green in the diluted sun from algae, and catching frogs and driving golf carts and pretending we were video game characters.
Then it became other people’s worlds – the world of Danny, full of spicy candy from his father in Mexico and the strange artwork of his distant and quiet mother and the smell of too many cats not housebroken but you loved them anyway, and Animal Crossing and Super Smash Brothers Melee and fake swords and trampolines. There was the night that Danny thought I was asleep on his bed, and he was tying new red laces on his big shoes, and the lace hung down just so as to gently twitch over my back, and the lightness of touch made chills run down my spine as I lay there.
Then there was the sunrise that I watched by myself because he fell asleep after we babysat his little nephew, Simon. There was the day we kissed underwater at Plunkett Lake because we had seen the main characters do it in a videogame and wanted to try it, and it was a pain in the ass.
I had been walking in thin pants that seemed conditioned to slide down my waist at inopportune times in such a way that I had to regularly pull them up, ignoring the cars whisking by down the road.
There were lots of places I hadn’t been even though I had been there. When you’re constantly lost in daydream and reverie, you begin to forget where you are, or at the very least you stop noticing. Then, when you wake up, you’re slightly startled by all the things you never saw before, like the tree in the neighbor’s yard with the thick branches, blunted for having been cut to avoid growing into the telephone pole wires, making the whole thing look like a very tense hand trying to grab something in the sky with its wrist sprouting from the lawn. You also see, for the first time, the shimmering silos of the raw milk processing plant at the end of your street, glinting in the sun as it glides down into the horizon to your right, and you see all the tanker trucks and distributor trucks bearing the names of grocery stores that you’ve been to and actually remember.
I had walked the other way down Patton, wanting to see what was down there. I passed the smaller street that I had been driven home from just earlier that morning, after having spent the night with a few friends getting drunk, and it had been bizarre because they weren’t really my friends and I was too old to be doing things like that.
I came upon several car dealerships then, ones for used cars and new cars, and couldn’t help but wonder why car dealers always did that – bunching themselves all together in the same location. It couldn’t possibly benefit them to be so competitive that they blared their bright, obnoxious billboards and signs and flags right across the street from one another. It was like when two upper-middle-class neighbors duke it out on Christmas, each house getting brighter and more elaborately decorated as the days careened toward the holiday, so much so that you come to expect one or both of the houses to burst into electrical fire flames by the time it’s Christmas eve.
Music hadn’t been shaping to my mood, because I was in a strange one, an observational and removed one, so I listened to the radio in my headphones instead, during which world news was discussed, though I wasn’t really paying attention to that any more than I would have some of my albums.
I passed by a car wash with a sign that read, “Weekly Special! Foreign cars washed with imported water!” and it made me smile and laugh, and on the walk back, passing it again, I wanted to take a picture with my cheap cell phone, but it had gotten almost dark out by then and the sign was too bright to show up. It ended up looking like some kind of super nova over the building every time I tried to shoot it, so I gave up and walked on.
There is a strange way about the way the world moves when the sun is starting to set, but you can’t see it because it’s cloudy and cold. All you see is that the sky is white and fading to gray and then to black because the sun is so obscured. Everything seems to slow down just slightly, and all the signs and cars and people seem indifferent to one another, isolated despite being so close, like the calm before the storm in which every man is for himself. That point of selfishness where it is not your intention to abandon anyone else or let them suffer in the catastrophe to come, but where you realize that you have to preserve yourself first and foremost, and then if you have the opportunity you can help your fellow man. They always tell you that on airplanes right before the flight – put on your own mask before helping the person next to you.
This is how I felt as I walked home and watched the cars full of people finally getting off of work with their minds trained solely on the thought of being home themselves, and having dinner and watching TV and getting rest and kissing their wives and husbands and being shot down for sex once they did get into bed. And that is what I thought as I passed the buildings as they began to turn off the lights in their signs in the paling white light from the sky with the wind bitter and stinging, abandoning their places of business for the night and giving them up to the cold will of the disappearing day.