This is how it ends. From the kitchen, there is a street light that is pulsing orange during the day. Many of the trees are bare, empty of their usual spring generosity. The street glows momentarily like a carrot stemming from the ground, and there is no one walking underneath, looking up, saying that this is the thing that needs to be fixed today.
Birds avoid the lamp post. I have seen so few of them anyways. One would expect that they would be coming back to dominate the skies, to warn the worms of the steadily-arriving, longer mornings. But they are someplace else, maybe realizing that there are songbirds somewhere who have forgotten their own song. Maybe, like us, they’re trying to figure this mess out too.
Everyone has known that there has been too much: too much noise, too much politics, too much exhaustion, too much business, too much death. Meanwhile, the little things were wedged into the faltering unnecessary. Delay became a culture. People very much like myself would remind anyone who would listen that there are the needs that must be put off for the future to thrive. For the future to become. Always for the future.
This is the future now, and what we have left is the size of all things. How the sunlight breaks apart in the curtains to fall on a lover’s dark face; how the fruit tastes better even if the source is older; how the walks outside are dangerous only in that it remind that none of the buildings around – the stores, the banks, the metal – are needed; how it is very important to be quiet now; how there is no importance; how we are the world undoing ourselves; how there is a repetition of each day that can be born again in bits: a leg first that walks restlessly, a shoulder that sprouts, a thinking head that recalls this idle day in a faint memory for it was lived once already in today and yesterday and tomorrow in the days that are as free as they were when we were children, where there were no responsibilities that mattered, no expectations, only the present tense relaxed and yours, completely yours; how there is no how to do this disaster; how there is every way to do this.
The kitchen is one such way, smelling of a salt and oil and a thick bread bubbling in the background. Ants make love somewhere in the corners. I hear the sunlight yawning across the Universe.
The light of the lamp, too, fumbles its dance. The orange fades for just a short second. Everything seems like it might be right. But then the neighbour opens their door to stand outside and smoke. I used to hate smoking. Selfish would be the life that chooses to end early. Yet the cigarette smiled like the light, on and off. It spoke of what it meant to really be aflame.
I do not know this neighbour. I will never know them. But they were beautiful, possibly the most beautiful person, that ever existed. I have not seen anyone for three days. This is also a life. A still life is still a life. I repeat it until I can no longer hear myself say it.
The size of all things: I am 145 pounds when the moon isn’t sitting too close to the Earth or to a sale at KFC. My fingernails are not cut. My armpit hair never seems to grow. There once was a baby I saw who had more armpit hair than I. They died after a week. Bad adrenals. Mine make me anxious, but they are too small for any real harm.
The size of all things: the tiny tug of normalcy even in the nightmare air of an apocalypse. The fact that I am connected to a man in China to a woman in Bangladesh to the unborn who will cry that my stringed togetherness is too tight. The fact that most of these people are pulling me in the wrong direction.
The size of all things: the large danger of making this virus an outsider, of believing it is the problem of others rather than of our own mobility and greed and egoism, that there is a way to forget what this disease shows – that we are smaller than a microbe, that we are able to be larger than the death. That we will die disgusting ways before we ever learn to live. That we can live now, just for a bit – and that is long enough.
The light tells me in Morse code the secret of happiness and immortality, but I do not spend my time with such nonsense. I am reminded instead of the fact that we are not equal. There will be some who will be devastated by this disease. Others will be shortly renewed with a lust for the physical. Bars will be packed. Clubs will throb. Millions will die again after a few blissful years.
Then there will be others, the vast majority, who like the virus will not know they are infected, carriers of disease. They will go back to their lives, talking hotmouth about how it was hard but also okay and how they are content to go back to work and their tasks and the daily news and yes of course things are different now and did you see the game and it is nice to have something to watch these days and something to do and then one day, on a day unnoticed, a day very much like when all this started, they will realize that they were never fine, that they are broken, that everything might be.
It is, dear. All must be remeasured and recounted. For example, I do not even know the height of the lightpost to fix the dangling light. It is off now. No dark can be seen this midday, though it is there, isn’t it? The bulb has not turned on in a while. Despite only having the time to watch and tell you when it comes back to life, I will not. The stranger left. The cigarette rubbed. I must go, too. I must end.
Love you madly,
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yes, well said: a still life is still a life!
I’m glad you are still alive, I have Tinnitus badly recently, I’d flog my Roman slave to death but it would probably enjoy it too much. Google Frankie Howerd and Up Pompeii comedy show from 1970 for details.
The post above scanned like a suicide note. Just be happy and read all 1,615,000 of my words. By which time Lockdown will be over, and I weigh nearly twice your weight. So you could always eat me if you run out of food, or put a wick in me and use me as a candle and your street light is not working.
or half bury me and use my cheeks to park your bicycle, a very old Billy Conolley joke, at least 40 years old.
I remember Michael Parkinson creasing up when Billy told it on tv.
Stay Happy, there is life after Trump, I did send him an email, but he hasn’t replied. maybe NSA are reading this first
ha ha ha
michael casey aka the fat silver haired writer in shades from Birmingham ENGLAND