Would you divert yourself from melancholy?
Would you be pleasant, and far from folly?
Would you read riddles and their explanation?
Or else be drowned in your contemplation?
…Would you be in a dream, and yet not sleep?
Or would you in a moment laugh and weep?
…By reading the same lines? O then come hither,
And lay my book, your head, and heart together.
(revised, from “The Author’s Apology for His Book, Bunyan)
It was the visit to the Museum of Sciences that did it, that finished what feeble control he had left. Insomniac could take it no longer. He had hidden some coffee in his backpack he was going to sneak inside, but it had sloshed all over the crumpled papers with scribbles that mapped the way of his incendiary journeys in the night hours. And he had just finished posting another foolish comment, about his status, like, “I repeat myself… but my brain cells are consuming themselves. I say these things again and again to remember where I have been….and to survive the light of day. I am afraid I may lose…I may lose my way again…..I was so greedy for your time, back when I slept… please forgive me, I talk too much…I’m way over 500 characters…I lost even my own attention, so how could I think of keeping yours…? ” He knew they were stupid, these continuous solipsistic songs of himself, but he couldn’t help himself, not any longer. So much static now, his usual crisp thoughts were blurred.
Insomniac whimpered in the line of people waiting at the entrance. He knew self pity was deadly, but he couldn’t help himself. It was this blistering light, and all those fathers with babies pinned to their chests, like medals. It was all too unbearable. He needed a voice, music; anything to block out the tumble of thoughts that threatened to overwhelm. These lines without an end. He fondled the curves of the crank-operated cell that was his latest prototype, and out of its depths–with the awesome power of code–it was silly he knew, but it always assuaged: (author’s note: to avoid YouTube’s ridiculous suggested video, I recommend you refresh the screen immediately after viewing)
But then was that calm voice, yet again, that in daylight was like the noise of those gravediggers in the nighttime, “A great deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance when the need for illusion is deep….”Oh curse that quote of Bellow’s, from Evangelist’s comment on his blog, and his amused regard of the video that he had dubbed ‘The Autotune Worship Song to Science.’* He said, “Some of those guys believe Crick’s proposal of panspermia, that our Little Blue Dot was seeded by aliens. And how cute is String Theory to create for you cowards all those handy multiverses? Be honest–which Creation Narrative is delusional? All this to avoid that Razor that cuts through your big branes with such a finely-tuned KISS.” He had deleted that drivel immediately, of course.
He would scream if he had energy. But now the line was moving. He shuffled inside, looked about the building’s sustainable architecture in all its reassuring order, surveying the 60,000 photo voltaic cells in the solar canopy. His own donated jeans were part of the re-cycled denim that made up the insulation in the floor-to-ceiling glass of this pure and crystalline cube. He sighed with satisfaction, he always felt so safe here. But he had forgotten his way again. He ran upstairs to get a ticket for the Planetarium, but he was already too late for the first show.
He wandered over to the interactive exhibit explaining Global Warming. He typed his relevant data into the balance scale shaped like a skeletal foot, which measured his carbon footprint: he had no car, and bicycled everywhere, even on rainy days. He had never been in an airplane. He had never, ever eaten fast food. Well perhaps as a non-prescient child, but not as a determined adult. He composted his food scraps and, furtively, when no-one was looking, he recycled even his pocket lint. He worked at night by the light of one small compact fluorescent bulb, and ate raw the food he grew in his own raised beds. Except for his coffee. He apologetically composted the grounds, he longed to be a pure locavore, but his only weakness was at least organic and fair trade. He furnished his meager needs with repurposings from the Salvation Army.
He held his breath, as the scales were weighed, but then…he was at zero, it was always at zero; and the the lever holding the sole lifted his avatar’s silhouette high. He was not found wanting. He had taught himself to want nothing.
As he turned to leave, the exhibit’s message board invited him to share his ideas for saving the planet from greenhouse gasses. He frowned; he had no helpful suggestion that wasn’t already posted, and he hadn’t solved the problem yet of the bulkiness of the phone’s crank. Too awkward yet to be successfully marketed, even to the geekest of the greens. An oaktag in bold capitals caught his eye: “STOP TERRORIZING OUR CHILDREN ABOUT THE FUTURE, AND MAKING THEM FEEL AS IF THEY ARE MERELY AN INVASIVE SPECIES.”
He snorted. He groped for the prototype in his fannypack, but found no consolation at his homepage. Only another comment by that creep, Evangelist. Why hadn’t he blocked him already? Why was he now clicking on this link the fool had posted? Why was the panic rising again? Well, derision would drown out the clang of shovels against rocks. And the laughter. This cretin would serve as well as anything. He just wanted to breathe again.