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Brain Worms (Existential Crisis #8)

Thu, Feb 07, 2002 02:24AM -0600

Couldn't think of a title, really. It is now 2:30am and I should go to sleep, but I am ill-at-ease with the world.

In this (future) profession of mine, it is an advantage to remain emotionally detached, to view the world objectively, to react to the job at hand, and nothing else. Professionalism. Automatic, autonomic, algorithmically scripted and pre-programmed professionalism.

In achieving this ideal, I sometimes wonder if I haven't managed to kill something of myself. The heart, the soul, whatever you want to call it. Is my ability to feel pain (or anything at all) merely buried beneath layer upon layer of defense mechanisms (reminding me of the swords that Masamune wrought), or have I somehow managed to truly obliterate my ability to feel?

I think, I hope it is the former.

So in my day to day dealings, pathologically, I cannot cry, and I cannot laugh without a "sick sort of desperation" creeping into it. I react to the whirling maelstrom of events around me, or if all else fails, I watch, nothing more. But in my solitude, when reading a particular passage or watching a particular scene, a tear might trickle from my eye, and my insides will turn to mush. Not enough to be seen from the outside, at least not really, you wouldn't see it unless you were really looking, but enough to know that I am still alive, that I am more than a network of neurons acting and reacting to electric stimuli.

Witness this passage from A Scanner Darkly by Philip K Dick, which left me all tingly and prickly inside:

Glancing at him, suddenly shy, Donna said, "He'll get me that. What's-his-name."


"You know." Her voice was soft, sharing her secret. Imparting to him because he, Bob Arctor, was her friend and she could trust him. "Mister Right. I know what he'll be like--he'll drive an Aston-Martin and he'll take me north in it. And that's where the little old-fashioned house will be in the snow, north from here." After a pause she said, "Snow is supposed to be nice, isn't it?"

He said, "Don't you know?"

"I never have been in the snow except once in San Berdoo up in those mountains and then it was half sleet and muddy and I fucking fell. I don't mean snow like that; I mean real snow."

Bob Arctor, his heart heavy in a certain way, said, "You feel positive about all this? It'll really happen?"

"It'll happen!" She nodded. "It's in the cards for me."

They walked on then, in silence. Back to her place, to get her MG. Donna, wrapped up in her own dreams and plans; and he--he recalled Barris and he recalled Luckman and Hank and the safe apartment, and he recalled Fred.

"Hey, man," he said, "can I go with you to Oregon? When you do take off finally?"

She smiled at him, gently and with acute tenderness, with the answer no.

And he understood, from knowing her, that she meant it. And it would not change. He shivered.

"Are you cold?" she asked.

"Yeah," he said. "Very cold."

"I got that good MG heater in my car," she said, "for when we're at the drive-in . . . you'll warm up there." She took his hand, squeezed it, held it, and then, all at once, she let it drop.

But the actual touch of her lingered, inside his heart. That remained. In all the years of his life ahead, the long years without her, with never seeing her or hearing from her or knowing anything about her, if she was alive or happy or dead or what, that touch stayed locked within him, sealed in himself, and never went away. That one touch of her hand.

So no, I'm not dead yet. My heart heavy in a certain way, perhaps (I dig that phrase), but very much alive.

Currently in my head: "Flake" by Jack Johnson

"It seems to me that maybe it pretty much always means no"

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