Thursday, April 28, 2011

Two worlds diverged in a yellow wood...

A common thread through fantasy stories and some science fiction is the idea of a separate universe just the other side of a wardrobe or through an arch (Star Trek: The Original Series) or a vibration away if you rotate a quark sideways from it's normal spin or whatever. That idea that there's something else out there... some other world interesting and tantalizing by it's closeness.
People have worlds in their heads comprised of their world views and their views of the world. Maybe that old guy across the street that sits on the porch sits there because he can't afford to run the air conditioner and the breeze he catches on the porch cools him off. Maybe he sits there because he and his wife Judith used to sit there and watch their kids Michael and Joseph ride their bikes up and down the streets at night, into and out of the pools of light from the street lights and he misses her and his sons never call. Or, maybe he's watching your kids play in the yard, wondering if their breath smells of Rain-Blo bubble-gum and if their skin is as smooth as it looks with that light sheen of summer sweat on it. You don't know... but you make up ideas of what's going on around you and those ideas become the world we live in.
Sometimes our worlds overlap, sometimes they intersect. But they're rarely identical. How could they be? I may not even notice the man sitting on the porch across the street. Instead I notice the car and how the door is unlocked and there is a bag in the back and what could be in the bag? Maybe I don't see the man at all, maybe I just notice that at night the lights are all off by nine and the downstairs windows are open and that while there are blinds they're open so I can see in and I can see the light of a tv sometimes and it's not a big tv, but it's bigger than the one I have and the lights are all off by nine and the windows are open aren't they and everybody has insurance so it's not even really stealing since he'll just get a new one anyway with insurance money and insurance companies screw everybody anyway so why not screw them back just this once.
It's hard to talk to people about a world that doesn't match their world... we don't live in the same world. We live in similar worlds. Worlds drawn with the same outlines but colored with different boxes of colors... soundtracks written by different composers in different times... and here we are trying to all get along together. Meanwhile that man across the street... he still sits there. He never talks to anybody. On Saturdays he mows his lawn on the diagonal and spends as much time sweeping his sidewalk of clippings as he does mowing. His slow shuffling gait and his slow moving arms and his hunched over back betraying a life of what? Hard work? An injury? Or just the effects of age on a human body that's gone on past the "use by" date? He mows. He sweeps. He sits. He watches. His sons don't call. And how did his wife die anyway and where are your kids?
A car drives by, to me it's a piece of crap foreign car that is a symbol of jobs sent over seas. To the driver it's the culmination of months of savings and extra jobs, and it's his freedom, his ability to get away from his parents and their overbearing rules. To someone else it's a too-loud radio on wheels that doesn't stop at stop signs and that drives too fast down a street kids play on. And to someone else it's where they first held hands awkwardly behind the high school, fast shallow breaths, tentative touches, awkward reaches over the center console, a kiss, first tentative, then hard, then panting breaths and fogged up windows. A hand goes over material, over shirt and pants on either side of the console and then a gasp and recoil as someone knocks on the window and stops everything. It's a car but it's not the same car to any of those people.
It's not the same world to any of us... and we all know it. We can feel the edges of the secret world all around us all the time and we wonder sometimes is it just us that feel this way? Is it normal? I don't know... but it's after nine, and the lights across the street are off, your kids are playing hide and seek in the back yard, and that car is still unlocked as the too loud red Suzuki drives past moving from pool of light to pool of light.
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