From the second story of our house the highway sounds like an ocean. The similarity is enhanced when the sun shines brightly onto the exterior walls of the apartment building visible from the upstairs rooms on the northern side of our house. To us the roar is constant, dissipating after we have fallen asleep, and picking up again before we are awake.
Our street runs east to west, and the rising sun illuminates the rooms on the eastern side–the spare bedroom, the dining room–and in the evening the setting sun shines into the house’s western-facing rooms–the master bedroom, the study.
Sometimes as we are finishing our final cycle of dreams, almost awake, early in the morning, the dog asleep in his bed next to ours, snoring quietly, the actual orientation of the highway and the rooms is distorted in our minds, and for a few moments before fully waking it is as though the highway near our house, parallel to our street, is rotated ninety degrees, and it is as though the sun rises over our house as it does the sea, and the roar of the highway traffic is more like the ocean than ever. I grasp at this image, but it fades as we wake up completely, leaving the slightly flawed analogy intact.
I got all my personal data as a CSV so I could understand my grief.
I developed a sensible grief metric and submitted the metric to a variety of innovative but well-established statistical analysis and data visualization techniques.
The file containing my personal grief data was too large to be stored locally and so I configured a remote database to store my grief data using new and affordable cloud-based technologies.
I visualized my grief for my parents and siblings in a series of charts that I embedded in an e-mail.
can’t get last one to load, my dad replied.
I sent it again but at a lower resolution so the file size would be reduced. I felt that this chart contained important information pertaining to my personal grief which is why I’d saved it at such a high resolution at first. I was happy to re-send the smaller file, even though I really wanted my dad to have the high resolution version as well.
I put them all in the family’s directory on the cloud computer technology I had learned to use and set a reminder on my calendar to print them all out at the library before we all met at my parents’ house for lunch the following Sunday.
I made enough copies for everyone and passed them out, after church but before the ballgames started.
What happened was I shot a bird. I was pretending and my fantasies were varied. I was leading a reconnaissance mission and had basically a whole other unit coming for support to outflank the enemy. I heard movement and crouched down and with my pellet rifle I shot the bird but I didn’t mean to hit him. I shot him and he went off, wounded. I didn’t want to tell daddy but I knew I had to. He’d find out about the bird one way or another. He’d go out tagging trees and see its body lying there dead. Or one of his friends would go out there to build a deer stand and he’d see the dead bird and bring it back to the house and hold it up by its feet and look at my dad and we’d all be standing in the carport and my dad would look at me and say, “Wonder how that bird got hurt?” So it was best to just tell him as soon as he got home.
Pretty much everyone was miserable after the scandal. Several of our friends’ lives were ruined and it was far from over. The mushroom cloud had not yet resolved itself, so to speak.
David said he wanted to come up from Providence so we could talk about it in person while drinking. He came and we talked about the arcane symbolism of the legal documents. David’s girlfriend came too but she went and stayed with her sister, who lives in the same town as me. We sat in a bar in my town drinking Budweiser and talking quietly about the scandal. David said the thing still wasn’t done unfolding. “The mushroom cloud still hasn’t resolved itself, if that makes sense.”
Some people sitting near us in the bar were on a date and they were discussing astrology. The woman was interested in astrology while the man pretended to be. She did not consider herself an astrologer, she said. The man said maybe the word is astrologist. She told him how the big dipper had changed over the years. How it used to look one way but now it looks another way. We rode our bikes home but you can’t see any constellations or Zodiac signs in the town where I live.
The next day we went to some galleries. We saw a bunch of paintings that were just blue paint on rectangular canvases. David’s girlfriend’s sister asked if I liked the art. I had no idea how the art made me feel. She said the paintings really glowed. She said the paintings all had what seemed like very specific dimensions. She said it was funny that they were like that. It did not occur to me that the dimensions were funny. She said, in conclusion, that the paintings were all blue, and that blue is a good color. No way was I going to disagree.
I lived in Germany once, for a year, several years ago. While I was there I took a German course and we took a field trip to an art museum in Stuttgart. We were asked to pick a work of art and write a short essay about it. I picked a painting called “Monochrome Blue” by Yves Klein. Es hat viele verschiedene Bedeutungen, I wrote. I thought this was funny.
I thought about that when David’s girlfriend’s sister walked away. I wondered why none of these blue paintings ever made me feel a single fucking thing.
My therapist wanted to give me a new face. She called and said a nearby doctor had an extra face and now was the time if I wanted it. I went to her office and she performed the in-patient procedure. Afterwards I looked in the mirror and it looked nothing like me. My face had Italian features. Dark curly thick hair, narrow eyes, big nose and lips. I suddenly realized I did not want this face but she had worked so hard and was smiling as she held the mirror so I said, “Dr. Chernotov it looks amazing.”
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