There are four people in my vicinity at this cafe who all have MacBooks. I shall describe them herein: (1) probable graphic designer, caucasian male in his mid-30s with male pattern balding; prefers the ergonomic wireless mouse that he discreetly placed on the table, touching it at the exact moments necessary; wearing a Keffiyeh, suggesting either allegiance to the Palestinian liberation movement, or generically anarchist; definitely heterosexual, given a fixated male gaze applied on the buttocks of various attractive female patrons; (2) African-American woman with advanced degree(s) and straightened hair — perhaps criticized as “being white” by those in her race — with Banksy sticker of protester oriented to look like he’s throwing the apple icon (as opposed to flowers, itself a reappropriation) deftly touching trackpad, seemingly unfazed by Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” being played at this very moment; (3) caucasian woman wearing moccasins, tight jeans, and 1.5 carat engagement ring on implicated finger, a Burt’s Bees lip balm balanced upright next to laptop, maybe used compulsively, her lips now reliant on its moisture and not making its natural oils (this is called addiction), tending to her Gmail inbox; (4) blond caucasian woman with summer dress, of floral pattern, likely purchased at Anthropologie (a “bohemian chic” branch of Urban Outfitters, Inc. marketed to women who want to seem more laid back than they are) on Facebook looking at a set of photos of women at a bar smiling behind the cocktails they are showing the camera, its sudden unflattering flash rendering them non-Tinderable, that is, ghostlike and slightly demented looking.
People used to joke, grimly, about an alternate universe in which Al Gore won the US presidency, as some argue he actually did. We project, as cynics, an essentially optimistic stance: that life would have been better. Most religions have some notion of a supplemental, or surrogate world, be it the Resurrection’s earthly heaven, reincarnation’s lenient sequel, or purgatory’s questionable case of mono. Scientists have their own way of poking around this, using quantum physics to describe parallel universes, of anti-matter as our simultaneous shadow. This seems to be the only place where science and religion hold hands, like embarrassed school children; that is, in the fantasy of a “quotidian elsewhere” whose familiarity, promoted into profundity, absolves one from having to live differently.
Our bare-footed Paul wore sandals during practice runs across the street, which finally answers why did the chicken cross the road? To fake it. Bowie looks hunky dory, why so many poses? Before self-immolating to a crisp, or adorning Rage Against the Machine’s blurry ethos, Thích Quảng Đức offered he was “closing [his] eyes and moving towards the vision of the Buddha,” which is beautiful if you think about it, that the drawn curtain of one’s eyelids could end the bad movie of one’s life. That Kurt Cobain addresses Buddha as “Boddah” in his suicide letter may not be mere misspelling, if you believe that the latter was in fact the former’s imaginary childhood friend. I’d like to think the Nevermind baby stayed submerged in some corporate Atlantis—selling out and growing up, evolving gills for aquatic life, getting his tiny pecker sucked—but in ours, this life, the only version we have, his mother had to quickly bring him back up. Look at that smile.
Last week I saw a man with a prosthetic leg wearing New Balance running shoes on both his congenital leg and prosthetic one. He was walking across the crosswalk in a hurry, taking assured strides, his arms and legs making wide triangles of negative space, and I wondered which Beatle was he. What would seem only natural was in fact very odd and somewhat disturbing: he wore an athletic sock on both feet, so that the one on the prosthetic leg — without a calf, shin, or any flesh to straddle —lethargically mouthed open at the hem in this absurdly comical way, which of course isn’t funny. The metal rod which offered tibia-like support was circled, perfectly untouched, by this droopy sock. Something in the way, he moves I sang to myself, and wondered if Abbey Road didn’t mark four men at the start of a race leaving one another for good, sliced in half by ego’s finish line. I followed behind him, like George Harrison the grave digger, my fingers knotted into a fist, a most difficult chord. This dysfunctional sock, its sad cotton halo wanting to light an angel but getting a person instead, has been a helmet in my mind. Each time my God-given feet now enters a sock, a warm embrace once unnoticed, I gratefully give emptiness a pass. I know nothing of that.