Insane in the Membrane
I barely slept. Woke up every hour, it seemed. Defeated, I get out of bed around 5am, shower, potter about on the internet, and am downstairs eating breakfast as soon as the hotel restaurant opens at 6:30am.
There’s a rather impressive-looking buffet, but I opt for an Earl Grey and omelette a la carte. I keep my choice of seating simple, too, avoiding one of four giant egg-shaped chairs. Unusual, I think, till I notice the black, life-sized horse with lampshade sprouting from its head. The ‘art’ in Hotel Arts, I assume. The leaf tea arrives in a pot, which pleases me immensely. I pick up the newspaper I was offered on entering the restaurant, and read a little of the front page. News of the Canadian Prime Minister being “bullish” about the need for a major new oil pipeline (and consequences if the USA don’t approve it), don’t really interest me, however, and I soon put it back down. Besides, I already had my news fix online, earlier.
Visually, there’s plenty to keep me entertained till my omelette arrives. Wacky, modern art adorns most of the wall space, artistically positioned, no doubt (though the words higgledy-piggledy come to mind).
On looking at the horse, I notice a power cord running from one hoof to a wall socket. I imagine for a moment I’m an American, the latest ‘No win, No fee’ commercial fresh in mind, and have just spotted the trip hazard that would prompt my latest compensation claim. I see myself fall head-first into the buffet’s hot plates of maple-syrup-drenched crumpets, catching a few in my mouth as I tumble. This reverie of my fall and resultant recompense is broken by the arrival of my omelette: small, but perfectly formed and surprisingly filling.
Back in my room, I’m thinking about things I hope to get out of the week, work-wise: strategies for winning more business, market regulation and mechanics I need to understand better, questions about my move, that sort of thing. I open my laptop and compose a constructive list to send to my colleagues before we meet.
Leaving the draft to ripen, I head to the bathroom and attempt to cough up any remaining mucus still hanging at the back of my throat. There’s plenty. I brush my teeth—and tongue; giving it a good scrape and removing what appears to be a well-developed culture growing there. It turns my brush yellow. Nice. I raise it to my nose and give it a cautious sniff. Eww—it stinks like rot.
My father, a retired dentist, scoffed when I told him that people scrape their tongue; that it’s “clinically proven” to improve one’s breath (I had no idea if that was true or not, but that was the word on the street). He didn’t believe it. I told him there are plenty of toothbrushes on the market nowadays with a part on them precisely for this (I didn’t tell him I actually found a spoon works better). He didn’t believe that, either. He is a man stuck in his ways. It doesn’t bother me so much nowadays, but as a teenager it was infuriating. All I saw was his stubborn arrogance (and never my own, naturally). I guess brushing or scraping his tongue was just something my father will die never having tried. I’m sure he’s at peace with that.
I draw back the curtains a fraction and peer out at a tree-void cityscape of office blocks and hotels, contrasting with a crisp blue sky wide with promise, streaks of orange heralding the sun’s assured arrival. Down in the street, a group of what I assume to be homeless people are milling about on the pavement, some huddled together chatting, others just pacing, or standing there alone as if waiting for someone or something. A food drop, perhaps? The next punter?! No, they can’t be a bunch of gigilos, surely?
The plan for the day is fairly relaxed. I’m to be picked up at 8:30, and we’ll head over to the west part of town, where Mitch and Brook have a meeting with a potential channel partner. Brook said Madison and I would stay in a coffee shop nearby and study the intricacies of Alberta’s deregulated electricity market (really?!), or I could pick up a Canadian SIM for my mobile from a shop apparently just around the corner from it (yes, I’ll do that). After their meeting, we’ll take a tour of the city in Brook’s car. I still have an hour before all that begins.
I put on a long-sleeved shirt (nothing too smart, but a step up from the T-shirt I’d worn to breakfast), then go to the rubbish bin I strategically placed by the bed, and apprehensively inspect the contents. To spare the cleaner the odium of facing my nightly production of snot rags, I pull out the bin bag, tie a knot in it, and let it go (a gesture I’m sure is appreciated by housekeeping… or met with suspicion) - plonk, squelch.
Only then do I sit back down at my laptop, read over the draft once more, and click Send. I’ve learnt over time that it’s best to wait awhile before sending most emails. Over 24 hours in some cases—especially for those fiery, emotion-fuelled responses I am prone to. Though reacting on the here and now of raw emotion feels most true, real, and liberating, it often leads to contraction, disharmony, and separation of sorts. 'Who does this guy think he is?!' may have been many a reaction. I’ve stubbornly held on to my approach for years, like a habit you know is bad for you, but can’t give up. Perhaps a part of me likes the destructive disconnect that ensues—feels deserving of it in a push-them-away-before-they-push-you-away type way. Who knows? Anyway, the work email isn’t so important that I need to wait a day. I half-know it will largely be ignored anyway. A fine show of proactivity, all the same.
It’s time for me to head downstairs and meet the others. I pop a couple of trusty cold & flu tablets (for psychological effect?), stuff the rest in my laptop case, check I look presentable in the full-length mirror by the door, and off I trot.
Outside, it’s a little crisp, but nothing unbearable. The sun is beaming down the street from the east (or is it the west? How can I still not know what direction the sun rises?! I certainly can’t tell from the Street and Avenue numbers—I find the city’s ‘simple’ grid arrangement mightily disorientating). Whichever direction it is, I muster a little strength from her warming rays—not looking directly at her, of course, we all know that would be silly, but almost: pinching my eyelids tight, letting her solder a sliver of flu-healing sustenance to my core, with the care and precision of the master artisan she is (well, her kin forged every atom in our bodies, let’s not forget, and apart from a few exceptions, they’ve done a stellar job).
The coffee is uneventful, other than Madison spilling hers over her laptop. The phone shop doesn’t have a SIM that will work in my UK mobile. Brook and Mitch’s meeting “went well”, though they share no more than that. My email is briefly acknowledged, and the drive around town…? Well, that’s just depressing.
We are on the lookout for potential customers—commercial and industrial sites, mostly. I won’t get too technical, but the service we offer enables companies to participate in an electrical-grid stabilisation programs. Helps them be more energy efficient too.
Yes, I’m involved in something important. Greening the planet. I have to tell myself that sometimes just to get out of bed.
We reach a dead end in some industrial estate. Brook’s doing a u-turn whilst pointing out a pale yellow factory-type building with two chimneys. A raised conveyer belt exits one side and enters another, smaller building about fifty feet away. It’s a mill of some kind. Mitch’s saying he’s already called them, “…but it might be worth another try, Dom. Dom?”
“Oh—yes,” I respond, looking up from my phone.
“Are you making a list?” he asks.
“I am,” I say, looking back at my phone and reading what is written there: All so dreadfully ugly. I’ve begun noting my first impressions and general state of mind, intuiting it might be the only way to survive the week. I open a new 'note' and mark it ‘leads’.
“You’ll be doing this,” Mitch says, upbeat. What, driving around this soul-less shit hole? I question silently. Did he genuinely consider it an exciting prospect, or was he some sadist goading me?
We drive around for another half-hour or so, and I switch between diary and ‘lead’ entries as we go: the names and addresses of various companies interspersed with thoughts like, God it’s ugly; flat and ugly, and what the fuck am I doing here?
I stare blankly out the back seat window for the most part. How can everything be built in the same drab style? I wonder. A metal box with cheap facades and tacky signage. It’s depressing. It’s so unimaginative. I miss the stone and brick, towers and arches, and bustle and charm of London. Grand thoroughfares and narrow, winding lanes, flanked by elegant buildings of history and stature. Instead, trucks and tarmac, sprawling shopping malls, industrial estates, and my own compounding dread.
I hate the big cars. Hate them. I’ve seen hundreds, if not thousands, by this point, all with ludicrously big exhausts. I’m sure they feel great to drive—all that power and space inside—and yes, useful in all the snow and ice of Alberta’s long winter; but I wouldn’t be able to shake the guilt. There’s an environmental streak in me, you see. (Hold on, I don’t like how I’ve put that; it makes being environmentally conscious sound like some quirk, some optional add-on, some genetic trait some have and others don’t).
Suddenly, I’m in Brazil again. I’ve just left a little village aboard a rickety old lorry with my hosts: a 71 year-old American nun, eco-warrior and human rights campaigner, and some locals. They’re taking me to see the forest. The Amazon forest! It seems an eternity before we reach it. I see the distant trees standing high on the edge of a battlefield, and feel an upsurge of energy as we approach.
They stop and cut the engine at a point between two worlds. Before me, rising like a cliff face, a towering body of green; a mighty rainforest standing proud in the rich earth and deep sky. The leaves closest to me tremble in a slight breeze (or the thought of growling chainsaws?).
A cloud of colourful parrots shriek overhead. The deep, guttural call of monkeys hidden in the canopy. As I gaze reverently at this foreign yet familiar splendour, I can’t help but rejoice in the sense of aliveness here, both the forests’ and my own. With each breath, delight; with each new shade of green detected, each framed branch, twig or shoot, thrusting rich verdure into being, an ever-wider smile.
Behind us, however, lays the story of man's destruction, an unwinding yarn of degradation. The landscape we’ve driven through for hours, raped and pillaged of life. My smile slowly fades. The soil weeps its worth into aimlessly meandering steams stained with silt, brown veins lost in a frail skin of endless pasture and coffee plantations. The knowledge of what once existed there throbs like a thorn in my side. Sickened. Sad. Fear, even. Time is short. A fruitless tear mingles with the dust rising from the road, a road which goes on like a scar through the forest.
Though I am not crying now, in the back of Brook’s car, I feel a similar knotted feeling in my chest. Are we parasites? I think, glancing at the back of Brook’s head, then Mitch’s, then at some passer-by through my window. Here to sterilise, kill, and consume our host? Surely we’re better than that…
I look at my left hand, resting in my lap, and rub my left palm with my right thumb. The life-line creases there remind me of the silt-stunted streams crisscrossing the parched Amazon landscape I’d witnessed ten years earlier (and to add moisturiser to my shopping list).
Yes, we’re better than that, I affirm, looking out the window once more, biting my lip. Caring about the environment is the natural and sane thing.
We’re stopped at a traffic light. Beside us rumbles one of those six-litre or more (god forbid) fume-spewing 4x4’s we keep passing. The driver wears sunglasses. It’s not even sunny. I bet you think you’re smart, don’t you, I find myself brooding. Prick.
His car is silver, but there’s a bright green sticker in the back window, and it’s enough to…
I’m back in the rainforest, a chaotic symphony of light and sound glimmering about me. So… alive. Such majesty! A dash of blue and red as a pair of macaws fly overhead. A thrumming nodule high up on a tree: a nest of bees.
A lorry rumbles buy carrying barrel of gasoline. The men glare at us as they pass. The nun accompanying me hides herself.
Must we wait till all the rivers are dry and land bare of forests to see we cannot eat money? I remember the quote now. It was one of those that circulate on Facebook you ‘like’ and then forget. Some indigenous elder, no doubt. Their myths bind their people respectfully to the Earth, don’t they. How can you raze a forest if it holds the spirit of your forefathers? Or pollute a river if rivers are the veins of the Earth?
Some trees still stood in the decimated landscape we’d driven though. Brazil nut trees. They are giant things, and a protected species. They stand alone, towering above the nutrient-leached soils, a sore reminder of how high the forest had once been there, only five or ten or however many years earlier. They no longer bear fruit, my comrades tell me. A special type of orchid bee pollinates them, but it cannot fly far from its nest. And the Brazil nut tree’s seed has a hard casing which must be opened by the sharp teeth of a rodent called the agouti, which doesn’t stray far from the forest. So now, no new trees grow. And most that remain are mere skeletons already.
I see my reflection in the car window for a moment as a black lorry passes. Somber. Questioning.
I think of the delicate interconnectivity of nature, torn asunder. Has our definition of ‘self’ become too narrow? I wonder. Is that the cause of our insane assault upon mother nature? A self-image problem? How… quaint. How tragic.
No reflection now; just cars and tarmac and slip-roads and industrial parks beyond.
I can see the root of the problem, and the solution: an ‘enlightened selfishness’ of sorts. Yes, my ego is sure it has it. But it has no idea how to achieve such a thing. No, I just have pretty or sour words; the smug satisfaction I’m more evolved than Mr Shades-wearing 4x4 driver and the like.
How far we travel along the highway during my pestilent rumination, I don’t know. It all looks the same. But I do notice a few new entries on my phone:
A bit soulless this place?
DF Plastics, 1130 56 Av. NE
AIM Fabrics, 349 49 Av. NE (may have back-up generators)
Trying to withhold judgment…
Do the bees still buzz here?
I decide to break from putting the world to rights. I don’t feel any better for it, apart from the comfort derived from deluding myself that I see the world as it is. Part of me just wants to cry. I scramble for a positive thought so I don’t, and note it on my phone: So close to Banff—just think of the mountains. Yes the mountains! They are quickly becoming a panacea: the fresh air I’ve been seeking from London. Yet I’ve only seen them once so far. Perhaps they were a mirage, and there really is no escape from this cultural desert, or my own discontent. I make a mental note to ask everyone I meet from then on that week something about the mountains. I need something to cling to.
It’s time for lunch, thank god—I’m starving. We pull into a shopping park that looks (you guessed it) the same as all the others we passed along the highway—a collection of single-story blocks each a different shade of naffness. The first is a pet store. The mental image of 'poor cooped-up animals' and 'stupid people shopping there' deflates me further. It doesn’t take much, at this point. In fact, it’s almost like my mind is looking for it: self-flagellation through negative thinking. What the hell is that about? I guess if you’re sensitive, there’s a lot to be glum about in this world. (If you’re wise, perhaps there’s plenty to be happy and grateful about. But who’s the more deluded?).
It’s not a car I’m sitting in anymore, but a cage; and I’m trapped, a 'poor animal'. It’s with much relief therefore that we park and I can escape and stretch my legs. Not that room is really an issue in Brook’s hire car—a new Ford 4x4, modest compared to some of the monsters I’ve seen today, but still far bigger than anything you’d see in Europe. I’ve no issue with the right to have whatever size car you want. But the right to pollute as much as you want… that I do have an issue with.
We’ve pulled up beside a giant red box with the word Diner on the side in squirly* purple neon lighting. (*I was sure ‘squirly’ was a word, but apparently not. Swirly? You get the idea.). I’m the first to the entrance, and as my hand meets the glass door to push it open, I see my reflection. What is this world I’m walking into? I think, gripped by sudden panic. I feel my palm press against the cool glass, and a warm draft carrying the smell of grease and beer and the sound of dissonant chatter wafts about me. But that’s all background noise; there’s another world I hear and see ahead, one invisible to the others. The door and my footsteps beyond it are symbolic of the path I’m embarking on: leaving London, coming to Canada, staying in a sales job. My life and all the things I’m not doing with it. I wonder if at that precise moment I’m missing some big break in London (I’d been taking evening and weekend acting classes for a few years. It was a dream of sorts).
Am I selling my soul?! This rather dramatic sounding thought springs from my memory of a conversation I had a year earlier with a recruitment agent who called me about a position with another company. She knew of the one I was working for from previous candidates, and asked how I was finding it, but not before saying, “they steal your soul, don’t they?”
I thought it an odd thing to say, and largely ignored it—both because she didn’t know about my rather envious work-life balance, and because I didn’t like her brash manner. No, as long as I used my free time wisely, my soul was firmly mine to keep and enrich. Bitch. Her comment hadn’t washed over me entirely, obviously. It played on my fears then as it does now. I’m an introvert (very precious about my “energy”), and a Six (often paranoid about those ‘others’ out to get me).
I keep moving, of course, through the door, the others following behind. Outwardly, there’s nothing indicative of anything untoward happening within (or so I hope). A server greets us and leads the others to a table; I hold back and ask another server if they have WiFi. A connection to the World Wide Web will provide distraction from the one I’m tangled in mentally, as well as respite from what will undoubtedly be lumbering conversation at the lunch table.
We sit cramped together in an oval-shaped booth in the far corner of the restaurant. Initially my knees touch Brook’s on my left and Madison’s on my right, and I end up having to keep a slight tension in my legs the entire meal to avoid this (well, in my left leg, at least). I look at the menu in my hand, but see the lingering image of my reflection in the glass door. It’s fading slowly, turning the same pale hue as the dusty mill complex we saw earlier.
If someone were to ask you what it is you really want to be doing, a voice inside me asks, could you tell them? Could you say what you really want to be? Silence.
No, I didn’t think so.
But I know it isn’t this! I protest despairingly, wretchedly, within. I stare at the menu, feeling hopeless. I notice I’m gripping it, concentrating not on the words but the feeling of its erose plastic edges against my fingers, like I’ve tumbled over the edge of some ravine and it’s a root or branch I managed to grab as I fall. I remember the WiFi, and it acts like a foothold. I put down the menu, search for the signal on my phone, log in with the password the server gave me, and pick up the menu again. I notice the daily specials and somewhere in the list, salmon. That will do. I don’t even read what it comes with; not like me at all.
My exterior is calm; I’m even smiling. A fixed smile. No one is aware of the erratic scratchings on my inner seismograph, or of my toxic thoughts, arising like aftershocks to unsettle me further. I look across the room, at the dolled-up waitresses moving from table to table with tip-seeking smiles, taking orders, bringing food, asking “Is everything ok?” They do that here, invariably even before you finish your first mouthful. Do they expect you to answer? Yes, everything was fine until you asked, drawing me from some sweet reverie and, if I’m lucky, the delicious tastes dissolving on my palette. If I need something, I’ll ask. That’s what we do in England.
I’m noticing their makeup and short skirts (too much, too little). They’re so… unattractive. I can’t use the word ‘ugly’, for it only makes me sound so. Perhaps judgment of our outer reality is just an expression of inner discontent. B’ah!
I look at the menu again, even though I’ve made my choice already. The others are still browsing theirs, and—oh god, how I hate this phrase: it’s a way of ‘killing time’. Are they doing the same? I wonder.
I put down the menu and brush my fringe away from my eyes. On the second pass, my fingers touch my receding hairline. They linger there a second (not long enough for the others to notice, but sufficient for my fingertips to probe the hair-follicle graveyard). A rainforest comes to mind again, but it’s the picture of a newly deforested landscape: burnt out tree stumps. On the final sweep, I make sure the hair I still have left hides the crime scene.
Then I’m examining those fingers, and the veins on the back of each hand. They’re like the silt-stained tributaries I saw in the Amazon. Leaching goodness. Eventually running dry. I think of the life force they carry. What am I doing with it? I ask myself. I see myself opening the restaurant door again as we entered. I sense Time, an unstoppable force, merciless and indifferent, pushing from behind. How I yearn for some higher power to care, to show me the way—even if that manifests as a friendly mentor, a guide, an angel in human form. None have appeared to me—or if they have, my wits were too dull to notice. I’m alone. Alone with my choices. And I make one: “The salmon, please.” I don’t know how long the waitress has been standing there poised with her notepad, but it appears the others have ordered. She compliments me on my choice (they do that here too. Just a glass of water, please: “Wonderful.” I’ll have the salad: “Splendid.” I must remember to ask for the washroom to see if it’s met with “Marvellous” and a finger pointing the way).
Everyone is checking their cellphones, apart from Madison. She seems happy, though, to sit there in the frequent silences that occur.
The food arrives. I’m sure everyone is relieved, and not just because they’re hungry. I’m surprised mine doesn’t come with chips (or “fries”, as they keep reminding me), but rather new potatoes. That’s the healthy sort of thing my mother likes to cook, although hers are usually boiled to a mush. Dad prefers it that way, for all vegetables. Despite being a dentist, ‘al dente’ wasn’t a term he heard in his working class upbringing. Thinking about this, I remember another story:
“We used to eat tripe off newspaper,” he told my brothers and me more than once as children. “And one time I came home,” he might continue, “my mother was serving up something small and meaty, and I asked her what it was.” And…
“Never mind what it is, eat it,” his father said, raising suspicions. Perhaps he’d been warned it might happen.
“I’m sorry, son,” he mother said sheepishly.
“Is that… A-A-Alfie?” he asked, horrified.
“Times are tough, son. I won’t have no complaining. You’re mum’s been slaving away in the kitchen,” his father said.
My dad refused to eat it. Alfie was his pet rabbit.
If that story was true, and I had no doubt it was, I really had nothing to complain about when it came to my parents and upbringing. Perhaps that was the point.
Everyone else’s food looks good, too. I wonder how else the city might surprise me. I secure the fillet of salmon with my fork and slide a knife into its steaming pink flesh, inhaling an appetising aroma of fishy wholesomeness. I don’t understand people who don’t like fish. It’s delicious “brain food”, as my mother used to say when I refused to eat it as a child. I’m eager to appease my hunger, and for the ‘wild’ salmon to be dissolving riotously on the tastebuds of my tongue, but looking at my plate, I pause. It’s a freeze frame: my hands poised, gripping fork and knife, either side of a colourful plate of food. A moment’s hesitation, imperceptible to the others, but one that swallows me filet-whole.
Back in the gulag of my meaning-making mind, it’s not a fish I’m cutting into, but a tender morsel of my own potential. Of time. And I’m about to gobble it up. And there’s just this depressing prospect of not having pursued anything bigger in my life. Of having let my potential remain just that—potential.
You’re being ridiculous.
I know, I know. It would have been better if the fish were alive again and slapping me in the face with a wet tail. Get a grip. I quickly take a mouthful. It’s delicious, and I’m back in my body again. Until, that is, an aftertaste kicks in: the taste of stale, rotten, lost time.
Am I forsaking my life? My one precious life? Where is the actor in me? The writer? The photographer? Am I focusing too much on the wrong things, and too little on the right? I’m creative, god damn it, I am. I feel the need to reiterate it, louder: I’M CREATIVE! (Which I guess is to say, “I’m alive”, “My life is worth something.”).
I’m screaming it within. I’m grabbing Brook’s head and ramming it into the table as I say it. Pulling Madison’s hair saying it. Kicking Mitch in the balls saying it. Screaming it so loud the roof on this flimsy diner flies right off, clouds of makeup unplaster themselves from the waitresses’ faces, the whiny nasal drone of the Canadian accent is drowned out (thank god), glasses crack, soaking everyone in beer and pop, and clientele and staff alike end up cowering under their tables with eyes closed and fingers in ears. I’m a wild animal, howling, clawing, and biting at its snare.
It’s new for me, you see—not these violent fantasies, but seeing my worth, my ‘creative self’. Of feeling I’m… someone. I’m so used to not believing it. Perhaps for a while I need to go overboard in self-encouragement and flattery, just to address the imbalance from years of speaking poorly to myself. A kinder inner voice is birthing, but it’s still a fragile scion germinating on parched and stony earth.
“Can we make some one-on-one time to chat later in the week, Brook?” I ask, as we wait in the car for Mitch and Madison to return from the ‘washroom’ (“toilet sounds odd here”, Brook had told me).
“Sure, how about tomorrow afternoon?” he says. “I’m aware you haven’t had the package in writing yet.”
Exactly! What will the company offer me to move to this god-awful place? “I’m chasing that,” he continues. “And I’m aware there were some other things with HR. Something might have been lost in translation. Feel free to follow up with them directly.”
Lost in translation?! There were some important points regarding my move he’d promised to query on my behalf. Now suddenly I should “follow up.” Are words cheap for this guy? Course they are—he’s a salesman. Yeah, but I’m a salesman, too. Just like I’m a Six.
Oh Dom, you do like to box yourself in.
Well, we’re all fated, right? Fated to be the personality we are. Nature. Nurture. Fated for things to repeat in our life. Round and round we go (I'm certainly dizzy). Free will... phh, it's a lie.
Anyway, if I am a ‘sales guy’, I’m not one that uses techniques to manipulate a close. I’m just enthusiastic, communicate clearly, and am not afraid to ask for the business, that’s all. I know my word matters, my integrity matters. (Unless lying is the smarter option).
“Weren’t there some key points you were waiting to hear back on?” I ask Brook, feeling even more unsettled now. I list a couple I could remember (the entire compendium was stored on my laptop).
I’m a Six. I need structure, god damn it. A firm base. Mine feels like quicksand. But I’m forgetting to take the rough with the smooth. Brook did invariably sort out the important things, and had let me work from Barcelona last summer. On that basis alone, I have no reason to feel hard done by. An ex-work colleague and friend often says to me, “Just roll with it, Dom.” Yes, I should just chill. And roll, like a hotly pursued round of Double Gloucester down an English hillside. The image lifts my mood a moment.
“Every single one was hot,” Mitch says as he buckles up.
“In the restaurant?” I enquire with a simper, thinking quite the opposite. I glance at Madison, but she’s looking out her window, ignoring the ‘guy chat’. She’s from Spain originally. She’s not my type exactly, but far prettier than any of those dolled-up waitresses, or any of the girls I’ve seen in Calgary so far, come to think of it.
“What?” Mitch says, surprised.
“Not my type,” I say, adding silently, “at all”, then vocally, “I prefer a little more… subtlety.”
Brook laughs at that, and later, when it’s just the two of us in the car and referring to Mitch’s taste in women, he says, “That’s what happens when you’ve been married a while.”
I’m back gas-guzzler gazing now, with that slightly-sedated, post-gorge feeling. My judgement appears sharp as ever, however. Each rumbling monster I see go by compounds the feeling that the world is going to hell. (Or is it the feeling that my world is going to hell, and the vehicles are just the objects of internal projection?).
I mean the world of humans, of course. The little blue planet will be just fine. Till the sun bloats, let’s rip a self-annihilating sneeze and million-degree bogies scorch every planet in our solar system to a cinder. Perhaps it’ll then suck what’s left into a black hole as it inhales again. One can hope.
Why worry? I wonder. Perhaps something more intelligent will evolve in our place—a humanoid that doesn’t act with the decorum of a parasite.
What’s the real problem? I ask myself, searching for the reason I spun out in the restaurant. I seem to know. Something to do with 'purpose' and 'identity'—a yearning for a greater sense of each. But how to achieve it? I seem to know that also. From skills mastered, and creativity expressed. But what had I mastered? Nothing.
No, because you’re lazy. And undisciplined.
And hard on myself…?
I see another truck, another set of spinning alloys, another tailpipe. It makes me wonder if we put all the tailpipes of all the vehicles in the world together, and equated them to one single exhaust, how big would it be? A mile in diameter? Twenty? I’m sure it wouldn’t be hard to work out. Find out how many cars there are in the world, what the average exhaust size is, and then “do the math”, as they say out here. I don’t have a calculator in the car, but I imagine this megatailpipe pointing skyward, pumping out fumes. If people had a visual representation like that, would they get that pumping 90 million tonnes of global-warming pollution into the atmosphere each day has an affect?
But, why worry, remember?
Yeah. Plus, should one lament more the loss of a species, or host of species, that existed 10 million years, as opposed to 10,000 years let’s say? Or one day! Some flies only live one day, don’t they? I mean, it has to all end at some point, right? In sun-snot, for example. Perhaps rainforests and orang utans have just had their time, that’s all.
I realise I’m gazing at a car wheel, its glinting alloy oddly hypnotic. Nice, even.
Then another thought (really, I can't escape them):
Humans are part of nature. So what we do; what we produce, must also be part of nature, no? Pollution, conflict and cruelty.