Solitude Notwithstanding (Apologies to S. Vega)

I don’t want to be lonely
I just want to be alone…”
-silverchair, ‘across the night’

For his second wish, Steven chose to give the genie freedom.

It felt momentarily surreal, using a wish to provide the giver with something equally powerful, but also right. Why shouldn’t he, having been given the present of solitude through a wish, not show his gratitude by reflecting that gift on a being who was imprisoned, chained to him through a fairy-tale curse?

Not to mention that Steven wasn’t really sure what else he could want, that wouldn’t have the dreaded cataclysmic kick-back effect.

And so he wished for the genie what he had wished for himself, and the genie thanked him, and disappeared, a fog that gradually faded from view, leaving Steven unable to say with certainty that the genie had ever been there.

Although of course it wasn’t imagination or dream; his first wish had been been granted, and he still had the weirdly disconcerting bottle on his shelf, the genie’s discarded prison left behind as a constant reminder.

Solitude, Steven was coming to realize, was a one-way mirror, and your enjoyment of it depended entirely on which side you stood, and what you wanted out of it.

On the one side, self-reflection was all that you found. Yourself staring back at you, with everything that lay behind you as well. Pleasant for the narcissist in yourself, probably.

On the other side, you can watch as the world goes by, crawling day by day through its paces. It’s a real-time reality TV show, without the scripting and the editing for reaction shots. So much so, as it happens, that watching it is all the interaction you have.

But that mirror, he thinks, has its flaws, those areas where light is refracted and bent, making you look warped. There are smalls slivers of glass missing, and those places make the worldview hard to enjoy.

And after a while, when you’re the only one left, who else is going to clean the glass but you?

He had almost missed out on his chance to live a fairytale altogether. It almost seemed to him, on reflection, that the genie wanted to be found. The bottle was attractive, certainly, but not the usual thing that would catch his eye. Not to say non-descript or ugly — more that he was past the point in his life at which he looked for treasures, hidden or obvious.

Simple was enough for him, but after passing it a few times with his eyes, he was eventually drawn enough to it to pick it up, and out came the genie. End of story. Or beginning, as such things happen.

Steven had long dreamed of something special, something unique happening to him, so when it happened, he had thought himself ready, incorrectly. It took a ridiculously long time to make his first wish, though he quickly followed that with his second, almost as though the two were intertwined.

He had a fear of consequence, of reactions unforeseen. That was the way of the fairytales he knew – penned by Serling and Joyce and King, where the wish is granted, and enjoyed, until ultimately revealing the universe’s desire for balance. He worried that wishing for world peace would end in overpopulation, that riches for himself would deprive another of everything they had ever known, that any of his desires would be met with something inversely undesirable.

In time, after careful consideration and thought, he asked for and was granted the same thing he gave (in a way) to the genie – freedom, which in his case meant solitude.

“Time can erase not just the future, but also the past.”
-penn jillette

Steven was very bad at many things, but he was very good at discovering that. He wasn’t bad at everything, by any means, but many things that he thought he wanted to do quickly revealed themselves as out of his reach, for varying reasons. He wanted to play sports, but his body wasn’t built for physical competition; he wanted to act, but was far better at exploring himself than understanding not-him people. But he tried, over and over – that, he was very good at.

He tried relationships, but was never very good at them. He tried being part of groups with similar interests or hobbies, but quickly grew exhausted. Teams asked too much of him; friendships, over time, would change and drift away. Even being a hermit didn’t work out, but in time, he finally sorted it out – he liked being around people in a distant way that didn’t ask or expect too much from him. It was far from what he had dreamed of – just like his films and his chess playing and his woodworking abilities – but he accepted it, because Vonnegut once wrote “So it goes,” and he liked the simple poetry in those three syllables.

And so he wished for a world in which that was okay, and granted the being with the power to give him everything he had could ever wish for, anything he could ever want, the freedom to chase the same, or whatever else the genie might want for itself.

In time, Steven grew to learn the consequences of his wish, and they were everything he had expected. He was happier without having to make commitments to others, or having to account for their wants or desires. He was sad many nights, without someone meaningful to share his thoughts and experiences and feelings with. He did what he wanted, whenever and wherever he wanted, without explaining himself to anyone for any reason. But he did everything alone.

He did everything lonely, which was fine, because that’s what it was.

One day, Steven decided that he needed a change. For no discernible reason — no one incident changed things for him, no overnight dream of different things or sudden light bulb that things might be better, waiting on him somewhere else. It was just time.

He had forgotten that there was one more wish waiting for him, but he had never forgotten the genie. They had spent so much time together without the expectation or hope of what would come out of their relationship, and he had grown to love the genie, without ever realizing it, without naming it. Theirs was a preternatural closeness and understanding, and though details of the genie’s face and voice had begun to fade into a glamorized imagination of a memory, his love for the genie’s company remained crystal clear in his heart and his head.

And so he set out, with only the most important of physical possessions, leaving everything he had ever known behind. He didn’t know how to find the genie — not even how to begin — but he knew that it was worth trying, worth the look.

Because with the genie, he had found someone with whom he could be alone without ever being lonely.

He didn’t need another wish — just the determination and opportunity to really make his first wish come true.

You got your solitude
And I got my peace
And nothing in that moment matters more
If only in just this one fragment together it grows
This tree… may be i must maybe lost
Right where i need to be…”
-steven wilson

12/19-12/24 2015

Untitled no. Pi

Another dream, and you’re there, along with Jamaica Pete. A street festival, some small town in the South, but here the fire-and-brimstone preachers dance through the streets with ladies of the evening, string ties and glasses and fishnet hose doing some sort of offshoot of the Can Can to the tune of Camptown Races on banjo and splintered guitar. Men and women and children line the streets in a pulsating mass, screaming and smiling, excited but not pushing dangerously.

Yet.

You sense it, though, the adrenaline rush that starts riots. It’s strongest in the eyes of the young, but those flames dance madly in the eyes of every person here.

“‘Ey, mon,” and you can’t help but roll your eyes and grin at the white man with dreadlocks and a filthy daishiki. “‘Ey, look – sometings comin.” Gary Oldman was much more convincing.

But you follow his skeletal finger, trace the path from a yellowed and chipped fingernail through the ballroom ministers and their Babylon whores, past the clowns with their running colors and beyond the all-Negro marching band, almost to the horizon, and you see it.

You see her.

The distance is playing tricks, tendrils of fog coming up off the dirt road the parade travels. There’s a silence pushing through the bluegrass ragtime banjo and horns, like a Klieg light shining through a pinhole. Her blond hair blows in a wind that exists only for her. Her eyes, green as absinthe, and the rest of the world around her starts to desaturate, leaving the dreamworld of Oz.

There’s only enough color in the world for her. Only enough music for her. Only enough air for her.

Only enough you.

You’re suddenly and violently aware that you’re about to be trampled under foot by the oncoming parade, squashed like a grape by redneck clowns and dancing Baptists, and you grab for Jamaica Pete to head for higher ground. Pete shrugs, pencil arms amazingly strong, and you suddenly realize that, just like him, the crowd has stopped, the hookers have stopped, the band has stopped. No one moves, not an inch, good ol’ Walt Disney would be amazed and jealous at the suspended animation. Everyone in the world, everyone in this world, locked and trapped in her beauty.

Like flies in amber. Like dinosaurs in tar.

And she’s right on top of you, fifteen yards, then ten, then five. And she never stops smiling, never stops looking directly at you, until she’s nose-to-nose with you. Her skin smells like vanilla, her breath like fresh strawberries, her hair like lavender. Her dress, silk and translucent red, brushes against you in her breeze, caressing your arm. You open your mouth to say something, say anything, but her finger, gently as a lover, presses against your lips, the heat of a million stars just at the edge of your tongue.

“Shh.” One syllable, a thousand seconds of aural bliss. And you hear her voice, echoing and distorting and whispering and shifting phase, singing to you an eternity of chords in undiscovered tones, her lips never moving, never twitching, never breaking that beautiful smile that captures and immobilizes. The happiness on her lips is multiplied in her eyes, and you feel yourself drowning in a sticky hallucination that burns your throat and blurs your world.

“We all unfold as we should.”

And then you are awake, back in your quarantined hotel room, condemned walls barely covering condemned wiring and condemned pipes, you on a mattress that puts fire hazards to shame. Your left arm heavy and tingling, pinned beneath your head, your shoulder pinching the sensation away from it’s inferiors.

“Welcome back, mon.”

Does that bastard bathe in Patchouli or something?