Monday, July 3, 2017

That Lonely Hermit

There are days nothing comes out.

And I could say I feel empty, but there is something there. The stomach gurgles. The liver does what livers do. The heart pumps and the blood circulates and the brain, oh, the brain is never empty. The brain is a cavalcade of cartoons I watched when I was five, six, seven. Random bits of high school ephemera – Hey everyone! I’m reliving the day I failed that test in chemistry, watch as I fail to place more than 20 elements in the correct position on the periodic table!

Hydrogen, helium, lithium, beryllium, boron, carbon . . . then something about the noble gases in a column. Argon and xenon and such. And forget the transuranic elements in their neat, out-of-place rows. I certainly did.

The brain is never empty.

It’s a replay. It’s “What’s My Line.”

Why was Dorothy Kilgallen famous anyway?

Columnist, journalist, and game show panelist. A reality star before reality television.
She’s now a rising star in my post-reality television show, scrolling endlessly in my brain.
If you want time to pass slowly, be alone.

Have plenty of things to do. Because in ideless, being alone doesn’t make time pass faster.
Have things to do. And do them. You’ll get them done, alone.

And time will pass slowly.

There’s never enough to do when you’re alone. So you invent things to do, often to the detriment of the things you should do. That’s why, in part, some of my refuges have crumbled and are no longer habitable. But I am the best organizer of unimportant paperwork in the outer solar system.

Oh, paperwork finds you, even in the digital age. And just like the transuranic elements, they cry to be ordered properly in the ur-space where they should not exist lest they push radon and the supposed oganesson out of their tidy columns. Organize your papers, you organize the universe. Einstein said that. Or at least should have.

Or maybe it was Mr. Waite, the chemistry teacher, who said it. He may have said it to me, after grading that quiz on the periodic table.

See me now, Mr. Waite. My life depends on others’ knowledge of chemistry in making the machines that make my food and air. And lucky I am that they knew where to keep their transuranic elements. But I repair the machines and sometimes tweak the code, trying to find that right mix of chemicals to feed me but not give me space-gas, which I’m told is a problem not uncommon in the outer solar system where I live.

I owe a great deal to Wally. Wally lives on Titan, and repairs the food replicators there. He passes on to me bits of code of his own invention, and updates from the corporate mongrels who refuse to help me because I stole one of their machines rather than bought it. He speculated the deuterium-heavy water I produce on Iapetus may contribute to my excessive gassiness. But he is no chemist. He is a fiddler, a coder, and tinkerer, and organizer of paperwork like me, except he falls to either side of the crack, not into it to dwell with me.

“There are worse things to smell than fart,” he reminds me.

Yet there are still days nothing comes out.

“It’s all in the code,” Wally says. “Sometimes the best thing you can do with the code is to futz with the numbers. It’s only food, so what can go wrong? Get too farty, unload the Sulphur, or stop eating the eggs.”

He also sent me Hanna Arendt’s The Origins of Totalitarianism. “You’re in danger of becoming a cult of one,” he said. Though he didn’t say why. Because I have not cut myself off from others. Except by distance.

And there’s that pesky matter of time.

Because even Wally, not far distant on Titan, is still millions of miles away physically. But save he construct or commandeer a craft, he may as well be in the Trappist system, orbiting Betelgeuese, or in heaven or hell for that matter. He cannot get to me except via radio waves, which still take minutes to arrive.

And they limit his free radio time.

I point out he’s likely member of a cult, too.

“At least my air doesn’t smell like a fart,” he replied. “Most days.”

Loneliness, Arendt says: “the experience of not belonging to the world at all, which is among the most radical and desperate experiences of man.”

Yet I was alone on a planet populated by billions.

No comments: