In the elemental scheme of things we humans are, at best, middling. We are minute in the scale of the universe, our time not even a glimmer, and as we age, time contracts, but only in the shortening forward direction. But pity the poor hydrogen-7 isotope whose life is likely over in 30 yactoseconds, absorbing the laughter of helium-5 living on average, 33 times longer, and both jealously, if ever so quickly regarding our seemingly infinite span. But lest we get complacent, there is always zirconium-96 for whom our life is but the blink of an eye, barely worth noting, a second at most in a span that could reach twenty quintillion years, so we are nothing special, save in our own eyes.
It is far past time that I went on a pilgrimage. I’m not at all sure just what sort of a pilgrim I’d likely be. As a now Buddhist child of the late 60’s, the Plymouth Colony model clearly isn’t workable. And in my own late 60’s, now with a fused spine and creaky knees and shoulders, foreign travel looks less and less of an option. I’ve long since given up acid and mescaline, and I never got the hang of astral projection, so perhaps I need to think smaller and just wander over to my local wine shop for a couple of bottles of a decent Rioja and Galicia and dreams of the Camino de Santiago.
Today was downright exhausting, and my hour long walk along the river left me dripping and drooping. It wasn’t different than most days, same time, same place, and the usual 756 miles, according to my old friend Orion, who was watching from his usual perch, unseen, as he prefers it by day. When I was done, I started to complain about how I felt, when Orion interjected, “Just be thankful you’re not in Florida today, its hotter by far, and your usual walk would have covered a full 930 miles today, and there you’d have reason perhaps to complain just a bit.” Heading home to shower, I called out to Orion, “You know you are one heavenly pain in the ass.” “Yeah,” he replied, “that’s what Artemis said.”
The box said all natural. That alone was nothing unusual, but it was on tomatoes. How, he wondered, could tomatoes but unnatural, or worse still partially natural, partially not. Had they cloned the tomato? Would cloning make it unnatural, and if so, how could you tell it from the original which was natural? And these weren’t organic. He began to wonder how tomatoes could be inorganic. Wouldn’t they cease to be tomatoes? It was all too confusing and he was hungry but all he had was tomatoes and those he could no longer trust.
This morning I made the mistake of asking where the coffee beans were. My spouse didn’t hear me, but Siri offered her opinion, leaning toward Guatemala. That didn’t set well with Alexa who said they were either in the cabinet over the stove, of in Papua New Guinea, since she prefers lower acidic coffee. Probably unsurprising, but Siri did not take well to being corrected, and got into it with Alexa, and I was left trying to interject, being ignored. I asked the Google Voice Assistant to intercede, but it only wanted to know which voice I wanted it to speak with, and then froze completely awaiting my answer.
Time seems frozen in the checkout line stuck between the Mars bars and the tabloids, you wonder how Liz could survive a total body liposuction, and further details of how OJ killed in a moment of lust. The old woman in front rummages in her change purse certain she has the eighty seven cents, the coins lost in a blue haze reflected off her hair. Two aisles over the young mother her jaw clenched in frustration keeps putting the life savers back on the shelf as her child, fidgeting in the cart grabs another roll, until she shouts and slaps his hand. His cry draws stares from all and she stares at the floor as he grabs a Three Musketeers and Certs. A man in the express line swears that the apples were marked 89 cents and wants to see the manager who calmly explains that Granny Smiths are a dollar twenty nine and only small Macintoshes are on sale this week. He puts the bag on the scale and stalks out of the store. I would shift to the express lane but I have 16 items and must continue to wait and wonder how many incisions it would take for a full body liposuction.
Previously appeared in Kimera: A Journal of Fine Writing, Vol. 3, No.2, 1998 and in The Right to Depart, Plainview Press, 2008
He says you have no idea how bad this hangover is, and I have to agree with him. You cannot imagine how much it hurts to even think of moving my head right now, he says weakly and I choose not to argue the point. Why did you let me drink so much, he says, and when I remind him I wasn’t there last night, he says, I was speaking to myself. He says he would like some hair of the dog that bit him. I tell him that it may take some time to find a dog with so little sense or taste.