Death of the author

It had been a long, arduous struggle, but it was finally done. The text she had written was literally the worst piece of wordsmithing she’d (or anyone’d) had ever done, but it was in fact unequivocally done, and that’s what counts. With the thought that being done is a decision, and not an objective state of things in the world, she turned it in, and went to sleep

Three weeks later, her text was graded. A+. Running through the emotional stages – shock, denial, negotiation, acceptance, joy – at record pace, she then did something unexpected. She took pride in her work

Abrupt readiness

“I just want to let you know, I am ready to go the distance. To do whatever it takes. To go above and beyond. To do anything. Nothing is out of scope. Everything is on the table. Whatever it is, I am eager and ready to go. Just point me towards the task and watch me perform it with alacrity. No one has ever been more up for the job”

“Sir, this is the post office. All you need to do is sign this form and then you are all set”

“I’ll do it!”

“…that’s the spirit”

Family accounting

She woke up. For once, she had managed a nice nine hours, a solid unequivocal sleep. Instinctively, she reached for her phone, unmuted it, and noticed the second unusual thing of that day. She had missed calls. A lot of them. All of them from miscellaneous relatives whom she probably, but not necessarily, might recognize if she walked past them on the streets

It must be important

Overcoming the general weirdness of the situation, she quickly determined the nature of the problem. She hadn’t paid for the Netflix account this month, which apparently caused such a tangle of consequences that it literally involved everyone, directly or indirectly. Clearly, dear auntie did not honor her promise of not telling anyone the password

Backtracking

She was lost

She could tell, since the words used to describe the buildings she walked past had shifted from “derelict apartment complexes” to “ostentatious lawn ornaments” and “spacious garages with room for mid-life experimentation”. Not her usual haunts. Adding to the overall lostness was the fact that the exact route that brought her there had somehow faded from memory. One moment she was walking along, and the next – wham, suddenly all these too big and too quiet houses

The houses were not completely quiet, though. As she walked past, garage lamps turned themselves on, charting her trajectory through this unknown neighborhood. While she did not know the way home, she did know where she’d been. As she kept walking, she pondered that this was not an altogether unfamiliar situation

To wit at speed

“How are you?” he asked, not taking into account the torrent of possible answers afforded by that question. These answers, now flooding through her mind all at once, staggered atop one another like so many sardines in a very small tin can, paradoxically both at the speed of jaguar-powered jet engines and with the glacial slowness of plate tectonics, caused her to be silent for a moment, until the one word that would let her out of this predicament appeared, chosen not for its accuracy but for its relentless, seemingly effortless brevity:

“Fine”

A once and future feeling

It had happened again. Without warning or fanfare, a sudden intense feeling of nostalgia had invaded his emotional landscape and repainted everything in a retrospective tint. Only, the thing this nostalgia was nostalgic for was something he had done mere hours ago, and could do again within a reasonably imminent future without too much effort or rearranging of schedules. Nevertheless, the feeling persisted, and thus he found himself incredibly anxious about the future. If such a strong nostalgia could strike for things that were still going on, what retroactive marvels would then be in store for those things truly lost to time

A balanced diet

He had done the math. The calculations all checked out. In theory, everything should even out with smooth precision, the two sides of the equation fulfilling each and every criteria implied in the symbol called “equals”. And yet, they did not. No matter how precisely he fine-tuned the amounts, double-checked the sums and parallel-parked the quantities, there always seemed to be ever so slightly more of the one than the other. Attempting to even the scales inevitably ended up with there being more of the other than of the one, forever

Defeated, he put away the now empty milk carton and chewed through the remaining cereal, his equilibrium perturbed

Isometric memories

He thought back on his life, his career. Up until now, he had never really known what made him make the choices he had made, what had propelled him onto the life trajectory that he so fondly remembered. The life of a low-level town planner would not make for was not the most glamorous of biographies, but regardless he reveled in remembering it. He was never one of those making the big decisions, but rather one who ensured that the smaller ones were carried out with as much efficiency and grace as could be afforded. Up until now, he couldn’t have put his finger on exactly when he chose this life, but as the first tunes of soft jazz started playing from the other room, he suddenly realized with crystal clarity and a full bird’s eye view of the whole process

In the balance

He had, unwittingly, walked into a three-way standoff. It was clear that the fate of the neighborhood would be decided on this day, and that it would be decided by whomever was left standing after this ordeal. Each participant could only eye one of the others, meaning they all gazed to and fro with careful deliberation. No one wanted to make the first move, seeing as it would allow the one not pounced an opportunity to seize the advantage. Carefully, he stepped out of the cats’ lines of sight, and hurriedly walked along the street before these feline desperadoes could come to blows

Seeds of greatness

The effect was instant. As soon as the song came on, he remembered a very particular moment of his childhood. He was watching TV and marveled at how big the world was. The show was forever lost to memory, but he remembered how it made him feel. A vast field of possibilities lay open, the drumbeat of optimism its theme, everything just within reach, tomorrow eternally synonymous with progress. A sudden sense of nostalgia for this unrealized future overtook him. The future came and went, and here he was; whatever seeds were planted in that moment sure yielded strange fruit