"Someone sent me a link to a YouTube video of Justin Bieber sitting in on drums on a late-night show on television," the Martian anthropologist said to me.
I brightened. "Oh yeah? I saw that, too."
(I loved the way she spoke our idioms. Sitting in. She said it in exactly the way a human might react to tasting something profoundly delicious. Her whole body, down to the ends of both tails, gave a little shudder of pleasure.)
"After I watched it, I scrolled down to the comments."
I sagged a little. "Oh."
She noticed, of course. "Do you not think the people who comment on such things are representative of humankind?"
I sighed. "Sadly, I think they are all too representative."
She was quiet for several seconds. It was impossible to tell what she was thinking. Then she said, "The first comment read, 'He could have played drums in a metal band but instead chooses to be a faggot.'
This word, faggot, is not meant to declare that he is in some way like a bundle of sticks, but rather meant in the derogatory sense?"
"Very much in the derogatory sense," I replied.
"Can you explain why?" she asked.
I sighed again. "Because the person writing the comment doesn't like Justin Bieber, I guess."
"And so spends time watching a video of him and then publicly disparaging him?"
"This is very strange behavior."
"Yes, it is."
She was quiet for another couple of seconds. Then she said, "Through my research, I have come to understand that the adjective modifying band is not meant literally. It doesn't mean that Justin Bieber would literally play drums with musicians made from iron or steel. So in this context, what exactly does metal mean?"
I was talking with the Martian anthropologist. She had asked me to explain some of the features of our written language. I was explaining about the alphabet.
"The alphabet represents the base sounds of language with a manageable number of symbols, which get combined into patterns to express the building blocks of spoken language. I guess you'd call it a means of transcribing the phonetics of language into an efficient written form. Visually, you only need to remember a small handful of symbols, and everything derives from there."
"Ah, yes," she said. "We have something similar. Only …" she hesitated. "We have a couple of senses for which humans have no analogue, and we encode those senses as well into what you'd understand as written language."
"Wow," I said.
She performed a complex flexion of musculature around her upper mouth, along with a quiet, keening note from the lower. I'd come to recognize this compound gesture as her species' version of a smile.
"Your alphabet seems like a very efficient system," she said.
"Well, there are some issues," I said, and I wrote down and pronounced the following words:
She was silent for a very long time. Finally, she spoke.
"I think I am finally coming to understand," she said, "how it is that humans so regularly commit atrocities against each other."
I can't really remember a time when I wasn't disgusted by Black Friday, but it was in 2013 that I realized that the whole run-up to Black Friday was making me kind of crazy. I felt something like a sickening buzz and I felt constantly on edge. I would tell people about how I was feeling, and they would invariably say, "Just don't pay attention," which isn't bad advice, but it missed the point. "That's the thing," I would tell them. "I can't not pay attention. I feel it. It's everywhere."
That's a pretty bold assertion. The first times it came out of my mouth, it startled me enough that I had to ask, Is that true? Because if it was, it implied a different relationship with the world than I'd ever allowed myself to consider before. Could I really feel the energy of was essentially floating in the air around me? The more I examined it, the more inescapable the conclusion became: I could feel the crazy energy society was bathing itself in and it was making me feeling crazy, too.
A door opened up for me via that realization, and eventually I had no choice but to walk through.
Our culture traditionally views Friday the 13th an unlucky day. I am watching my possessions, especially my shirts, very carefully today.
But, really, which do you think would be unluckier? That something I own disappears today, or that something that disappeared returns? At this point, which is likely to have the greater impact on my increasingly tenuous grip on sanity?
I am coming to suspect that the boundaries between the planes is becoming more porous. Was my stalker impelled to take the grey Montbell t-shirt by the breezes stirred up by Raven's wings or the echoes of Coyote's howls? Do I dare ignore the possibility?
One day, will I open up the drawer in which I keep my workout clothes, the one I've searched over and over again for the missing shirts, and find, balled and wrinkled in a back corner that I am certain I've checked fifty times before, that orange wool Ibex shirt or the long-lost Salsa jersey, the disappearance of which set into motion this whole madness?
A strong wind blows when two locations' air pressures differ. Think, then, of the strange currents of energy that must exist between two distinct realities, that of the physical plane that we (think we) know, and of another plane, more occult and wondrous and standing beyond our meager attempts to explain. What might those winds look like? As the boundary grows more permeable, mustn't the strength of the currents grow? From that perspective, I will view the unexpected return of my Ibex shirt as essentially the appearance of a wind sock between the dimensions. Here in this physical space I may see a crumpled ball of fabric, but with my eyes attuned to greater forces, I will see it inflated, as with portent, indicating the strongest of winds.
I am in New Mexico right now. It's my mom's birthday today.
Now, perhaps you are selfish and so you are saying, "Yes yes happy birthday Ben's mom now please tell me about the green chile."
You could stand to be more polite, O Selfish One--sing "Happy Birthday" now!--but: I have an empty cooler in the car. When I return to Colorado that cooler will be full with a full sack of this year's Limitar chile.
If you work very hard to get into my good graces, perhaps I can be persuaded to share some.
After the hours of wakefulness--as time on the cushion comes to an end, after the glow of energy has subsided, as maybe just maybe a yawn comes--I usually put in earplugs. At first I did this because if I was going to sleep into the morning hours I didn't want a barking dog or a ringing telephone to wake me up.
It became a habit. I found that it helped. It blocked out the world, and the only sound was the resonance of my breath in my body. Just the deep ocean-wave sound of my own breath. I would fall into deep relaxation.
But I find, now, that it comes with a fear. I've become dependent on the earplugs. They block out the world.
What then are the chances I will hear the zombie's moan before (too late) I feel its hateful teeth?