Matt Briggs

This is not the person alone in the room. He woke early, before dawn although it was summer. The thought of talking to other people was not something he had to ruminate on. He knew if he did not leave his room, or if he walked down the steps of his building, closed the gate behind him, and then walked down the block along the busy morning street that people used to get from the sleeping neighborhoods to the south to the steam plumes and dawn glistening towers downtown that no one would say to him as much as good morning. He was himself an individual. He looked at his hands. Uneven fingers. Fingerprints that were not shared by anyone else. In his bones, DNA that was his own, and he kept all of this to himself. This is not this person, but the opposite.

The dream of the shopping spree is one he thought about on the bus ride to school. He imagined which store: The Toys R Us near the mall. The mall was long away. It took maybe an hour to drive to the mall. In a corn field near the mall there was a massive brown brick building with the orange and red Toys R Us sign and when he entered it, the place smelled of plastic and rubber and there he was among the blister packs and action figures and row after row of video games under their Lucite panels with the little cards that you had to take up to the front of the store to get the actual carton with the cartridge inside of it. He contemplated his shopping spree route through the store. The problem of the shopping spree was he would be overcome with greed and then try to fit the entire content of the store into the cart. He had to set a time limit, and he had to move, and so he needed to have his plan ready just in case he won the shopping spree. He wasn’t to get caught out.

The sunlight that strikes his face carries it. The surface of the desk carries it. Usually, it comes in letters and numbers and although when he trying to use the TV tuner he can see it as a random pure thing when he can’t get a station over the airwaves. Listening to deep space he can hear it, provided he has a machine that can listen to deep space. The attraction of the deprivation chamber is the attraction of escaping from it. In the water that is his body temperature, in a perfect darkness, he is still subject to it, but because it is the pulse of his heart he can tune himself to it and try to tune it out, but this is finally just a simulation of the lack of it. Death is the only thing that seems to be without it. In death, finally, he escapes from it. He came from death, and before birth, he was free of it, and in death he will free of it again.

He is aware before he is awake. The clock starts his day. This morning; however, he is awake before his clocks starts his day, so he had a part of time that was without time, and he lay in bed next to his wife and listened to her breath. In this gap between the previous day and the next day she sometimes talks in her sleep, but this morning she is a silent and murmuring figure deep in sleep. And then, his alarm sounds and the day becomes long. He stretches, and then puts himself in motion and then he is in motion even if he is not actually moving. Not in motion, he is waiting to move again. He keeps his gears going from the routine of putting material into his body and then drinking his drugs and then driving to the bus stop and taking an elevator in the building that processes and joins the stream of different people from their own beds into the floor of cubicles and the non and on and on until finally he arrives home, and the day begins to slow and he brushes his teeth and sets his alarm and the sweet darkness of the gap between one day and the next takes him.

A collective loss is the loss of a collective thing. He has lost wooden blocks in the river rapids. In the heat, his mother drove to Sunday Creek to sit in the shade next to the ice melt river on the beach of polished round river stones and boulders and his brother and he played in the ice melt under the brilliant July blue. The water swirled into calderas of froth. They shivered when they were in the water. Their pale skin rippled with goose bumps. They built elaborate stone castles from the stones. They populated these castles with furniture made from bright primary color wooden blocks: red squares, yellow cones, blue rectangles. A rectangle fell into the rapids, bobbed for a second and was gone. He was filled with an immense emotion. Emotion has a mental flavor. Smell and taste itself are as much a function of the brain. The chemical composition of a substance enters your nose and ticks the receptors of your taste buds and the signal excites synapses and the pattern echoes with an association of past tastes, and the loss of the block in the rapids is associated for him with the loss of a feral kitten given to him by his uncle, the death of parakeets escaping from their cages and the bright and grey bundle of feathers birds until they become tiny bodies with broken necks at the foot of the floral pattern living room wall, a Fisher Price lion lifted from his circus set while he is laying down for nap time at day care. He has lost something. But when the collective loses something they lose a collective thing like an airplane in the ocean. Even the people who do not know the people on board. The plane might know the people who almost got on the plane that day. We understand that the airplane was there, and some of us were on that plane. And now it is gone, and some of us are gone. We understand that. This excites in him the sense of loss and this sense of loss is shared with other people. What has been tried before results in success and failure. We are ants with history. Our generations are a biological information processing system, a vast system of computation, indexing failure and success. And this collective understanding of the probable against the actual is encoded in the fuzzy system known as tradition, or it is just better that way. If someone could do it, they have already done it, son. Everyone knows how to do that; it’s like breathing. It just ain’t natural. Natural not being an occurrence in nature but natural being an expression of how things are done because we do them that way. We do it because our mothers did it before us. Our collective habit seem to guard us against loss and uncertainty. They ward off ghouls and devils. They keep our children safe. They are our way of life.