Under my watchful eyes, a weight settles over the world. Thick layers of shadows pile on top of one another until all that’s left poking out in the sea of night are tiny fireflies, little torches signaling life. I look out my golden-ratioed window, a precise, technical masterpiece with a reinforced panel of glass acting as a projector for the production playing out beyond. In the distant horizon, the line where the sky meets the world and the galactic bend, glinting ever so inconspicuously, levels with my eyes. I get the sensation that I’m staring into the eyes of the universe—snuggled tightly under the darkness, fast asleep. Her curls fill out the vast emptiness above, the physical manifestations of her dreams. A mosaic of creatures frolic in an infinite, ancient plain: Orion, the unparalleled hunter traveling betwixt distant ends to stretch the limits of his skill; a pair of tilted spoons, scooping up the steaming broth seeping out from the seams of the treasure-studded wrapping; a dangerous beauty, Scorpio, her red scaled tail narrowing into an intoxicating point. My eyes are drawn to the warm, brighter star that forms her abdomen as it sparkles and spins, an intoxicating momentum sending the gears of my mind into motion.
Pockets of light fill the emptiness, and my senses hurl in a new direction as the world transforms into a very different yet familiar scene. The sun is bright and welcomingーthe epitome of a summer sun, and I feel its soothing warmth caress my cheek. A perfect sky blue paired with the perfect park-going weather, an occasional breeze shaking away the built up excess of the afternoon heat. I’m strolling in a fashionable neighborhood, stylish boutique storefronts and cozy restaurants line the sides of the street as cyclists whiz by through the hilly path. I’m thinking about the plans I made to go explore beyond the northern border, a place of elk, coastal rocky outcrops, and lush forests. I pull up in front of a cafe with an oak sign embossed with uppercase, playful lettering hanging over polished brown planks lining a ramp up to the entrance. I’m planning to finish a bit of writing accompanied by a iced glass of espresso and my comforting warm companion. My hand grasps the handle for the entrance and pulls, causing the affixed bell to heartily ring out.
Everything is dark again, and my eyes slowly adjust to the thick-paned window and the tiny heatless sun glinting in the distance. The melodical toll of the announcement system fades into the background as tones and words and meaning tumble out. I wonder how warm the Scorpio’s belly feels to people a suitable distance away. Does it also resemble a tender embrace?
At these moments in time, where the realm of the reality and the imaginary come within inches of each other, it seems inevitable that Universe is conspiring, playing some mischievous prank on her inhabitants. The sensations of normal life are muddled, as it is when alcohol has dulled the finely-tuned sensations of danger, propriety, and coordination into unshapely blobs. Universe’s overwhelming presence grows ever large in the mind’s eye, and senses power down as if paralyzed by a command. The urgent ticking of the world clock melt into a frozen puddle while those pesky fleeting desires of the heart and the mind and the limbs too, seem to be trapped by the immeasurable blanket expanding on all sides. Yet, strangely, I feel lighter than ever. The familiar weight of my physical body has been lifted, while I find my mind being summoned to a different plane of existence. Sometimes, I imagine my consciousness as a separate beingーmy soul manifested as a ghastly apparition, perhaps. Or, maybe, it takes on a more pleasant form—the sigh of a breeze winding his way through a thicket of broad-shouldered oaks, the warmth of the afternoon summer sunlight giving endlessly to all she meets, the trail of a raindrop, crash landing on a pillowy palm, staking a winding trail towards freedom.
If your consciousness traveled in the middle of the night, who would it encounter? Would it be the dashing imaginations of former crushes or the ghastly manifestations of buried worries? Have you ever wondered about what every thought, every idea, every flittering of the mind looks like in the physical world? Each time we think, what kind of life are we creating? Our minds are ever-replicating machines of purpose. We manufacture and release this meaning into the world every time a little thought sprouts from the edges of our consciousnessーa tiny DNA-carrying seedling fighting for survival. In this world, rebirth is constantーlife and death merely temporary states. One idea takes the limelight and is lost to the graveyard the next instant. And as we walk through the world, as the cycle of interaction between our environment and ourselves produce life, meaning, and feeling, we smuggle a trade. A little piece of ourselves out into the real world for an equal piece of the broader world in ourselves. Every day we reproduce into the world, and at the same time, open up space to accept fragments of Universe. As we give our fantastical and emotional offspring a place to run free outside of our bone and tissue prisons, we gain something invaluableーa microscopic bit of our encompassing ruler, but which any piece, no matter how small, grants a connection with all matter, a bond with the very energy at the base of our existence. In essence, we are slowly, inevitably being diluted. Our pure individuality bargained for a fragment of everything and nothing.
A distant but sharp voice amplifying into focus brings me back to the present. It’s my name, a single word that encompasses a world of meaning. I grab my $5.25 latte and say my thanks, making my way over to an empty table. The guy across from me is dressed sharplyーa grey knitted cardigan overlaying a maroon cotton shirt and thick-rimmed spectacles studying a paperback. As I pull out my things, I quickly study the spread of knowledge scattered in front: “The Autobiography of Malcolm X,” “The Return,” along with a worn chocolate-brown notebook. My interest perks up, a lurking hunter peeking out from the brush, but my gaggle of internal dissidents quickly honk out warnings: Don’t bother this poor man enjoying his quiet Sunday afternoon. He won’t even find you interesting. What is the point of it all anyway? You’ll never see him again. As I resign myself to my planned tasks, a question comes bubbling to the surface of my mind’s lake: How does the warmth of that distant star feel? Words composing an awkward and apologetic greeting come tumbling out of my gaping receptacle before I can protest, and I await the inevitable disaster. Spectacles lifts his head from the literary world of dissent and yearning and unshakable wills to meet my strained expression with a sly smile and a twinkle of curiosity. My desires and curiosities and opinions flood out and disperse the tight knot of tension wound around my heart. As I meet that enigmatic smile, I’m reminded of the depth of life I found deep in the infinite eyes of Universe. An expensive beverage, a couple muscle movements, and a blundering risk were all it took to make a suitable trade, one step closer to the destined end, where in those infinite eyes, I’ll find a little piece of myself staring back.
I wrote the initial inspiration for this piece on my flight home to Houston from San Francisco. I had decided to fly home for Thanksgiving and the holidays, and it was the first time I had stepped into a plane since the start of COVID-19 (if you have seen any of my existential-like pieces on how making decisions has gotten exponentially harder or how our worlds seem to be splitting, you’ll know how this decision weighed on me). As a child, I always dreaded going on planesーthe combination of the hospital, over-sanitized smell and my uncanny ability to get motion-sick made a neat recipe for disaster. Yet at some point of growing into myself, the smells and sensations and sights grew into a certain fondness as I associated them with the lands and memories that lay through the medium of the plane as opposed to the direct experiences associated with the plane. As I looked out the window on my late night flight, as we passed farmlands, rolling hills, and cozy towns shrouded in darkness, I was struck by an intense sense of nostalgia for how lucky we were to be able to go to vastly different parts of the world and talk to and observe people from vastly different environments and perspectives. It truly is mind boggling to think about how the world is that we occupy is simultaneously as rich and deep as it is small compared to the broader world around us (the overused word for this is sonder), and I only hope to make the most of my limited time here to experience and understand as much of the human experience as I can. How might we encourage these kinds of experiences to build a more universal sense of community? How do we bridge the gap between the sensational media we consume and the intimate, shaping experiences we find in our daily lives?
I’ve also been wanting to get into drawing, so this was a great opportunity to practice (I used Procreate on my iPad) with a vivid personal experience. I’m looking for tips and tutorials on how to get better at this if you have any!
If any of this resonates or you just want to say hi, I would love to listen and share!