They Move on Shafts of Ever-Lasting Light

I woke up today January 26th feeling uninspired.  It was dreary and wet and there was lots of snow in the forecast, the forecast, the forecast.  I had fallen asleep while watching something on Netflix about the Presidents, I dragged myself into the shower thinking about poor James Buchanan, with his bachelorhood and his rumors of homosexuality and eternally perched on the edge of the Civil War which he might have prevented but he didn’t, he didn’t, and so many people had to die, including Abraham Lincoln with his top hat and beard.  Oh, the Civil War! I bemoaned as I turned on the hot water, allowing it to bounce off my freshly-shaved scalp.  Hard to imagine so many people dying, so brutally.  My scalp burned as the water found the knicks I had inflicted upon myself the night before.  Even after shaving your own head hundreds of times over the course of decades, it is still never quite easy, and cutting that skin is worse than cutting the skin of your cheek.  It’s so sensitive.  Paper-thin.  Sometimes I feel as though I can see my skull under there, like my scalp is some sort of rice paper or cheese cloth.  It’s a skeleton, you know?  This thing that you are directing around through the world every day, it’s a freakin’ walking skeleton.  You still have all your flesh and whatnot on it, but under there is a skeleton that you yourself own.  And you’ll never even get to see it!  Sure, you might have some x-rays done at points in your life and you might experience that otherworldly thrill of seeing your insides, of meeting your skeleton, but that’s hardly the same.  That’s hardly the same as seeing your skeleton hung up on a hook in some old-timey medical office, some turn-of-the-century museum of curiosities.  I’d sure like to see that.  I stepped out of the shower and dried off with a towel still damp from my shower the night before and counted the minutes until I absolutely had to leave for work, counted the minutes until I passed that point of no return.  Who knows what life should really be like—many people seem to think we shouldn’t have to work at all, and that does sound awfully nice, but then I wonder exactly what we would do all the time and what we would find to dread and try to escape from, because we probably need something to dread—I certainly have no idea what life should be like.  It just probably should be fun and filled with a lot of love and maybe perspiration and something to think about, every now and then.  That sounds about right to me, but I can’t speak for anyone else.  After pulling on the appropriate work clothes I made my way down my steep and narrow stairs and was made to think (how? from where?) of the old horror flick The People Under the Stairs, which seems to have come out sometime in my early teens.  I can’t actually remember anything about the movie—not a single thing—I just remember the title being scary and the title alone being capable of filling my young impressionable mind with all kinds of terrors.  I didn’t even know I was scared of under the stairs until the movie came out and then it was obvious to me.  Many movies to me are like this; the specifics of them matter very little, but it is just the memory of them, the impression of them, the knowledge of their existence that matters.  They are, after all, just light and shadow; some of them end up residing solely as ideas, they move on shafts of ever-lasting light, that mystifying globe behind our skulls.  Opening my front door, I stepped out into the damp, gray morning.  Snow was gently falling in what looked like  thumb-sized clumps.  The temperature wasn’t very low so there were puddles of water on all the corners.  Ice falling into water, ice falling into water.  All everywhere the molecules were moving slowly, even inside my body, even inside my blood.  I walked the three blocks to the main thoroughfare and immediately hailed a cab.  Normally I’d be riding my bicycle to work but with the snow on the way, you have to plan ahead.  The car was blue and maroon with a huge Liberty Bell on the hood and the words Freedom Taxi on the door.  As we snaked through the city toward my place of employment, I was struck by how many people were standing out on the sidewalks.  It was so cold!  They were out there waiting for buses, most of them.  Working further away than I do, or not able to afford a cab, or simply just accustomed to the routine.  They stood along the curb, craning their necks, looking down the street as far as their eyes could see, like they were looking down a long dark tunnel, or into some ever-increasing middle distance, the abyss of anticipation.  They were all so bundled up in layers.  They needed protected from the world, from what this little blue globe can do to us, can inflict upon us little sufferers.  I watched them as we whizzed by, the Mexican and Cambodian immigrants in their large kit wool caps, puffy Gortex coats, the breath coming out of their mouths in temporary miniature clouds.  Skeletons, I thought.  They’re all skeletons.  They think they’re cold but they’re not cold, they’re just here for a second and then gone, here and gone, here and gone like the rest of us, so temporary, so temporary skimming the surface of this little blue globe, we’re here for a second like the little clouds of breath, and then gone but we leave a skeleton.  They’re not cold, they’re barely here. After six or seven blocks I imagined we must have passed 40 or 50 folks waiting for the bus.  It occurred to me that compared to the soldiers who died in the Civil War that figure was almost literally nothing.  Their bus fare will get them nowhere.  Like a movie plot forever forgotten, like the brigades drowning in a river of blood at Gettysburg, even James Buchanan can’t stop the tide of time.  I swiped my card through the cab’s card reader—apparently cabbies prefer cash but I always tip better with a card—and I stepped out once again into the melty snowy world, ready for another day of work.  The minutes had counted down and here I was.  And we’ll all do it again tomorrow.

3 Responses to “They Move on Shafts of Ever-Lasting Light”

  1. Kyle Sundgren Says:

    I love it, but I think you missed an opportunity. With all the connections you made back to Buchanan, the Civil War, and skeletons I feel like you could have added another skeleton reference when you were talking about ‘The People Under The Stairs’. I too doubt there were actual skeletons in the movie, but you made it clear you remember nothing about it. I think it’s safe to say that you’re Obi-Wan and I’m Yoda when it comes to writing…:)

    • sethdellinger Says:

      lol you don’t want to beat your readers over the head with your theme…which honestly, I’ve already done! I know you’re joking but really, I did see a few other opportunities to really keep hitting the same imagery but it would have overdone it. I don’t understand Star Wars references.

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