Sunday, October 9, 2011

Gist, Jest, Geist, Christ

("Aliens are beautiful," 2011)

The grand and late mister of the cornflakes fell to his knees saying, "Yi-yi yi-yi", over and over until no one can hear what they were thinking, just "yi-yi" in the air, in their minds. Everyone fell to their knees shortly after he did. It made people cry for some strange reason, the words were insignificant, it was how he delivered them, how it made so much sense at the time and yet now, in retrospect, it is completely and utterly nonsense. When you talk to people that were there, the ones who do talk (most being quiet about the whole thing, giving you the impression that people think they're nuts), they say it was something that formed a plane beneath their feet, that before them was an infinite horizon, the plane was black the sky was as well, a faint red glow grew in the distance, that was him, his words were the rumble of that plane, their foundation was being touched, rocked, and turned upside down. That's the gist of it. Always the black sky with the black ground, the faint red glow. Some decided to leave one element out, or describe in great detail of how the sky black was a different black. Is there a difference in black? If we all see colors differently, how can we see the lack of them differently, there's nothing there, black is the neutral, it represents the void, space, darkness, and the unknown. But this person who saw blackness different, he came up to me during the interview, grabbed my hands, his hands were like sand paper, unusually cold, but not moist, they felt like my father's hands, but less worked. With my hands inside of his he then felt comfortable with telling me how this black wasn't like any other black, it swirled without swirls, it moved like an explosion traveling through a viscous fluid, slowly turning, spiraling and twisting in a pattern that exist in nature, it was forming and deforming to the laws of nature itself. To spite how scaring the sight sounded, it did not scare the sandpaper hand man, if anything, he said, "It felt comforting. Somewhere in all of that I felt like the day I was born, one world ended, my whole universe and all I knew and thought existed disappeared in an instant and was replaced by pure white light which was then was replaced by objects and people slowly fading in from the brilliance." I stared into his eyes, he didn't once blink, his words stuck with me, and I felt my ass start to numb. Later when I reviewed the tapes I noticed that I sat there, frozen for twenty minutes, the crew didn't want to interrupt the scene so they just sat or stood in whatever position they were in, the boom operator's arm started to shake, but kept the mic out of frame.
Years have passed since that interview, I have gone on to do mediocre stories since, all dim and meaningless in comparison, and as a result I have grown bored, cold, and almost lifeless. A connection with another human being, a certain connection, a certain human being goes a long way, so far of a way that it pushes you up into a plateau region when you are still able to communicate with the sea level below, and those snobs in the mountains, but there is still a distance between you and them. Once in a while my eyes do this thing to me, they zoom into to someones face, and it's the worst when I'm doing an interview with someone, especially if it's the first time they're meeting me and we are a little awkward with each other. I think it's some sort of tunnel vision, it feels like I'm high, but I hadn't taken any drugs, my eyes just zoom in to their faces, my eyes feel lazy, endlessly staring, and when I get this sensation I am absolutely lost in it, staring into their faces. The room fades away, and it's just their big ole face in front of me, around me, all of what I see, my words as I give the occasional response to their words is never effected by this phenomena, and for the most part it is a secret I have against them, that my eyes may be a respectable distance from them, but in actuality they are closely orbiting the surface of their face. If I may say one more thing on the subject before changing the topic, it first started in 99', when I was interviewing this group of men who had claimed they were abducted by aliens. Each gave their account of the clearest detail, and not once did I feel a lie was being spoken, I believe them like I believe an old man telling me he remembers a time without television, when photographs did not have color, and that it was harder back then, whenever then was then.
In the summer of 02' I was sent on assignment in Nebraska, not far from the house of Mister Cornflakes, I decided to venture up to his place. He had passed away a few years prior but I was curious who was living there, if he had any family, or if some young couple were now living in his house. I looked up his surname in the yellow pages, and found one Cornflakes in there, gave it a ring, and after the fifth ring an old lady picked up.
I asked if it was Mrs. Cornflakes, she corrected me and told me she was, Miss Cornflakes, that they hadn't married but she certainly and legally changed her name. I asked if she would be as kind as to exchange a few words in person about her late partner and she agreed. It was a Sunday afternoon, without a cloud in the sky, the sound of chainsaw echoed down the streets, it was late summer. When my rental crept up to her driveway, Miss Cornflakes came out to greet me, as if she had been waiting the night before and in the morning after. I grabbed my notebook, a recorder, and exchanged my sunglasses for my regular glasses and greeted her with a smile, a handshake, and a pleased-to-finally-meet-you, giving her the impression I had been interested in The Cornflakes for a while now. She took me around the back, telling me she doesn't let anyone in through front door, not since her partner had died. We walked through the garden, a beautiful one at that, and I could tell it was something she worked hard at keeping it as beautiful as it was, and that it was the best time of year to see it (I felt privileged to see it in this state). We entered the back door, the interior was completely naturally lit, looking dim at first, a touch of gloom but I passed it off as just the lingering feeling of entering a house of a widow. She made tea, and we sat at the kitchen table. I asked her when Mister Cornflakes had passed away, she said a two years ago, in a cold winter, and that she was actually talking to him at the time he suddenly stopped living. She wasn't sad, nor in stock with his sudden death, it just felt natural, it was natural, to die, and to die without some sort of unusual cause. She told me she kept talking to him before she decided to call an ambulance, and when they took him away, she returned to the chair she was sitting at, and continued to talk to a now (then) absent Mister Cornflakes. She had been doing that ever since. She says it helps her avoid the loneliness of having something and not having something anymore. She may have lost her partner's responses, but she hasn't lost his presence.
On one wall in the living room there is a large collection of images of Christ in various sizes, frames, both catholic and protestant depictions. I pulled a camera out of my breast pocket and photographed the wall as Miss Cornflakes filled the kennel for more tea, she was in her own world at the moment. In the corner of my eye I saw the table where we were sitting, and there in my seat was a figure, white glow, and when I turned around I saw a table, empty, with Miss Cornflakes putting teabags into a teapot. We continued our conversation, and eventually it led us to the significance of the Yi-Yi. She grew quiet, as if lost in thought, and after a few minutes I looked at my watch, not as a sign of impatience but to make sure I make it to the airport in time. Time was running out, and it was on my mind for the remainder of my visit. She eventually broke the silence with a call, a cry, something animal-like, the words were, "Yi-yi". As if it opened some portal within me, the words were just words, a key to a door to another world, necessary but functioned only to summon something much greater. I started to stare at Miss Cornflakes aging face, white with small folds, pleasant but lost, and her slowly disappearing nose, and though I was looking at her, I wasn't. My mental vision was all black. Two black parallels, one red glow in-between, I was racing towards the glow, as if I had been waiting a long time for it. To spite my velocity, I felt nowhere closer to the glow, it seemed to continue forever, and to keep its distance. Yi-yi...yi-yi. Over and over, calling me, what did it want from me, why me, who was me, the sandpaper hand man's words came to mind as I looked to the ground as I looked to the sky, there was that black, that black like no other black, that was formless and black but faintly changed, melting within itself, in a slow explosion, and yet its surface remained solid and unchanged. The rest is indescribable, something I only knew from an experience of having my hands in another man's hands, and hearing him make sound with his mouth, being in his house, and his story. Now this was my own story, I was experiencing it with my own body, I was there. And somewhere in all of that I thought I have to remember this, as if I'd forget something this significant as insignificant as it was. I wanted to be able to come back to this place, this dream-like place one day and escape whatever reality I was living to be lost. When I returned to Miss Cornflakes dining room I was on my knees. I felt embarrassed and she smiled at me from her chair. I apologized and thanked her for her time. She was happy to have company she told me. I was happy to be that company I replied.
A photograph of wall of Christ sits at my desk at the office, on the back of the print I wrote the words, "Yi-yi", there is something sad about those words, as magical as they are, written there, on the back of that print, they are powerless and without magic. Grim reminders, they fall short of something breathtaking, and even maddening. The memory of that moment they represent has reclined far back into my mind, as I watch it from a great distance now, seeing a shade of myself that has died and been replaced by many generations of me.
I scroll through my Rolodex and find Miss Cornflakes address and decide to write her a letter. I started writing it, but stopped, and it has been left unfinished at my desk, covered in papers and cards, and will probably never be completed, sent, and received. I close my eyes and try to put the pieces back together, I sigh as I fail to recreate a moment that has passed. Yi-yi where have you gone.

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