If what I can sense with my senses is all there is to life, I'd be pretty unhappy.
I do more than see, touch, taste (too much of that one). I think. My boy René got that one right. And I feel. And you will never tell me that the things I think and feel are not valid, that they can be callously tossed aside or ignored or treated as anything less than what they are: proof of Life, and More Than Life.
Sometimes I have these moments where... I dunno, they're not out-of-body experiences... but they're just moments where I realize that the me I see, the meatsack in the mirror, the biped with the opposable thumbs wearing the Green Lantern t-shirt -- that's not really the Me I am. And I feel like Me is looking out through my/his/our eyes and everything becomes not quite there, and Me is just inhabiting me for a little while before moving on to someplace else. And then it suddenly becomes too much to take, the idea that I'm living this life on behalf of this other organism that is fundamentally identical and completely different and I think, if I could just get out of this me-ness and see that other life, just for a second, that I would change everything forever.
And I know that has all sorts of religious undertones (or other implications regarding my sanity, or lack thereof) and that's really not where I'm trying to go, exactly. Smarter people than I have got this sort of thing down to a science, quite literally -- several of them, in fact.
But I'm still here. And I still feel. And most days that's enough for me.
It's a little after 2am.
I drive past the coffee shop, the one that always seems to have people sitting outside late at night if the weather is good, and since it's mid-March the weather is getting much better, and I wonder (as I always do) how late the shop stays open and what the people there talk about and how badly I would stick out if I ever tried to go there since I don't drink coffee and I don't socialize late at night and I don't do well in large groups.
I drive on.
I pass train stations on my left and fast food on my right.
I get to the bottom of the hill and start up the S-curve, the one that I usually take a straight line through, crossing and re-crossing the lanes at will because there's no one else on the road.
Except tonight there's someone else on the road.
I guess it's you.
I stay in my lane and you stay in yours.
Actually, you stay in yours for a little while, then you merge left into the center lane, closer to me.
You are a silver Kia and you have soft, unobtrusive headlights.
You seem to match my speed, staying just behind me on my right, as if you did not want your presence to be known, as if you were trying to stay unnoticed, as if you wanted me to notice.
We pass through intersections.
We pass under lime greens and stop at fruit punch reds.
We pass beyond shadow and into light and back again.
We see a shape.
Then three shapes.
The shapes are moving.
The shapes are alive.
The shapes canter across our path, and we slow to grant them passage.
They give us no sign or acknowledgment.
This is their time and they are unaffected.
Even though we turn our heads as we pass, the shapes are vanishing; they have permitted us to share for a moment but no longer, and they must press on.
We look at each other.
You are no longer a silver Kia.
You are young, and you are beautiful, and your hair is shadow and your expression light.
And you smile as you turn your head back from the shapes now behind us.
You smile at me, in delight at the sharing, and I wonder if you now see my expression, if I have stopped being me and become something other, the way you have.
It's not, like, a fantastic idea, as a general rule, to live in the past. I do think I've figured that much out.
I mean, it's just sort of... there. Whatever happened, happened, as Daniel Faraday would say. They are matters of record, even if the only record that exists is in your head, or someone else's head.
Except those two records don't always see eye to eye, or synapse to synapse. (And now I sound like Ben Gibbard.) There are events in my life of cosmic magnitude and limitless significance, and these chapters, essays, dissertations which I study and analyze and deconstruct in an effort to figure out What The Hell My Deal Is... those same events are mere footnotes in the ongoing autobiographies of the other parties involved.
It's probably better that way.
And maybe those events aren't quite as significant as I remember them to be. A guy named Leonard (just to round out the pop-culture references) once told me that memories aren't that reliable, that they're not even that good, that they're an interpretation and not a record. Maybe that's for the best too.
We all need mirrors to remind ourselves who we are.
My mirrors suck, though. In my mirrors I'm always having a bad hair day, it's always the not-so-good side of my face, the lighting's all wrong, I'm squinting, and I didn't have time to shave.
Sometimes I catch a glimpse of myself in these mirrors and the recollection is so sharp that I gasp for air as the embarrassment and the pain and the shame and the guilt flood over me, drowning me, battering me like that time I went down that one water slide at Seven Peaks and I wasn't ready and forgot to cross my arms and legs and cover my mouth and I ended up with a bellyful of extra-strength chlorinated water and I was seeing spots in front of my eyes from the lack of oxygen.
It's a lot harder for me to find a good mirror. They're there -- but they're hazy and indistinct, and it usually takes some sort of external stimulus to resurrect them: the scent of a perfume (they say that olfactory recollections are the strongest), the taste of a certain dish at a certain restaurant, any number of pieces of music (my first kiss: "Jeremy," by Pearl Jam, and it wasn't on purpose, I swear, it was just on the radio).
Maybe that's why I like re-reading books, re-listening to favorite albums, re-watching TV shows where I know all the lines. Those are mirrors where I don't have the burden of a reflection.
It's been said that we all reach the future at the rate of sixty minutes an hour. But some of those hours contain more minutes than you might think.