I’m writing this at work between calls. Mostly broken old people. Eighty or ninty years old with a new knee, a fungus from who knows where, slurred speach and no hearing and slow to remember names or what makes a question or how to answer.
I sit at the keyboard and monitor taking their calls, speaking their lives into the computer and I wonder, is this life? Do we spend eight or nine or, gods help us, even ten decades trying to heal, only to die? Is that what life is?
I suppose it is. But is that so bad? Honestly, I don’t know what to make of the insanity of human consciousness. I can’t explain the benefit of knowing that we exist, that we suffer, and that we die. I don’t understand why or where it comes from. But I do know that without it I couldn’t retell my mythology, my origin stories.
I was born riding across the Pacific on the back of a blue whale. During the day, when it dove and played, I would grip its blow hole and take deep breaths and close my eyes and pass out and come to between surfacings.
At night an albatross slept against my chest, its long beak resting along my neck. Mars was closer then. A pale dot during the day, a smooth garnet at night.
Later, some dozen generations further into the past or future, birds would sit in the trees and toss leaves in the grass to attract us. We liked the broad sycamore leaves the best, would hold them up to each other’s palms and spread our fingers, or hold them up to the sun and gasp at the dark veins.
Or they would knock peaches from the peach tree, and when we came, the birds would skip down to the lowest branches, and we would creep carefully, snatch a peach and flee.
Why did we flee? Why did we wait until winter when our homes had filled with snow and the only warmth came from the finch’s fires, the only food stored in the caves of ravens. We were desperate then. Those of us who staid and hadn’t died. Why did we wait for delirium to drive us into the flocks we feared.
What was there to fear? Once I curled up close to the fire, half dead with cold and hunger, and finches covered me like a blanket. Crows came with apples. And I slept. And I ate. And slept again. Slept through the seasons, ten times through the seasons, a hundred times. And in my dreams all the birds had fled, and we had lost our interest in leaves. When they fell to the ground, only our children would hold them up to the sun. The rest of us blew them into piles and set them on fire or hauled them off to the landfills.