There’s No One There
A few years ago, I started having a vivid dream, one of very intense colors and very specific imagery. It’s floated around behind my eyes, but in front of my brain, for a few years, and I’ve been trying to capture it for a while with limited success.
Back in March, my good friend Scott Geiger approached me and asked me to be a part of a literary journal issue he was guest editing, and over a lunch of Korean BBQ sandwiches in Soho, he asked if I would be a part of his issue. I was really thrilled; Scott was one of my fellows in the Quarantine show back in March 2010, hosted by BLDG BLOG and Edible Geography, which was such a great success, and while all parts were great, Scott’s was one of my favorites, both in style and substance. Maybe a little selfishly, as Scott was describing the issue, I realized this was a great venue to try my hand at my next attempt at capturing what was in my brain in that recurring dream.
When I first tried to capture the feelings dominant in the dream, I thought they were paranoia, and so my code-name for the project for a long time was thusly. It felt suffocating, as if the bright colors, cartoonish malevolence, and barren landscapes were designed to get me, as I was chased by the infinite black of those dark windows. But as I ruminated more, I came to realize it wasn’t really paranoia at all; I wasn’t being chased by a thing, per se – I was being chased by a fear. And that fear was of desperate, unending loneliness. A loneliness that can only be brought on by exploring every inch of your surroundings and finding yourself completely trapped by it, and by the expected nature of it.
As a 33 year old now, a great deal my youth was spent indoors, camped behind a computer screen, playing the early versions of first-person-shooters and walk-through RPGs in the Sierra line. My parents were barely on speaking terms, I was getting shit in school, and the glow of childhood was fading rapidly; I found solace in these games because provided not only a distraction, but a sense of real accomplishment – getting to the next stage, unlocking the door, gaining access to the spacecraft – these felt like real wins. It’s through this lens that a difficult level to beat was an acceptable challenge, but one in which there seemed to be no real solution brought bubbling forth some existential fears that stick with me to this day. To use a clunky metaphor, a man with a gun blocking my exit from a dark alley is a scary but solvable puzzle. However, if the man is absent, but the alley has no exit, and I’m forced to explore endlessly for a way out, one that doesn’t exist – I find this terrifying beyond belief.
Rather than fading into the bloom of adulthood, I find these fears are now magnified for all of us, on a grand scale. The role of loneliness in a public space grows in proportion to the intended scope of the space to serve the public, namely, a separation created by the manifestation of the rubric of “public space” – large cold monuments, open forums with nowhere to hide, grandiose pretensions that minimize the individual. Public spaces beget private yearnings.
We are also made more alone by our shared digital space. The conundrum of free public wi-fi, for example, serves to create digital walls which we can’t breach with normal every day interactions. Everyone is now in their own digital space of their own making. Our space perception is more and more confused with our digital perception of space; is the train station a level to beat? Is that bus to catch a challenge that will reward a player with points? Don’t I recognize this building from that video game?
Suffice to say, I’m totally thrilled that Scott gave me the opportunity to make this work, and that it will be appearing in the Fall/Winter version of the Ninth Letter. I’ll post more when I know they are on newsstands, but for now, it feels good to get some of this work off my chest. I’m sure if it’s done yet, but at least I can put it aside for now and work on other stuff, guilt free.
Thanks for lookin’.