I have to start somewhere. Here is as good a place as any. This dot, this sentence, this word. What did Archimedes promise?
- Give me a firm spot on which to stand, and I shall move the earth.
Yes, I know. Some versions of the quote he mentions the lever or the fulcrum too. And already the sand runs through my fingers.
I’m in free fall – I built myself specifically to ignore problems like these. I left the real world to its own devices. I have always believed, needed to believe, that we beat back the darkness with art. That making makes light, makes heat, makes a calm rhythm on the street. Everyone else can go to work, go to church, go to the store and buy milk. I do some of those things, but not really, not truly – I’m a phantom in this world, or I want to be. I make enough to live, I own very little. If my girlfriend threw me out I’d be gone without even a mattress to my name. I grew up in nowhere Georgia, which is to say a place dreaming itself. I grew up in books, flinging myself further and further away through any door, through every door. The most revolutionary act is Transformation – new eyes, new lives, new skin and bone. Every time I was ripped back here it was an insult, an umbrage, a soggy disappointment.
But I grew older. A four word opera. There were things I wanted here in this world, so I learned to Appear. To Seem. When you’re a ghost pulling levers it’s easy to pull together a pleasant machine. Take this laugh and that rhythm and those lines of words unspooling across his brow and cobble together an Almost Person. And I lumbered forward and I crammed a lot of this world into my gob. Take this part and that part and this smile and that heart and the machine is without chink.
Until one day. Three word tragedy. A bullet broke the machine, right over my heart, and I remembered I was a ghost after all. And I was here again and could feel again and I was falling. Like now. Like then I wanted out and the ghost that is me remembered the trick of opening the doors, always another door, always another Transformation. And I found, to my true surprise, that other people wanted to find the doors, needed help opening the doors, would follow me through if I sang just right.
This is it, I said. This is what I’m supposed to be doing. I’m addicted to narrative, and we always want to find out we are the Hero that Hides. All the time in the mines, running through the shadow, all the time wandering on the edge of things, it was all for this. The real world has enough people watching it – I have my own worlds to tend.
But it’s not true. It wasn’t true. It was lucky and privileged and ignorant and vain. I’ve had time and peace and food and roof to scrawl dragons in the dirt. I have white skin and hazel eyes and can walk where I please in This world or That. I have lived idly on the edge of a great battle my entire life and have barely even offered to wear the colors of justice.
In my stories, though it may not always be clear, I’m trying to give something, say something – something useful. The power of the bonds of love. The nobility of the fight against the inevitable. But what good is it?
I’m a ghost and I’m falling. I can open door after door but I’m only bringing forth more phantoms. I can sing you a story about a city on fire but I can’t get more tax allocations for the fire department.
Because here. Now. I don’t know what to do. I called my Senators, I called my Congressman. It helped, it was worthwhile. But it’s not enough. The amount of my relief far outweighs the amount of good I did. I’m reading up on my entire state federal legislature, desperately trying to cram knowledge that I should have already mastered. I voted, I’ll vote every time, I’m ready to throw myself behind any true-heart champion on any level. I have some money I can donate to the right side of the important fights. It doesn’t feel like enough.
I’m not looking for absolution, I’m just stammering out a resolution. I’m a ghost and a broken machine and there are so many doors – but here is where the fight is. With people. With blood and bone and fire and stone. I’m falling like before, but this time I don’t have the lightning bolt in my belly. I don’t have the secret gift. I have no elixir and it’s getting dark.
I’m looking for that firm place to stand. The spot, even a dot where I can rally. There isn’t one, this isn’t a song or a fable or a run across the jazzman’s table. Just falling and air and fear. And this is where I was content to leave the rest of the world. No door, no light, no dancing in the twilight.
I can’t stop being a ghost or a broken machine or a sad little boy on the edge of a forest. But I can do more. I can do my best. I can keep making, I can keep opening doors, but I have to find my way into the fray. The most revolutionary act is that of Transformation – I’ve changed to suit my own purposes, I can change to better suit the times, to better suit the defense of my fellow humans.
And here we are at the end. This was mostly about me, I don’t know if I can shed that. Help me get in the fight. Instruct me. Inform me. I come from a people that love means duty. I have not done mine.