YOU have been watched from a distance for some time now and now you are being watched from even farther away.
Anyway, you’d like to believe it’s true.
Just because a thing’s invisible doesn’t mean it don’t exist, you think to yourself, but still, there is no valid way to test it. And then one day you fall asleep on the train on the way home but you get home anyway.
You close your eyes and nothing happens.
You close your eyes every now and then, just to test the waters, and find you’re still moving, being moved, walking through the tunnel with your eyes closed, held up and carried along by the crowd.
Not love or joy in any traditional sense, but a gentle kind of peaceful rocking that gathers together the single flowers to make a garland.
The lights flicker and the wheels clack.
No one on the train can tell who’s driving, so you let go of the imaginary wheel.
You lean back in your plastic seat and let your shoulders relax.
In the seat across from you, a man is reading a newspaper.
His ears look familiar. And the woman standing by the automatic doors—her wrists, how she moves her wrists strikes a chord deep inside you.
Look at the teeth in the mouth of that little boy in the parka!
You know those teeth!
You’ve seen those teeth in somebody else’s mouth!
All these parts trying to assemble themselves in front of you, as if to say Let me in, I’m still here, hello hello, you know me, you know…
Here I am in a rabbit run, here I am in a valley of pine, waiting for you to find me.
I could pretend I’m speaking to everyone—assume a middle distance and transcend myself—but I’m taking to you and you know it.
There was one time, we were on the subway then, and I had just gone somewhere inside my head—Where did you just go? you said—and I had come here (buzz buzz) and didn’t need no static offa you.
It doesn’t always matter where we are but here I am and I say hello, sitting next to you this time, just pretend I’m sitting next to you this time. You would like it here.
Maybe you would like it here. I think that maybe you would like it here.
I work my jobs, I take my pills. Knot the tie and go to work, un-knot the tie and go to sleep.
I sleep. I dream. I wake. I sing. I get out the hammer and start knocking in the wooden pegs that affix the meaning to the landscape, the inner life to the body, the names to the things.
I float too much to wander, like you, in the real world.
I envy it but that’s the dealio—you’re a train and I’m a trainstation and when I try to guess your trajectory I end up telling my own story.
But you are my nomad and I love you sideways daily.
Sideways because I have to beam my love in all directions, hoping it bounces off something and eventually finds you.
You and all the other secret agents carooming underneath the radar, sending your documents back to Mission Control—which is me, I guess, because I have a permanent address.
I’ve been rereading your story.
I think it’s about me in a way that might not be flattering, but that’s okay.
We dream and dream of being seen as we really are and then finally someone looks at us and sees us truly and we fail to measure up. Anyway: story received, story included.
You looked at me long enough to see something mysterioso under all the gruff and bluster.
Thanks. Sometimes you get so close to someone you end up on the other side of them.
So here we are again: me being here and you being off the map and me sending it out across the wires and being overheard. You’re making me work for this—the whisper system—and that’s okay, too. I was shooting my mouth off and you called me on it and yes, it’s been the plan all along, my great invention, a place for all these voices to land, the airport of someone else’s listening.
The question for this issue was
Do you have a human soul and can you prove it? And, of course, there was no definitive answer.
A robot can do the math.
A robot can spit out an answer.
People, they make it up as they go along.
They find connections between things where there aren’t any.
They get moody, they refuse things, they take it deep inside themselves and fold it into something unrecognizable and then they set it down on the table.
I had a tape recorder.
I poked and prodded.
I said your reports on my desk now, moles.
I give you permission, I give you immunity.
I give you these freedoms—even if freedom means animal spirit guides and probation officers.
I wound them up and broke their mainsprings.
There are limitations and there are protocols and I’ve been warned that I’m not supposed to threaten or beg for pieces of someone’s soul.
Theme issues are creepy anyway.
Drew said pick something easier, so we ended up going with long poems and short short stories.
You said if people wanted to change the world, they would.
You said most people like it this way.
Too bad for them, I say. I want something else.
But you know how I am. I push too hard. I get ahead of myself.
I keep ruining everything I touch by turning it into gold.
But I’m learning how to be gentle.
Even to the vampires, poor little things.
Save me save me love me love me there’s a hole in my bucket etc.
They don’t know what they want but I give it to them anyway because why the hell not?
Love, love, go ahead and have another plate of it, it doesn’t run out.
Of course, I wonder if they love me back which is really beside the point.
I don’t do it to be adored.
I do it because my love keeps getting bigger and that’s what happens.
So here we are again, words on a page, the voice that wants to be a hand, the bridge with no opposite side.
Of all the people reading this, are you one of them? I have to believe you are.
Sure, we invent each other.
We agreed to that a long time ago.
Train and train station, force and field.
We do what we do and what I do is put the pies on the windowsill.
So here you are, reading this, expecting something.
A story perhaps, or someone singing themselves to sleep.
You’re ready and I’m ready too.
Have you been waiting long?
I’ve frankenstined it for you, bundled it all up, because it’s nice to put pictures inside people’s heads, like frogs and ronin and Cleveland and Deloreses.
Here is a place for it to happen.
A place where I can love you.
The letter delivered, the year decembred, the river swum.