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September 26, 2022

Really?

By Kevin Landis

It would be simple to say that dreamers are more attractive than realists. That would draw a firestorm of criticism from -- mainly -- jealous realists. "How can you measure attractiveness?" they would undoubtedly ask. "You're passing off a cliche." They might add. They would of course, have a point there; that, however, doesn't make me wrong.

And there, you see, is the problem to saying something simple. When you say something simple, you drop a little nugget of neat concise information in front of a public which is used to a spattering of meaningless dribble. They don't want it. They want something many-faceted and grandiose. Something they can agree with and disagree with, understand slightly but still feel a little mystified by. They can dissect it and take what they want and sweep the rest off.

I'll give you plenty. But I won't give you that. You see, simplicity is not an asset that dreamers have to draw on. Realists have the market cornered there. I'll prove it to you. I know you are skeptical.

Have you ever in your life, had a simple -- and by simple I mean, of course, straight forward and uncomplicated -- dream?

No.

And neither had Roy.

Roy awoke in a cold sweat. He sat up in bed dramatically, the exact way people in movies do when they wake up from a startling dream. His head throbbed, and he blinked bloodshot eyes.

Red numbers on a digital clock told Roy that he probably wouldn't be able to get back to sleep before his alarm woke him. He didn't accept this reality. He was still quite tired and lay back down. His pillow was damp from sweat and his brown hair was mashed against his brow, also damp.

His dream returned. It wasn't the same to him this time. He knew he was dreaming and this totally spoiled the sensation. If I were to choose to digress now and describe the dream, this would become a different story than it ought to be. I will remain resolute, and tell you no more than the dream was an intense one that pleased Roy, but his pleasure was soured by the nagging consciousness that it was only a dream.

He was almost relieved when his clock radio came to life with a D.J's observations on the current static that the music industry was passing off as music. Roy crawled from his bed and turned off the alarm. He flipped on the light. There was a brief burst of orange light and then darkness. The bulb had, in its villainy, had chosen this moment to blow.

Roy dressed himself in the dark and headed off to work in the dim light of sunrise. If this had been an average day, Roy would have switched trains at 42nd street and grabbed a bagel with cream cheese on the way into his office building.

As it was, though, Roy never made it to 42nd street, let alone the small bagel stand that had staked out the corner near his office.

"I'm a representative from an alien world." A dirty man in dirty clothes proclaimed to the entire subway car.

Eyes lifted from newspapers, muted chuckles escaped mouths.

"That's right, I'm collecting specimens for a kind of intergalactic zoo of sorts." The man continued, "As a matter of due course, it's required we ask your permission before taking you all the several hundred million light years from your nice little home earth to our equally nice home, which if you're wondering, is named Olgath."

To say that no one paid attention to the man would be inaccurate. Attention was paid, in the same way a cable bill is paid, quickly, almost thoughtlessly and with little deep concern. Everyone in the train car heard, most listened, no one considered saying a word. The exception would be four people scattered through the train wearing earbuds and immersing themselves in pop, latin, indi-rock and jazz respectively.

"So, I formally ask any who would rather not go, to speak up now."

The biggest problem alien races have, when passing for humans on earth is not attracting too much attention. Anything weird is of interest, so aliens tried to be normal, they were too normal and were spotted as such. The solution was obvious. Pose as a kind of human who is best ignored.

Homeless people who beg for your money make you feel bad. You know it, they know it. The result is one of two things. Either you give the homeless your money -- this is the dreamer's solution to the problem -- or you ignore the homeless person, creating the illusion that you didn't deny him money, you just happened to miss him -- this obviously is the realist course.

Of course you saw him, but you pretended not to. This pretense is the acknowledgement that you feel bad without the actual financial proof. It satisfies both the need to recognize suffering and the need to protect one's self from it.

The train car disappeared off the tracks and created a great mystery, that the various NYC departments involved in investigating it worked thoroughly, and then eventually concluded that there was some kind of paperwork problem that made it seem like 34 people and a train car disappeared.

Roy woke up lying naked on a white floor that reminded him of porcelain. Actually as he felt it, it began to remind him of a toilet bowl, only flat and in the form of a floor. The light in the room had a slight blue hue and was intensely bright, and seemed to come from nowhere in particular and everywhere all at the same time.

He was lying on his stomach and his neck had a terrible sharp pain, probably, he thought from the way he'd been laying on the floor. Slowly and carefully, he got to his feet.

The floor seemed to stretch out in all directions infinitely. Roy turned in a circle twice before realizing that he was at the center of some kind of illusion. He had no frame of reference, and each direction he turned presented a horizonless infinite whiteness.

The air had a kind of sterile quality to it. The temperature was a little cool; humidity didn't seem to be present.

There was a complete absence of sound. This initially made Roy think that he was breathing heavily. He was simply not used to the sound of his own breathing; it was an always present sound. Now, unconsciously, he began holding his breath, just to be rid of the sound that struck him as odd.

The passing of time was impossible to judge. The lights never dimmed and nothing in the environment changed. Roy could not accept the fantastic explanation that he was presented with. Aliens, intergalactic zoos and the like were and are beyond the grasp of a realist.

Insanity is a plausible explanation. Roy mused, I've lost my mind! These thoughts whirled around Roy's mind, changing shape again and again. He ranted and screamed. He cursed his own mind and everything about his new home. His words rung in his ears intensified by the silence of his prison.

Self-fulfilling prophecies are powerful creations and before long Roy was right, he had lost his mind. Although a thorough description of his behavior in his insane state would be fun, it might distract from the story as it ought to be told. It is plenty to say that he, in his unstable state made for an all the more interesting zoo exhibit.

The last words that Roy spoke clearly, before biting off his own tongue, were these: "Really? You expect me to believe that, absurd, a farce! I know what's real!"

And who, I ask you in closing, is attracted to someone with out a tongue?

You'd win all the arguments, but how much fun would you have?

Article © Kevin Landis. All rights reserved.
Published on 2008-04-14
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