There must be a reason that TV screens are shaped horizontally and window frames are shaped vertically. Both sit like opposing metaphysical forces in my upstairs guest bedroom, portholes to the two worlds that have been provided for me. One the escapist world of digital neighbors behaving covetously, all cartoonized, faces constantly changing size to take up as little or as much of the picture as necessary. The other a world of realist authors writing their own fictions, personalities making trigger-quick changes in landscapes painted boldly to weather the storm of time.
The TV is more of a sculpture, some kind of artistic centerpiece that never made its way out of the corner. Its message will vacillate, depending on how you view it, but its core components will remain concrete. The window is a conscience, my mother’s furrowed brow, a child’s experimental regret. Light at the end of a self-created tunnel.
In the TV screen — switched off — I see my reflection, veiled and distant, like an unwitting patron captured in the fisheye of a convenience store security camera. As the sun recedes on the horizon’s hairline and the day dims, I see myself in the window, as well, scaled to actual size. Perhaps the world outside has turned itself off, at least to those who opt not to participate in it.
Time asserts some kind of authority through binary distinction. At most a lifelong guide for organizing fluctuations in personal desire, at least a black and white alternation. The turnover is consistent in its rote nature, yet my shadow is three times the length it once was. The physical discrepancies are proof of time akin to war and peace being proof of God.
The day has turned over. I remain complacently placed in a recliner. My bookcase against the wall. My guitars in the corner. My laptop in my…lap. All in my childhood home’s guest bedroom. A lack of family friends has made its name as ironic as the downstairs living room — that dormant, dust-free museum of lacy white sofas and Berber rugs and fleur de lis wallpaper and carved maple furniture. Or even the dining room — once an occasional host to estranged family members on holiday — as it currently seats specters in high-backed chairs. Posture first, dinner second. How many rooms does one need for habitation, and how many must be sacrificed to furnish a dubious afterlife? This room cannot be mine. My skin coats its surfaces, my possessions its floor. However, it lacks dimensions of privacy that could make it personal. I am a guest. The room is being preserved for some visitor that will never arrive. But I can’t stay in my own bedroom, as it is being preserved for a child that will never return. Where can I go? An apartment? A town? A country? Somewhere that contains me…I’ve always been contained.
And what is to be said about the mind? The mind bombarded by fantasies and memory and unsought stimulation. It was mine for the length of this piece, just as the shovel is yours for the length of the digging, but who owns it now, when the labor is complete? Maybe it belongs to a pop star’s radio single. Or to a social network’s gossip page. Where will I once again find a mind of my own? The bookcase displays the recorded minds of others. I must borrow these until either the forces of physical reality heave my own mind out into the clarity of night or shelved bottles beg me to drown it in puddles of obscurity.