farewell B

he is lying stupidly on the living room floor, his teenage son and wife hovering over him. he speaks: "i am reporting to you from somewhere inside my head. there are ridiculous fantasies here, and cruel caricatures of my loved ones; stock footage of domestic violence and mass transportation accidents. the walls are a duller gray than i could have imagined, but occasionally movies are projected onto them in oversaturated color. loudspeakers page various people i haven't seen in years, or inform me of some upcoming blue-light special."

the television is on. it is tuned to a game show entitled "Was This Really Necessary?"--which consists mainly of people embarrassing themselves in highly uncreative ways. the reception is poor; the contestants are heavily ghosted, and flickering static plays across their faces.

"postcard from the visual cortex," he continues. "in this aerial view you can see the distorted retinotopic map. the lateral geniculate nucleus is to the north of the picture, next to the businessman smoking a pipe. in the distance, a light rail car travels out of the city along the western optic nerve. incoming data--the city is experiencing some sort of earthquake--it has turned around one hundred eighty degrees, presumably to avoid some particular view. wish you were here. love, dad."

the tv reception is so bad that signals from a different channel intermittently overlap the game show. it appears to be a documentary of some kind--no, a talk show, about glass houses and the stones that love them. the audience is clearly bored and inattentive, but they applaud furiously upon demand. the host is oddly soft-spoken, almost shy, but given to inappropriate fits of rage in response to mundane, uncontroversial statements.

by now his voice has grown hoarse, fading. "my megaphone," he coughs. "where's my megaphone?" "i'm right here," says his wife. "repeat after me:" he says; "in 1963" ("IN 1963" she shouts) "i came to the state of california" ("I CAME TO THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA") "as a failed architect." ("AS A FAILED" etc.) "i had grandiose but vague structural visions; my plans had gaps, fuzzy or scratched-out lines, regions in which i doodled or drew simple cartoons.

"i needed a simpler job, so i went to work in the department of sanitation. but my grasp of trash disposal seemed equally vague. i found myself unwilling to throw certain articles into the truck-- anything with handwriting on it, for instance. of course, these artifacts were often stained, blurred, illegible; but to dispose of a handwritten artifact of any kind shows a casual disregard for one's potential immortality.

"meanwhile, my obsession over saving things out of the trash reduced the efficiency of the disposal process. the other workers saw me as an imbecile, which is perhaps correct. eventually i ended up here, spouting nonsense on the carpet." ("SPOUTING NONSENSE ON THE CARPET.") "is this thing still on?" he said, tapping his wife.

his son is no longer paying attention; he has become distracted by a still picture on the tv, of a female model, half-dressed, posed exploitatively. incongruously, the sound accompanying the picture is of a congressional vote on foreign economic policy. the son gains great pleasure from closing his eyes for awhile, listening, just listening, then opening his eyes to watch the woman for a few seconds, then closing them again. it's just a little bit of heaven.

© 1997-2001 Narciso Jaramillo first person index | dyslexikon | nj's face