You Are a Story

Published: 2023-10-08
Tagged: story

"The movie theater is empty. I am the audience. I am the projectionist also."

"On the screen today Marlon Brando cries for Stella. Yesterday Gomer Pyle painted the bathroom wall with his brains. Before that, I think, a wandering samurai saved a poor man's family from warring gangs in some nameless village."

"There has never been a moment without me watching a movie. I believe there is a world outside of the theater. But this consideration is only a mental exercise of a sort: what could these moving pictures be about, but about a people and a world? Surely, they cannot be an accidental sequence of scenes and sounds."

"A fear that I hide even from myself is that there is nothing but the movies. I cannot remember anything but the infinite procession of scenes, credits, and trailers, all accompanied by emotional music."

I put the book down and try to empathize with this alien-seeming character. To even begin doing that, I must, for a moment, pretend to be him. To have always been him. So I imagine a childhood in the countryside, with loving by quarrelsome parents. My father didn't shy away from the bottle. My mother, as all mothers in such stories, was busy tending to her dark garden of depression.

Of course, for the story to work, an accident happened to me. It broke my body and, perhaps, my mind, pushing my father to suicide and my mother to disappear. The replacement family kindly assigned to me by the state was primarily interested in the tax breaks that entailed for their Spanish coastal property. Their neglect was dimly reflected in the round glass portal through which rays of light beamed themselves at the irises of the only part of my brain outside my skull.

One set of electrical signals turned into another. The floppy, curved snails of my brain were made to resonate with the same hum as that of the telly, which itself vibrated with gentle tremors that radiated from great antennas operated by men who played the human race using said tremors as if it were a player piano.

These men exist solely because they are an essential and consequential part of a world that makes sense.

Without such men, there would be no need to invent radios and TVs and even electricity. Their greed is as inevitable a manifestation of their genetic heritage as the need of a cat to lick clean its fur. Absent such men, there would be no need for greed, and without greed, there would be no need for liberal democracy.

Then, the story of which I am an accidental existence would not be in a state of telling. You see, Child, I am only a spark that came into being in your imagination through chance, mistake, and statistics--invited by your asking Why This and Why That, slowly climbing over one Old Man Chesterton's fence and then another, until the Parent answering your questions plumbs such depths of minute detail that the world being explained begins to take on a life of its own, where the gears of cause and effect come to life, and where simple characters become flesh and blood beings--all of making it so heavy with the weight of information that it begins to stretch and distort the world around you, infecting it with itself, so that the spell wrought by your listening and your Parent's talking begins to consume its own tail until, at some point,

you realize with a start that it is you who are just a little flap of a story flowing through some dark wild valleys of a Child's mind, existing there only fleetingly, but fully, with a perfect illusion of self, made real by a collection of memories, images, that you watch one by one, as you sit, alone, in the theater.


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