by Key MacFarlane
- While reaching over to change stations—a little country would fit the mood just right—he
realizes he left his wallet at home. Fifth gear shifting, eyeing phone
nervously, he thinks that maybe just somehow these mental cues get buried along
the warning strips near exit 6, somewhere between the visual pull of a real
estate building and some mangled piece of road kill that has taken weeks just
to bare its bones. If Susan were around, he thought, she’d be sure to say
something about how the City hires schizophrenics, bounty hunters she would
say, to go around collecting all the carcasses, tossing them lovingly into some
sickly underbrush off the side of the highway, just close enough to attract a
few predators—to make more road kill. This is how they keep their job.
- I keep having these dreams where I can never—well at least not usually—get to where I want to
go. Everyone with anxiety has these dreams, I think. I’m taking a math test,
I’m driving to a job interview and all of a sudden I can’t see, I can’t
keep my eyes open. Some strange throbbing shifting thing inside (or outside?)
of my body keeps pulling me down. I’m half lucid. I can’t focus on anything in
particular. Food tastes like TV static. And the only way to wake up is if I
imagine some sort of horrible hypnotic accident, bodies possessed. Turns out
I’ve been sweating in place for hours. Need to change the sheets. This happens
to so many of us it’s not even worth mentioning.
- In his office he has two computer
screens. One for work, one for non-work. Every 20 minutes or so (usually less)
of copying strings of data into strings of excel spreadsheets he lets his eyes
rest—on whatever comes to mind. That is he returns to face the face of that
vacant Google rectangle (he always thought it should be a circle though) on
screen numero dos. He seeks the answer to a single question, a solitary tryst,
and ends up in a different place altogether, virtually. Never one for
organization, he opens maybe 35 tabs on the screen’s surface of what he might
be interested in, just in case. Sports news, steroids, 90s fashion, murder
trial, serial killers, family guy. ‘To write or to not write on Susan’s wall?’
No clear answer. Too much time anyway. So many other destinations.
Senior-Year Thesis* on Aesthetics
(*Advisor insisted on amending “thesis” to “very strong opinion”): Surfaces are
odious (sometimes). Lists are deceiving (sometimes). How much of what we
actually say constitutes saying anything? Disrupting exchange can create the
necessary conditions for actual exchange. Just look at Wall Street. What is
actual exchange?—wasn’t that shown to be obsolete in our digital
post-postmodern age? Satire and infinite play is all well and good, often
politically useful, but after a while what, if anything, are you creating?
Argument: modernity’s repetition and the impulse for novelty must be
dialectically intertwined; thus the new aesthetic must be a draft dodger kind
of aesthetic. (As my advisor kindly pointed out, this is not really an argument
at all. He also notes that it reeks of contradiction; I had too much on my mind
at the time to change it.)
- I want to take a picture of something beautiful. That picture of something beautiful I
want to put up on my wall so that you all can tell me if it’s beautiful or not.
The latter is not socially acceptable really at this point in time. Get back to
- Susan is 5’6, white, upper-middle class (she says middle), in her mid-twenties, dirty blonde but
dyed red (or what is supposed to be red), finger nails like the Reading
Rainbow, and wears a sailor cap for flair since she adores Melville and tells
everyone she’s never even seen the ocean. Susan is a martyr for diversity in
all forms and prides herself on making very few bourgeois judgments when it
comes to aesthetics. Susan thinks everything’s fair game for her new novel
(sorry, novella), seen in the right light of course, placed in the appropriate
sort of social circle so to speak. When she uses it at the right moment, she
believes she can turn a first generation Ipod into a device for Freudian
(sometimes even Dostoyevskian) guilt. She has me convinced.
- Jonathan is 5’11, white, quite charming if you’ll permit the indulgence, has quite a fine
knowledge of beer varieties, upstanding citizen, former lacrosse star, etc. Jon
(whatever you want to call him, he doesn’t care) works for some obscure
investment bank or financial consulting conglomeration or something like that.
Something with a decentralized organizational structure; diversity was one of
five goals in its mission statement, he assured me. (I was teetering on
blackout during our entire barroom discourse and can’t be blamed for
misinformation. His locution, the way he strung along his dependent clauses,
made me want to drink, to lie down in a cool stream). Jonny boy is most excited
about—and uses his longest sentences to describe—the infinite possibilities of
global trade. How one day all the world’s walls will crumble (I figured this
was figurative), and exchange will happen uniformly and indiscriminately. The
great flood: money will flow.
- The curse of OCD is that the patient is able to connect anything with anything else.
Animism. Spontaneous religion really. An indelible conviction in some sort of
interconnecting, causally sound totality. That something happening to Susan
today at this desk typing these words, will somehow unglue her most cherished
relationships with others. Uncontrollable apotheosis. Or maybe reason
unchained. Looking for invisible connections among objects. Connections that
bind and enslave.
I’m in a glass room. Only the
glass is permeable. It is saying: I contain whispers, desks, and printers but I
can’t contain you. Every exit leads to another room. Some rooms are colorful,
some are musical, some contain bodies rotting and piled high on
concrete-cracked streets, some have dinner parties at chromium palaces, some
just look the same: it’s quite distracting. I’ve researched them all, I’ve seen
them on screen from a hundred different angles. I’m tired.
For all our
lack of focus, we return again to the same spots again and again, layering the
surface of what was once smooth and understandable with a thousand hesitating
brush strokes, a kaleidoscope of avoidance and weekend distractions.
In the fall, Key will begin pursuing a graduate degree in critical human geography from the University of Washington. His poetry has been published or is forthcoming in Full of Crow, Eunoia Review, The Subterranean Quarterly, Stone Highway Review, and Sleet Magazine.