Saturday, June 11, 2005

Into the Deep

These hallowed halls. You. Your colleague's voice. The rhythmic click click clicking of her high heels on the cold stone floor. What's she saying? Something about a student, Stephen, an essay. She's quoting, you think. But why can't you just concentrate?

Today, in ten minutes, a talk on the Future of Reality. At the end of this hall, you'll turn right and enter the old amphitheater. You know this because you visited the room briefly last week. Musty, smelling of old wood and cloth, dampness, dirt - lies. When was all of this built? Seventeen hundred something, you think. Who built it? An architect, long dead, now nothing but bones in a box beneath the ground. His name is on a cornerstone by the high arch of the front entrance, but you didn't pay it enough attention on the way in to catch it. Same with last time you were here. And the time before that.

At the end of this hall, you'll turn right and enter the old amphitheater. There, your colleague and you will part ways - she'll head to the front row to join the others, and you'll walk up to the lectern to spread your papers out. You'll turn to pull down the cloth screen at the back of the stage. You'll switch on the slide projector to make sure it's working. Rote. There, you'll stand. Confident, alone, with just your slide-changer-laser-pointer-thingy in your hand. What are those called? There must be a name. Everything has a name.

Alone. You remember reading about Derrida's lectures at UCLA. He needed a security team to protect him, lest he get mobbed by adoring students. He was like a rockstar. He was never alone. In ten minutes, you will be on one side of the great divide - a fifteen foot expanse of marble flooring - and all the others will sit opposite. In front of you, the first row, colleagues; serious. Behind them, their assistants and admirers; restless. Behind them, a mass of nameless faces; giggling. As you open your mouth to speak, your mind will be a blank, but for the Future of Reality. A hush will fall.

Afterwards, there will be a smattering of predictable questions. Nothing surprising. An eager, but nervous, boy will approach you as you step down from the stage. You'll shake his hand, and take the book from his outstretched other - a dogeared copy of your first. He intends for you to sign it. Opening the front cover you'll see a price written in pencil: $6.50. You get around. Just as you press pen to paper, the boy will speak. He'll ask: "What if I choose to reject the future reality?" You'll pause, pen to paper, and shift your weight from one foot to the other. You'll bite your bottom lip, staring at that blank page. You'll write: I bid you adieu. Be safe in your travels - godspeed. One adventurer striking out on his own, setting sail for uncharted waters. Envious, you'll close the book, smile, and pass it back. The boy's gonna be alright.

You'll fade into the midst of blazers and pantsuits, tweed coats and scarves. A couple pats on the back. Some random handshakes. Smiles all around. You'll walk, as a pack, back down these hallowed halls, through the great arched doorway, and past that cornerstone. You'll miss the name again. The rain will come fast. You'll pop your umbrella, just like the others, and everyone will scurry off to their luxury cars. You'll sit there, cold and wet, watching rainwater stream down the windshield. It runs with the fluidity of time. Your future is now; this is your reality. You'll turn the key. Predictably, the engine will start. Nothing surprising.

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