This morning I dream of having a long brown moustache the ends of which collect in greasy tufts that probe the air like underwater tentacles. My fingernails are long and their undersides are filled with dirt. I’m ashamed, but I’m not sure who I’m ashamed to. It might be Lisa. At this point the dream is unclear.
“I don’t know– I don’t know how I let it get like this… I didn’t mean for– I thought I trimmed my moustache yesterday!”
When I rode back from University Settlement, on a Wednesday, the roads were so empty and pleasant– too empty and pleasant, and the air too fresh– that I wonder whether I’d died. If I have, and this is death, then death is nothing to be afraid of, and at least I don’t have to worry about traffic tickets…
At Beverly and College the light lingers too long after the change. A rider behind me comes up a few feet and then stops alongside. She’s short, mousy, and her hair is tangled in knots. She could be a student mathematician or an engineer.
“I hate these advance greens,” she says. I smile and don’t really say anything. But did I even smile? As I pedal onto St. George, I wonder if I’m too indifferent to be human. Too tenuous and reckless, in some ways, too naive in others.
I think of the mouse. Did we go to the same high-school together? It’s clear now, that we might have. For months in the very early going I might have shared a table with her in the library, with some others, and we did quiet homework in a kind of personal hell.
That’s what one expects, when he dies. To have zombies dredged up and paraded in front of you. A shambling, rotting string of half-censured pasts you barely remember… When I first saw “Waking Life” I heard the figure: seven years until all of the cells in our current body are replaced by new ones. Something like that. I did the math: seven years from here, seven years from here, seven years from now. It’s been seven years since the mouse in the library. That body is in the grave. The milestone passed, as such milestones are supposed to, unnoticed.
On the way out again, I see another face, half-a-decade old. I pass her on my bicycle and it’s her, the spitting image… but I don’t stop, don’t say anything, so who really knows? Curiosity gets the better of me. The face was too similar, even with my blurred vision. We go to Facebook, but that branch has been deleted.
The things I wonder are dangerously egotistical. They involve a failed romance. An aborted romance, of the sort you know would not have been final, but that choked off in the early going, before it could exhaust itself: “Maybe it was too painful for her, logging on and seeing certain reminders…” and “Did I hurt her? I must have hurt her. And, in a way, I hurt myself.” Of course everything I think is preposterous. The roots of a deleted Facebook account aren’t sown five years earlier. It’s only that the seventeen-year-old who knew her is still alive, in some sense, and he doesn’t have the same benefit of perspective that I have. But it won’t be long before he too, dies, and his existence becomes merely wallpaper.