Strange Frontier of the Future

The space in the bar is surreal, pulsing waves of light, sound, and energy. In the din, slow undulations accumulate through interference and move through people, pushing spines as if on stalks. Pictures of faces smiling—acquaintances, ex-lovers, strangers, in some way all friends—swim up as you draw close to ask a question, watch for an answer, catch the impression of their emotions, tip an ear to hear the response, a clarification, then drift away again. Unmoored in particular ways.

Why are you here? The past and the present come together in a moment of transparency. Wisps of meaning that once were, or are soon to be, become newly visible. This could be a lesson in divesting— from the person who you thought yourself to be, from the things you thought you wanted, from the ideas you previously saw reaching forward into the future. Abolished, made wavy, blotted out. These familiar faces that have endured through time all followed the same strands to arrive here, in a place with no given meaning.

It is an indistinct conglomerate, many shades of paint mixed to brown. No one rule has brought all these people together and no two individuals feel the same. In the murk you feel a sense of the alien, a loss of identity, and reason that you can’t be the only one. Pulling away from the attachments you once had. Looking for new meaning in strangers. Scoffing at the absurd. Chasing highs. The strange frontier of the future stretches out in front of you like a hidden landscape, woven into the bland material things standing directly ahead; a tapestry of import clinging weblike to the spots of colors spinning on the ceiling, harmonizing multiplicatively beneath the lows emanating from the speakers, or rising above as transcendent noise. Cross your eyes to see deeper into the field and peer ahead—all these blank moving faces, like singers in a choir, like strangers on the street, may merge and lock into place like empty spaces in a chain link fence, new fractals jumping into view.

Who are you, and who are you to be? Called into question are all the things you’ve done today and all the things you’ve ever done; the practices you keep and the things you spend your time on. Is it worth it? Is any of it permanent, or even moving in the right direction? In the space where you can be anything, watch endless riverflows converge and drift apart, what will you decide? And will your decision matter? At best, perhaps, it is a shot in the dark, a careless “why not,” petals gaily thrown into the wind.

Later in the week, a cafe. Place of comfort, nourishment, routine—sunlight spills through the window to the south, a gentle illumination. Here is the place where people live out the lives they have selected, inhabit the person that they chose to be. Seasoned workers behind a counter, bearing their burdens and their suffering with pride. People on their way to work. Spending the precious, finite drops of their life. Making the choice.

You try to make her smile but don’t succeed. The mask of her indifference is too perfect, and whoever finds her pretty at home must be privy to all that pain that’s locked away when you order your bagel. Who’s to say what desperation, which howling regrets haunt her on a daily basis; the consequences implicated when she chose, on a dancefloor, in a place with no meaning, months or years ago, with alcohol swirling in her stomach, with the windows down on a cold night’s drive, the person who she would become, the life that she would lead.

And did she also feel alone?

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