Plans without number have been born within my cerebral cortex, that wrinkled and furrowed cradle of reason, and have begun their short and twisted lived by flowing down my spinal cord to my arms and then my fingers and the pen that they hold, only to die in the space between the page and my eyes, rejected by the very cognition that gave them birth. It is said that the thought process is incomplete without articulation, and I have left so many, oh god, so many completed loops of thought behind me: tiny, senseless zeros scattered like grains of rice on a tile floor. Like snowflakes falling from a cloudless sky, these strange ideas are spawned from the emptiness that yawns behind the veneer of my consciousness, without apparent purpose or relation to anything.
But the sense of purposelessness that crowds my mind like a gang of sly and evil mimes is there for a reason. The irony of this does not escape me. There is a rhythm to the swelling darkness in my head, a sardonic repetition of thoughts with no meaning, like the empty rhymes of a fever. This discordant jangle has become my theme song, monotonous, compelling, and somehow smug, as if it were a tuneless dirge played by a filthy violinist on a street corner, his mouth turned up at the corners in a jeering smirk. Any day now, these nonsense syllables will begin to make sense, coalescing into words and sentences.
I should probably be afraid of what they might tell me, but like the impatient reader of a paperback mystery novel, I only want to turn to the last page and see how it all turns out. I’d really like to know.
But in the cavernous, shadowy library of my soul, the last few pages have been ripped from all the books, and all the swear words in the stories are in a foreign language. I read the Tao Te Ching once, but all the mantras were limericks about ladies from Nantucket and the lotus was one of those molded plastic tulips you see on the tables of cheap Szechuan restaurants where they don’t even bother putting water in the vases.
This is the big secret: everything in the world is a cleverly contrived cardboard cutout, and when you look around the edge to make sure, the façade extends around it so you can’t see the back and thereby confirm that you’re not crazy. So then you take it apart, certain that you’ll see the seams where they’ve glued it together, but it was built by machines with robotic arms in a big room full of crafty scientists with microscopes and they made sure that it looks like it does in the commercials because they knew you would look and so no matter how closely you examine it, you’re never really going to find out for sure. They count on that, because they know you’re going to wonder about it. But everybody gets tired of looking and gives up, so that’s okay.
So you wake up and put on your clothes from your Barbie® and Ken® wardrobe and get into your car that has a Hot Wheels® logo hidden on it somewhere and you go to work and cast surreptitious glances at people’s elbows to see if you can see the lines in their joints where they’re held together by flesh-colored plastic rivets. When you go to the grocery store, you know that the cans of spaghetti and chicken noodle soup are really all filled with the same amorphous gray jelly, but when you open it up, it looks like what it says on the label. I can almost feel it change when I open the can.
I can see the extrusion marks on the vegetables. They try to make them look natural, but I know extrusion marks when I see them.
I know better than to say anything about it. How they must laugh, watching me as I search in vain for the dangling thread which, when pulled, will unravel the fabric of the whole elaborate cocoon in which they have enshrouded me. I’m a fly caught in a spider’s web, its fangs pumping me full of poison which, if subjected to chemical analysis, would turn out to be Pepsi-Cola. But were I to panic and scream for help, they would chortle that I’m merely suffering from an anxiety disorder and write me a prescription for Prozac®, please show the receptionist your insurance card on the way out.
I wouldn’t give them the satisfaction. The screams stay on the inside, where they can’t hear them.
I do have insurance, though.