Goodbye Cassiopeia

I click on the little envelope and read an email from a friend. I begin to craft a response, and with each keystroke of mine the computer plays the sound of an old typewriter. Things aren’t the same anymore. I look out the window and get the feeling I’ve crossed a line somewhere- but don’t remember when or how.

Last week there were a few days I woke up totally confused. The bedroom looked strangely familiar, but I didn’t know where I was. Am I on vacation? No… Wait… I’m in Chicago.. okay… yeah. But what streets am I on? Where am I? Is this my own place? It reminds me a little of the disorientation I felt when I discovered my mom’s lifeless body a year ago February.

She hadn’t returned phone calls for over a week, and when she didn’t call on my birthday I knew she was dead. Knowing it didn’t help to prepare me whatsoever. I remember propping open her apartment door with an old vacuum cleaner that was lying there. I called out “Mom? Are you home? Mom?” I walked further into the front hall. “I’m coming in! Mom?” It was sunny outside, but her lights were on. It was unusually warm. It smelled like stale cigarette smoke like always. I passed a small table where keys and laundry change live, and a brief calm came over me… maybe she finally checked herself into rehab. Yeah. That’s why she’s not been here to answer the phone. She’s finally going to get it together. I pictured her worn but standing tall in an AA meeting across town.

I stepped forward and saw the door to her tv room was open a few inches- the blinds were pulled as if somebody were trying to sleep despite the daylight. I nudged the door open slightly and was able to make out the shape of my mom’s bare feet- she was lying where she usually slept- atop a small mattress on the floor. I went further in and saw that her eyes were sqinted closed and her mouth open. Her skin was the color of twilight. My mother was dead. I ran out of there briskly. “I love you mom,” I hiccupped frantically as the door shut behind me. I called my dad on the cell phone and he said “Are you sure? Did you check her pulse?” I didn’t want to go back in there. He said to call the ambulance. I called 911. I was calm. I was on task. I gave them all the information- but when they asked where I was- I had absolutely no idea.

When you’re standing on magnetic north, the compass just spins.
Gradually I came to understand that I indeed was in my regular old bedroom in my regular old apartment with my regular old girlfriend. Or was I? I can’t explain away the terror of not recognizing my own bedroom of three years. The awareness cores me like an apple…

It is night now and I’m looking up at the stars, or what I can see of them through the orange light that permanently domes our metropolis. I’m trying to imagine the constellations through the haze. Trying to connect it all.

I get the feeling that I’m standing in the past. That the ‘real’ world is still a year or so ahead of me. This new point of reference is unusual and exciting. I’ve spent years and years thinking just the opposite- that the ‘real’ world passed me by ages ago. Hey, I’ve been feeling lots of emotions lately. Some of them I haven’t felt in so long I wonder if I’ve ever felt them before. Warmth. Belonging. Magic.

There are so many signs and they go by quickly now- but I’m coolly detached. Road signs fly up at the same time the exact words are coming over the car radio speaker. And then it happens again… and again… and again… until the meaning of coincidence has been completely transmogrified.

Classification is ludicrous.

I used to be a prisoner to the signs like everybody else: Would follow what they said, would rebel against what they said. Now I just marvel. They’re not to be understood. Trying to make sense of what already makes sense is mad science.

I finish up the email to my friend, and click the little envelope again to send it. I power down my computer and as the last phosphors dissipate from the screen, my eyes adjust to pink bands of morning in the eastern sky. Speakers in the church spire miles away play the sound of bells.