Sunday, April 6, 2014

In the Twilight Zone

I keep worrying about the plane. A whole plane, lost, as easily misplaced as a set of keys? If that isn't enough, there are the oceans, which we may as well rename dumps: the Atlantic Dump, the Pacific Dump. ("Off to surf in the Atlantic Dump!," the girl, towel slung over one tanned shoulder, called cheerfully.) As much junk in the water as in space, the debris orbiting aimlessly and infinitely. Some days it's all too much.

A boy in my classroom tells me that he is making a necklace for me. "Triangles or rectangles?," he asks. I blink, puzzled. "It's a paper necklace," he explains. Of course! "Triangles," I choose, fortified by this burst of clarity. He beams. I have chosen wisely. Sense-making: perhaps the only real goal there is.

My family spent one winter weekend watching perhaps twenty episodes of Twilight Zone. Afterwards we spent weeks primed for oddities. My youngest child has started sending photos to a Reddit site called "Mildly Interesting." The other day he noticed that when you turn a Sonic cup upside down, the logo reads "Dinos," thanks to a faint vertical line bisecting the 'c' in Sonic. He spent a restless few hours before checking on the status of his submission. 2 upvotes, and 1 downvote. He shook his head, acknowledging defeat. "Not mildly interesting enough," he declared.

(Sonic: we finally tried it. For years the company has run commercials in our market, although the restaurant is located nowhere near us. For years we've been unwittingly building up this fast-food establishment. It was bound to disappoint. Particularly the onion rings; their peculiarity lingered. If there were such a thing as an onion donut, it would taste like a Sonic onion ring. Mildly interesting, maybe? Worth more than 2 upvotes?)

One episode of Twilight Zone that stuck with us concerns a single man surviving what appears to be a nuclear holocaust. After digesting the fact that he is to be alone for the rest of his life, he is overjoyed to find a library, walls blown away, but books mostly intact. And then he steps on his glasses, shattering them. Alanis Morrissette would call that ironic, wrongly. More of a pitiable coincidence, I'd say.

At a motel near Philadelphia we arrive tired and hungry. The little shop by the front desk has only dessert for sale. We resign ourselves to dessert for dinner. It is very late. My husband buys a pint of ice cream for himself. No, not a pint, not anymore; ice cream manufacturers are hoping that we don't notice. Oh, we notice, but what can we do? So. We get up to the room, which is designed in ways large and small for the physically challenged. "Do they know something we don't?," muses one brother. "Oh, you're physically challenged all right," retorts the other, setting up a round of tiresome and predictable squabbling. We change for bed, and eat our sugar. Except for my husband, who lacks a spoon. "Just lick it,"  one of the boys suggests, pragmatically enough. My husband declines. He grabs a glass from the bathroom and uses it as a makeshift shovel. It works. No one judges. We've all been there. And we think of the last man in the world without his glasses. A container of ice cream without a spoon. Not nearly the same degree of tragic, but interesting conundrums nonetheless.

We live in a crazy world. Making sense of things may come naturally to humans, but damned if we aren't all playing make-believe when we write our to-do lists, drag our trash to the curb and watch it disappear down the street, tend to our tidy lawns, and assume that tomorrow the sun will rise, because it did today, yesterday, and the day before that. 

The Great Wizard of Oz was never more than a short, balding man with a stammer. People believing otherwise didn't change the fact.


Bibliomama said...

OH MY GOD, I remember that episode. The thick glasses. The bitchy wife. He's locked in the bank vault reading, which is why he survives the nuclear holocaust, and he's so happy that now he's alone with all the time in the world to read, and then he breaks his glasses IT BROKE MY FREAKING HEART.

Yes. Life is weird.

alejna said...

I love the way you weave these episodes together. (And I, too, remember that Twilight Zone episode with the books. It's one that really stuck with me, though it was over 20 years ago that I saw it. In fact, for me, it is the one episode that comes to mind when the Twilight Zone comes up.)

As always, your writing leaves me thinking. I will go to sleep with thoughts of paper necklaces and missing planes and missing spoons mingling in my head. (But really, my mind wants to shy away from the missing plane.)

Christine said...

Life is crazy--mysteries and puzzles abound.

Neil said...

Ooh, I love this. Your ice cream tale is probably not as ironic and sad as the one about the Twilight Zone episode. It is a hopeful tale, one of a man who has survival skills he learned from boy scouts.

Jessica Watson said...

I love this. Isn't crazy how uncertain our certainty is, isn't it?

De said...

Facts, schmacts. What we choose to believe very much affects our behavior. Then, how we act affects others, creating reality.

Then again, I finished reading The Good Luck of Right Now just moments ago, so my mind is swirling with examples of people surviving solely through the defense mechanism of pretend.

InTheFastLane said...

We had the same issue with Sonic...

And I LOVED the Twilight Zone....Probably watched too many episodes of it and the all blur together. But sometimes I start to feel like real life is a little too much like a Twilight zone.

Maggie May said...

Oh The Twilight Zone… still one of the psychologically most creepy, penetrating things on screen I've ever seen.