I was floating in this conscious darkness, suspended from reality but aware of myself nonetheless. It was like someone had ripped the cord of my senses from a wall socket but left my brain plugged in. Without the distraction of sensation my thoughts were extremely clear—passive, too. It was quiet and my thoughts were a spectacle, each like its own Public Garden swan boat drifting by.
I wondered what might have separated me from my corporeal form. What exactly was this form doing as I lolled in the darkness? Perhaps these were seconds passing, or perhaps these were years.
I hypothesized that I was put in this state as my physical form passed through the windshield of a motor vehicle. Or, I might already have been in a coma for several months now. I imagined that I had been at Fenway Park and was struck in the head by a David Ortiz foul ball. He’d already broken my pinstriped little heart in 2004; why not break my head before he left? The final plausible cause that I dreamt up: hypnosis.
When I was five years old my mother took me to the county fair, but I refused to go to the petting zoo. In my short life I had already been traumatized by animals; the year prior a donkey mistook my middle finger for a carrot. This year—now one year wiser—I insisted upon avoiding any animals at the fair, so my mother took me to watch a hypnotist make fools of volunteer audience members. I was thoroughly amused by the performance, both of the hypnotist and his supposed volunteers. (My mother had given me, at this age, the gift of cynicism by assuring me that these people were not truly hypnotized but planted in the audience to be a part of the act.) I recall being particularly amused by an older boy, a teenager, who repeatedly slapped his rear end while dancing to “Oops, I Did It Again” by Britney Spears. I found it so hysterical that for many weeks afterwards I insisted my mother play Britney Spears so I could perform the dance, too. I suppose the upside of this embarrassing habit was my parents disciplining my mischievousness with mere admonishments, seeing as I was already spanking myself.
As this memory drifted through my consciousness, it seemed reasonable––and frankly poetic––that I might now be hypnotized, slapping my twenty-year-old ass on a stage for the amusement of an audience. It would be fitting retribution for my skepticism of hypnosis.
Suddenly the distant clamor of reality could be heard. My thoughts lost their edges, each blending into the next. No longer were they swan boats, but now colliding strings of subway cars being violently derailed. I floated closer towards reality, the din of street traffic growing louder.
As I floated I imagined I was a space capsule docking at the mother ship. I pitched right, left, and soon was locked back into my body.
My first action was to dart towards the bathroom. I had no urgent call of nature, just an impulsive desire to see my reflection. For the first time ever this wasn’t brought on by my usual vanity, but an earnest wish to see that I was back home, in my body. I didn’t walk with a regular gait. I walked as one does when they’re trying on a pair of shoes still attached by an elastic string.
Before I entered the restroom, I looked back at the room I was leaving. Mercifully I discovered no crowd, no stage, and no hypnotist.
Later that morning I went out for a walk. Outside, it was gray. I strolled down the Riverway, my hands in my pockets, taking in the verdant scenery.
Many people think there is an afterlife in heaven or hell. Some believe in reincarnation. Others are sure that death is the end of consciousness. But what if death is consciousness itself––a restless torture of endless thought? Death might just be a black jail of consciousness, a limitless monoscape without the signal interference sent by the senses.
I considered living my life henceforth with more time spent outside of my head and in the real world. After all, I may have eternity to think. I imagined a series of thrill seeking sports; I dreamt up a vagrant’s life hitchhiking around the country; I fantasized about a torrid love affair with an artist.
A cyclist breezed by my right side, waking me from my daydreams. I was standing still in the middle of the path. Again, I had the impulse to see my reflection, motivated this time by my usual vanity. I walked over to the water’s edge and leaned forward, but my reflection was distorted by an interference pattern—ripples made by the pouring rain.