February 27, 2017: Center
A perimeter makes a center. Jehan and Jane scanned the empty space as they gently walked in. The dome ceiling was so high that at least one giraffe standing on top another could fit with some room to spare. The walls were all glass of the modern kind, where they could see the beautiful, lush green forest outside from within, but only a reflection of the exotic bushels and trees could be seen from the outside looking in. The peculiar abode stood discretely in the center of the naturally calm wilderness which extended for a few kilometers in every direction, just large enough to shelter an ecosystem of bugs and beetles, plants and timber, birds and bees, even small monkeys and chimps. Surrounding the habitat in all directions was the hustle and bustle of civilization – steam engines powering railroads, donkeys pulling carts, women effortlessly balancing buckets of water on top of their heads, men carrying axes and children carrying books. The ringing buzz of the market and the singing chatter of leisure bounce from the surrounding high mountains and crash back onto the land. The wild trees of the wilderness within absorb the noise like sunlight. Within the glass walls of the empty abode, Jehan and Jane look at each other and recognize the bewilderment in each others eyes. A strange energy has occupied them both, an energy of a thousand sounds and a million sights that beamed onto them from the center of the abode’s domed ceiling. They looked out from within, from the center of all worlds, and from the center of themselves.
February 23, 2017: Slur
He slurred his words into one big handful of confusion. To the composed bystander, it did not appear that the 6-foot dapper gentlemen with a clean shave and neatly combed hair had a clue what he was rambling about. His eyes revealed what lay underneath a confident shell. He was smiling while slurring, but his eyes were as they would have been had his lips been curved in the other direction, toward the messy sidewalk below his shiny black shoes. His back was upright and chest puffed out so that his baritone voice beamed through the cold air and onto every passerby’s muffled ears. Yet, our friendly composed bystander, the one who gathered that the towering gentlemen was in all likelihood slurring a string of senseless words into a series of sounds, was the only one to pause in her tracks. She turned towards the man, who at this point was waving his finger in admonishment of no one, or thing, in particular, and gave him an audience. As the man turned in the direction of our steadfast friend, he began to wave his finger wildly and continued to slur inexplicably. It was a sight to see, I must confess. I was seated on a park bench just 25 meters away, which I often do on days that I can tolerate, observing the frantic pace of the city avenues. The maddening world buzzed about without method or purpose. Yet just before my eyes, only 25 meters away, an obscure woman tried to make sense of the madness.
January 20, 2017: Exposure
“Click! … (reel) … Click! Click!” Got it! The lens was perfectly focused on her hair and the shutter speed fast enough to catch those few strands waving about from the westward sea breeze. She was facing the shore, as was I. I captured the top of her bare shoulders and her long, thick, wavy dark brown hair with speckles of sand scattered from strand to strand. The sea was loud in front of her, waves crashing unto themselves before rushing to shore and back again. I got it all. Back in the dark room, I prepared the film. The paper was ready to catch the image and the film was ready for exposure. Too little light and the story would lose its detail. Too much light and it would drown in it. It required a delicate exposure to be told in its full beauty. Just a brief flash of light for it to be just right.
January 16, 2017: Marathon
A grumbling sound was rumbling outside. I ran to the window in haste to see what it was, fearful that a storm was coming to spoil my getaway. It was an odd fear. For the last six months since the Sinisters took over, grumbling sounds pounded the streets nearly every hour, but they weren’t the kind that traveled from the collision of clouds overhead. Rather, they were the kind that escaped from automatic weapons at a persistent and dangerous speed. They would bounce off walls of hallowed out homes and obliterated school buildings of our once happy little town. The echoes would travel down every street. The Sinisters were an evil breed, destined to rise from the ground beneath to bring the world above back to the time when they ruled the lands. Such was a time of despair when friends turned against each other, communities closed their doors, and families shut their hearts to the needs of anyone but their kin. The Sinisters were destined to trap us all, but I wouldn’t be trapped, no way. I would seek refuge. My marathon to a distant land was set to begin on that day if the skies were clear, and fortunately they were. The grumbling sounds I heard that day were of the usual kind. My journey as a refugee would thus begin. My heart heavy but my sights ahead, I set forth towards Yuropia. My life now depended on how unlike the Sinisters they were. It depended on their hearts.
January 6, 2017: Float
January 6. My day, I say.
I was born on January 6, and I have been afloat ever since.
The ground beneath me has shifted, shaked, wavered and favored
my existence above it, as I float on ground.
The waves come and go, the world spins and drifts,
and it has taken me with it.
Every January 6, I look at the world around me as I float about
the tides high and low.
January 6 has been the most consistent day, I say.
October 28, 2016: Rearrange
He let out a sigh of relief, nostalgia, and ambivalence. Tre had spent the last eighteen hours rummaging through his past – pictures, journals, souvenirs, gifts, creations – without pausing for a moment. He was prompted to summon his past in its entirety by his motivation to rewrite it.
Tre was a middle child of five. His older sisters live in Washington DC with powerful jobs and influence. Tara is President Ciara’s chief of staff and Tina is a senator from their home state of Thebes. His younger brothers are overseas, somewhere. Last time he heard from Tobin was when he let the family know he bought a penthouse on the River Thames in London – who knows where he got all that money. Tarek might be somewhere in the West Indies, he had always been a roamer. Their parents were back home in Thebes, but Tre made an oath to himself that he would never return. He never wanted to go back to where he was forgotten. Infrequent phone calls and text messages are enough to keep his obligatory familial relationships alive, he thought. After thirteen years, though, Tre found that the ground underneath him had shifted. His heart now beats at a different pace and his mind has exhausted every corner of his imagination. Tre did not want to face what he has been running from; it was more than enough to admit that he has been running. In a last attempt to reclaim his voyage, he sought to rearrange his past. Perhaps that would make him a different person. Perhaps that would give him purpose.
October 27, 2016: Smoke
The first ray of sunlight had not yet emerged when Yurik opened his eyes to the last moments of the night sky. Winter was coming, but it had not yet arrived. Every year at this time, Yurik escapes from town and to meditate in the open desert. The vast Sahara makes clear the beauty of the bare Earth against the changing light of the open sky above. All that is between is the air that Yurik breathes. Every morning it meets the first ray of light before it the stars fade into the orange, then sepia, then metallic blue light. At the turn of winter, the air thickens and moistens. As the light makes its way from the Earth’s eastern curve, the cold winter air comes to sight in a smoke of fog. In these moments, Yurik watches his breath occupy an infinite space between the desert below and the infinite above, encircled by an emancipated light in the smokey fog of the moist Sahara dawn.
October 23, 2016: Artificial
First Oku said, “I only use original stuff, the real deal!” Then Jihan replied, “Yeah me too, I like to know that my stuff is actual, not artificial.” Pedro chimed in, “That’s authentic, I respect that. Artificial intelligence, artificial flavor, artificial sounds – it’s nothing but second best.” Stacey seconded, “I mean, what’s the point of being fake if you stay true to yourself?! Artificial? I don’t think so!” The group went on, encouraging each other’s sense of self and righteousness. Meanwhile, Xiaolu sat back and did not comment. For Xiaolu, artificial is a good word. It gave him his prosthetic limbs, allowing him to live a life as close to his old one, before his accident, as much as possible. It allowed him to walk his daughter to school and to take a shower on his own. Xiaolu was thankful for artificial. He decided to let the group continue along. They were feeling good about themselves. He knew how artificial their sense of righteousness was.
October 22, 2016: Volunteer
I agreed to show Lane around town. He was new to Fellowtown. He moved from The City to live a new life. He wanted a reset. No, he needed a reset. He had been surrounded by millions of people, knew some of their names, but understood nothing about them. That is how it was in The City – the loneliest metropolis in the country. I met Lane in college but we never really knew each other. He kept a distance in bigger crowds, so it was strange that he would then settle in The City. I wonder what he sought. Anyway, he contacted me the day before he moved to Fellowtown and we met two days later. He was well dressed, clean shaven with slicked back black hair, but with an awkward disposition. He stood hunched over with feet pointed inwards, but with an eager expression beaming from his round face. Within moments, he was sharing with me the most personal details of his life. Unprompted, he volunteered information about himself that few people would share with anyone. I must look so uncomfortable, I thought to myself. I wondered about Lane. He was a mysterious fellow and I gathered that he was a lonely one. He wanted to connect with someone, anyone, about anything. That is why he came to Fellowtown. That is why he reached out to me. We approached a popular coffee shop and grabbed a seat at the open table by the window to watch the townspeople walk about. I acted interested in what Lane had to say. I wanted him to feel welcome in Fellowtown, that he could just be himself. After all, all he needed was an interaction, and so I volunteered.
October 21, 2016: Millions
About 5 million people have millions of dollars in the US. Over eight times as many people are poor. That’s over 40 million people. There are about 15 million people with millions of dollars in the world. Over two hundred times as many people are poor. That’s over 3,000 million people. Or 3 billion. Just under one half of those people are extremely poor. That’s 1,300 million people. Or 1.3 billion.
Income inequality paints a stark picture of a world of haves and have nots. Progress has undoubtedly been made, especially in ending extreme poverty. Yet a story of just one poor human being is enough, let alone 40 million in the richest nation on Earth or 3,000 million in the world.