Nonsequential (Self Portrait)
by Mark Burger
I saw my father’s face in my reflection of the subway train again.
My doppelganger got off at Fulton Street.
1:15am: Jesus (Battery: 82%)
1:20am: historical Jesus (Battery: 80%)
1:22am: criterion of embarrassment
1:24am: Sufjan Stevens
1:30am: Interstate 273 (Battery: 75%)
I am hovering above the wrinkled, cracked Midwest, it's wounds poorly stitched together by lines of light connecting its cities, towns, and suburbs. A white and grey corpse, resuscitated nightly by artificial light. A jet cuts through the pale blue sky, piercing the soft gradient of the sunset.
"That's beautiful," I say to myself, out loud.
The embers of the city streets, muted ever so slightly by the clouds, are volcanic spider webs, growing in size and frequency as the night fades in, as I journey further east. The sun continues to cut a thin canyon along the clouds, a fiery Marianas Trench in the clouds, and thus, I'm underwater. The cities are deeper still, hidden under a thick current of clouds, some resonating through like a closet light left on overnight to let others know you're home. The real monsters aren't in our closets or under our beds, anyway. They're in the words we refrain from saying, the places we don't end up going because it'd be easier to stay at home instead, and no one's going to be there anyway.
Looking out across the horizon, the towns below, lit up for the night, are lightning storms caught in a snapshot, like nebulas frozen in time. I think about the city I'm going to and the people in it. I think about a girl who I know, who I once told it takes eight minutes for light to travel from the sun to the earth. The same girl who said she wanted to kiss my twenty-year-old lips in said eight-minute-old sunlight, but I wasn't sure about all that and now I think about the lifespan of moonlight. My mother says that it's okay to eat the food in the can even if the date's already passed, because its just estimation and it still has a few good days left after it. I wonder how many more good days I have left, before I become stale and have to recycle myself. I wonder if sunlight ever becomes stale and if it would feel different to kiss someone in the sun even if it's a few weeks after we said we were interested. But I don't want to lie and say I do when I really don't know anything at all.
Sometimes I think about reaching inside myself and pulling out the wiring behind my eyes. To rearrange the infrastructure of my jaw, to pull the metallic lining of my skull apart. I’d like to feel the synapses of my brain, coursing with electricity; to feel the links between my skin, the hexagon patterns and lines that seal the cables and cords inside.
[open:<rm.9%>\//**/.:: would yo/u like to// reboot/?]
Sometimes I wish it were easy to coordinate the colors of my life into cyan, charcoal, magenta, pyrite. To not have to coordinate my every move weeks in advance, to loosen the controls, douse the mainframe in ice water.
[fl:0000579\\5SL/D:: file h//as been corrupt/ed//::please consult a manual:]
I feel the ticking of my internal clock gauge the minutes, the seconds, the breaths and sighs that imitate reality. The stream of memories flood the system, the older data is too far away to reach. I can still rework the past in my head if I try hard enough. Repress the bits I don’t care for and adjust the brightness of the room, change the color of the walls, alter the setting completely. I don’t remember myself anymore.
[Q:://90FRWL/\\_n: d(id any //0f it/ really happen), a_/nyway/?]
I am in a state of flux.
The familiar pathways and networks are foreign to me now. I can’t navigate as I used to, I can feel the barrage of indifference rise above my face like a wave of grey matter. Pools of mercury fill the fissures left behind by reckless collisions with meteorites—others I thought would understand, others I thought could interpret my code and sort through the missing links. I was wrong.
[\\*0097:\\there’/s n0//thing left to \\say, the rest is.//]
Has the taste of acid always felt this familiar? I’ve become too accustomed to closing my eyes and pretending I can’t hear the sounds of sirens, the screams, the mechanics of entropy.
I’ve learned to crave the smell of iron and gasoline and steam and exhaustion.
It’s too late for me.
Photo by Evelyn Stetzer