By Jed McKenna
(This article may be freely shared, reposted and reprinted. Text version here.)
“Nothing exists; all is a dream. God — man — the world — the sun,
the moon, the wilderness of stars — a dream, all a dream; they have
no existence. Nothing exists save empty space — and you!”
If I bring Goober one tool to fix, he’ll put it aside and tell me to come back in a few days. If I bring him three or four, he’ll work on them right away. The difference is my time. If I want something fixed today, I have to bring other stuff for him to work on and wait around while he works on it. If I don’t have two or three hours to kill, I just drop one thing off.
Besides his personal chair, the only place to sit in his shop is on a greasy, plastic-cushioned stool with an auto parts store logo on top. I tried it once but it’s set between chair height and short-guy height which is an awkward height for me, so now I just stand around while he works. We usually engage in idle chat, but today he’s proving almost suspiciously interesting. I feel like I’m not speaking with the actual Goober but with a playful entity wearing Goober like a sock puppet.
Today he’s talking about a TV show called See, which I haven’t seen. He finds it interesting because the people in it are not only blind but doubly blind; they have not only lost their sight but the concept of sight. They don’t know they’re blind because they’ve forgotten there’s such a thing as vision.
As I stand and pace and snoop, he works on my stuff, pausing occasionally to fiddle with his pipe, answer a phone call, or deal with someone else dropping off a problem item. Problem items often come in on truckbeds and trailers and need to be offloaded and discussed. Including obligatory breeze-shooting, every interruption takes ten or fifteen minutes during which I go outside and play with his black lab, a friendly boy with a racist-sounding name who loves to fetch sticks. I don’t bring Maya here because she doesn’t identify with dogs, and because the one time I did bring her she found something disgusting to roll in and it took an hour of stinky hose and brush work to get her sorted out.
Everyone around here seems to have grown up together. They know each other in a way I’ve never known anyone. They nod to me and I nod back, or we wave when we pass on the road, but I’m not one of them and they know it. What that means is that I don’t get engaged in conversation. No one visits me, no one is neighborly and welcoming, no one invites me to their church or to stop by for a beer. No one is overtly hostile, but I’m clearly an outsider. Everyone seems to like and respect Lisa, an attorney for the state who sits on the “good side” of the table. She’s my friend, kind-of former landlord, and only close neighbor, so my connection to her seems to get me a pass, but mostly I get the cold shoulder. Just one of many reasons why this is my perfect place.
When it’s just us again, Goober picks up where he left off.
“What would that even look like?” he asks. “Like maybe we got wings we don’t know about, or maybe we can snap our fingers and make somethin’ happen. I don’t even know what it might be, but it might be somethin’, ya s’pose?”
“I s’pose,” I say. I have to be careful not to imitate the local speech or I’ll sound even dumber than normal.
“I guess you never know. Maybe that’s the deal. You just never know.”
I nod but he’s not looking so I grunt in the affirmative.
“But what happens if all of a sudden, one of ’em can see? I think that’s where they’re goin’ with it, with the show, I mean. I think someone’s either gonna get their sight back or maybe there’s gonna be a baby born who can see. We only seen the first episode, but I bet that’s where it’s goin’.”
Me too. The kingdom of the blind is just setting the stage. It’s the one-eyed king that will drive the story. Probably two one-eyed kings in opposition, setting the stage for a great battle, though only a shadow of the one true conflict; the Hatred of False Self versus the Fear of No-Self. That’s the only battle that matters; anything else is couple’s badminton. I make a note to watch the show but, as of now, I haven’t.
“I wonder what that would be like,” I say to encourage him, “to be the only one who can see.”
“Yeah, well, that’s the thing, I guess. Could be kind of a messiah, and we seen how that works out. Could be kind of a blessing and a curse if you think about it.”
He checks to see if I’m thinking about it. I am.
Another pleasantly alienating feature of my life here is that Lisa’s house and my cabin are the highest homes on the mountain. The road goes no further and there are signs below that say dead end and no outlet, so almost no one ever comes up. Even courier services don’t come up, which is annoying. That remoteness, combined with being outsiders and a bit well-to-do for the area, might give us an air of social superiority which could be a problem, but Lisa has formed friendships with Goober’s wife and a few others that make her okay, and that makes me okay by association. Comfortable alienation is a goldilocks deal. Too much and not enough are both bad, but just right is just right. Asia, Mexico, South America and Europe have been too much. Wealthy neighborhoods and gated communities have been not enough. So far — ten years in — this place is just right.
I’m starting to wonder about Goober. I wonder if I’m selling him short somehow. I’ve known him since I’ve been up here, but we’re still at the same polite, impersonal level we were on day one, which suits me fine. I’ve heard him in many conversations with many people and I’ve never heard him say anything like he’s saying now. This isn’t just an anomaly, this is an entire dimension I haven’t seen before. That can happen with me. I don’t pay much attention to people so they can sometimes sneak up on me.
“You think messiahs know what they’re in for and go ahead anyway?” I ask, but what I’m really asking is who I’m really talking to.
He looks up from his work to answer me directly.
“Yep, that’s what I think. That’s why they’re messiahs.”
“You’re saying Jesus was a one-eyed man in a kingdom of the blind,” I say.
“I don’t know how many eyes he had,” replies Goober, “I’m saying, what if it’s a real thing? What if there’s a whole ‘nother thing goin’ on we don’t even know about?”
“Yeah,” I muse, “what if?”
(This article may be freely reprinted. Text version here.)