Babe, is it okay with you
if I call our young family “The Nation?”
If I move you and the kids to an as-yet-undiscovered
field somewhere in Oregon,
and we let them pick their own new-world names,
whatever they want,
though it’s heavily implied that the son or daughter
who picks her name from the “Star Wars” pantheon
will receive candy of better quality
with greater frequency?
If we teach that hide-and-seek, rather than an afternoon’s diversion,
is an endless game that is always going on on some level,
be it through gradual Cold War-style maneuvering
or all-out open hostilities?
If I lock the kids in the closet sometimes and yell
“Don’t come out until you’ve found the magical world
behind the coats?”
If we have them reenact the “Sky’s The Limit” music video
because it would be fun to see our smaller children
portraying the children in the video
who were themselves portraying Biggie and Puffy and Faith and Lil’ Kim
and if I root for our new baby to be a girl
because as it stands now we only have a Biggie and a Puffy and a Faith?
If we home school them each individually, in different rooms,
the two of us running back and forth
in the hallway, teaching all subjects to everyone at all hours,
never discussing with each other what exactly we’re telling them,
or who’s being taught what subject
or being honest with each other about which subjects are necessarily our strong suits,
so that it is possible that each one of our kids will reach the age of reason
knowing two different maths, two histories, two geographies,
all of which could be woefully incorrect, or just plain fictional?
If I tell them “I don’t have a favorite, NONE of you are my favorite,”
and then sigh mournfully over a framed picture of a kid we have told them
is our first son Ethan but is actually a kid who came with the frame?
If we sit them all down one night around a fire in the clearing and say,
“Listen, Greedo, Wedge, IG-88, Kim: when Mommy and Daddy were little everybody was trying harder than they ever had in history to make sure their kids came out okay—“
“Right, they probably overthought it, if anything…”
“Exactly, and so their kids came out maybe even worse for all that effort.”
“A lot of times, anyway.”
“Yea, some things were good.”
“Kids were getting a lot more vitamins than before—”
“Have you guys ever heard of The Flinstones?”
“Right, Wedge. The historical figures.”
“So what Mommy and Daddy figured is, why overthink it?”
“But then what they realized is, Mommy and Daddy kind of can’t HELP but overthink things.”
“It’s sort of what attracted Mommy and Daddy to each other in the first place.”
“Or at least something they found they had in common.”
“Once they stopped pretending they weren’t overthinking things.”
“So if we were going to overthink you, and your upbringing, Mommy and Daddy figured, we’ll just have to overthink being bad parents.”
“We figured, if trying too hard to raise you right is going to mess you up, maybe trying too hard to raise you wrong will make you turn out okay.”
“Get back from the fire, Kim. Fire IS a toy, but you’re grounded from playing with it right now.”
“Gotta get to Narnia faster next time, kiddo.”
This is for all the aliens who got stranded on Earth but never found kids to take care of them, who wander the back roads and sleep in orange highway water barrels that are roughly the same size and shape as their stubby bodies, who stand next to farting cows to breathe in the life-giving methane, who hop up and down excitedly when they see another alien race’s ship park overhead looking to do some serious cattle mutilation, who spit their stories out as fast as they can in the Standardized Intergalactic Lexicon to the first beings that beam down from the ship, then see the blank expressions on those beings’ faces and despair that maybe these guys don’t speak the SIL but then realize no, it’s way worse than that, they understood you just fine, this is just on some bad-blood interplanetary dispute type stuff and they won’t vaporize you but they also definitely won’t be taking you anywhere. I know you want to shout after the ship as it disappears, “Sure our bosses might be fighting over ownership of spiral nebulae none of us will ever see, but what the FUCK does that have to do with me and you, bro?” Maybe you do shout that, in the Lexicon or your own language or even the garbled pidgin English you’ve picked up from overhearing the audio ads for nachos and lighter fluid they play on a loop outdoors at gas stations as you huddle in the dark, in the weeds, beyond the throw of the many lights, as you wait to stick your face up to the tailpipe of an idling but unsupervised vehicle and breathe deep. Maybe you shout it, and maybe it wakes the farmer.
Let’s say it doesn’t, though. Let’s say you shuffle out of that field and across the highway at your own pace. I know when you do it, you think back on the briefing where they said this would be your race’s only Earth excursion for the next ten thousand years. I know that your years are longer than our years yet your lives are shorter than our lives. I know you think about presenting yourself to sinister government agents the way that guy robbed a bank to get health insurance, so at least then you’d have a warm lab to sleep on the ceiling of and all the sunglasses you can eat.
I know you probably won’t ever read this. You will probably never find your way here, we will probably never have any adventures. But it does me good to know you are out there. I know that doesn’t help, that I like you as an abstraction. Me thinking about you does not make your legs longer or your breathing easier. It might if we were bonded psychically the way some of your luckier stranded brethren are with their new adolescent patrons. But we’re not. I think about you and you don’t know I exist, and if you did know I would exist, you would go, “Great, another interior-skeleton-having bi-ped. Is there more than one of him on the planet that he is on? There is? Then maybe he should stop fucking whining.” And you would not be wrong.
But I just wanted to say:
I know it’s loud and bright and exhausting here for you. But believe me when I tell you that it’s that way for us, too, and we’re from here, and we’ll almost certainly never get to go anywhere else.
And if you ever need a ride to a pasture, I have a you-sized trunk.
I know we are three hours apart, but tonight for some reason I thought maybe, as time advanced in my time zone, it would for some strange reason consent to staying the same in yours, so in three hours I’d have caught up to you, and it would be the same time in both places. And I thought that time, having already stepped out of its comfort zone to act different ways in different places, might talk space into doing us a favor as well, and time and space would agree to be, not just interrelated like they normally are, but actually the same thing, and suddenly you could be not just when I am but where I am, or I could be where you are. I doubt very much that the actual physical location matters that much to either of us, it might be more the kind of thing where we feel like, hey, as long as the other person is there. That might be it. Once you are here or I am there courtesy of temporal and spatial favors, we could find out whether this is the type of thing where all that matters to us is that the other person is there. I suspect that it could be. I want to know for sure.
I guess, once we were both present, now that we have a high-profile friend called time we could ask him to please perform one final contortion, to fast forward to the point where we know for sure, one way or the other. That seems like the kind of thing I would want normally. To be as certain as possible as early as possible. But I suspect that this might be the kind of thing I will want to have been around for every second of, and I should let those seconds come at the rate they normally do. It’s not like I have a choice. We’ll have to find out when we do, and where we do, and we can’t change how “where” relates to “when,” we can’t buy them drinks until they’re drunk enough to switch hats. It will probably be one of the things that is so neat about it if it does happen, that it exists among this dumb system of days and weeks when it feels so totally eternal, and no I don’t like using that word either but I will because it’s what I mean. I want to say that love is a nice house in a bad neighborhood called time. But I can’t speak authoritatively. I haven’t been there in a while.