Jan 30, 2021

American Contemporary Fiction

In a previous life Jessica had a family. I don't mean a pre-historic life, or incarnate as Queen Alexandra, et al. I mean five years ago. To Jessica, however, five seemed more like ten or even twenty years. It, and they, felt as if they were that distant within her innermost being. How, Jessica wondered, could I completely wipe out a huge part of myself, as if only having existed in my imagination? Was I a physician in a previous life skilled at cutting off body parts? Evidently, Jessica realized, forgetting was pretty easy to do, and forgetting, without needing a silly physician's skills, seemed quite normal. In fact, one of Jessica's residual memories showed herself repeatedly drifting off into a wonderland of potential stories amid the droning lectures of a fifth grade classroom education.


While fifth grade was not memorable at all, Jessica had third and sixth grades to remain as pivotal primary guideposts, in a non-academic fashion that is. Isn't that the way of school, the purpose of school, she mused - to interact with peers and authorities outside of the family unit?

One night Jessica had a dream. Entering a large, well-lit, open-spaced room filled with light from the skylight above, but unadorned of decoration on the white walls, Jessica saw newborn to year-old babies sitting upright in cribs. An orphanage? Jessica had always believed she was adopted. Jessica was nothing like her family, although she loved them dearly.


Jessica became thirty. After relocating several times, which seemed a lot like mini moving incarnations, Jessica was forced to settle into a rather quiet place. No hustle. No bustle. No nothing, actually.  Exactly what Jessica needed, although almost two years had passed before she arrived at that conclusion. 

From out her living room window, Jessica peered past the leafless oaks one sunny afternoon, reminiscing about her attempts to fit in. How does one fit into nothingness? Evidently, one doesn't. Possibly, Jessica thought, this was a reflection of her years of distancing herself emotionally from her birth family. They were her joy, until they weren't. 

Jessica remembered being born, popping in from wherever it was she came from, exclaiming joyfully, "I have a mother!" She never told a soul about that insight.  Jessica was remembering her dreams and visions more often now, more so than her waking experiences. Is that what happens at thirty? Possibly, she thought, the change happened because dreams were ever so much more interesting, and fantastic? Dreams, Jessica noticed, were now looking like the woke world around her, all fragmented with trees turning into people, and some girls morphing into other girls, and sometimes other men. Jessica questioned why but had no answer, mainly because dreams are only symbolic. Possibly then, waking is only symbolic too? In Jessica's world nightmares were rising like a tsunami to the surface of awareness in more and more alarming and also laughable scenarios. Similar to someone stirring up sediment from the bottom of a glass of clear water. All the while, inside her mind and heart, Jessica was feeling peace and happiness. Her family was part of the old guard. This felt strong.


Jessica flashed back on the time, about six years prior, when she was asked to help a few teenage delinquents. Did they pay their bills late? 

The delinquents were wild! They were electric. Their bottled-up creative energy was splitting at the seams. Jessica came alive for that moment too. She was experiencing their energy, and riding their wave of desiring more than being contained in place! One boy drew a brightly colored picture of a landscape with sunbeams streaming over the land, overpowering trees and grass with happiness. After the boy's admission about feeling very unhappy, Jessica pointed to his heart. She never had to teach again, because nothing could surpass that moment of ecstatic sharing.


Jessica was afraid. Tucked away inside her family shell Jessica bounced from security to frozen horror. Remaining protector, and victim, Jessica retreated inward, occasionally forcing her way deliberately into the world of self-awareness. 

Jessica watched a video of unrest at the border faraway south of her hideaway location. A mob with much girth was plowing into a narrow semi-circle triplex row of border gguards.The girth successfully pushed open a space in the human barricade, penetrating outward into whatever land they were trying to invade. Or perhaps the video screen was reversed and the girth was trying to escape to home? Nevertheless, the epic motion was truly biologic. Jessica imagined she heard the 2001 Space Odyssey theme song in her mind's ear while witnessing the slow-motion aerial view movement of, not a body of individuals, but as a body's cell wall being broken from the inside. 

Mrs. Riester handed out picture books to her third-grade students. Jessica sat in the front row and opened her book to a page displaying a very realistically photographed cow. The bulletin board needed decorating for Spring Open House and Mrs. R. was making her students be contestants in a competition. Jessica won! Yippee. Her cow looked really real. Mrs. R. was pleased. Once Jessica obtained elite status to stand upon a chair and decorate the bulletin board, Jessica soon discovered she could copy brilliantly but, sadly, her bulletin board people were amorphous-looking blobs. Mrs. R. was extremely furious! Promptly demoting her to the said previous front-row seat along with the "herd," Jessica was as puzzled as her teacher about this arty not-ness. Jessica spent a lifetime wondering why she could only copy from a book, and especially why she felt none of Mrs. R's anger. About a hundred years later, it dawned on Jessica that Mrs. R. was angry because she had to redo the competition.

About 50 years after that, give or take a decade or two, Jessica and IrishMailLady, who became her not-only-delivering-the-mail friend too, drove to the nearest Office Depot Print Shop to make some copies. While waiting in line, IrishMailLady gestured towards Jessica by sweeping her right hand two or three times. Jessica didn't understand why IrishMailLady did that. Suddenly, a young man wearing a red baseball cap stood behind them in line. Then a young couple pushing a baby stroller walked by. He had on a red baseball cap, as did the baby. Next, a man with a beard appeared from around the corner but his baseball cap was turned backwards. A few more of these baseball caps manifested in the matter of minutes before their very eyes. IrishMailLady was surprised. Jessica thought to herself, "I've still got it!"


Everything is family. More than one person is a family. Every time Jessica stepped into a different room, or a different store in the Mall, she realized she had a new family. No need to stick with only one when you could have a bundle of new and unique families.


Suddenly Jessica realized she had said aloud that she was afraid! Maybe she was when growing up, but now others called her pushy, and selfish, and downright mean (the B word). Although Jessica was mostly cool, calm, and collected she did have her occasional frenzy (and pity the poor bloke who stood in her aisle of independence)! So, Jessica ruminated, what did I fear? Going off in an analytical tangent worthy of advanced astrophysics, Jessica KNEW. 

At a distance there is a bigger space between bodies. Bodies can float in space. Skydivers float in space. Not so much everybody else. Unless they are surrounded by tons of metal, namely airplanes. Totally amazing concept, thought Jessica. So, thought Jessica a little more, I was afraid of letting go of other bodies in the form of family, friends, relationships, groups, church, authorities,Twitter, because I would be without an identity. Others would be so far away that I could barely see them, nor claim them as mine. Thank goodness I have an ID card to tell me who I am and where I belong! Now I know. I am 00583ey763. My purpose is to be after 00583ey762, and before 00583ey765.  NOT.



P.S. Thank you Reedsy fam for sending me such fascinating prompts that I am compelled to immediately write about them instead of promoting my new book, and eating dinner.

P.P.S. Thanks also for helping me improve my word count. Pretty soon there'll be no stopping me.

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