They passed through silently, invisible and ethereal, with only some aura of enormity darkening the reality where their assemblage made their presence palpable. I felt them more than I saw them, and in the dappled moonlight of that night it would have been easy to dismiss them as shadows, but who is to say what happened, and what they were, and if at all there was anything at all there but me and two dogs? Of course, there was the moon, and certainly we are not going to awaken tomorrow with it gone and everyone realize it never existed. The moon is real, but just like far too many hallucinations of the mind, we can see it most clearly at in the dark, and truthfully, how many times have you dismissed something that did not dovetail with reality simply because it happened at night?
Yet there he was, in the middle of the day, a man in a pickup truck that drove right past me, right past the barricade I was setting up, and he never hit his brakes. I caught up with him at the detour point, the place where the railroad people were taking the tracks out, and I asked him why he went past us like he did. Barricade? What barricade? He could have been lying about it but he really seemed to be genuinely confused. We rode back to where the barricade was and he looked at it as if it were a toad I had just thrown up out of my mouth. Did they bring that there after I went through, he asked and I wondered how the hell he missed it, but he did. His story is the barricade was not in place until he had returned. My story is he drove right past it. The two are mutually exclusive.
So what if the man never existed at all? No, I’m not talking about him being some literary device, I’m asking what is the probability he never existed to begin with? He wouldn’t be the first person I knew that wasn’t there. Elbow told me she once called several of her friends one day trying to decipher if she actually existed or not, and if you can’t understand what she was asking then the rest of this is likely to confuse you.
Here’s a simple test as to whether or not you should keep reading this; have you ever cried at a movie, or ever laughed at a movie? You know full well movies aren’t “real” but there you are having an emotional reaction to them anyway. You pay to buy into a story where people pretend to fall in love then break up or some other human event, and in the end, you feel emotion over something akin to children playing dress up. No, in point of fact, it is not a little more complicated than that. It is very much the same.
I’m asking you to consider the possibility that a man who went past a barricade and claimed not to see it was an invention of my mind. Once again, I’m not saying this man is a work of fiction, I’m saying I hallucinated him, perhaps. Oh? That has never happened to you at all? You’ve dreamed of people and then awoken to emotional reactions have you not? How many times have you heard of someone dreaming their spouse had cheated on them and spent the next day mad as hell at them? But this was not a dream, you may argue, and I would agree but who is to say you have to sleep to dream? You meet someone new and have expectations on the first date but you really do not know the person that well. Who you think they are may or may not fit what you’ve already decided in your mind who they are, and when it gets right down to it, and it does, how much of who they are when you are with them is a function of who you perceive them to be? In short, they already exist in your mind before you actually know who they are. How much this affects them I cannot say.
Do you see where I’m going with this on a personal level? We can agree if two people meet and like one another it changes how they interact, even if they’re just standing in line to buy groceries as opposed to two strangers, even if there were the same two people just a week ago. Forget what you know of me, or the Barricade Ignoring Man, and just for a moment ask yourself how those two people, one putting up a barricade and one ignoring it might interact, if you are going to accept people do interact subconsciously with one another. You might put forth that the man with the barrier was invisible because he is just that type of person, the kind who blends in well, and the BIM is the type to ignore others outside his own little world. Is it such a leap to believe that you will not see something that is there even though we both know some people see things that are not?
How does all of this happen, this seeing things and not seeing things, and feeling things that were not there and buying things to feel that aren’t really there? Maybe it’s like some intracranial cosmic combination lock where someone, or some movie, turns the right tumblers and you feel or fail to feel. Maybe your mind is scrolling through what happened last night at home while you are at work and some song from 1977 comes on the radio and you remember s vividly that girl who allowed you to take her jeans off of her during that song and suddenly there’s a man talking to you about a barricade you didn’t see and you wonder just how much of a lunatic he might be. Or maybe it isn’t personal at all, and we’re no more than migrating brain waves who personalize these things much like our ancestors did full lunar eclipses and earthquakes. They thought these things were personal, intimate happenings, much as we perceive our thoughts to be. But to think of that girl in ’77 and that song you have to realize someone write the song, sang it, played guitar, produced it, marketed it, sold it at a record shop and decades later, someone played it right then and there. Who is to say our minds are not geared to random thoughts, like migrating wilderbeasts. who know little of where they have been and nothing of where they are going, and we pass these thoughts around as they migrate from one person to another, taking invisibility to one, blindness to another, love to a pair here, and a shared smile to gnu lovers, who gnu not why they smiled.