Sub Conscious

from the “Autovivisection” project
November 2008
This is a companion piece to Where Do I Begin and Tactus, since all three deal with the heart. It will probably be the last piece in the collection.
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nine hundred seventy-five thousand three hundred and twenty-six ... nine hundred seventy-five thousand three hundred and twenty-five ... nine hundred seventy-five thousand three hundred and twenty-four ... You know those moments, on the Metro, when you're riding home exhausted and you doze off, lulled by the click click clicking of the rails in the tunnel? It's better than counting sheep. You sink inside yourself, falling backward into blackness ... and when you wake up it's six o'clock and you've missed your stop. Well I'll tell you a secret: when you're sleeping, you're not really gone: you're just away from your desk, and the night watchman is taking your calls. Because when your head begins to nod, that's when I step in; that's when I take over. I wouldn't call it possession. After all, I live here too: down in the basement behind the furnace, where you store all those boxes of yellowing photos, and vinyl records, and that clay ashtray you made in the third grade And though I could easily fold your newspaper, stand you up, walk you out, at the wrong stop even, I don't do any of these things. Mostly I just sit. I sit, feeling us breathe, swaying gently as our center of gravity shifts side to side with the beating of our blood. I measure moments in the tiny shivers of your wristwatch, tickling like the footfalls of an insect against our skin: tick, tick. Shh. Listen: under the pounding surf in our temples, under the wind howling in the vast pink labyrinth of the inner ear ... Do you hear it? The tiniest click of one molecule freed from its bonds, falling off the end of a chain, (or a train) telling a cell that it's time to die. End of the line. click There goes another infinitesimal bit of our life. click You read in the paper once that every mammal lives for roughly one billion heartbeats. Elephants. White mice. Metro passengers, two billion— three, if you're lucky.
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It's all about metabolism. The faster you live, the sooner you die. And if you know what to listen for you can hear your heart counting down click nine hundred seventy-five thousand two hundred and three ... nine hundred seventy-five thousand two hundred and two ... nine hundred seventy-five thousand two hundred and one ... click There's our stop. Gotta go. See you tomorrow. Try not to be late.