by Lauren Ho
Art by Cynthia Chang
Issue: Scintilla (Spring 2019)
He awoke with his eyes closed and the world dark as if he were acutely aware that his conscience was not ready to be exposed to the luminosity of reality. He laid in his lumpy cushion of a bed for some time, his body still, feeling as if he were accompanied by another’s presence. It was only within the past year that he began to feel this dark presence of another upon waking up, but he couldn’t quite put a finger on who or what it was. He didn’t too much mind the presence, or, rather, the feeling of suffocation the presence inflicted upon him; at times, it was easier to suffocate than to speak. However, his eyes’ opened a second later and his head jerked sharply to the right because of the unbearable noise reverberating in the room: he had left the television on.
Election Results in America! Election Results in America! Election Results in America! Election Results in America! Election Results in America! Election Results in America! Election Results in America! Coincidentally, the channel was turned to the morning segment of MSNBC; the soundbites spouting from the device included political jargon, including “grass roots,” “muckraker,” and “silent majority.” All of this jargon successfully deadened the noises of school children filtering into his apartment from all the windows upstairs. He had no windows in his apartment, nor, to a greater extent, any view into the outside world—a world he felt compelled to see. It did not matter the time of day in which he awoke, his apartment was constantly bathed in darkness and claustrophobia, masking any sense of time. Furthermore, he had begun to accept that time served no purpose, he would never have a sense of its indefinite progress—he loathed its intangibility.
To prevent the constant atmosphere of tenebrous, he settled for a noisy solution: he left his television on at all times of the day. Election Results in America! The bright light reflecting off the dark walls made him cheery; the dancing colors of red, green, and blue also prevented him from squinting around the apartment. The images being displayed on the screen made him happy: a man walking across a stage for the whole world to see, a monumental moment for this man. Yet, he found his situation odd: watching another man’s accomplishment, yearning to relive the moment til the end of time, and wanting to enact measures to save the moment from becoming the past—a past that wouldn’t even belong to him. He mentally chastised himself for having such foolish thoughts about preserving the indefinite and intangible. However, after some time, he realized many were in the same predicament, even the man walking across the stage: no man is ever rich enough to buy back his past. He certainly wasn’t rich enough to buy back his past, let alone another man’s.
He sighed and repositioned himself, all the while continuing to watch the TV; his glossy eyes reflected the red, green, and blue on the screen. Unlike the neighbors above him, he had neither access to cable television nor WiFi due to the fact that he inhabited the basement apartment of a twenty story walk up in D.C. Even if the channels were a gamble most days, he preferred the electric tension in the room far more than the stagnancy if it were to be naturally lit.
The static glow from the television reflected bright, contrasting colors on his stained cotton shirt. He desperately wanted to pause the television—to prevent the moment from becoming the past—but without ownership of proper programming, there was no way he could. So, just as he did every morning, he left the television on, all the while preparing himself for work. After putting on his uniform, he paused momentarily to watch the screen. The channel had switched to BBC News, and the screen displayed flashing images of jubilant senate members signing a bill about patients with pre-consisting medical conditions. He already knew the contents of the bill and who it would affect. In the dark corner of the room, he stood undeterred, yet addicted.
He shut the door to his apartment after watching the television for a few more minutes. Only once he ascended the long staircase up to the sidewalk did he remember that there was no more light above the ground than there was below it: tall buildings shielded any light from ever shining through. Instead, the fiery orb in the sky merely cast shadows onto the neighborhood below; silhouettes did not dance, faces were detached from the glow of the human spirit, and not even the slightest flicker of a candle light would ever be seen. Click. The light from his phone illuminated his face, blinding his eyes as he opened NPR’s morning podcast to whet his appetite—he had completely forgotten to eat breakfast this morning.
When he returned back to his apartment for dinner, he felt as if an eternity had passed without eating. It had been an exhilarating trip back to the dark alleyway of his apartment building, and while it prolonged his hunger, each pounding step he took seemed to shock electric waves into his body. There had been a palpable tension in the air. The kind of tension that was electric, and made the news article he was reading on his phone glow a little bit brighter. He sat himself down on the couch and turned the television on to relax. The television screen featured the MSNBC night segment with the network’s most prominent host anchors who were speaking loudly about a new story, one of adultery and fraud: a member of the house of representatives had cheated on his wife with the Mayor of Philadelphia at the Governor’s Ball. He claimed he had a clouded memory of that dark evening, and, as he put it, “Heavily sedated with no perception of day or night. A few too many drinks caused a bout of maudlin in my temperament, but my sedated state is no justification that I would ever cheat on my wife. I could open one eye and proclaim, ‘I would never play politics with my wife’s well being!’ My proclamation is a testament of the adoration and respect I have for my wife and all women.”
He sighed as his eyes fixated on the television. He wondered if politicians would ever understand that history repeats itself. Yet, there was a story as old as history itself unfolding right in front of him. This man, this House of Representatives member, was in the same predicament as many. This man could not resist the temptations he once knew. Perhaps, and just perhaps, he yearned for the wistful taste of seduction and “romance” transpiring in the outside world—the world he left, and light years away. However, this taste could be easily subsidized for a man with such prominence as himself. This taste could be found in a very rarely procured wine, requiring those who buy the drink to generationally invest in it as to preserve their prominent holdings. Of course, it can be inferred that only the wealthy is able to generationally invest in such an opulent product and he had access to this product because of his prominence; the past and the prominence—two luxury goods excluded from the theory of supply and demand.
He felt as if he was standing on a rock in the midst of a raging river with others curiously watching him from the shallow banks. It seemed as if their curiosity plagued them from hearing his desperate pleas. The water flowed red, neither a reflection of the sky nor the blood shot eyes of those standing on the banks. It was as if a wine bottle had been uncorked and its contents were flowing into the river. Its color was of dark red, as if concealing the truth of it all; making it all too simple to conceal the means that justify the ends. The wine seemed to call those resting on the banks into the water now. They were falling in to the tempestuous waves, conscious of their fall and faithful in their belief that they will be able to swim in the sea—the treacherous sea. The choice to swim in this wine cannot be made without temptation or ill-fate. These people were blindly looking for someone to save by falling in to the sea of cerise—praying that they would be the ones to stay afloat and remain the savior. Thud. The remote had fallen out of his hand. His eyes were open and he was dreaming about the deep color of wine.
For him, this was dream was an allusion, just like his so-called faith. The idea of separation of church and state is perceived as an illusion to many, an allusion to power. Yet, an authoritative separation of the idea exists; the ideology is executed through many manifestations—mainly physical. Like any dominant idea, the idea of separation of church and state has a conscience, a conscience that resides in the heart of every politician. The house of the wilderness and the house of authority separate from the each other’s world; there is a wall of separation between the garden of the church and the wilderness of the world. He belonged in the house of wilderness while the authoritative and religious figures belonged in the garden, protected by the four walls around them. Politicians used the concept of separation and many other fallacies as a means to seize corruption—a concept used by political leaders of religion for their own ends was a danger both to the faithful and to the peace of society—a vehement rejection of all that the Constitution embodies. Politicians were competent judges of religious truth, employing religion as an engine of civil policy.
This was the choice he made—the conscious decision that every citizen chose—to live in a world of corruption. The more he watched through his phone and his television, the more he immersed himself into a world he would never be a part of. By committing such an incongruous action, there was a misalignment of the very ethics in nepotism and theism; he was simply feeding the demons with the emotional energy he was exerting. It was at this moment, he realized that he was complicit—complicit in the lies, complicit in the inhumanity, and, perhaps his most egregious sin, complicit in the reality of it all. He would never get out, the cycle was unending. The demons reincarnated themselves until it was unrecognizable who could be trusted. He was living in a world he most certainly did not belong in. This is a world that was light years away, a reality that would take eons for his successors to live in—a state in which sins were no longer egregious, yet still committed in the dark. If only there was a window in his apartment, a window in which he could look out to gaze up at the stars above. He would stare at these stars in awe, craning his neck slightly to the left at times. By shifting his position, he would be able to stare at one such luminous light—the light of a planet, a world even. However, the light of this world he saw was already thousands of years behind his own, or, maybe, their world was already ahead. Not only had the Election Results in America! already air in their world—they had planned the results.