7 min read

sync don't swim

There’s not enough to drink that will make me forget what’s happening, it’s only when I’m with Odious that I feel calm, because I’m so focused on the unique feel of everything that happens in their presence that I forget to obsess about my own thoughts for a while.
sync don't swim

Something’s happening, I can feel it…it’s coming or it’s already here: an orange sky, eye of the storm kinda vibe, a null set like an easter egg on the screens inside of screens that comprise this Ultra Rare “Vaxxed and Exhausted” drop of Hot Brooklyn Summer. By moving your curse-r over it you can access a limited edition of the still unreleased update to the Amerikkkan Dream OS that will enable you to soft delete all the buggy details of the pandemic and skip over the work of acknowledging and processing its trauma. Instead of “Never Forget” like 9/11, our vision of 2020 will become more and more blurry. The year is already untethered from the timeline: I say “last year” when I really mean 2019, a year in which everything seemed to happen all at once, gathered as it was on the edge of a temporal cliff.

(But of course, the beta bliss of this special feature is only available to those in possession of the most state-of-the-art Pretty Privileged Player©—a lifestyle console doled out according to the luck of the draw that is late stage capitalism).

I have nowhere to go, nowhere to be, but now I go nowhere outside, putting in my earbuds and following my feet across these Greenpoint streets, past Bagel Point and the electronics store with the dudes standing around the door in their shirt sleeves and shocking combovers selling giant fans and tiny A/Cs. I delight in the sight of a karaoke machine that resembles a white beer fridge and a window display featuring LED nightlights in the shape of dinosaurs or the Eiffel Tower. I take my peeks without breaking stride, weaving like a running back past people pushing strollers, or looking at their phones, or unloading heavy looking boxes from a truck and easing them down a basement hatch with a delicate, muscular precision. I feel very aware of my breath, of the effort to get the air in and out of my lungs in this wet heat. I feel like everyone’s feeling the inhale/exhale, the ebb and flow of power, the dominos being lined up to create intricate, deadly scenes. The heat is the domed and doomed architecture of a future destruction cupped over the city that for now mercifully releases on most nights, no doubt according to a test program on some number crunching bureaucrat’s laptop. They cross calculate the temperature vs. misery index and make copious notes before hitting enter to initiate a short storm that makes everything wet and shiny and provides a relative coolness that lasts till it’s time to start drinking again the next afternoon, when I skip out of Odious’, calling back to them, “summer hours, y’all” as I bounce out the door and head to bars that have the A/C blasting, freezing my thoughts and guts, my nether regions disconnected so I’m as pure and light as a hummingbird as I bend over to sip the first drink. It's filled up to the tippy top, and I don't want to spill any of it. The pedal steel guitar of a country song soars, and as I come up for air everything is quiet in my head. I see myself in the mirror behind the bar and notice that my hair has tumbled forward in a way that's perfect. Hey, they’ve written books about this look, I want to tell the dark-haired woman in a black dress sitting next to me, but she’s frozen like a statue over her phone. In these few seconds I’m not a failure. I’m a writer who writes things that actually mean something and help people and are more than just pretty lies that sound good because I’ve synthesized so much shit from other people, intellectual and aesthetic diamonds that they did the hard work in unearthing and putting into books and onto canvasses and into albums and that I merely collect and stockpile, stoned and alone, The Great Labeler and my glass display case of stolen gems.

This is not a time for pretty lies, though I suppose it never was. There’s not enough to drink that will make me forget what’s happening, it’s only when I’m with Odious that I feel calm, because I’m so focused on the unique feel of everything that happens in their presence that I forget to obsess about my own thoughts for a while. Everything they do, even just standing in the middle of the floor staring dumbfounded at the three or four remotes in their hands feels like a revelation—a detail that almost makes me want to write again.

Almost.

It’s not what Odious believes that makes the doom loop in my mind pause but how strongly they believe it. They insist that we have front row seats to an epic blossoming of wisdom on a planetary scale. They are convinced that people all over the world are having dreams like the one they had—whether these include Philip K. Dick or not was beside the point. More and more they believed it was a psycho-spiritual mechanism that was sending these messages, one that took the form of PKD to signal that it was the same entity that zapped him with the pink light of wisdom in 1974, a shocking and profound experience that he dedicated himself to trying to figure out for the rest of his life.

“This is a mass invitation to experience reality as it really is. Information is being beamed directly into our unconscious and awakening us to our true nature as powerful, enlightened beings,” they said, their eyes big and black.

If it was true, it was a revolution. I wanted it to be true—I wanted to believe that it wasn’t too late for me to help something beautiful unfold.

But they’ve done this before, I reminded myself, they fell for the Prophet Motive and his company/cult’s “evolutionary shift” rhetoric, which sounded somewhat similar, except this time it didn’t include middle aged men giving too-young women mind-bending drugs to get them into bed. This was just Odious. Someone I trusted.

I went back and forth, but even in the beginning, there were moments when I was fully onboard. I believed and it felt good to believe. There was a day last winter: it was still afternoon but already so dark it felt like the middle of the night. We were drinking beer and watching “Avatar, the Last Airbender”, our follow-up series to DS9. Finding something to watch is hard for me: it needs to be smart enough for me to lose myself in its world, but in the last few years, anything too violent gives me nightmares, so I was psyched we found something we both liked that wouldn’t fuck me up. We kept the volume up high to tune out the eerily quiet January Covid streets.

Hanging with Aang and his cutie crew weren’t the same as losing myself at Quark’s Bar, but it was good in its own way.

And on that day especially it was all feeling so right. The tide of my anxiety had pulled back, and Odious had the blinds and shades open so that the lights from inside merged with the lights from outside like pink and blue sea creatures on the wet window glass.

But of course, despite all this I still had to play according to type, so I brought up some misgivings to keep it real:

“I’m just still not sure that sharing all these Dies Irae synchronicities is the right idea. There’s a darkness to it. Which is OK, but I don’t want it to get too dark. Too crazy. This sync stuff messes with people’s minds. They see pieces of themselves everywhere and instead of realizing that everything that appears is already a projection of themselves, they’ll assume this Day of Wrath/Judgement Day is something in which they play a starring role—that they have to personally stop a nefarious global plot to destroy the world or some shit like that.”

“No doubt,” they said. A response that could be taken several ways, perhaps because they, too, had wondered such things.

“I’m just saying I don’t want it to be too dark. But you know that already, I just, well, I don’t know if it can be helped.”

“I’m not sure either.”

And then we were quiet, as the next episode was starting.

This new episode was about how Aang, the last Airbender and Avatar--who was a goofy kid but also the possible savior of the world--could contact his former incarnation, Avatar Roku, on the solstice, when the barrier between the physical world and the spiritual world was very thin. Odious and I watched in captivated silence as Aang was told how on the solstice, a statue of his former self in a specific, far flung temple, would beam down pink light lasers upon him containing the download of what he needed to do to complete his mission.

“Pink light!” I shouted.

“It’s a message to keep going,” they said, their voice lower than mine but still excited. “We shouldn’t doubt the information we were given, timed as it was with the solstice.”

I was amped up, as usual. But Odious was more circumspect, filing yet another synchronicity away and addressing my concerns.

“I understand your misgivings about opening up to others. It’s hard not to get it twisted when you’re in a situation like this, in which the very essence of conventional reality is revealed as not being real. It’s a dream, a hallucination. The nature of these connections is that they fall in on themselves while at the same time expanding out. Like a puzzle that falls apart when you solve it. To go far out one must go far in at the same time. It’s the scientific method but working on multiple levels. It’s a lot of work, and most people either don’t know how to do it or don’t want to.”

“But we have to, SWIM, we have to open up to others. The solution is in community. In community we’ll find the meaning of this dream, as well as the solution to everything, all of our problems.”

That was Odious, so open and forgiving. Despite everything, they continued to believe that if we kept our hearts opened and tried hard, it would all be ok.

“Hard work, huh? I said, “I guess I’ll have to get in shape, mentally. Time to be more disciplined about my mind.”

Odious’ right eyebrow raised. They picked up their phone as though it had buzzed, and then tossed it back down again.

“No, not discipline. I don’t like that word. It stinks of repression and asceticism. False idols, yo. Here’s the thing: we’ll be relaxed and open and compassionate.”

“Ok. I dig it. Sync don’t swim.”

“Exactly. We won’t fight it. We won’t fight anything, that’s the key.”


Image: Guy Billout

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