sidebrow

The Man Who Ate Breakfast for Dinner

He had recently become interested in the habits of Albert Einstein. He particularly relished the knowledge that the scruffy old genius disliked wearing socks. He himself disliked wearing socks and walked around his new house barefoot, trailing dirt in from the yard. Feeling the ground with naked feet was important to him—it was a reminder of the apparent solidity and certainty of the sphere beneath. He appreciated the cold hardness of the earth in the evening, even as he knew there was nothing solid, his only certainty now being the infinite mystery of the universe as it vibrated in separation and unity.

He enjoyed his solitude at night. The gradual comfort he would feel in the sense that nothing existed in him. Wet toast on the windowsill. And the darkness beyond. The absolute absence of singularity.

In the morning, often before the sun was up, he could be found in the yard standing perfectly still, reflecting on the change in his circumstance; his newfound ability to breathe. That was the time for looking up. He did not believe in god or heaven but had faith in the universe. The sky was part of a promise he had made to this new incarnation. He would face its expanse every morning and ride the suggestion of its limitlessness into its evaporation. The daily ordeal was a comfort of sorts. He no longer used, but it was hiding in the shadow of every moment. Sometimes he could hear the blistering of his skin as he allowed a tongue of prior desire to trace a thin line down the back of his neck. He could close his eyes and remember. Shoulder blades pushed together, body contorting, he could taste the building hunger, feel the creature stir. He forced his eyes open. He watched the darkness leach, bleed green into the leaves. To see this itself ushered some sense of warmth under his skin. First things first. There was coffee to brew. After that, there would be something else. This was the method now. Day by day. Moment by moment. Eventually, there would be socks to put on. As long as he remained barefoot, there was always something more to do, a sense of purpose. With the coffee brewed and the strong aroma bolstering him, he might sit in the battered old chair in the yard for hours, not reading, not writing, just thinking, preparing for something that would have to be done. Preparation was important. It was necessary for him to negotiate himself through the day. Up north, the day advanced slowly, in no particular rush. Mornings loitered namelessly, like vagrants in hand-me-down shades of midday. There was no blinding heat, no excuse for a noon retreat to sleep, no cover for a dirty secret, a treacherous lover. He thought about his old yard, in a place far south, a place that had to be left behind. His old yard had two avocado trees joined by a hammock. Behind the hammock, his beehive hummed, brimming over with simmering sweetness. A bird of paradise bobbed lazily at one end of the hammock. He had miniature orange trees. Lemon trees. Splashes of bougainvillea spilled over the fence and the sun blazed mercilessly into the morning with bright contempt for whatever tragedies the night had entertained. It was a blinding existence. Excruciating to see such beauty and know it was all out of place. He could do nothing but inhale his escape: melt it, roll it carefully between his fingers, shut out the light and draw in. Now, there was no more escape. That had all been left behind. It wasn’t explained. It would not be explained. It was one day without and then another, a journey outward and a matter of not returning, no more singularities to hide away in. Schwarzschild. He felt a quiet satisfaction at knowing the name of black holes before they were black holes. He knew that to some black holes were a transcendent beauty, a merging of time and space and a loss of individuality. But they were also compositions of collapse and destruction. Einstein had lived in a universe without black holes; he had a strong emotional aversion to the idea and simply decided that he didn’t want them in his world. It was Einstein that made the world of black holes a possibility and yet he held firm in his refutation. Sitting in a chair in a yard all day was part of a similar determination. He sat in his new yard all day long, preparing for the day. Sometimes it took a great deal of preparation. As the darkness began to dull the luster on the leaves, calming the chatter, soothing the sense that things must be done, he was ready to make it through the day. He rose from the chair and walked to the kitchen. He filled a bowl with cheerios and ice cold milk, set the toaster, and stood alone in the center of the room, some wordless jazz meandering from the radio he never switches off. Finally, he succumbed to the urge and allowed one foot to tap along with the sound of another man’s meditations.