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  • Writer's pictureJoia

Today's rhaps is on ... Personal Spacetime

Françoise Gilot, Magic Mountain, 1989

Where I succeed professionally, I fail personally. At least that's what I'm told.

I'm really good at condensing lecture material, meeting deadlines, writing reports, adapting learning styles, communicating assessments. I suck at relationships, accommodating needs, remembering anniversaries, listening passively, communicating intimacy.

Get a dog is what I think when you object to my suggestions.

This works well for healthy singles and religious rejects, not so well for elderly MS patients. I'm going to need more help soon if I remain on the planet. Assuming I survive the pandemic. Having flunked the partner thing, help has to be outsourced.

Long ago I was really good at performing Bach sonatas and violin concertos, speaking Russian with Portuguese phonetics, and executing Taekwondo moves. I was much better at accommodating needs—if you were going to hurt me. Now it just hurts.

Personal spacetime is curved like the lamposts along Einstein's trolley, waving to my blessedly empty frame of reference as I whizz by. Peace equals solitude, where no one is saying my voice is too loud for a girl, my shoulders too wide for the costume, my attitude too uppity for an underling.

I know exactly what to do when the Dean shows up to evaluate my class and the audiovisual machines break down. I walk around like Oprah in front of the blank screens and work the auditorium like a talk show host, eliciting stories and entertainment from my captive audience. We have a great time. Even without free cars.

I know what to do when the texts don't arrive in time for the semester. Get me going on a subject and I'll deliver the essence, etymological connotations, unforeseen repercussions, historical background. As my exasperated daughter used to say, Mom—it was a yes or no question!

I know exactly how to tell the engineers that version 2.0 is needlessly complex, that a little user-friendly button here would save me pages of step-by-step in the software manual. Ah of course! they say, retyping the source code.

I know how to fire a bad proofreader when days go by without acceptable results and the principal editor—me—has to do it all over again. Sorry. Not sorry.

I know how to address the warring factions of an international women's club and remind them of our common global heritage, our transnational wisdom, tap-dancing myself across linguistic border lines until they stop harming each other.

But a phone call with family?

An appeal for personal help, the unpaid friendship type?

Getting justice for bad bureaucratic advice?

Acting responsibly on the couch when you're turned on and I shut down?

Fuck if I know. I morph into a four-year-old and just want you to go away.

Somewhere a volcano erupts and the hot lava dulls my senses, rolls into my spacetime like the slush of a newly magnetized alloy. A few weeks go by and you don't call, after I've reached out and bared my soul? I'm distraught. I know, I'm the stronger one, I can take it. But I confessed my fears, I showed you my cards, I entered a stupid plea! Where are you?

Maybe my professional spacetime is still classically mechanistic and Newtonian, with apples and moons and ocean tides dutifully reacting to their niche in the mass-force system. The bigger thing pulls more, so down you go. Everything operates like bridges and buildings in analyzable linear chunks, according to ordinary 3-D reality.

Whereas personal spacetime sends us hurtling through an n-dimensional universe of unknowns, where other beings glide by like the Jetsons on their personal vectors, playing quantum games with our sorry spirits. Moving targets and changing rules. Exhausting.

True, a month of lockdown is sending me into agoraphobic space now, with few sightings of other travelers.

I do hear seagulls, though. They never come up this far from the beach, but lately I've heard them screeching in wild fights just beyond my windows.

What is it they know?

Coronavirus spacetime doesn’t hold the answer at the moment.

11 APRIL 2020

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