I tell people lately that I want to live in unreality, just some of the time. I try to explain what I mean and come up only with examples, never definitions.
I say, “hotels are unreality,” because they wait in uniform neatness for you and then me to take up residence, to fill loose sliding drawers with t-shirts and socks, to leave toothbrushes on the edge of the sink basin, me and then the next person, to peel back the polyester comforter with forefinger and thumb, to flip through the channels because we don’t have a TV in our bedrooms at home, to wake up in the morning wondering for a split second where we are and to reorient by the impersonality of the textured wallpaper.
I say, “Build-a-Bear Workshop,” because it is so bright and the stuffing machine pumps on like some past conception of future creation and year after year, we tell children to whisper their secrets into polyester hearts pulled from a big red bin before plunging them into the chests of not-yet-animated things.
I say, “train tunnels,” because of the way that they open like secret mouths, esophagi of the hillside, surrounded by flattened Gatorade bottles and wild lamb’s ear, and I was once brave enough to find out where they lead before consequence settled into my frontal lobe like a stone.
I send along pictures of trees swallowing iron fences, still pools of water caught in roots that rage against sidewalks, leaves like crepe paper that rattle and hiss against the wind and even this movement is captured. I say, “watch the Live Photo.”
I follow Twitter accounts like Open Ocean Exploration and Liminal Spaces and Abandoned America and think, “that’s it, that’s it, that’s it.” Dendronotus nudibranchs. An empty indoor pool. The crumbling Garman Opera House.
I give them examples hoping that at least once, they’ll picture what I’m picturing and say, “Yes, yes.” I tell them because I want to know if anyone is, as they say, picking up what I’m putting down. I try to make them understand so that they’ll come with me because after all, I never said I wanted to live in unreality alone.
Here are some of the things that unreality is not: unreality is not The Sims, which is alternate reality. Unreality is not football if only because I don’t have the patience to watch. Unreality is not anything to do with your job or mine. Unreality is not my husband bringing me the breakfast sandwich he’s just made, because that is real and true right-now kindness.
More examples of unreality include: IMAX movie theaters, any natural history museum that is home to a life-size replica of something larger than us, scenic overlooks, porch swings in a thunderstorm, in fact most things in a thunderstorm, the house my mother grew up in that I can just barely remember and, it should come as no surprise, amusement parks, although the price of admission is blurring the line.
I don’t need to tell you why I’m looking for unreality. All you have to do is look around at our shared reality as it crumbles and rises and throbs and instantly, you will want respite, just for a moment, just to rediscover the curiosity that makes us human, to find something to wonder over or about or through.
If you find it, let me know. It might be hiding behind a flashing neon sign, or it might be hiding in the dark. It will call out to you, but only if you listen closely.