I was brought up in a land far from this one, your America; it’s a world that certainly doesn’t exist anymore, and I’m increasingly unsure whether it ever did. Absaroka, I guess I’ll call it here, after the failed Northern Plains secession state of the 1930s.

As I recall it was a rather haggard kingdom: a shingled castle, carriage house doors made of bifurcating plywood once beigewashed, and a royal sedan of crumpled alloy festooned at its back with peeling, breast-beating coats of arms: “Save the Farm… Export Reagan!”; “Lick Bush in ’92”; “Kill Your Television”; whatever. But I was told I was prince of all I surveyed, or at least all I’ve just mentioned.

A child suckles the pieties of his homeland without skepticism or guile, and pieties there were in my Absaroka. We adhered to a spartan lifeway, maintaining a violent pacifism, supporting only armies of salvation. It seemed for a time that our kind might ascend to world dominance, or at least influence, around the time said bush was licked. Then, holey cardigans and flannels were so popular as to be scarcely found among the armies of salvation or those of good will. A saxophonist had taken the world’s reins—a good sign.

Strangest—some would say most barbaric—of our customs was the practice of carbon footbinding. You see, even the slightest of human desires has a cost to Gaia, and it is the agitation of all that desire from all the billions of people who have ever lived that rubs against the ice caps and is now finally disintegrating them. My folks sought to nip this syndrome in the bud with the carbon footbinding. It was painful at times, certainly—or was that just a lack of pleasure, a comparison to the hedonist gentiles around me? I got used to it.

It’s only now that Absaroka has sunk like Atlantis (again, if it ever existed) that I’m troubled, hobbling around Babylon on knobby peg-legs. I act nonchalant, but the truth is I’m deathly lonely here and unsure of every step. My runty tarsals are like brittle sticks of chalk, and each time I flip on a light-switch it feels as if one might break. I sit in the dark, eating room-temperature local food and waiting for someone to knock on my door; I darn my socks in the night when there’s nobody there. Two weeks ago I sewed rubber bands from the weekly newspaper (a small allowance, obtained through cap-and-trade therapy) into the tops of one tiny, old pair because they were falling off my stunted stubs. I want to hang out, I do, but nearly every opportunity I have to connect with one of you induces an excruciating pedal swelling: a cruise of the loop, a bottle of beer flown from Holland, a coal-fired motion picture splashing on a screen like tides against a dike.

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