Creation Myth: Original
The mothers come downstairs in the morning.
Today, the mothers say, we are only going to say interesting things.
Throughout the town, the mothers are pouring themselves some coffee.
Do you want some Cheerios? the mothers say to us.
We look at the mothers.
Oh shit, the mothers say.
Tomorrow, then, the mothers say.
The fathers commute to work. On their commute, the fathers pass the neighborhood parks that were an influential reason the fathers chose to settle in the neighborhoods in the first place. The parks are often overrun with geese. Sometimes they waddle out into the road in a line, blocking the passage of the fathers. The fathers lay on their horns, but the geese don’t care about the fathers.
Look at them, the fathers say to themselves. The fathers are upset by this transgression, by this immense and calculated boldness. Someone should teach these birds to be more skittish, the fathers say.
Sometimes the fathers take us to the park. We want to get close to the geese—we toddle after them—but unless we have stale bread, the geese won’t let us get close. We cry sometimes about this.
Birds are too skittish, the fathers say. They don’t know we won’t hurt them.
Someone should teach the birds a lesson, the fathers say.
Which lesson? We say, and the fathers look at us, suspicious.
We were born through a narrow window to these mothers and fathers. We rode the seesaws of their desires for us: clever, but not precocious; special, but not strange; thoughtful, but not withdrawn. Our houses were beige, but the doors could be blue and certain shades of red. We ate at chain restaurants where the fathers could refill their plates from salad bars that were labeled ‘endless’ to stave off the fact that the food didn’t taste very good.
We were supposed to want more while realizing that we had it good. We were confused about the idea of contentedness, whether it was a virtue or a vice. We were supposed to yearn, but these yearnings were a certain type and shape, and yet, somehow, hazy.
Our mother is a mystery, a sorceress. Our mother can tell when animals are watching her, even if she isn’t watching them. When she waves her hands at doors and traffic lights, sometimes they open and turn on. Our mother says that when we say that we don’t like peaches or pears, what we really mean is that we don’t like peach or pear flavored things. You like peaches and pears just fine, she says, and she’s right.
My mother has a recurring dream that everyone’s physical appearance matches who they are internally. It makes things easier, she says.
What do you look like? we ask. In the dream?
I am complicated looking, she says.
Our father is an inventor. Together we craft our dream invention: a button that opens a hole in the floor, right beneath your feet, and drops you out of whatever undesirable situation you find yourself in. He invents a cloak that lets him be in two places at once: around people—eating dinner, playing board games—and at the same time, somewhere else entirely. His body is there, but he is not. He’s never wholly in any one place.
Our mother is a mystery, despite being on the page. Our father is not on the page.
Things were happening, but not to us. We were cushioned, lulled, isolated. We were pulled out, but only by time. We begin smoking cigarettes, but just for a frame of reference. At part time jobs our fathers had insisted on, we tell a lady to go fuck herself because she is giving us a hard time. Then we feel so badly, we weep in the backroom for an hour before we are sexually harassed by our manager, a kid not much older than us who forgot to leave town. Is this, we ask ourselves, what gravity is like?
What can you do? the mothers say, by way of comfort. It’s because you are pretty. We have learned that when the mothers don’t want us to be something, then we are not that thing.
I want a juicebox, we said, to the mothers.
You really don’t, the mothers said.
I am sad, we say to the mothers.
No you’re not, the mothers say, and that is the end.
We begin to wonder what’s inside the heads of the mothers and the fathers. If we are very still, we can almost hear the DNA of the mothers and fathers helixed together inside us. If we look at either of them for too long, their faces fall away, and we can feel the blood that runs in them running through us.
We begin to draw farther and farther into ourselves, until we leave and push the wonder down the back hill of our memories. Or we stay and go the department store regularly, convinced that we should care about our selection in drapery until one day, finally, we do care.
Time happens and we’re wondering when we last fed the geese, when we last used a landline, when we last thought about the gap between what is and what was.
Creation Myth: Parachute
The mothers and fathers gift us with a parachute. The parachute is an apology by them, to us, for an accumulation of hazy transgressions.
We are, you know, sorry, they say. Now go play outside.
Sorry for what? we whisper to each other in the backyard. The parachute is made of assorted materials we cannot identify individually, but collectively reminds us of chains, of fences.
When we stand with the parachute spread out in our arms between us, it billows up like a dome. We pull the edges down behind us and sit so that we have parachute walls and a parachute ceiling. We are away and invincible and cannot be heard.
You can make someone say sorry, but you can’t make them be sorry, we say.
We consider this as the roof of the parachute begins to gravity down. But, we say, if you make someone say sorry enough, maybe you can make them feel sorry.
The parachute ceiling collapses and we begin to feel trapped instead of comforted by isolation.
The parachute was stitched together on the moon by a lunar people who hoped to parachute back down to earth. We were the only people who knew the lunar people existed, and we knew very little of them. We knew that the lunar people were dropped onto the moon by a flock of now extinct space traveling geese, that they were generous with their few possessions, and often melancholy.
We knew that the lunar people left where they were from to go somewhere new, and when they arrived they tried to recreate the very things they left. They cultivated rock gardens in the absence of water and vegetation, and built moon houses in the shape of their old house, and spend their free time weaving parachutes out of space debris and looking into rows of lunar telescopes that remain fixed on Earth.
They viewed the parachute as their liberation even as they wrapped and bound themselves in it.
The mothers make casseroles; the fathers come and go to work; we attend school.
In the fall, we trace our hands to draw turkeys and learn about the Pilgrims voyaging to the New World.
The Pilgrims asked: How to be in this world, but not of it?
We eat Poptarts during snack time and try to take bites without forming any cracks in the rest of the Poptart. The Pilgrims are putting themselves onto a ship and sailing away.
Good luck, we think.
It soon begins to snow and the parachute ends up in a plastic storage bin labeled parachute. We forget about it. Or rather—we remember playing with it, but not that it was something that we could still use.
When the first lunar child is born, the lunar people realized they would never truly be of the moon. They were unsure about the child, however.
Take our picture, they say to us tourists. Does it look like we belong here?
Now take a picture of our child, they say. Does it look like it belongs here?
Does it look like we are playing homage to this place? Or like we are posing?
We want to say that we are trying to live here, they say.
We think that they look suspended in the pictures, as if they are neither here nor there, but we tell them that they look magnificent, wonderful, happy—a thousand empty adjectives.
The lunar people fold up their parachutes but they keep them somewhere safe.
Creation Myth: Box
We know now that everything isn’t as it seems. Mostly this leaves us spinning.
There’s a box in the room. Do we look inside?
We are cautious. We know there’s be careful what you wish for and Pandora and curiosity killing cats but there is also bravery and little reward without risk and a thousand different platitudes no matter how much we shake the box or hold it up to the light.
We know that we aren’t supposed to touch the hot stove burner, but if we don’t, how will we ever learn?
Is the lesson to learn the rules or learn what it feels like? We ask our father.
What? He says. It’s simple. Just don’t touch it.
Our mother watches the news. She is a cocktail of anxiety and indignation.
There’s a man in a courtroom in handcuffs.
You just look at him and you know he did it, my mother says.
We grow into, not out of, a fear of the dark. Our mother asks how light would stop a hypothetical monster. We tell her that if something is there, we want to be able to see it coming. Then you are afraid of surprises, our mother says. Not the dark. Be precise.
She is right. Sometimes we think it would be best to cut everything open.
We are cautious, well behaved children. We still watch the other kids as they pluck off a fly’s wings and legs; pour nail polish remover into a cup, dropped the captured fly in, and put a match to the whole thing.
In biology we dissect earthworms. We get stuck on the part that’s thicker and smoother, and our lab partner winks and tells us that it’s the part for reproduction. We use dissection pins and tweezers to try to pin our worm open. We can’t spread the skin enough, so have to drag a pin on the worm’s insides to sever the septum walls.
We don’t like our worm so exposed and pinned there. We use our textbooks to locate the pharynx and the ventral nervous cord and the intestine, and then these aortic arches that loop around the esophagus. Earthworms have five hearts that are wasted.
We have versions of the same conversations: are we more afraid of the pain that precedes death or death? If something bad is to happen, would you want to know?
We only have these conversations when we are sufficiently drunk.
Did you know, our chemistry professor says, that there is cyanide in a peach pit?
We look at people, including ourselves–our longest running case study–and sometimes it’s as if there is nothing there, that the something we are not getting is that there isn’t any something, and other times it as if there are endless nesting dolls within nesting dolls. They are, we are, a number cut in half, over and over, perpetually getting smaller but never reaching zero.
Creation Myth: Us
We look at our earthworms—the precise cuts through softness, through mess. Not until the earthworms are skewered open and pinned in orderly rows do we see that this isn’t what we wanted. We wanted to understand and in turn to be understood. No matter how accurate the cuts, they will be inaccurate, only part of the narrative, like a battlefield with a sea of geometrical crosses. We see that orderliness can be soothing, almost lovely, but now it is upsetting to us. It is like assembling a puzzle that cannot be assembled, or–when we cut that idea open too–a lie.
We stop doing anything we don’t want to do. We feel like we chose the wrong box to open, the wrong quest, the wrong something. We think we even miss the moment where we chose at all.
We are aware that there is something probably more interesting happening outside our door, and down the hall, and in the houses next door, and in the town one over, and across the state and the sea, but we can’t see outside of ourselves to get to it.
We tell our mother that we feel trapped. She suggests going outside.
We tell our father that we feel trapped. Literally instead of metaphorically, we explain.
We can see that he isn’t very interested and we explain how that’s part of the problem. Say someone gives you a box, we tell him. What would you do?
I would open it, he says.
You put a box on a table and people want to know what’s in it, we say. But what if the box is in someone’s head?
I don’t know, he says. But maybe you need to try harder. Try to get out.
Like an explosion? I ask.
Yeah, he says. Maybe watch some action movies.
We sew ourselves up and reassemble. It’s at once a white flag and a commitment to trying harder, to a new approach. We compare nutritional facts on groceries. We spend money on things we don’t want to buy: lightbulbs, new liners for the shower, caulk and whatever else is sold at Home Depot. We clean leaves from the gutter. We change the sheets and the coffee filter.
We see there is something to be gained from accomplishing tasks that we never wanted to do in the first place. We don’t care about any of this, not really, not yet. We only care about checking off a box on a list.
Put me in coach, we start to say.
We grow bolder. We stretch the world out and stick pins in places as far apart as they can get. We hear there’s a mass of trash twice the size of Texas floating in the Pacific. Maybe we could confirm or deny. We want to want to go abroad, and so we do. We have always been scared of water, in a thousand different ways —afraid of the sharks, the depth, the murkiness, the fact that when we stick our hands in there’s a fluidity connecting us to a thousand unknown and thus unpleasant things—and so we think that we should go submerse ourselves. This is a creation, we tell ourselves. This is a myth.
And soon we are telling ourselves that we are going to look into the sun. And then that we are going to the sun. We are going to see the future. We are going to see around corners. We are going to stop time, and deflect bullets, and shoot light from our hands. Before we were frantic, saying Try to understand. Now we say Don’t bother. We say, It’s cool. We say, It’s fine.
Sometimes we say “I” instead of “we” even though we aren’t really sure what that means.
We are the exception and not the rule. We are the hammer and not the nail.
We tell ourselves that we the hands pulling all of our own strings, but sometimes we falter and wonder what if—what if our hands are attached to someone else’s body? We watch a performance of a puppet who realizes he is a puppet. The marionette discovers the puppeteer’s body, and then the strings that hold him. We watch this and feel something crack open inside us.