Artwork, “Frames” by Alexa Gaffaney
Click. The switch snapped down, and darkness leapt from the ceiling, enveloping the room. The drunk and contented man huffed in approval, sloshing the door closed as he and his box of wine departed.
Moments before, florescent light fixtures had hummed at an imperceptible 1,182,499,014,584,155 cycles per second, illuminating a still-life. Sticky cups and cans stood on jostled furniture. The TV projected an abject blankness. The stagnant air hung about, for want of a breathing body to suffocate. The lights alone had remained witness to this excrement of spirit and substance, spread over the room, like a fragrant hummus. With their revealing eyes shut off, the smell alone remained, a dank odor made more pungent by the absence of sight. There was nothing to see, only the carcass of some gathering, now sediment, pressed and fossilized by the evolution of the night.
His sodden limbs loosened, tension dripping down, dribbling out the tips of fingers, as some incomprehensible missive was signed. Rearing back, he screamed. With wine guiding muddled feet, he began his return.
Blood flowed down the court, through pounding veins and bursting hearts, as the heroes of the day stood to face their foe. Men took flight, by the grace of cuboid anchored wings, arcing through air towards blazing hoops draped in netting. The common, hopelessly invested in this contest, could only helplessly watch. For most people this was enough, this was necessary. But the drunkard couldn’t stand by when blood—his blood—curdled idly within the body. An impulse. Turning from the worn projector screen and shrieking mass, he had struck off. This fight was too precious to leave in the palms of seasoned players. While the sidelines reeked of useless drunken energy, he had thought to ply his sloppy vigor. The man had returned to the party, where the mob, parched for victory, lobbed their cries at the projector. Friends scolded him, for his disappearance, for his absurdity.
“Where were you??!? . . . Worried sick . . . ”
“Why the hell would you go back for that . . . The game . . .”
“We always play better with the lights off.”
“I’m right. I had to do it.” He was. In the remaining minutes, a series of happenings
unfolded, touching the lives of many, and tilting the life of one in just the right way.
Click. The distant generating plant, bled by the enormous energy demands of a town riveted to blaring displays, fizzled. In a room nearby the source switch, power surged ever so slightly. This minuscule flicker unleashed a burgeoning sneeze from a lonely flu ridden girl huddled in blankets. Isolated by her malady, she longed to be out in the night, celebrating the championship with companion and potation. As her body reacted to the rush of refuse and air, her finger twitched, unintentionally tapping “Send”, sharing seething words, intended to remain incorporeal, with a person of some consequence.
In a fit, a chucked can acted as a consequence of this unintentionally shared prose, striking the dish on top of a house. The signal inside went haywire. Static consumed the screen. Reeling at the chaos that erupted, interrupting the high pressure game, a man’s heart stopped in his chest. His comrade, lurching as the man fell back, grazed the picture of a girl in his Instagram feed, giving the man one last beat.
She loved him, yet he had moved on. Bereaved of all contact until this point, the notification that flickered at the top of the screen tore her from the last pivotal moments. She stood on the sideline, stricken by the buzz in her hand. Epinephrine. Elation fought a losing battle with heartbreak and sorrow, a mask of conflicting passions smothered her face. This random expression of raw emotion—absolute noise in the incessant hum of humanity —startled a Marcus Paige as he flew, already too far to the right, to make the impossible shot. This momentary distraction sent the ball arcing, askew from its miscalculated course, thunking right into the bucket. 74-74. 4.7 seconds left. With overtime upon them, a second chance at victory flashed before the crowd.
But it was all for nothing.
A like minded belligerent Villanovan, lunged for the light in his apartment as Heels reared victory and coach Wright called a time out. The clock started again and in a blur it was over, somehow 77-74. 4.7 seconds of light redirected. 1,974 joules of energy spat into the universe on a hunch. One more incomprehensible shot.
Marcus Paige’s freak three point shot will be forgotten, blotted out by the heavens whispering to Kris Jenkins’s hail Mary as it flew. The Villanovan will claim credit for the shot, citing superstition and causality. The drunken near-savior would never be known. He would be chided for sloppy words and a worrisome disappearance. For obnoxiously chanting into the night while fellow fans could only scowl through masks of murdered pride. They felt small, insignificant, hopelessly helpless in the lay of the world. But the sodden-messiah radiated pride —purpose. He had performed his duty, following a chosen path, persevering against high uber fairs, conforming friends, the intensity of the game. He knew his place in the world.
The next day, sobered from his drink and loss, he will forget this, letting rationality subvert impulse. Impulse for meaningful action, drawing lines among the disparate stars, tracing purpose in the wet heavens.