This life. I never asked for it.
Don’t get me wrong, it has a certain charm, a certain appeal. I don’t think I would give it up, even if given that chance. But fuck, it’s absolutely terrible sometimes.
After awaking on the church steps, covered in snow, the world didn’t change. It just continued on. This has been happening more and more frequently, but it’s ever so tedious. Patience, though.
Spent a few weeks under an overpass, living with the people I found there. It wasn’t a bad life, but it wasn’t good. I wanted to help them, and did what I could, but there’s only so much one person can do. All I achieved was making their lives a little more comfortable for a little while. I try.
I thought what I’d do, to get more people to help, would be to make a documentary. I didn’t know anything about documentary making, but how hard can it be? Not very when someone else decides at the same time to make the same documentary. The day I had the idea, some guy showed up and started asking around if anyone would want to take part. So that was handy.
I introduced myself (after a fashion, it’s not like he was going to check my work card and credit history), and told him of my idea and asked if we could work together. He asked if I could work a camera. I said I could. How hard can it be, right?
Pretty hard, to be honest, but I also just sort of… knew what I was doing? Perhaps in the before time in another universe, I was a cameraman. At any rate, it all worked out. We worked together, we followed a few of the residents of this underpass around for a few months. The narrative we were hoping to convey was one of people just like anyone, who don’t ask for much, but who want to be safe, healthy and happy. Some choose life on the streets at first, but can’t get out when they want, others are there against their will. None of them want a hand out, but they’d all appreciate a little something to make their current existence a little brighter. Even a small thing like changing the attitudes of people so that there’s less sneering and gawping would be enough for many. And so, we made the documentary.
And it wasn’t very good, and all the money the director fellow who’d come to the underpass to make the film had invested was wasted. And since I had had a part in convincing him that his tentative idea was worthy of pursuit, I felt kind of responsible. Attached to him. I stayed on as his cameraman as he took part time gigs here and there. He’d direct, he’d light, he’d shoot, he’d do whatever was necessary. He always came with me as an attached cameraman. Two workers for the price of one made a very attractive package.
I don’t recall how long this went on. At least a year, it was quite a long period. During this time, the director rebuilt his reputation, people rewatched the doc and thought, you know what, the doc is good, it’s just that we as a society were prejudiced against the message of the doc to such a degree that we sought to destroy it and those involved. And suddenly the director was rehabilitated.
As the hot, new talent (he wasn’t new, but such is the business, you’re new when they say you are), offers of projects started to flood in. As we still worked together as a package, he knowing I was a competent cameraman with a good eye and I understanding how he worked, we’d choose work together. Some pop star who’d gotten big in the past couple years wanted a new direction for her music videos, and so was trying new directors out, and her people had approached us.
The director had no interest in music videos, but I had a feeling. I urged him to do this. He argued that music videos were trash and he was an artist. I reminded him that what is art and what is trash is a very fluid thing, as we’d seen with his documentary on the underpass people. He relented and we started prep.
After several creative meetings with the pop artist’s people, everyone was satisfied with how the video would play out. Everyone but me. It was boring, it wasn’t interesting. There was no narrative. I kept quiet though.
The day of the shoot arrived. We all got to the soundstage we’d be shooting in early to set up, get ready. The set was prepared, the band got their kit arranged, I worked with the lighting guy to make sure everything was right. The director walked me through some of the shots, and I suggested a few alternatives we could try. By now it was late afternoon. We could shoot tomorrow if we needed to, but everyone wanted the shoot to finish tonight and takedown to fill tomorrow. Anymore than two days and it would be troublesome for everyone.
At the appointed time, the great sliding doors at the end of the soundstage opened and in drove a stretch limousine. We all waited as it pulled to a stop and the driver got out, walking to the back. He opened the rear passenger door. Out stepped the star of our video, the pop star.
I had had a feeling it would be She and this is why I pushed so hard for the director to take the job. I couldn’t have gotten into this place at this time any other way. Patience, you see.
She doesn’t notice me, or at least makes no indication that She does. Her people take her to the sitting area we’ve prepared in the corner of the stage and brief her on what we’re doing. I make a show of making sure the camera is set properly, but my eyes never leave her. The director calls myself and the rest of the crew over, and we introduce ourselves. She makes little notice of most of the crew, but when I introduce myself, She makes eye contact. There’s a split-second microtwitch of her eyebrow. There. We know each other. The scene is set, let us begin.
She walks to the set and takes her place, her band in position. A crop top, denim skirt and the tail of some woodland creature make her look quite good. Looking through the lens of my camera, I notice her nose is different. It’s smaller, daintier. It suits her, but this is the second time She has changed her appearance since we landed in this universe. I wish she’d stop.
On the cue from the director, the music starts, the camera rolls, and She begins.
Yes, that’s right, She sings, we’re confronting a new age here, miraculously. Never again will we taste the days of old, and so let us remember them one last time. For someone who wanted to destroy the burden formed by the past, She sure does insist on us remembering it a lot.
On the day I was born on this planet, She sings, I was surely kind of happy! Surely, it was kind of heartbreaking. We cried that day, didn’t we? She sings. The day I exited that cave and met the ibis that gave me the part of She that was missing. I cried. I’m almost certain I did.
Reality is judged by the things of betrayal, She sings, and in this way we are led astray. To see the value of that experience, we must gaze probingly without fail. Our own things are particularly noticeable as things of betrayal, when scrutinized in this way.
I was born into this age, She sings, but somehow it was by my own choice. So one way or another, I’m going to make my stand here. We are The Dispatchers of the Now. On the day you were born on this planet, you were surely kind of happy and yet surely you were heartbroken. Let’s sing in loud voices as we cry together.
I watch all this through the lens of my camera, doing my job but also hanging on every word. But then I start to notice that I can’t see her as well as I could once. Worried there was a problem with the camera, I took my eye away, but no, She was fading out, flickering. She who had been flesh and blood but moments before was now a hologram. What manner of trickery is this?
Even though I was born into this age, She sings, somehow I met you. Because I was born on this planet, She sings, I met you.
We are the Dispatchers of the Now.
One last flicker, and she’s gone. Chaos erupts. The director runs to the stage looking for her. Her staff screams at the crew. Someone is calling the police. Her band, however, remains calm, serene. Knowing. I am calm too as I begin to flicker myself. But as I am just a lowly cameraman, no one notices when at last I flicker out of existence.