Deep in the recesses of my early years, far below the sordid imprint of my first training bra I uncovered an image of a cramped living room. Long fingers of the late afternoon sun slid across the braided rug. A skinny little kid sprawled in front of a television console and stared at the screen. That kid was me, forty years ago.
“You have entered the twilight zone,” a man in a dark suit intoned as my favorite show began. The camera panned a circular room. Smooth walls curved around an eclectic gathering of strangers. An army officer. Clown. Ballerina. Bag pipe player. Tramp.
“What is going on?” asked the army officer, “Why am I here?”
He glanced around the room.
No windows or doors.
Instead of a ceiling, the night sky hovered over the brightly lit space as if trying to stay warm.
“I have an idea how to get out of here,” said the officer. Energized by the possibility of escape, the characters devised a human ladder against the wall. The army officer scaled shoulder after shoulder until he reached the top. He swung his leg over the side and looked down. Then, he lost his balance and disappeared.
The scene changed. Snowflakes drifted down to the frozen cement of an urban sidewalk. Beside a makeshift booth, a junk dealer hawked his wares.
The camera zoomed in on a cylindrical trash bin next to the booth. Beside the bin, a small doll lay face down in the slush. It was an exact replica of the army officer.
A young girl strolled by. She stopped, scooped up the doll and dropped it into the bin. It fell onto a heap of dolls; a clown, a ballerina, a bag pipe player and a tramp.
When the show was over I turned off the T.V. and ran outside to play. But, image of the army officer stayed with me. One minute he talked and walked and planned his escape. The next minute he was nothing more than a wad of fabric sprawled on a clump of dingy snow.
That afternoon I had my first inkling of mortality, of what it meant to have a soul. I didn’t want to die. I wanted to live forever.
When bedtime came, I stared at the faint outline of the mattress above me. Suddenly, I detected the presence of an unseen world, a universe of energy and substance older than the dawn of time. The edge of eternity pooled at my window. It stretched beyond the dry grass, past the rusty swing set that clung to the edge of the back yard into the deep expanse of space.