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    Xenology: Pico the Immortal

    The best hamster
    Seems lively

    Amber talks of using her skills and intellect to create an immortal hamster. Given that rodents' ubiquity in science makes them lab equipment, a mouse or rat will be the first granted the gift or curse of biological immortality.

    But she wants it to be a hamster. Specifically our teddy bear, Pico, because he is docile and loving in a fashion I was unaware rodents could be. If we had in addition an eager parrot, the phrase it would repeat would be "Hi, Pico! I love you," as Amber says it half the time he passes the wood and mesh cage she built for him over the course of weeks.

    Xenology: The Bicameral Mind

    Looking upward
    "God?"

    We used to hear the gods.

    Theory of the bicameral mind states that, in the too recent past, we attributed the voice in our head - the one telling us to regret what he had or hadn't done, the one planning our day, the one condemning the Widow Corey for her wantonness - to an external, usually supernatural force. We had yet to taste the bittersweet of introspection, accepting that our internal narrator who was not in some way divine. We took intuition for gospel. (Bicamerality is not a widely accepted or respected hypothesis any longer. Whoever heard of the mind talking to itself? However, the legitimacy of the theory does not affect its rhetorical usefulness.)

    Xenology: September 12th

    Three friends together
    Community

    September 12th, 2001, was the beginning of the best few weeks of my life.

    We had all suffered a massive psychic wound, unsteady and nervous. Rumors fomented. In this fertile ground grew overt xenophobia. The preceding day defined the lives of a billion, rarely for the better. But, for a little while, we were part of a massive community that cared and would take care of one another without a second thought. Everyone had a common experience, a shared trauma that reframed the lives we thought we were leading and shook us out of our delusion that we are not intricately connected.

    Xenology: Fantastic Beasts and How to Lose Them

    At Michael's wedding, the underside of our place card designates Amber and me for the Harry Potter table. I know how long Michael has been planning this wedding in a practical and not merely imaginative sense. He assiduously chose my place and companions.

    All of the tables represent some fandom or other, though the theme often extends no further than the homemade pixel art magnets; I doubt Michael sorted us by what book, show, or movie spoke most to our souls or wallets - except my table.

    Xenology: Sometimes the Abyss

    Preying mantis
    Not a monster, Thomm.

    When I was small, the summer night terrified me into insomnia. I got it in my head that the incessant croaking of the tree frogs, in conspiracy with the chirp of crickets and the sudden insectile whine of cicadas, amounted to the monstrous. I'm not sure an adult ever attempted to correct and reassure me, partly because I doubt I had the courage to ask why the night screamed for sacrifice during the warmer months. (I likewise refrained to tell my parents I had chicken pox because I assumed it was lethal and I didn't want to worry them prior to my early death; I am not great expressing my fears.) I eventually understood I heard crickets but the sound of frogs - so obvious at ground level, while near a pond - made no sense elevated into dry branches.

    Xenology: My First Victim: the Little Girl with Black Eyes

    puddle in a tree
    Should be here. Try not to question it.

    In the third grade, a second grader with black eyes, a new student, reciprocated my crush.

    I grew up in a safe, quiet, middle-class community. It fed into a middle school, then high school, each progressively less of these cozy adjectives.

    She never made it that far. <

    Xenology: Picky Aardvark

    rocks
    No, none of these are the right pebble

    Walking with Amber, I wonder aloud in how many people's stories we feature as nameless background character.

    I spend my summer weekdays writing in the library, earplugs in to ward off the distraction of coughs and mouth sounds, the elderly people supplementing their retirement. I clock in over five miles of steps a day, often in town. Some people recognize me, but I am not known to them. Likewise, there are people I know enough to reduce them to sets of descriptors - the bearded man in the t-shirts with cut-off sleeves, a baseball cap, and a pipe; the gangly twenty-something who seems to work everywhere and nowhere and who has recently grown a goatee to mask his no doubt nefarious activities; the middle-aged bottle blonde who peddles free samples of apple cider doughnuts outside her home in hopes we'll buy a dozen and who is never without a smile; the thin girl with the dawn blue eyes and off-kilter smile who serves us ice cream; the dozen of people who show up for Pokémon Go raids and melt back into the night without further conversation. I do not know them, but I would eventually miss not seeing them.

    Xenology: Fabio, the Goose, and Infinite Consequences

    Threads
    Tear any at your doom

    The world turns on a dime. History is made on the zig and zag of chance.

    There is a meme that the 1970s Buffalo Bills could have stopped there from being The Kardashians. In short, they fumbled a pass, so they were able to get their first pick in the draft: OJ Simpson. In Buffalo, he met Nicole Brown, the woman whom he would marry and later allegedly murder. Robert Kardashian defended him and became a household name, allowing someone to give a damn about his daughter's leaked sex tape years later, sparking her fame. If a pass had been completed in a game in 1970, two people aren't murdered and the current low point of pop culture isn't shouted from every sidebar.

    Xenology: Some of Them Want to Be Used by You

    Trees
    Don't let the brightness be wasted

    I harbor a not-secret judgment that nothing much was ever done to capitalize off my apparent intellect. My school, prodded no doubt by some higher authority, fingered me early as somehow smarter than the average bear in kindergarten because I was given to intuitive leaps about exactly how to game the system and could decipher which clown face ought to come next in a pattern on standardized tests. (The fact that I can vividly remember this test and who sat on either side of me as I took it - Jason Oakes and Alison Wood, both strangely arboreal names to pen in a Quackenbush - might mean that the label was not completely unwarranted.)

    Xenography: Enjoy the Silence

    There is always a lighthouse
    Shh. I'm busy not doing anything.

    We confuse a need for silence with spirituality, usually of an Eastern bend. That is not it as all. When I tell you to let yourself be in silence, you picture a dark room, a patchouli scented cushion under your lotus position, candles lighted at a safe remove. You picture yoga, meditation, months if not years of practice until you can finally truly appreciate the quiet. You picture window dressing and excuses for why you won't ever let yourself be silent.

    No. Just, for a little while, shut the hell up. Disable your Wi-Fi, close your laptop, turn off your phone.

    Should you read a book? No. That is noise.

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