Dedicated to Anna Anthropy and all the players of Triad
I can’t get them out of my mind.
They are sitting there. After clicking past the music with its rising volume and triangular introduction, I come to a track that is synthetic, light, airy, and domestic: a giddy evening after some hours of mutual happiness. They sit around the pixilated table in their 8-bit forms. The person at the far-right–the one I can relate to–makes the suggestion that the three of them actually sleep in the same bed.
And that is when I see what is at stake.
They are puzzles in the dark blue of the night with a flat bed made of square panels and a hovering alarm clock suspended on the far upper-right corner of the tableau. And that is when the challenge begins.
The one I feel kinship with remains still. The dark one turns from one side to the other, and I don’t always know where she will stop: the large space she takes up is deceptive. And the fair-skinned girl rolls from one end of the bed to the other. Without borders, she threatens to fall out into the abyss of an imagined floor.
I can still respect this, but I have my work cut out for me. They are Tetris pieces in two phases of motion in a two-dimensional world. The music from the very beginning now starts to rise and the tempo becomes almost a midnight dance of shifting, sleeping bodies. 8-bit subconsciousnesses seek a calisthenic consensus: a complementary order.
Each of them is different: the still one has an outstretched knee, the shifting one that moves to side to side–opposing twins in one single body–and the bed roamer. How a person sleeps should say a lot about their nature.
With each click on the glowing clock hovering in the darkness, feet collide with feet, heads, and groins. People fall out of bed. And the cat comes in to sit on those that find themselves in her spot. But when morning and light tones come again, after a period of delay, I get another chance.
At first, I am understanding. This interplay is not supposed to be easy. Sleep is a dynamic and an interchange of strengths and vulnerabilities all on its own. I can respect that. I can remember an arm falling asleep under a head, covers tugged out of a tightly unconscious grasp, bumping to someone, having no room to move, being in another place from where you were, and the sheets being all confused at waking.
I get it. I can do this.
I’m back in the dark-blue room with my puzzle piece people and the music becomes slow and quiet again: strangely deadly in a primordial way. It is the language of the night: a faint, keening, animal wail and the clattering phantasmal bones of Sleep’s sibling in that restless movement of bodies trying to find each other and their harmony.
I can feel the tempo of this nocturnal waltz beginning to swell again with great languor. My hands are turning cold.
These people have names but I don’t know whose is which. Riff-raff, boodles, and snippet? The only name whose owner I know for certain is Encyclopedia Frown and it doesn’t count because all cats are certain by nature.
I remember someone saying that they solved this Gordian knot in five minutes. If patience is the game then I am beginning to lose them both. The 8-bit Siren’s call returns again and a chill scrapes down my spine.
I keep making mistakes with the dark-hued shifter. My sense of left and right betrays me over and again as she keeps falling or colliding into someone else. I’m getting tired and annoyed. But I still intend to do this. I will do it.
Sometimes they all stick together when I want to move only one. I have to breathe and carefully choose: to ease the growing pressure in my chest and back. Part of this is definitely about patience and seeing how each person’s idiosyncrasies can complement and sync with each other’s.
The rolling girl touches both sleepers lightly: moving only after the shifter and her touch does not cause pain. She seems comfortable and cocooned in her blanket and between two bodies. The shifter only moves once in either direction and her body seems to break the rules of her two-dimensional world: or more likely follows its own rule. The still one remains in one spot: an anchor that is dependable but also potentially unchanging.
One is all over the place if left unchecked, another needs space to change her dreaming mind, and the last is strong to the point of seeming not to ever change. Paper, scissors, rock…
My mind is going through all the convolutions. The solid “T,” the Z-block-S-block, and the line-piece: the line-piece … the freaking line piece! How does someone roll all the way across a giant bed to fall on the floor on either side? And why can’t I get the other shift where I fucking want her to go?
I am getting angry now. I’m cursing at all of them: and myself … so as not to be unfair. Let everyone be equal and share the misery! But I refuse to give up! I won’t give up on this!
I have given up on patience. I’m swearing and mad and frustrated. It feels like the Sphinx has given me a riddle asking me how long does an idiot take to realize–BAM! and I’m dead. Sometimes I’m close: so much so that I can feel the non-existent heat of pixel bodies on a sterile bed separated by glass and plastic as most ideals often are.
I begin to feel like a failure.
As I continue, I start to question myself. Has my sense of rhythm truly been set this off-kilter? Have I grown deaf to the visual song? Am I listening to what they are doing? Have I stopped listening? Was I ever really listening, or ever able to listen to begin with?
I need to have it. I need to have the Philosopher’s Stone and the Holy Grail of getting three people to sleep together comfortably and in harmony: to find a solution to a question that would stump Solomon, Sphinxes, Alexander, and Professor Layton.
No, screw them.
I need to do this for me.
But a horrible thought begins to grow in the artificial darkness and its elemental sleepers. What if I already know the solution?
What if there can only be two in a bed?
But I refuse. I watch each animation as I fail with mounting desperation. I watch the shifter fall. The roller falls. The still figure remains oblivious. The cat is always certain. I am not. References and metaphors continue to meld together in my straining mind as paper puzzle pieces attempt to resolve themselves in the shadows of my exhausted consciousness. The Triforce has three parts. There are three wise women of fate, grace, and punishment. Hell, there are even Three fucking Stooges!
I curse at all of them even more, and feel bad as I lose sight of that sense of comradery from before: that peace of mind now eluding me. At one point, I lose all three of my people at the far corner of their small night world and I want to scream…
Afterwards, I stare at them. I stare at them for a very long time. I realize now that I lost track of what we were fighting for. When I realize this, I hate myself for it. What I’m doing seems so futile: as useless as the Fate/Stay Night von Einzbern family trying to recreate their long-lost miracle in vain … trying to create a magic that may never have existed in the first place.
They don’t seem to care about me as I set them as close to each other as I possibly can. I stare at them and savour the moment: knowing that once I press that clock–once I activate linear-time and reality–I will destroy this precious closeness: this dynamic as transitory as life itself. All lovers become strangers in the night and most eventually dissolve like dreams by morning.
But perhaps they are not the ones that need to change. They are perfectly capable of that on their own: even the still one. I’m the one that is inflexible. I’m the one that is lost in this Flatland world. So before one person is left out of bed that night, or ever again, I take one screen-shot of the illusion of permanence.
It is as though I won and never gave up.
I smile brokenly. Then I look at the still-shot of a fictional moment frozen in time as I put my head into my hands and cry.
Then later, much later, just when I give up all hope, I realize something.
There is a balance.
I don’t remember what I did, but I see it happening. The roller is in the middle as intended, but seemingly insecure as the shifter on one side is facing away from her. On the other side is the still form: guarding that edge with solidity and stability.
And then beauty happens.
The shifter turns her legs over the roller’s slumbering form and does not hit her. The roller moves back and forth slightly and then settles. Schrodinger’s cat takes her certain place in the totality of this small world … and they exist.
A miracle comes into Flatland: immaculately, quietly, and just so.
And as it solves itself like a watch without a watchmaker, the knot inside me begins to unwind. In the pixilated morning, they complain about snoring but I know now that there is no pleasing everyone. But they are still there … and I smile. There is still hope.
I do not snore.