My CoviDiary: The February 2021 Entries

Image via NYC Department of Health

 

EDITOR’S NOTE: Below, find the one and only February 2021 entry. Click here for the January 2021 entries. Click here for December 2020 content. Click here for the November entries. Click here for the October entries. Click here for the September entries. Click here for the August entriesClick here for the July entriesClick here for the June entries. Click here for the May entries. Click here for the April entries. Click here for all March entries . click here for My CoviDiary is reprinted, with the author’s permission, from its original publication via maxburbank.wordpress.com. Oh, and by the by, we’ve stopped deleting the “uc” part of Mr. Burbank’s liberal use of the “F” word because, well, when he invokes it, it’s in the service of a righteously angry response to the times we’re living in. So, you know, Trigger Alert: Spicy language abounds, should you choose to proceed ahead.

My CoviDiary, 20/22/2021: Requiem for 2.4 Million Universes | BY MAX BURBANK | We are all, each of us, alone in our skulls. And the entire world, the Universe, our universe is in there with us.But I believe in you. I believe in your life, your existence, things you know and experience that I don’t and will know nothing at all about unless you tell me. I believe in the physical existence of places I have never been or even seen pictures of, and that when I die (This is not a cry for help, I only mean that inevitably that’s how all our stories naturally end) the Earth will continue to revolve around the Sun, the entire solar system will engage in whatever motion it engages in as relates to the rest of the galaxy, etc, etc, all without my help, observation or participation.But my belief in you and the objective, actual solar system, wish it as I might to be otherwise, is not a matter of science. Believing in the existence of everything outside the boundaries of my skull is a matter of faith. Empirical evidence is a matter of faith, because I can only process that evidence in the confines of my skull. Everything, everything I know takes place in my brain. That’s where the universe I know lives, in there, not beyond it. But because I have faith in you, I am sure that another universe exists inside your brain. Another whole universe! Two universes, yours and mine, with similarities and differences, but both real, so I chose to believe. And so in every skull, a universe, The Universe. So many universes!

Everyone I have ever known or imagined, every book I have ever read, every movie, every piece of music, every place I have ever been or dreamed of, everything I have ever learned about, all the history, all the science, all the mountains of delicious, useless trivia; Because did you know, DID YOU KNOW, that 1984 is not just the title of a book that sheds a great deal of light on our current situation, but is also the year “Secrets of a Married Man” came out?

It starred Cybill Shepherd and William Shatner, it was made for TV and premiered on NBC on September 24th. I was 22 and I cannot recall where I was when I watched it, but I know I was alone. Shatner plays an aeronautical engineer married to his high school sweetheart but suffering from a bad case of mid-life seven-year-itch which he tries in vain to scratch with prostitutes, until he ends meeting Cybill Shepherd while shopping for lingerie for his wife. Shepherd plays a very different sort of prostitute, a nice young lady whose only doing it to work her way through nursing school so that she can ‘get out’ and ‘make something of herself’, something Shatner is happy to help her do.

See he’s not exploiting her, she’s empowered and he’s helping her achieve her dreams and it’s all very nice and he becomes quite infatuated. Except she’s lying, see? She’s NOT going to nursing school at all, she’s a street weary, hardened pro way more like the extras on Baretta than she is like Shirley Jones in “The Cheyenne Social Club.” Which if you’ve never seen it you should. Jimmy Stewart is also in it and it’s delightful, though I haven’t seen it since I was even younger than when I saw “Secrets of a Married Man” Now that I think of it may not have aged entirely well; In any case, things get dicey in “Married Man” and a stereotypical pimp becomes violently involved and stuff happens that I don’t remember, because it’s all eclipsed in my memory by a single, glorious, golden moment, a true gem in the history of American made for TV cinema. Shatner has just learned Shepherd isn’t attending Nursing school even a little, and she drops her false persona for the first time, and his face crumbles, it’s just a slack, puppy eyed slab of bleached, tinned ham, and he says “Why? Why me?”

And Shepherd replies, after an almost Shatneresque pause, with heartfelt venom, “Because you have trick eyes.”

“Trick eyes” is, incidentally, an alternate title under which this film was released on video, as was “Portrait of a John.” I think both titles beat the shit out of “Secrets of a Married Man”, but I was not involved in the marketing of this film.

I have faith that Cybill Shepherd and William Shatner are real people who exist independantly of me, though I have never met either one. I accept on faith that both have long, rich, full lives and their own universes inside their own heads, their work on “Moonlighting” and “Star Trek” allows tendrils of their universes to reach into so many, many skulls, to metaphysically cross and penetrate the barriers between us and alter more universes than I can dream of polenating myself as I have never been in even a single made for TV movie, let alone had a rich and diverse theatrical career. Associations with their work spark off in all sorts of directions, especially Shatners (although I think Shepherd is clearly the superior actor) my god, think of the Federation alone! An entire faux universe of Vulcans and Klingons and Andorians and time wasting ambulatory bullshit like Neelix crammed alongside the “real” universe in brain after brain after brain!

But all the reality I have of “Secrets of a Married Man”, the sum total of the moment of bliss that is Shepherd telling Shatner he has “trick eyes”… It’s just little bolts of electricity zapping around a pound or so of pink/gray meat in the bone bowl of my skull. As is everything. The sum total of reality. Multiplied by the number of living human beings on earth. Or so my faith tells me.

And this is what I find so monumentally, howlingly tragic about the completely natural, unavoidable consequence of death. When a single individual passes out of life, when they die… a universe dies. THE universe dies, even though there are millions of universes, even though I truly have faith there is a real, concrete, objective universe out there, independent, blissfully unaware… when people die, their mental construct of reality, of all reality, winks out. A universe dies.

And of course universes are born too, baby universes cooing and sucking their feet, waiting for whatever it is that bit by bit grows a universe in their brain. So there is balance, and the cataclysmic loss becomes tolerable, acceptable, because it all rolls on and on and also you are not given the choice not tolerating, I mean, what would that even look like? So it’s alright, at least alright enough. Most of the time.

But today.

We have passed 500,000 deaths in America. 2.4 million have died on earth. Two point four million universes. Gone for all time. Never to return. If one death is a universal holocaust, what the hell is this?

It’s staggering.

But I do not stagger. You do not stagger, assuming you exist outside of my conception of you, which I assume you do. Because mostly I ignore it. As I do the inevitable end of my own Universe, which includes it’s little map of all the other universes I have faith exist. I can’t put this in perspective, and so I won’t. I’ll put my head down and bull through it, and see if I get to the other side, which I assume I will, because that’s human nature. And I will get through it, every single time, until the time I don’t, which as of right now isn’t this time, or by dint of sheerest luck, the time of anyone I love or anyone I even know very well, assuming they even exist, a thing I believe with all my heart but can not… can never… know.

And I can pretend (and it isn’t pretending, not really) that those however many frames of film containing the moment Cybill Shepherd informs William Shatner about the nature of his eyes, and how that nature accounts for his self inflicted misery, that gorgeous distillation of terrible writing, absurd performances and utter commitment to the moment that is the very essence of an actor’s craft; The human miracle that such commitment can and does exist to material not even remotely worthy of such commitment… that such an act can penetrate my skull , come to rest in my brain and live there… is transcendent. It is a counterweight balancing the entropy that will eventually consume all universes, even the ‘real’ one.

Don’t judge me. We all find the things that are important to us, and the paths to those place are infinite and strange and deeply personal. Bet you got a lot of weird shit banging around your universe. Don’t tell me you don’t. And the staggering toll we are under just now that none of us can bear to honestly confront makes those things all the more precious.

Trick eyes. A dog who is a good boy, the very best boy. A Camp fire when the person who brought their guitar is, for a mercy, pretty good. The smell of the Ocean. The cry of seagulls. The Brady Bunch Variety Hour, preserved perfectly like a fly in amber on YouTube. Holding hands. A kiss. A book. A joke. A baby building a cosmos by sucking it’s feet. Faith that we will never really die and that we are not, we are never, truly alone.

Bits and pieces of the universe.

-END-

LEARN A LITTLE BIT ABOUT MAX BURBANK | Burbank is a freelance writer living in Salem, Massachusetts. His work has been published by Cracked.com, NationalLampoon.com, i-mockery.com, and the literary magazine websites (because he is both hoity and toity, but neither enough to get in the print versions) Monkeybicycle.net and Frictionmagazine.com. Once upon a time, before the Internet, he sold science fiction stories to the legendary Algis Budrys for Tomorrow: The Magazine of Speculative Fiction. Until recently, he was the political satirist for Chelsea Now, where he won a PRESTIGIOUS first-place award for editorial cartooning from the New York Press Association, because gosh darn it, he draws real good, too. A huge, steaming pile of Max’s comedy writing can be found archived at maxburbank.wordpress.com. Max is available for freelance work, both writing and illustration, because he likes to eat.

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