There are a billion cell towers and before there were cell towers there were television towers and such as that. They aren’t new. They have always been ubiquitous figures, frozen giant storks standing guard over the radio waves, who have never spoken to me before. Don’t ask me where that thought came from, really, I have no idea. Then I thought about it and realized the tower just off of US84 in Valdosta did speak to me. It’s near the house where a friend of mine once lived. I crashed there one night and when I woke up the next morning I could see the reflection of the tower’s white blinking light under the door, like it was some anxious pet wanting to come in. I cannot tell you why the light bothered me that morning but I can tell you it did.
If there was anything about being a writer I would change if I could it would be the urge to write when I should be doing something else. By that I mean something someone else wants to be done. There was a meeting at work today, outside, and I was a spear carrier. Everyone who would or could affect the outcome of the discussion was there and I was not one of those people. I hate that sort of being a warm body in a group of people and it’s useless. I had no input, no function except I was there. Everything I thought about saying would have been nothing more than to let someone know I was there. Mindlessly, I chimed in when the-telling-of-war-stories part of the meeting began, and then I realized that across the road was a cell tower.
We share a commonality the tower and I do. It stands there and says, “I am here” all day long, all night long, and now I realize there are times I do that too. Ask yourself if this is one of these times. Is what you are reading right now nothing more than the blinking, the rhythm, the signal of some wave electric telling you there is an existence out there somewhere, pulse, pulse, pulse. How cruel are we to design someone whose only function is to say that, to stand until death, “I am here” and nothing more. But, Mike, it is a machine only, a light that serves as a warning against collision with airframes, there is intent, Mike, purpose, and you know it.
So we discuss not the chatter of the sentient being, the daydreamer who cannot concentrate on the real world, but the focused duty of the warning light, who suffers not at all from the number of days spent at post. We have created it for this. It knows nothing else and indeed, nothing at all. There is no comparison at all, stop it. It was designed to function and so it does. We were not designed to function thusly, stop it.
Yet against our own volition we do function. We attend meetings and we wish we were elsewhere. We carry spears when we wish for pens. We carry pens when we wish for spears. We send through the blackness nothing more than some repeating call, some flash, some beacon, some wave of electrons that we are here. For some it may be a warning, for others, something else, but it is the same energy which creates all and all creates.
I am not saying we should march on the towers to liberate the beacons but rather we should not march at all and liberate ourselves. Oh, bother, I suppose there must be some marching for even the mindless towers have a day job but is there a way to say more than “I am here”? Is there a way to attend meetings, carry spears, and issue warnings and at the same time do more than stand and repeat until death?
Oops. The meeting has reached a point where there is the sharing-of-dead-animal-photos. This part of the ritual is done in lieu of there being any dead animals on site to eat, or show off. One of the men there has a picture of a dead deer and I toss in my “I am here” by mentioning the last deer I killed was with a Pontiac. This draws expected laughter, of course, and I look at the dead deer and wonder if it died knowing death was near or was it thinking about light?
The part I really hate arrives with me riding back to the office and questions about the meeting are being asked. Wow, that’s a wicked looking cloud that’s coming up, I noticed it during the meeting, say, that was some fine looking dead animal that man shot, wasn’t it? Do they realize how disconnected I was back there? Oh man, I lost the last ten minutes of what was said. See? I feel guilty about not being useless enough. I could have been composing this in my mind, and I was, but once I realized I was doing something I wanted to do I started trying to punish myself for doing it, even though what someone else wanted me to do was a total waste of energy for all involved.
There is an awkward silence in the car and I realize someone asked a question. Hmmm, I am out of dead animal references here. The rain has started to fall quite hard and the woman trying the car in front of me bails me out by nearly wrecking. “Damn women drivers” I muttered and heads nod at this. I sigh. This sort of deflection is prejudicial and self-defeating. It does work because someone starts telling the story of the woman who flipped a new refrigerator out of a truck and on the road one day.
I am here. This is the oldest form of self-expression in art. It is an attempt to capture how I see the Universe and reveal it to someone, however far away, in the form in which you see before you.
I am here.