I was sitting on the LIRR today; there was this beautiful woman directly across from me reading Philip K. Dick’s Ubik. I couldn’t tell if we were having eye-sex, or if I was just looking at her weird. She was occasionally glancing back, but then again, a creepy guy looking at you weird does merit some investigation. For a second, I actually considered that the on-the-train eye-sex game didn’t actually exist, and that I’d just been looking at all these girls weird. I might be a serial weird looker.

I decided I would talk to her. I’d say, “I was looking at you and I realized this is how the couple  in Eternal Sunshine met. On the LIRR! And I thought, if one of the most important scenes in Eternal Sunshine just recreates itself in front of your eyes, you don’t just sit there, you go talk to her!” And she’d say, “but the scene wouldn’t have recreated itself if you hadn’t talked to me in the first place.” Then she’d realize that what I did there was an allusion to the “would John Connor have been born if the Terminator hadn’t tried to prevent it?” phenomenon. And if she was worth talking to, she’d get just how clever this was, and be impressed by it, and probably respond with something so clever that I couldn’t just like anticipate it, or give you some almost-equivalent example, because it would just be that unique.

But this was all a fantasy. It reminded me of my old friend who loved to bring up, as a sort of thought-experiment, that in any situation with a female, there must always be some course of action you could take that would get said female to sleep with you, or like you, or give you her number, as the case might be. Of course, this is really a useless insight, since there’s no way to decipher what this magical course of action might be for any given situation. But this kid loved to reflect on the fact that at least theoretically, there was always a way. It was like he got laid vicariously through hypotheticals.

This gave me the idea of trying the Infallible Seducer trick on her. I’d go up to her and ask, “will you answer the next question the same way you answer this one?” And, no matter what she said, I’d follow up with, “will you sleep with me?” If she answered the first question with a yes, she’d have to say yes again, and if she answered no, she’d have to switch to yes for the next question, since they’re both yes or no questions. So either way, she’d have to answer the second question with a “yes.”

I was reminded of when I was five or six, and I used to believe that two independent events had never occurred simultaneously. That there had always been some million million million millionth of a second between any two events. And that, should two events ever happen at exactly the same time, the world would instantly explode. I’d often try to test my theory, putting two cups down on a table as close to as simultaneously as I could; it was all for fun, of course, I felt safe trying it, because I always knew that I would never succeed.

It’s funny, trying something you know you won’t succeed. Sort of like going through all these ways of talking to this girl I knew I would never talk to. This thought annoyed me, and I was frankly tired of the whole business, and decided I would stop thinking about this woman altogether. I’m not thinking about her. Not thinking about her. I remembered, my friend once told me, if you want to stop thinking about something, you don’t try to stop thinking about it, you think about something else. So I decided to think about elephants.

Elephants. Elephants. Big ones, in India. Did you know that the second hottest chili pepper in the world comes from India? People in certain Indian villages pulverize this pepper and enclose the village in a circle of the resulting dust. This helps to keep the elephants away. Elephants. Elephants.

Thinking the word “elephants” over and over again, reminded me of when I was nine; I was laying in the back seat of the car while my parents went into the gas station. And I imagined that when I died, God would probably tell me what word I said the most in my life. I figured I might as well take control over this exchange. I repeated, over and over again, dozens of times, “bitch, bitch, bitch, bitch, bitch.” It’s a such a loaded word now, “bitch.” As a kid, all it was was the most readily accessible curse word that wasn’t “fuck,” which I figured was too obvious a choice, and God might think I was trying too hard.

The way the elephants thought reminded me of this obscure childhood memory reminded me of just a few minutes prior, when I had been reminded of that childhood game of simultaneous events by goddamn it, by thinking about how to talk to that girl. I was getting really sick of thinking on and on about this.

So I closed my eyes. And I became conscious of entering, for lack of a better word, headspace land. And there, the thoughts I’d been engaging seemed so perverse. I experienced them as a torrential invasion of cries, and chaos. Whining, yanking, tugging at me.

[Voice Montage]

As the voices faded, I saw that the sides of my head were melting. Hot molten lava oozed from my cranium, slowly eroding my bones. My blood boiling, my hair wrinkling into itself, my skin dripping down. And the lava of my inside – of who I am – poured out of my orifices, but once out, did not sink. It flowed out horizontally, defying gravity, gliding along an invisible x-axis.

But it was all only an image, a thought. So internally, I somersaulted. So that I felt floating, disoriented, the world rushing out from under me like a receding ocean wave. Then there was no thought, then I was the lava, I was pouring, I was glowing. I was peace embodied without a body, an empty vessel containing—

[*BING* from the train doors.]

[Train Operator: This is Stewart-Manor. Next stop is Nassau-Junction. This is a Montauk bound express train. Stand clear of the doors.]

I opened my eyes to check if it was my stop. It wasn’t. I laughed at how easily thought re-penetrated my brain. I tried to return to thoughtlessness. And I laughed because wanting to return to thoughtlessness was itself a thought. And I laughed because thinking about how wanting to return to thoughtlessness was itself a thought, was also a thought. And I laughed because thinking about how thinking about how wanting to return to thoughtlessness was itself a thought, was also a thought, was also a thought. And I laughed because…

I committed myself to killing this self-sustaining, sinister train of thought. I thought maybe, if I could think up a thought which included within the thought an acknowledgement of its own thoughthood, then I would not need to follow it up with the acknowledgment that it had been a thought. The thought series would then terminate. This could work. I resolved to give the idea some thought.


NEXT: 3. The Teleportation Device, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Vote Obama