Schrödinger’s Parrot by Marc Alexander Valle

Schrödinger’s Parrot

by Marc Alexander Valle

I jumped for the tether-ball pole and grabbed hold of it. I was safe, and I could catch my breath. I looked around the playground to see if anyone else saw how quickly I dodged Calvin.  I turned to him and said, “I’m safe. Safe zone.”

And Calvin said, “You’re fast.”

And I said, “My dad ran track.”

And he said, “I couldn’t catch you. You’re fast.”

And I said, “Thanks.”

And he said, “Want to keep going?”

And I said, “Yeah.”

And he said, “Then you’re it. I’m fast too.”

And I said, “You know when we die, we can see everything. Like anything you want to know and you can see it.”

And he said, “You’re weird.”

And I said, “No, I’m not.”

And he said, “That’s weird.”

And I said, “No, it’s not.”

And he said, “I don’t want to die.”

And I said, “Me neither.”

And he said, “That’s weird.”

And I said, “Are you gonna tell anyone I said?”

He looked away for a second. Then turned to the hopscotch girls. They played their game, a game I never understood. For all I knew, they were just randomly jumping and making up rules as they went along. I looked at a group of three kids, standing by the school entrance. They were always standing there at recess. Just standing and talking. Maybe I should have hung with them instead. 

And he said, “I’m gonna play hopscotch.”

And I said, “With the girls?”

And he said, “So?”

And I said, “I was just saying.”

And he said, “So what?”

And I said, “Are you mad?”

And he said, “No.”

And I said, “You gonna tell them?”

And he said, “No.”

He turned and walked away. I watched him as he walked up to the hopscotch girls. I turned and walked towards Gus, sitting on the bench by himself. 

And I said, “Hey.” 

And Gus said, “Hey.”

And I said, “Calvin’s mad.”

And he said, “What happened?”

And I said, “I don’t know.”

And he said, “Why?”

And I said, “I don’t know.”

And he said, “What’d you do?”

And I said, “I don’t know.”

And he said, “What happened?”

I turned back and looked at Calvin and the hopscotch girls. He just stood there and watched them. I waited for him to say something. But he did nothing. 

And I said, “I said that when we die, God is so strong that he shows us everything and whatever we want to know. Like math class and stuff.”

And he said, “Yeah?”

And I said, “I’m not good at math.”

And he said, “But he’s mad?”

And I said, “Yeah.”

Gus looked away and towards the ground. I thought he might ask me another question. A question that would lead to a question and lead to him taking Calvin’s side. The side of the hopscotch girls. The side of the entire school. The side of everyone. The side of the world. 

And Gus said, “That’s weird”

So I said, “That’s what I said.”  

The Straggler: A Poem by Marc Alexander Valle

The Straggler

People will tell you things.

All you have to do is do something and they’ll have an opinion. Sometimes all you have to do is exist in order to hear the word ‘should’, and other times two or more people will tell you to do the opposite thing and you’ll end up without a clue.

My favorite is when they say, “Do this and that and that and this, but don’t listen to me. Just do you.”

Just do you. I heard that the other day in a soda commercial and it almost made me stop buying the soda. Almost. 

People need people. It’s how we learn to walk and sometimes it’s how we learn to die. I listened to other people so much at one point that I jammed all the channels to my gut, and I did nothing with myself except eat, sleep, and breath. 

People need people. What a beautiful concept and debilitating nightmare. 

We are abandoned creatures on the side of the Road of Answers and a darkening forest resides on both sides. We walk on all four legs, waiting to hitch a ride, but paws have no thumbs. 

The passing cars keep moving, and it keeps getting dark and cold and the woods are making noises that I’ve never heard before. I see another creature ahead, but it’s too far. I see another creature behind, waddling like it’s wounded. I see a firelight on my right through the brush and trees, and I hear something making a grunt and a growl in the distant woods to my left. I’ll wait up for the straggler behind. He or she seems nice. We’ll ask to join the fire together. It’s always better to get rejected in larger numbers. You never know what someone will tell you. 

by Marc Alexander Valle

I WAS SOCIAL DISTANCING BEFORE IT WAS THE NORM

     I’ve lived half a lifetime trying to get out of social distancing, and now I’m back at it again. “I tried to get out,” Michael Corleone says, “but they pull me back in!” Throughout my teens and twenties, I had few friends and no romantic interests. I could get along with and work with co-workers and classmates, and I could even manage a few phone friends, but for the most part, I’ve spent a lot of time feeling alone and with no one to talk to.  Like Kate Moss was the definitive model of Calvin Kline when Calvins were cool, I was the definitive model for social distancing when ‘cool’ and ‘social distancing’ weren’t even in the same sentence. 

     In middle school, I thought high school would be like the Saturday morning TV show, Saved by the Bell. I thought that I’d have a cool group of friends, and we’d get into adventures. Any American sit-com was my oracle on countless aspects of life, but this particular high school fantasy wrapped itself around my mind like nothing else. Every year, I thought I’d finally be cool, I’d finally reach Zack Morris level of infamy and coolness. I would try to make friends and sometimes we’d hang out. I even tried to get a girlfriend by giving her flowers, but by senior year I was sitting at the lunch table by myself, reading books and writing screenplays by hand. If they weren’t going to love me in high school, they were going to see my movies in a few years. 

     Not much changed after high school. I met people at community college and got along with everyone at the 4-year college that I attended, but I never got into a clique. I was never really comfortable with that. I thought that only through a group of friends could life have purpose. I dropped out of college by the second year. If they weren’t going to love me in college, they were going to love me somewhere else. Somehow.     

     For the next decade, I built myself up. I went to karaoke at least twice a week, I wrote poetry just to perform it at open mic, and I found a friend or two that I got close to. By my 30s, I started to talk to therapists and soon I started a real dating life with real relationships, not just a patchwork of dates and phone conversations. Over those years, I kept writing and experimenting with writing. I began practicing meditation. By my late 30s, I felt just as confident about myself as a person as I felt as a writer. “I am not weird and never have been,” I could finally tell myself. And it felt good. 

     I think about why it was like that all those years ago. Was I really just an introvert that was afflicted with shyness? Was it just the cliquey nature of Lehigh Valley Pennsylvanians? Was I just too nice in a world where that’s looked down upon? It’s probably a mixture of everything, but I’m grateful for it. I have inner emotional resources that many do not have. 

     I told myself that I could handle this, that I could be isolated as long as this goes on, that I could dip my toes inside my old self while maintaining my newer, happier self. After a few days of this shut it, things got funny. I needed to talk to someone, even if it was just small talk. I’m not alone in my home. I have people to talk to. I even have people that I can call and talk to here and there. But it’s not the same. It’s not the same as my job, working with kids that say ‘hello’ to me in the halls.  It’s not the same as attending my writer’s group and sharing ideas. It’s not the same as going to an open mic and reading what I’ve put my heart into. I tried to get out, but they pulled me back in. 

     I feel that things will get interesting these next few weeks. There’s so much more that I want to say about my predictions and deeper thoughts that I have. I’ll save that for later. I just want to say that I hope this makes us appreciate each other more. We need to start valuing human life more than “likes”. Relationships are and always have been the only real currency that matters.

     Good luck, World. Rich or poor, many of us are now in the same boat. And it’s that thought that reminds me that I’m not alone as I was all those years ago.  

Letter to the Like-Minded Souls by Marc Alexander Valle

Comments and feedback are welcome. 

Letter to the Like-Minded Souls

by Marc Alexander Valle

Dear Like-Minded Soul,

Perception is a wave, threatening to crush the shores of anything and everything you feel inside and think you know. 

I’m talking about their perception. And yours and mine. But mostly theirs. The people are scared. They’re uncomfortable, and it will not be accepted. 

The advice, the suggestions, the offhand comments, the superstitions, the hungry mob, the fanatical religion, the authoritarian government, your parents, wanting you to be a doctor or lawyer or x-ray technician. 

How can we ever just be when the belief that “we just are who we are” is a landlocked sea with dozens of tributaries? 

The salty, the fresh, the toxic, the mother, the friend, the father, the sister, the brother, the pastor, the teacher, the teammate, the lover.   

Was there ever a place?

We built forts of pillows to fight them off, didn’t we? 

And we flew off into space, didn’t we?

I’m at an age where I’m halfway there, the day that I don’t care what anyone thinks and how they see me, and I think to myself that when I get there it’ll be okay, Shangri-la, high above the waves.

But why so long?

Why so close to the end, if in fact there is a mountain sanctuary?

The people are uncomfortable. And they’re comfortable with their discomfort. And it rattles me. 

There’s nothing to do but to step forward and find 

your family, your people, the dreamers, your kind.  

And hold on as long as you can. But never too tight.

The hungry mob were once dreamers too.