There are walls within walls here and my fingers clutch at the hardened skin. It is not like an onion, I say to myself, it is more like bark that protects the tree and at the core reveals a soft life. I peel back and push towards the center, slowly at first and then quickly to the center, growing weary at times, but an urgency pushing me where things will make sense and where the underlying natural order of all things consensual, humane and rational will surface. Just push back the sticky web of things that have stunted movement as if the web hung above my head interfering between me and the forward push into a calculated darkness. The spider’s head contains a big grin that leads me down the rabbit hole. I fall, paws to the ground, I claw and dig cold, wet dirt, and then gaping spaces where things fall endlessly into emptiness, into the unremembered.
In sociology class everything points to things being broken. If we were studying the body of society in its wholeness and balance, Guatemala – brain, body, lungs, stomach – in its state of decomposition and fragmented into a pool of blood, water, cells and organisms competing for mutual survival, would be a patient stretched out on cold metal in ER. Winning would be the entire self surviving, but the zero sum game survival here is piecemeal and the parts win individually if everything else loses. The part only knows its only winning and the whole doesn’t exist outside its borders. Survival is in isolating the damage.
I hit metal when I dig. I tell my professor this. He waits patiently. People have gone crazy this way, he tells me. Since a completely rational society is inevitable and bureaucracy is the most rational form of societal management, we close the door on our own iron cage. Worse still the cage disappears and is inside of us. More metal. But it’s of our own choosing. We have the most democratically-elected cage. It is a tall cage with many bars, I ask if its the same cage for all of us. Silence. My classmates’ cages must be more colorful than mine. I am looking for the ground now. He waits, arms crossed in front of him, at the front of the room.
What if the door was already closed when we got there? I ask. That’s not choosing. It’s a societal contract, he says. The empty bureaucracies that no one understands that is the most rational form of societal management, actions that are simply done from the rote memorization of one’s role in society? What if those actions were completely devoid of meaning, whatever shred of meaning having vanished in its own mechanizations, emptied of content and the players stopped believing in it long ago? Fijese seño that’s just the way things are done, its policy. It’s not a cage, it’s a castle. There are long corridors. Our stability hangs on the ballots in November. We are close to going back to war, he says. His mouth is a thin straight line now.
The walls are hard black metal that disappears into the night. How can we be that close to being the way we were? The bottom of the cage is the sinkhole that stares back at me, the one that swallowed up the three-story building, the taxi, the poor man making the call at the payphone. At night the hole stares up towards the stars – a mouth, a wound, a wormhole, an open dried up vein.