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October 13, 2020

The Conduit of All Things

John Chrostek

1988. Dawn simmered on cool dim air in Saddle River. Richard Nixon, half-asleep, stumbled down the winding path of his New Jersey home in a white silk robe and pajamas, gut poking out above the pant line. He’s had no coffee seven mornings in a row. Hasn’t needed it. Over yesterday’s lunch of sausages and greens, he’d told Patty not to worry that he’d been disappearing without warning, returning hours later caked in dirt. How do you explain what happens when angels take control of the body? He’d long ago learned to make peace with “being the passenger.” It was not for her to understand, for anyone. There was nothing else to say.

Dew rises, unwitnessed. Trembling, Nixon ventured off the beaten path and deep into the glade, his bare feet shivering through the grass. He was being led into the fishpond clearing. There was no point in resisting. Stepping in, his pajamas swelled with water. Beside his ankles, tadpoles swarmed around the kicked-up mud. Powerless, he looked up to the sky, to the birth of the morning.

His body began to convulse. His arms extended to their fullest wingspan, antenna fingers adjusting to the celestial frequency. Within, his mind flooded with sound and vision: picnics, factories, a magpie by a Montana riverbank, caravans of freighter trucks piercing through desert expanse— Five billion mouths speaking love and violence— Elvis sweating deathless on a stage in Vegas—Fresh blackberry jam on a kitchen counter—The memory of human centuries, the sun, Christ as a ball of fire in the abscess of space eclipsed by a sky-bird’s wings, all in the fathomless eyes of a turtle with infinity sprouting upwards from its shell.

He reexperiences the weight of the Conduit, the gibbering. How infinity’s current feels pressing down upon your shoulders, the oceanic tonnage of all creation within one whose hands move mountains. To open oneself up to the thousand eyes of godhood is to forever afterwards experience the blindness, the abyssal limits of the singular Man. With a long sigh, he returns from the echo of communion to his seat at the throne of his body, the hollow bowl of flesh he once both was and was within.

Standing knee-deep in the cold water, Nixon remembers the picture of a Black college student from Arkansas his governance had killed. The boy was under twenty, smoking reefer in a car. Shot nine times for panicking, turning his ignition. His picture had been one among a thousand he had seen and soon forgotten. But he remembered this one now, in the cool of the water, as if it were his own reflection. Such was the nature of the Sight. The eyes of the angels, now shut to the world, looked forever inwards, haunted by the absence of light, parsing needlessly for meaning in the bloody taste of all things on his mortal tongue.

Richard Nixon, wet and alone in a pond in New Jersey, stumbled homeward. It was almost time for breakfast.