We live together in a museum, she and I, where the artifacts are us. We are like old bits of rock, pressed flowers, tattered letters and cracked pottery. We go to bed as relics among relics, noting each other’s antiquity. Have we any collectors’ value? Not to our offspring, who are future-clad folk. We are stuff in the attic which they sentimentally hesitate to throw away.
Our daughter does something in “high tech” in a sprawling city in a country we didn’t know had been created.
“Did she say it was in Europe …?”
“I thought it was Africa …”
So she has transplanted herself, while our son has trans-formed and trans-ferred himself. “Carried himself across” genders, to be literal. He is a poet. He wrote in a poem that “choices abundant/make genders redundant”. I remember him reciting it at a reading we attended. I’m sure he thinks us redundant too, when he visits for tea and we look at him with faces like those anxiously uncomprehending ancient masks displayed in museums. We are the ancients, but our masks are not the warlike or frightening kind.
He leaves after tea, wearing lady-like clothes which would be unknown to any ladies known to us, such as our elderly female neighbours who wear hiking boots and walk their bulky rescue dogs here-about.
After he leaves we eat a light dinner and watch a classic mystery on television: art imitating antiquated life. At bedtime I lock the door before I join my wife to lie like those dead monarchs who stretch out side by side on slabs in cathedrals. I lock the door of our too-big house but who would steal anything anyway, here in the museum where the artifacts are us?
“Remember when we said ‘never trust anyone over thirty’?” I recently asked my wife. “Now we say never trust anyone under fifty. But the young don’t get the reference …”
“That’s why we don’t trust them.”
“We moulder, but the young too can get nothing but older.”
As I get into bed my wife says, as she does every night, “did you lock the door?”
I reply, as I do every night, “Yes, but there’s nothing to steal but ghosts.”
“It’s the house next door that’s haunted,” she replies. The house next door is a massive new box, a “smart” box which locks its own doors.
“I’d rather turn knobs the old-fashioned way,” say I. “That place is full of robot-zombies, spying refrigerators, talking toasters … a house of horrors.”
“The House of the Walking Algorithms.”
“Do you think our daughter’s fancy new place in that chancy new nation is digitized?”
“Probably. Dare we visit?”
“Well … what with Border Police, figuring out how to get passports online, and how to google flight times and do the digital check-in procedure …”
“So, no then. Will she visit us?”
“After we’re dead, maybe. After someone finds the bodies, mouldering away in the museum.”
“The House of the Lying-Down Dead.”
Turning over to sleep, my wife adds, “the past was but the future turned about, in advance.”
I fall asleep and dream. In my dream the world has turned about, gone upside-down, transferred itself between states and come back crookedly. We wake at dawn, as we always do even though we no longer have jobs to go to.
“Now our job is to take care of each other,” says my wife. “People need to be cared for in their second childhood just as they did in their first. I know! You be my son and I’ll be your daughter: we are mythical children lost in a cobwebby dark museum.”
It made sense. The Muses which preside over museums inform us too. But mythical characters like the Muses once were don’t stay inside roles, they have always crossed over, always trans-ferred their restless searching psyches.
“Okay,” I say, “let’s do that. And sometimes I’ll be your daughter and you’ll be my son.”