“THE SHOW ABOUT NOTHING” by SIMON GRAHAM

Doctors categorize me a genius. Apparently I could be a millionaire too if I’d like. That is if I put my mind to something, like playing poker or shorting currencies or solving equations in sparse echoing rooms. At the very least, they say, I should join Mensa and be with the like-minded. Find a partner, a female to whom I can relate. But I don’t see the appeal. I prefer to eat my peanut butter cups and watch my shows. They’re always on, reliable yet forever changing and never boring. I’m a Milanese Casanova for an hour and Capote for the next. Shooting outlaws in the Wild West then slamming gavels on wood grain. Eating truckstop waffles then atop an Olympic podium circa 1968, my right hand clenched to a fist and raised high, my head down. It’s exhilarating just to list all of my lives, let alone live them. I don’t know why anyone would settle for a singular narrative.

Father tells his office buddies that I like TV more than priests like kids. That makes them laugh deep beer belly laughs over ashtrays and coastered glasses in relief that I am his and not theirs. This happens often, the laughing. Usually while Mother is tending to the oven knobs. Their voices carry. From the couch I hear them and see them, sitting on the back porch with their ironed, restless legs and reluctant eyes, and they see me too. Sometimes we make eye contact and the brinkmanship is palpable; the window between us is so meticulously clean that there is a shallow grave of birds in the backyard by the fig tree.

They say television rots the brain. They say there is nothing to learn from it, as if their business journals, financial reviews and webpages exist in a separate Venn diagram. As if the medium is still the message. But it is not so atomized. See, I have chosen the visual but there are the same symbols in all. Like the fact that smoking signals repression and a miniscus near the bottom of a liquor bottle spells impulsive action. That the sine wave of the heart is inevitable but a well-balanced breakfast in a sunroom can be vacuously orgasmic. If you pay close attention, if you’re willing to let them into your heart, the sermons are in plain view. Transitions tell the story, the soundtrack is just hypnosis. Use the mute button if you think it will help you recognise that honesty is a matter of perspective and it’s best to forget past seasons. Family is just a construct. Individuality is ornament. Primetime foretells purgatory, silence is the explanation and real entertainment begins with the credits. It’s a simple life if you take note of the details. Find the patterns and apply them to your trope. Clichés exist for a reason. For example, Mother’s breasts are perfect sand dunes but one day Father will drive down a narrow desert highway, looking for gold and women through sunglasses and she will wait for him to no avail. There is nothing I can do to stop him and I will stay by her side, fulfilling my role, shackled by fear. We are tied to our characters. Our scripts were written before the first day of shooting. Jung was right and I wish I were a eunuch. Listen to the crying newborns, they speak in koans.