The Nonexistent

A piece of popcorn got stuck in my gums. When did this happen? I ate popcorn a few nights ago, that must have been when. But what if it wasn't? How long can one of those flat kernel shells parade as a tooth, rammed deep into the space between the actual tooth and the gum-line? Weeks? Months? What if this was a piece of popcorn from my last trip to the zoo in 1990? Yuck.

I rubbed the gum with my tongue. It felt...strange. I rubbed again, a little protrusion that promised to annoy. My tongue flitted against it, stroked it, slid beside it. Change the subject, I told myself. Think about something else. I turned on the television, an old 19 inch Magnavox which could only receive the first thirty-three cable channels; the worst ones really. The Local News – A defense attorney for Citibank was explaining why his client's lending practices did not make them cul


Three kids and a bottle of Sunny


Air, more air, massive air, the motor-cross bike floated fifty feet high and its rider jumped off, spun around, grabbed his machine and the ground came to meet him, a soft cushion of feathers, not the stone edifice you might expect. I want to know how they do it. Not how they do it, per se, but how did they do it the first time? Ride up a hill at 70 mph to leap into the air with 300 pounds of metal underneath you? How do you do that for the first time? My tongue wasn't paying attention, I noticed. It had been sneaking over to my dorsal tooth behind my back. I pulled it away.


“Jesus knows what you want. He's watching over you Brothers and Sisters. He knows what's in your hearts. Sin. That's Right! Sin. I'll say it again. Sin. But you are sinful. The son of our lord will help you from your sin. He will forgive you if you repent.” My tongue is me. I am Jesus. It keeps rubbing and stroking. Maybe I should get a tooth pick, take away the temptation.


Television black, quiet. I rummage for a toothpick in my junk drawer. Did I buy a pack of toothpicks? Ever? Maybe not. Good. Who said that? Not good, bad. Maybe? This is a strange internal dialog. Am I talking to myself? Is my tongue talking to me? Am I going crazy over a piece of popcorn? I'm going to bed, that's where I'm going.

Clean sheets, aren't they the best? Better if you happen to be laying on a 750 thread count, but these are good enough. Smooth, unbinding cloth enfolds me, a cocoon, a womb, a body wrap all my own. Sleep come, take me to that other soft place of dreams and fantasy. Breathe deep, slow, methodical, with purpose. Yes, that's it.

I believe in a moment, just before we pass into the unconsciousness of sleep, in which our minds float in the air, no gravity. A little like an out of body experience, this moment moves us from the weighty categories of the body to the ephemeral qualities of the soul. I am there now, perched atop nothing, neither supported nor forgotten. Such gratification in this place, such peace. Flick. Flick. Flick.

And it would be my tongue that brings me back, takes from me this liquid place to face a solid shell. Will I get no rest? No moment of peace? No. The foundation has been laid, the course set, the object defined. Go. Giving over to this oral infiltration brought a half grin to my lips, and my tongue revealed some as yet unevoked passion for rubbing teeth. Suddenly focused on this tightly defined spot, 2nd tooth from the back on the left hand side, I came fully alive. I am inspired by this dental interloper, invading my space, upsetting my equilibrium. Something about its mere presence as an object that should not be, or should not be where it is, awakes in me a longing to know that which should not be, but not just know it as a thing (a piece of popcorn), but understand it as a cosmological object.

My tongue pries it away from the tooth, toward the gum. A cavity opens, a concave disjuncture. Any moment the kernel might pop; out of its wedged fortress; into my innervated mouth; from cosmology to trash. I stop flitting with the invader. But I can't stop. Tongue pushes it up against my tooth, like a cap or a filling. Smooth again, it's supposed to be there; it's just not supposed to be. But it's also not supposed to be there at all, and this is what drives me (to caress it, notice it, find in it something mystical).

Oh, I'm so close. It's so close. So close to removal from it's unintended home. I am ready, this thing needs to go. Free me from this fixation, this obsession, this wildly hysterical attachment. A thumb, a fingernail search out the infested site. Can't locate it. Follow the tongue touch. Tongue feels it, finger searches, misses. Again, second from the back. Tongue, fingernail. There. Right there.

Loosened by the digital appendage, the object now responds willingly to the drive for removal. My tongue slides along its surface, moving it outward, upward. The shell reaches the edge, a precipice, a plateau, a point of transition. It hangs there, wanting and not wanting to leave. Tongue too pauses, wanting and not wanting it gone. But then, like floodgates opening, like an explosion, like buddhist detachment, it breaks free from the space it should not occupy. Saliva fills the emptiness. Relax. Breathe. Relief. What does it look like?

Tongue searches for the invader. Can't feel it. Rub teeth, front side top, backside bottom, front back top bottom. Where did it go? It's not here in my mouth. It's not outside my mouth. I didn't swallow it, I'm sure. More searching, maybe it got stuck in some other oral crevice. No. Nothing. Roof of mouth, under tongue. Not there.

Where did my object go? Was it ever there? What happened?

I rest my head on my pillow and wonder how such a disappearing act happens. And I long for the nonexistent object. My tongue glides over the place it once invaded, no trace of it's having been there. No trace, but a memory. A memory of what exactly? Can the nonexistent be remembered?

My eyes close and my mind floats, hovering in hypnogogery.

Here I am not either.

Postscript For the Nonexistent

Call it a conjunctive synthesis, but I was reading a book called The Exploit by Alexander Galloway and Eugene Thacker while trying to get a piece of popcorn from my gums, which for some unexplained reason made me think of you, dear reader. Then a few pages later, I came across a section of the book entitled Tactics of Nonexistence. Since you're the only person I know who doesn't exist, I thought you might want some tactical insight. Galloway and Thacker state:

“Nonexistence is nonexistence not because it is an absence, or because it is not visible, but precisely because it is full. Or rather, because it permeates. That which permeates is not arbitrary, and not totalizing, but tactical...Allowing to be measured now and again for false behaviors, thereby attracting incongruent and ineffective control responses, can't hurt. A driven exodus or a pointless desertion are equally virtuous in the quest for nonexistence...The nonexistent is that which cannot be cast into any available data types. The nonexistent is that which cannot be parsed by any available algorithms. This is not nihilism; it is the purest form of love” (136-7).

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