The Black Earbuds

Through my shoe I felt a small object curled beneath my left foot’s arch. Lifting it up revealed white earbuds I’d indented into the rug. I leaned down and assessed the damage done. The earphones looked no more withered than they were before impact. Their quality had already dwindled after four years of constant use. As I picked them up, the circular metallic filter attached to the right earbud came undone. Electronic veins and sinews now were half exposed. I pierced my lips with discontent. I’d now need to use the only other set of earbuds I owned, black ones that came with my android phone.

November’s pre-freeze attacked what little flesh I exposed as I entered the alleyway behind my building. A parked hearse belonging to the Jewish funeral home on the corner greeted me. I drew my attention to my ipod and scrolled to the bottom of its main menu, thumbing the center button to select the now blue highlighted “shuffle songs” option. An orgasmic symphony flooded my ears. Each instrument and digitally produced sound was differentiated in volume, bass, and direction. Horns trumpeted from the back. The drums’ bass reverberated from the side. Synthesizers dove in and out. Multiple guitars danced together. These were better quality earphones than the recycled ones I refused to release from my possession. They brought new life to music I thought I already knew. Euphoria rippled through my body, standing my hairs on end, goosebumping my skin, and lightening my heavy head. The sensation was welcomed, especially considering that the past month had been relatively euphoric-less.

Forty minutes and five miles later, I was back where I started, only warmer and drenched in sweat. I walked past the Jewish funeral home and back through my building’s posterior gate.

I opened my laptop, preparing to watch an episode of Oz during my cooldown. The screen lit up and filled with a web browser set to the home page of a dating website. I’d used the site since moving four hundred miles north and found multiple dates through it, but nothing lasting or satisfying. This brought me to wonder if it was the site or me that was flawed. I recalled the statement someone made to me: “You’re a great looking guy. You’re wasting it dude!” That someone had many a catch and, frankly, was exceptionally disgusting in looks and personality. Yet he had a point.

If I were to have a conversation with cupid, I’m sure he’d tell me he’s shot me many times, but I never seem to go down. And, I’m certain he’d tell me there were numerous times where he’s shot someone that I have a definitive romantic fondness for and stirred their interest in me, and I backed away from it.

Harold Perrineau as Augustus Hill began his final monologue in the episode. An image of the insides of a human brain flashed over his voice. I had to close my eyes. Seeing blood through peeled back skin is so deeply disturbing because it reveals just how fragile life is. The laundry list for living and doing it happily is long. We need food, friends, shelter, a brain, connective tissues, blood, blood vessels, a heart, a purpose, a passion, someone to love, someone to love us. With one malfunction, accidental or inflicted, we can drop into the unknown. We are always on the edge of existence and nonexistence, happiness and unhappiness, it’s just never so apparent than when we see the fragile cogs at work. I am acquiring the courage to see what love looks like when the skin is peeled back, though I am still fearful of the love’s fragility. As an intertwining thought, I am also profoundly uneasy about life’s fragility. That contributes to keeping me from more frequent and prolonged moments of euphoria, moments like the one the black earbuds delivered.

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