Sunday, January 12, 2014

'Chicagoland' Excerpt: Nothing in Common

One reason Dominik and I got along so well was we had nothing in common. That’s not what it sounds like. We had plenty in common, and one of those things was Nothing. Not the Seinfeld nothing, meaning a certain empty pointlessness, but literally nothingness itself, the word nothing, and everything that stems from it.

Nothing is a funny word. Nothing is better, but there’s nothing worse, and there’s nothing like it in all the word. In the immortal words of Queen, “Nothing really matters.” You may whisper sweet nothings at the start of a relationship or be left with nothing when a bridge is burned. Even when you’re bored, you still have nothing to do, even when hungry, you have nothing to eat. And yet, despite its prevalence, it’s nearly impossible to think about nothing at all.

“I want to have a website that sells nothing,” said Dominik.

“Most websites don’t sell anything.”

“No, not just not anything. I want it to sell things, but all of those things are nothing. People will buy it out of perversity.”

“I don’t think credit card processors like empty transactions. And I don’t see even perverse people giving money away.”

“Okay, we’ll sell them something, but they’ll all be representations of nothing. A scribble. A picture of rust.”

“The number zero?”

“No, I’m pretty sure zero is actually something. But anyway, people will meditate on these things that have no inherent value, and in that meditation, they’ll actually discover the truth in the emptiness.”

“So like matter and antimatter particles that pop in and out of the void of space, appearing and disappearing and leaving everything essentially unchanged, but something really happened?”

“Yes! A picture of a particle and antiparticle is a good image; it’s two contradictory opposites, so it’s nothing. They can meditate on that one, too. Like giving someone silence, or space, they’ll produce from within themselves things to fill the void.”

“So when we sell them nothing, what we’re really doing is giving them themselves.”

“Absolutely. That will be our slogan, ‘Selling You Yourself.’ I like it.”

That’s how it went. We compiled a list of thirty or forty different logic-bending ways of using nothing in a sentence, as if it were a sentient agent. For example, when I told Camille I’d rather have her than Nothing, did Nothing’s feelings get hurt?

We collected visual representations. We constructed textual meditations on nothing, the void, emptiness, mu, and the like. Each time we got together, we’d add to the growing collection, bend our minds a little further, and laugh.

In the end, we didn’t get anywhere. It should have been obvious from the beginning that Nothing would come of the idea.

This was an excerpt from Chicagoland. The complete novel is Kindle format through Amazon.