“The Truly Existential Vanity of Dave”

In a fit of pique, Dave died. Just to show that he could do it. “This’ll show them,” he didn’t say, because he was dead. Things became much simpler for Dave after that. Not even did he have that classic existential dilemma — “to be or not to be” — because he just wasn’t. And indeed, he would have preferred it that way, had he been (“not existing” being so much less difficult); but he wasn’t, and so this remains a purely hypothetical assertion. Hypothetically, compared to being, Dave would have preferred not being after all. Most of his lived experience had been spent lazing into oblivion, anyway.

The band Dave’d named “Causal Oddity,” flourished in his complete absence. They started having fun again. They started working harder for fun, and practiced, weekly. They were decent at gigs and were actually asked back again, in a few cases. They renamed themselves “Beetles Ex Machina,” which helped, somehow. When Rolando left the band to go be a dad in Indianapolis,* the band started bumming around the Austin, TX area, looking for another frontman.

*to the daughter, who it would later be revealed, was not actually his, but only to her, at age 34, after the death of the man who never knew he was not her father

It all started when Dave thought it would be a cool idea to start a band. He had decided to be a person to whom cool things happened, and this seemed like the best way. He was 17, trying out Parmesan cheese on his Potato Smiles. And he thought, I should start a band. Dave thought he was made off solid gold, and wanted to tell the world about it. According to Dave, the world loved him, because of the shape of his head. (Dave was under the impression that he had remarkably symmetrical bone structure; he would frequently, implicitly, remark on this, much to everyone else’s dismay.) Physiognomically, Dave was last in the line of kings; now, without him, we are only parishioners. But people still talk about Dave, from way back when. There are, preserved on the Internet, several very well-taken photographs in which he is rendered commanding and yet also easy-going.

Fortunately, we have intact Dave’s travelogues from the afterlife. The above may be read as a prologue to them.


My head is full of nitrogen, and there’s no way to unlearn the past: a shimmering tide, full of dead insects. There are too many things to do, and they’re all boring. Where to begin? It wouldn’t even matter. Life has been reduced to a series of motions, which I am mostly unwilling to undertake. I am still, in the summer heat. Even my thoughts are barely more than totally static.

I sleep. It is the profound rest of angels.

I am trying to find a place in myself that is bright, and clean, and safe. I am trying to find a caravan home to open the shutters on — in the afternoon, to open the shutters on a rippling plain in the wind. Tall grass in an aerial tide. From my travels I know, that long past the tall grass, there is a wrinkled coast, where a low, dreamy fog hangs; where seagulls wheel and curse. I’m too far away to see it, but I can hear it my hand, if I cup my hand to my ear. I exasperate a petal of smoke, and look balefully out into the night. There is the red smudge of my cigarette, and blackness. And what is in the blackness. And what we’ve only grown accustomed to not seeing. I feel the nicotine, and the capillary action in my fingertips. I feel myself surrounded by energy; made up of it, even. The Pleides shines overhead — for those who know its name and shape — meaning what it means, for those who it means it to, (myself disincluded, having only looked it up on the dictionary app once and forgetting soon after, it not being a word of great utility to me).

I am trying to find a place in myself that is bright, and clean, and safe. Warm, and dry. I’m trying to find home. And no such place exists. And I know this. Or I know that if it does exist, I’m already there. But my soul is not from here. It’s from somewhere else, and estranged from that, in an alien world, it longs to go home. It foresees the afterlife. It remembers the world as it will have been, and as one.

In some long-heralded hereafter, the dead are intuited to reminisce at the open mic. They brought a tape recorder. In the kitchen, the kitchen spirit is heard in the clattering aluminum cooking ware and clicking heat elements, and the boiling water. There is a wet cutting board with a display of tropical charcuterie. The display is still being put together, and is missing certain vegetable elements, which are still in the process of being added. Out in the dining hall: a cattle skull with a third eye hangs from the wall. The skull consists mostly in basic polygons, but special attention has been paid to the horns, where they flume like water — up, up. The cow is ornately dead. No? Not good enough? Let’s try another afterworld, then.

In a glade lambent with twilit shadows, an imaginary man began to gently argue with an imaginary woman. And at no point did anyone say, “Hey you guys — cool it; this is out here in nature, which is communal. See those little storm gods over there whispering to one another on a log? They are whispering about YOU. Have some decency.” No one said that. It was all imaginary. So is the world of the afterlife, confined to the realm of memory, dream, and imagination. It exists as a dream, or a memory.

What if we all remember an afterlife from before we were born, like in the Phaedo. They would be recollections of some other place, and why people of many cultures imagine the same gods, conceive off the same animisms, compute the same basic arithmetic, and dream of the same life after death — because in brief glimpses, they remember it from somewhere else, from some other place. That’s the spiel. Some ultimate plane, beyond the dimensions of history. Being-in-eternity, in whatever form it may take. Meaningless words of power of equal meaninglessness. The impulse to merchandise human remains as the body of Christ, as an amulet of protection, as a talisman.