The Sequence of Kai
Click. Click. Click
The record has run its course, the music has stopped playing. All that’s left is the surface noise, the hollow sound of a record player trying to produce something that isn’t there. The only thing it can muster is those clicks.
Click. Another click.
Paul stands up from his desk. He always notices the music is gone after the fifth click, never a moment sooner. That’s because he’s barely listening to the music, it’s just background noise for him to write to, he can only be aware of its absence.
The needle clicks three more times before he reaches it.
He takes the needle off by the eighth click, a click faster than usual. He flips the record, drops the needle and returns himself to his desk. His routine is so set that he didn’t even think to ask me to flip it for him, even though I’m closer to the player.
The record in question today is Queen’s It’s a Kind of Magic. My Dad was a fan of their’s when he was alive. I was a fan when he was alive too. Not so much now.
~There’s no time for us~
The B side is starting with a fairly epic tone, a stark contrast to how the A side ended, a cheesy number about friends.
~There’s no place for us~
It isn’t my first time hearing this album but I’m more familiar with it as filtered through concrete walls by now. The lyrics being audible is a surreal, nostalgic experience.
~What is this thing that builds our dreams, yet slips away from us~
I take a look over at Paul. He’s as engrossed in writing in his little book as he ever is but right now, he’s relieved his left hand from his body, allowing it to tap lightly on his heavy desk to the beat of the song.
~Who wants to live forever~
~Who wants t-
I flick the needle up off the record to stop it. I considered yanking out the cord but that wouldn’t have been quick enough, it would’ve left it with enough residual power to squeak out the end of that line.
“Kai, would you mind putting that back on please.”
Neither his pen nor his eyes lift from the page but his left hand has frozen mid tap, index finger glued to the oak, the middle suspended by a string.
“Something about it bother you?”
“It’s a stupid question don’t you think? Who wants to live forever, it’s a pointless query.”
His pen stops for a split second, I wouldn’t have noticed if I wasn’t looking for it. He can probably tell that I’m itching for an argument.
“The only pointless query is one that doesn’t have any worthwhile answers.”
“You think this one does?”
“I know what my answer would be. I’m pretty sure I know yours too.”
“Then what are they?”
“I don’t think either of us is too enthralled by the idea.”
“You think that’s an answer worth giving?”
The pen in his right hand comes to a halt, for the first time in months, I’ve said something that interests him enough to look at me.
“I’ll humour you, Kai, why do you think it’s not?”
“There are no worthwhile answers when it comes to impossible desires.”
“It’s not impossible anymore, you’re exhibit A.”
“Living forever may be possible but it’s still an impossible desire. It’s not something to aspire to.”
Paul doesn’t say anything, merely raising an eyebrow that says I should continue. I take the record from the record player and throw it up in the air.
“Imagine you had a record that had the potential to be infinite, if you could find a way to play it forever, it would never run out of new music to play for you.”
I catch the record just before it hits the ground. That makes Paul flinch a bit. I balance it on my index finger and give it a light spin before continuing.
“That’s just potential, isn’t it? You still need it to actually play forever for that to mean anything.”
I hover one of my nails just above the spinning record to imitate the needle of a player.
“You need to put it on something that will spin indefinitely, make sure it can’t be removed. Always have a needle on it so that it does in fact play. Both the player and the record need to be unbreakable also. Both the world and the individual.”
The record slowly comes to a stop, falling off my finger and cracking on the floor. I step on it to illustrate my point.
“You’re paying for that.”
“If you don’t have all of those things, it’s inevitable that the record will stop playing one day and from that point forward, it will become something that only had the potential once to be infinite. Nothing really is until after the fact.”
I pick up the shards of record from the floor and crush them further in my hand, being careful to not cut myself and hurt Paul as I do.
“This potentially infinite record, its relationship to a truly infinite record is much like the one my admirers have with me, much as they might want to think otherwise. They are records that have the potential to play forever, but eternity never ends, they’ll keep spinning in fear of their equal potential to die. I cannot die. I have no potential; I’ll spin whether I want to or not.”
I drop the minuscule pieces of record back to the ground.
“That’s the problem with these types of questions Paul. We can’t hope to ask questions of God, only the records he decides to spin. When one must eventually stop spinning, why bother asking if it wants to keep spinning forever? And if there was someone forced to live forever, why bother asking them if they want to die?”
Paul brings his hands together in front of his mouth to obscure it. For a couple of moments, he considers what he’s going to say with a furrowed brow.
“Are you still unhappy Kai?”
“What does that have to do with what I just said?”
“Let me turn the question back on you, do you want to live forever, Kai?”
“I have to.”
“But do you want to?”
“…. What’s your point? If I told you no, is there anything you could do about it? Anything anyone could do about it?”
“Neither of us are happy people Kai but we both know other people who were…. There are two answers to this question, what are they?”
“That you want to live forever or don’t.”
“Exactly, but for a second consider this. You are unhappy. Is it that you don’t want to live or is it that you want to die right now?”
I can’t give him an answer because the truth is I don’t know. I don’t have a choice so it’s not something I’ve thought about before.
“There’s a lot of nuance to be found if you don’t dismiss these things out of hand Kai. There are hopeful and dire outlooks no matter the answer. Do you want to live forever? Yes, perhaps, if you’ve yet to find something to live for, you just need the time to find it. No, perhaps, if you’ve yet to find something to live for, you’re never going to find it because that something doesn’t exist.”
Paul returns his attention to his book, picking up the pen and continuing his writing from where he left off.
“So, I ask you again Kai, are you unhappy?”
“I probably am.”
“So do you want to live forever?”
“I don’t want to live forever; I’d rather die right now.”
“And why is that?”
“Because I don’t want to be the girl a millennium from now who has forgotten who she was, trying to remember why she wanted to die in the first place.”
“Probably, she says.”
He chuckles to himself lightly.
“So why isn’t that pointless? I know I’m unhappy now, is that the point? I knew that before; I just didn’t want to say it.”
“Why didn’t you want to say it?”
“It’s because you haven’t given up on being happy yet, you can’t, can you? I don’t envy that. I gave up on it long ago but at least I have the solace of knowing when my pen runs out of ink, I can stop writing.”
He stops writing for a moment and looks up at me.
“You should focus on that Kai, if there’s still an avenue for you to be happy, you have forever to find it.”
His hand returns to the page. I have nothing to say to him. I don’t want to be happy. I don’t deserve it. I stand there for an age in silence.
The thought does occur to me….. Wouldn’t it be nice to be someone who wants to be happy? Wouldn’t it be easier?
It’s such a weak wish, to want to want something, even so, it’s not a wish I deserve.
“Why would you say all that to me? What was the point? You could’ve just said it was pointless, couldn’t you? You’re unhappy too, you don’t see a way past that either, but you still mustered some bullshit defence of a meaningless question…. For what?”
“Because it’s only natural to want to see others be happy right? The ones we love? We know how hard it is to be unhappy, we wouldn’t want to wish that on those close to us.”
“And you want me to be happy?”
“Not for your own sake, I’m not too fond of you as a person Kai, you know that. But for some reason, my daughter is. If you’re going to be around her for any amount of time, I’d prefer if you were happy. She’s loved too many unhappy people up until now.”
“You want me to be happy… for Trish’s sake?”
“Of course. Have you ever tried making someone else happy when you yourself are not? It’s very hard, case in point, the conversation you and I are having right now. I’m not convinced either of us will walk away from it more fulfilled than we were beforehand.”
He dips his drying quill into his ink once more,
“But maybe the next person to ask you a stupid question will be happy.”