Friday, November 25, 2011
The Last Days of Socrates
I am not at all sure where this one came from. Possibly it's pilfered from my brother's high school books. Possibly it was a textbook in a course at some point. Possibly I purchased it because it had one dialogue or other I did not have formerly. It does have some green highlighting in it, which might argue towards it having belonged to my brother, several of whose high school books contain such highlighting. But there's no way of knowing for sure, is there?
All of which leaves me searching for a subject this morning. Perhaps there is no subject, just the blank wall that is my memory concerning this book. What kind of wall is it?
Let's say it's an old plaster wall with long cracks running this way and that in diagonals across the surface. Some of the cracks have begun to flake, leaving beneath the dull, eggshell-white paint pocks and divots of exposed plaster. Motes of plaster dust loosen and fall to the floor or cling to the wall on the way down. Some make their way into unsuspecting lungs, either directly or through the more circuitous route of first entering the heating ducts and then being blown airborne into the moist, palpitating cavity.
Perhaps they cause a one to cough. Perhaps the cough brings the mote or motes up in a gobbet of phlegm spat into a toilet. Perhaps the toilet is flushed and the gobbet containing the mote works its way through a combination of replacement PVC and cracked, rusted, cast-iron waste pipes down through the basement floor and out to the public sewer system, where the rain water mixes with the feculent flushes of a million other toilets on its journey towards the sea.
If it has not dissolved by now, our little mote inside our little gobbet now finds it self spinning and churning in a great vat housed in a large, nondescript, concrete structure. Chemicals of all kinds are added to suss out whatever unspoiled water is left. Impurities, our mote included, get sifted into an adjacent waterway, say the Niagara river, which is quite cold this time of year. A mile or so on the swift current becomes event swifter, and our little mote finds itself cresting and foaming over outcroppings of rock before suddenly making a death dive down the great wall of Niagara Falls.
There, it nearly escapes the trap of the downward force, which might have held it there for eternity, and escapes into the current, racing towards Lake Ontario. It scrapes along the bottom of the Maid of the Mist, but the current keeps it from clinging for very long. A great churning begins, much like the sewage vat, only this time it's a great natural whirlpool that sends the mote careening through a canyoned passage to its final destination, the Great Lake!