Illustration by LeUyen Pham
Excerpted from the 826 Valencia Quarterly, volume 20…
There was this place, kinda far from where I lived, but I could skateboard there within half an hour. It was the absolutely stunning abandoned pipe yard. It had luscious, bright green grass growing everywhere, with all these mutated and amazing plants and flowers. There was an electric blue rosebush that towered over me, deep purple and burgundy vines that wound through the pipes and sprouted vibrantly pink flowers, a combination of lilacs and daisies. Everything in this pipe yard was mutated, and I couldn’t figure out why. So, one day, I skated off at six in the morning to find out how everything was so evolved. I arrived at the pipe yard at seven in the morning, due to how tired I was, and I began to explore the seemingly infinite and beautiful array of rusty pipes and oddly mutated plant life. I searched deep into the pipes and far into the day, having to stop at twelve in the afternoon to eat the lunch that I had hastily stuffed into my backpack. I scaled up a pile of pipes and sat amongst some rainbow lilacs, all which smelled ten times better than my mutilated and squashed peanut butter and jelly sandwich. As I began to unwrap the wax from my sandwich—which was probably soaked in iced coffee from my spill that morning—something in the far distance of the pipe yard caught my eye. Sitting atop the rusty pipe, I realized that I hadn’t even explored two-thirds of the yard, but I determined that the silver object in the distance was my next exploration. I quickly devoured my sandwich, briefly checking my phone to see if my brother had said anything about my disappearance, which he hadn’t. I shoved my leftovers into my bag and picked up my skateboard, carefully climbing down from my perch and beginning to trudge through the tall grass to try and estimate where the silver object was, and then find it.
It was incredibly beautiful and twistedly poetic, the fact that some android’s death could cause the mutated beautiful to spring up around it, even if I hadn’t figured out how quite yet. I could guess it had run off of something nuclear, radioactive, or possibly both, which had seeped into the ground and caused the glorious plant life to change and morph along with whatever the substance was. I took a hesitant step closer to the still robot, slowly shuffling closer until I was bumping right up against the silver exterior, the rubber toe of my shoes barely making a noise as it scraped across the frozen metal. I sat down by its stomach, my eyes slowly rolling down the elegantly ruined body, more imperfections and flaws coming into view the longer I stared. As minutes passed by and the sky began to darken, I finally realized why I was still there, why my eyes hadn’t gotten bored of the metalwork in front of me.
It was because that robot had reminded me of myself, my own reality and the problems with my feeling of isolation, my own metaphorically ripped-out heart. Brendan, my older, movie-directing brother, was almost never around, sometimes I saw him a day, maybe a week at most in between months at a time, once even a year without seeing him in person, only as a face on the movie screen. I thought that I had actually learned to cope with being alone so often, staring at this near-perfect, dead android in front of me, I finally realized that I had never actually learned to cope with it, I had just shoved the loneliness I felt aside in my mind. And now, I realized something else, as I had been staring at the metal in front of me continuously. I wanted the robot, partly because I somehow felt bad and guilty for its suicide, but partly to save my own lonely existence.
Event info here: Saturday, Oct 18, 7:15 – 8:15 p.m. in the Writing Lab at 826 Valencia.