The bacon sizzled. The eggs bubbled. He screamed as his finger grazed the side of frying pan. The saliva in his mouth soothed the wound as his magnificent breakfast began to blacken.
“Ah, fuck!” he cried, grabbing a mitt and moving the pan off to the side.
“Jordan, language!” his wife crowed. He rolled his eyes.
He set the table with plastic plates and cups, frayed at the edges from the Doberman they had adopted a few years ago. Maggie sat down next to him looking grumpy in her loose white nightgown.
“How did you sleep last night?” she asked. He shrugged, shoveling his food into his mouth with fervor. Then with a swig of orange juice and a quick swipe to grab his jacket, he was out the door for the day.
I really liked watching him. I found something about him to be very curious. He seemed so very lonely, yet he offered nothing more than a cold shoulder to everyone around him – his family, his parents, even his co-workers. The only people he could manage a smile around were his friends. And usually this was over several six packs of beer.
I moved on with curiosity to his neighbor’s house: Anna. Anna was a sweet older lady, divorced and living on her own. She sang songs to herself in the morning while she cleaned up the already-immaculate house and waited for a phone call from one of her children. She spent her afternoons reading the bible and attended every activity her church provided. Despite her devotion, she still received countless looks of disapproval from her colleagues in Jesus, still got overlooked for all holiday invitations, and still sat lonely and afraid every night as she curled up in her bed with high hopes that the locks would hold this time.
And then there was Anthony, the neighbor across the street. He was my favorite – not because he did anything particularly interesting, but because he lived life so simply. His wife was one of us, although he didn’t know it. Nobody knew who we were. It was like watching True Lies play out in reality. It was hard not to feel sorry for him, but at the same time, he had landed a wife who was, quite literally, one in a million. Not many of us got married and when we did it was usually to each other. It was difficult to find a regular human being who could “get” us – especially in first-world countries. We simply deviated too far from standard societal values.
I suppose I should explain who we are. Who I am. We really aren’t anything special, though we are often described as “saints”, “heros”, and “saviors” to those who misinterpret our aim. It’s quite dangerous, actually, the way humans obsess over us. Some of us have been stalked, others have had to rescue the weaker humans from committing suicide in front of our faces.
It hasn’t been pleasant.
But that’s exactly the thing: we reject the ‘unpleasant’. We see ourselves as collectors of experience; inhabitants of bodies that feel. The humans spend so much time applying judgments to every aspect of life; for us, everything just… is.
Don’t get me wrong, we are human in the very same way as everyone else – we feel pain, heartache, anger, pleasure, excitement… the sensations of life are equally present for us. We just interpret them differently. Or not at all.
And so we call ourselves Exponents. We spend our days living and learning while observing humanity and its attempt to capture and control the world around them. We walk seamlessly among humans, unrecognized and unleveraged. We slip in and out of lives like ghosts, serving only our needs and seeking nothing other than peace. Our entire lives are in our control from the moment we are born to the moment when we decide to die. We can suffer excruciating pain without giving up the ghost. For us, dying is not a result of non-functioning body; it is a choice.
A choice which my friend Gregg finally made a few days earlier. I don’t know how one comes to the conclusion that it is time to die – perhaps because I have not been there yet – but it’s been explained to me as a moment of incredible clarity where your entire life comes into focus and it simply feels as though it is time to close the door and move on.
Humans would call this “suicide”. But “suicide” depicts weakness and devastation and these two words don’t exist in our world. Some of us choose to die in moments of extreme physical torture, or overwhelming sadness, but it is still done in a mindset of complete clarity and responsibility. We’re not even entirely sure what humans mean when they speak of “giving up”. Giving up what? Our minds and bodies are domains of a whole host of sensations ready to be triggered. What humans call “pleasure” is all the more intense after experiencing what they describe as “pain”. The two opposing forces work together and so we abide through them with equal fervor and hope.
If you’re thinking we’re some sort of senseless aliens, you’re interpreting this all wrong. We scream, we cry, we hate, we hurt each other, and we love diligently and fully just like humans do.
What we lack is a propensity for escapism.