The memory is black and white. The man wears a silver jumpsuit and floats near a long, slim light at the top a pole, the kind you might see at a gas station or along an exit from an interstate into an airport. I think of a space port from a middle twentieth century film with foil-shoed astronauts, or maybe from a picture listed under “Space” in my grandparent’s World Book Encyclopedias. The floating man just hangs there, and I have the feeling he’s drifting, along with the light, formerly tethered to something and at great risk of being forever cut loose.
One of my earliest memories, it exists beneath the buoy break of my subconscious, rising past the surface at random moments. Maybe it was a dream, or perhaps a moment unhinged from both waking and sleeping realms. There was a window for such an inter-dimensional encounter: I didn’t make my terrestrial entrance until nearly a month after I was expected, just shy of the one-month anniversary of my father’s exit by way of a rifle-propelled grenade in the Ho Bo Woods of Vietnam.
Maybe it was a childhood television moment. Daily broadcasts flickered and chattered on the periphery of my earliest existence. From our living room carpet, I looked up to the wood-framed cathode shrine for a montage of daytime programming: The Monkees, Rocky and Bullwinkle, Gilligan’s Island.
And then there was Romper Room. Everyday Miss Nancy looked into her magic mirror, gazing through the television ether to name the children she could see. Despite my dedication to the ritual, she never said my name. But maybe she spotted the floating man in that mirror. Maybe she had coffee with him in the ABC commissary between tapings. Perhaps he descended from the fluorescent cafeteria light over Miss Nancy’s table to pick up the magic mirror she had abandoned on the Formica for two sugars and a cream. Squinting, with the mirror inches from his nose, maybe he shook his head and said, “Nancy, I don’t see a damned thing.”