An Evening With The Conspiracy Theorist

Jenniffer Lesh

You go mainly because it's been
so long since you've gone out
in the world for pleasure, and, besides,
he's called three times for you and seems
like a benign person, rather harmless
in the scheme of things. Like you.
And, as you knew he would, he shows
up on time and is wearing
a soft sweater and ironed slacks
that drape the easy angles of his body,
and his shoes are not new,
but they are clean and polished.

Yet as you prepare
to eat your chef's salad,
thinking you deserve this nice man
and this nice restaurant, he
in an instant, and he's gripping
your hand quite insistently
in a manner you don't understand.
He tells you very plainly
that there are hormones in the plump
round cherry tomatoes because,
this way, they grow quickly,
giving up their soft meat
almost wantonly
to the farmers' picking machines.
And that a baby with flippers
for arms, and a face
like nothing on earth, was born
to his great aunt's friend's daughter,
Leticia, who loved
tomatoes and whose husband
had once worked in the Pentagon
doing god-knows-what
but had mysteriously disappeared
amid the secret files scattered
across his fruitwood desk.

And you shrug and think
that perhaps your date's only joking,
and, besides, in the movie theatre,
he smells good, something
like old-fashioned tobacco smoke
before it goes stale and yellow.
And the way his elbow
nudges yours makes you feel
soft inside, ripe for the picking,

until he starts whispering
in the round of your ear
something about microchips
and a government project
called STUN, where dogs
in cages went crazy and gnawed
each others' ears off and fell stiff
to the floor when dosed
with a low frequency sound
that is now used to control men
and women everywhere,
a sound like the silence
before a thunderclap, a sound
like an earthquake waiting to happen.

When you hear pops and crackles
in your ceiling at night, it's not
the upstairs neighbor stirring
but the stealthy descent
of fiber optic cables
from the duct above your bedroom door.
And they touch you and feel you,
those government men,
by remote control, and they enter
your mind, and if you hear talking
and laughing at strange hours,
it is not your neighbors and not God
and most certainly not your own thoughts,
but it's them, and they're asking
you to come forward like a lamb
when they come for you.

Well, didn't you know?
Soon the men in black come
for everyone.

So you go home with your date
to look at his collection of Madness albums
and you listen as he speaks, answering
yes, breathing yes,
for there's an intensity
to his dark eyes you've never owned,

and you think
that it's better to wake in the night
tangled in a nest of fiber optic cables
bristling with life
than to wake only to silence,
silence like the spinning
of a record after
the needle has been lifted.

Copyright CrossConnect, Inc. 1996