BULB afterword

I've been meaning to share this here for a while being a fan of these stories. The following is nonfiction, all true, and happened in 2002 after I completed the first draft of my novel BULB. All these years later, I’m still trying to wrap my brain around it. At about 1:45 a.m. I left a party at my friend Mary and Bob’s house. A summer storm hit hard earlier in the evening and the trees darkening the road plus the storm forced me to concentrate. I’d had a few drinks earlier but not enough to not inhibit me. I was heading south on route 611 and just after Curley Hill Road, I noticed an accordioned car had scattered its bumper, glass, and other parts across the yellow lines. “Keep Going” briefly raced through my head, but no one was around, someone might be inside the crushed vehicle and other cars could wreck if they ran into the debris. I backed up my car to the middle of the road and put my caution blinkers and high beams on. Plumsteadville Police was written on the trunk, black letters on white. I yelled hello, feeling as if I were in some dream or movie scene, as I walked closer. I was not prepared for the vision I found on the driver’s side lit by the interior light nor was I ready for the alien smell of opened human head and engine oil. Others stopped and after a cellphone call, the area swarmed with red and blue flashing hazard lights. I stood in the rain avoiding the glaring car beams for about fifteen minutes, finally gave my name and went home to nightmares. Joseph was a few years younger than me. He had a wife, a family and a station of other officers that respected him. I wanted to attend his funeral, feeling a strange obligation since I’d found him. I’d read the interment was to be at five and I left work a little early to attend but when I arrived, only a few minutes after five, I found heaps of flowers over his grave but no people. Could've been the papers misreported the time, or possibly, I had read it wrong. I thought it fitting though. I never knew Joseph in life, but in death, I’d met him twice, alone. There’d been moments in the past where I’d found myself thinking what are the odds of this happening. Obviously, since I’ve read a good deal of Jung and wrote my first novel with coincidence as a main theme, synchronicity is an interest of mine. I know everybody experiences synchronicity, but I don’t believe in fate, no controlling supernatural force has my life mapped out. Not everything happens for a reason. I can’t subscribe to the religious pathology that offers people hope through ambiguous belief and faith. However, standing at the grave, I couldn’t help but think of a character in my book whom I’d named Joseph and wonder how or if there was anything similar about the two. I knew it to be an insane stretch, trying to connect officer Joseph and my character Joseph in some baroque fashion, but I was looking for anything that might make sense of it all. Later, I considered how Joseph was the first Plumsteadville police officer to die in the line of duty, and how he’d died in a car accident on a rain-slicked road. I thought of the deer on the highway in BULB's rainy car accident and how Plumsteadville is in Bucks County. Also, how I’d been drinking, and Joseph had been on his way to assist with a drunk driver. All those connections seemed absurd, but they were likely the product of a without-exaggeration pattern of coincidence that was even more extraordinary though not as emotionally difficult as finding Joseph. These events that followed writing BULB were of such questionable odds that it left me wondering if I’d unearthed some sign. I’m seriously no kooky new-agey, believes-in-magic type, but the following incidents, like the story of my finding the officer Joseph, are true: I started writing BULB in 1998 after a failed internet relationship with a Susan from Chicago. The book was going to be an epistolary novel, something like a direct use of the saved email correspondence, but when I started reading it, it felt far too personal and cringe-inducing. Better ideas, using only a portion of the letters, arose and eventually became what the book is today. After a brief month and half of editing and far too early, I started licking stamps and hitting send on emails to agents. While waiting for responses, I went back to editing. One night I was trying to develop a sense of déjà vu in the novel by renaming minor characters with variations of Susan. I’d already renamed a waitress and a hotel patron, Sue, and Suzanne respectively when I started receiving instant message popups asking me if I was Marco. While editing, I was using a well-known music software at the time called Napster. Napster had a poorly designed messaging aspect. Messages would just pop up from anyone that wanted to say something to you. I ignored all the popups from thirteen-year-olds saying “Your music sucks” and also ignored the first couple I received asking me if I was Marco. Finally, after the user wouldn’t stop, I responded that I was busy, thinking they’d leave me alone. “Okay fine, but are you my friend, Marco?” Having lost my focus, and needing a break anyway, I began a basic chat session. Age-Sex-Location talk. She asked what I was doing, and I told her about trying to develop a déjà vu feeling by renaming characters, Susan. She asked if she could read it, and I said no. She asked could she read it if she could freak me out. I doubted someone from Melbourne could over the Net until she sent me her name: Suzan. She'd done it. Especially as I hadn’t answered any of the other messages that popped up and couldn’t recall when I’d ever discussed anything other than music on Napster messaging. I sent her the book. The following morning, I woke early and drove to the airport, the oddity of the Napster Susan coincidence still occupying my thought. I was visiting my sister in North Carolina and while waiting for the plane to take off, I cracked open Douglas Coupland’s latest book, Miss Wyoming. At the beginning of the book, you’re introduced to the main character whose name just happens to be Susan. She was also on a plane, but unlike mine, her plane crashes and she’s the only survivor. Feeling ridiculous, getting a little nervous, I wrote everything down - obviously so when they recovered my body and found it I’d be known as the one who was forewarned. I landed with no problem in Raleigh. A couple of days later, I felt incredibly excited to receive an email with my first partial manuscript request. It was from The Susan Herner Agency. Still in shock, I hit respond to send the chapters and saw the return email address: twosues@worldnet.net. As it turned out, there were two Susan’s that worked at the agency. All this might not seem as insanely strange as it did to me, but if you ever read (not a plug!) my book, and knowing how much of it is about synchronicity, "synchronistic activity waves" increasing -- and the fact that the only person whom I’d based a character on from my life that I’d kept their real name intact in the book was Susan, you might be with me on the spectacle of it all. It could have been that I was some powerful conductor of the Higgs Boson particle, that I had God physics on my side, or yeah yeah, Susan is just a common name. Right. I tried to convince myself of it. How many Susan’s do you run into during a regular month and never even notice? I’d left my ATM card in the machine a few days later. I received two messages on my answering machine that day saying they’d found my card and would try calling again later so we could arrange for me to get it back. How did they get my number? Possibly in the yellow pages that were still somewhat commonly used then. I checked the caller ID and there were the last name and the telephone number. When I called, I got their answering machine “Hi, you’ve reached Susan’s machine…” I almost dropped the phone. We met up, she gave me the card and looked completely normal, but I didn't pursue conversation because what was I going to talk to her about? "By the way, your name Susan has been playing a peculiar role in my life for the past week." It would've appeared too strange, even for me. For at least the next month, I waited for more Susans to come into my life, one that would show me the full view. I wish there was some great final revelation, but there wasn’t. I got over it. No more coincidences of Susan after the ATM card call. Since that time, I’d say I’ve confronted an average amount of Susan, but in that brief timeframe…to have come across that many - in the ways that I did - I’m not surprised I was standing at the grave thinking about how finding Joseph might have some secret meaning waiting for discovery. I suppose, if I am honest, I'm still on the lookout.
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Date submitted:Tue, 08 Jun 2021 17:54:49 +0000Coincidence ID:11245