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Hypotheticals

Hypotheticals

where thoughts go to rest

“I’d like to imagine that somewhere, somehow, there is a huge warehouse full of hypotheticals—inventions that never came to fruition, solutions that were never tested, and interesting thoughts that were eventually forgotten,” Lin said.

As usual, she clutched a greasy bag of Auntie Anne’s pretzel bits, intermittently eating a few in between sentences. Lin and three other friends sat on the edge of some unimpressive mall fountain. Behind them, curtains of mist fell so gently that the droplets seemed to move in slow motion. “I say so because they have to go somewhere, right? Once you think of something, you assign it some sort of temporality. You birth it with your intention.”

Lin’s friends looked at her, and she could tell that they were too exhausted to participate in another one of these discussions. That never stopped her before, though, so she pushed on: There are so many limitations to what we can do in this plane of existence. I’m interested in the idea of limitless possibility, and what someone would do with it…What sort of hypothetical inventions, for oddly specific purposes, would you all create?”

It was a question more difficult than she had expected it to be. It took a few minutes for people to think of ideas, which ranged from the mildly absurd to objects that you could probably find at Bed Bath & Beyond’s “As Seen on TV” section:

Boris quietly offered, “Hmm, how about– a very tiny and gentle roomba for cleaning new piercings. It roams your skin eating up the debris.”

He rubbed his infected ear self-consciously.

Jessica chimed in, “Something that infuses soap into your shower water. Something to smooth out my bills so that they’re always crisp and fres–”

“INVISIBLE EAR PLUGS! Nobody will know if they’re in or if you’re just tryna ignore someone,” Mark interrupted.

Lin responded, “Well I mean nobody’s stopping you from making that claim now.”

“A radar that will sense when a person you are potentially attracted to is nearby, so that you never embarrass yourself.”

“Why is that something you need Mark—do you embarrass yourself that often?”

“How about a double-sided knife, you know, sort of like a kayak paddle, that lets you scoop peanut butter and jelly without getting a new knife.”

“Dude, I’m pretty sure that exists already. How about a self-cleaning butter knife so that you don’t have to clean in between different spreads. That’ll subvert the whole sauce paradigm.”

“Bacon-wrapped bacon.”

“Uhh you could literally make that anytime anywhere. I’m thinking there should be a toaster, a round toaster, built specifically for bagels. It’ll even have a hole in it for full toasty coverage.”

“A Pez dispenser, but for sliced bread.”

“How is it that our conversations somehow always end up being about bread?”

“Some kitchen device where you put in garlic, butter, and all the other fundamentals and out comes garlic toast. Instant. Garlic. Toast.”

They all laughed.

“A blow-dryer with built-in gel for maximum morning efficiency.”

“A blow-dryer that toasts marshmallows.”

“A yoga mat that lets you levitate while you meditate. I call it–,” Boris gestured a rainbow with his hands, “The Leditate.”

“Virtual Reality class, for those pesky 9 a.m.s.”

“A stealthy contraption that runs up your hoodie and lets you sleep during lecture.”

“A spigot that you can easily insert into fleshy gourds for your Halloween party pumpkin punch bowl.”

“Relevant.”

“Reusable floss”

“…Again, nobody is stopping you from making that a reality with regular floss.”

“Very small automatic air vents for your glasses so that you can drink hot beverages and not look like a nerd.”

The conversation eventually spiraled off into severe tangents as the four of them made their way back to campus. As soon as she returned to her dorm room, she shed her layers and decompressed. It was 1:35 a.m., and Lin’s mind buzzed with the energy of all the potentials she’d gathered from her friends. The day’s exhaustion had caught up with her, and through heavy half-lids, the light from her desk lamp wavered and pulsated. Lin surrendered to the feeling—sleep claimed her.

In her dream, she found herself standing in a canyon of shadowy aisles that stretched infinitely, vertically and horizontally. It looked like the Hall of Prophecy from the Department of Mysteries in Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix. But on each shelf, rather than delicate whispering orbs, there were chaotic piles of gadgets and trinkets. In a brief moment of lucidity, Lin understood that she was in a mentally constructed warehouse filled with runaway thoughts and unacknowledged creativity.

The air was stale with dust, and only a bit of blue fluorescence from the fixtures above filtered down to the murky depths of the warehouse ground floor. She passed by a nameplate that read: Boris Ram. Above, his tiny skin roomba milled around aimlessly. Lin grabbed it and placed it on her arm. It tickled its way through the smooth terrain and left her feeling lightly exfoliated.

She thought it was interesting that so many of the inventions her friends proposed were of a relatively practical, normal nature. With limitless possibility, there had to be something a little more other-worldly. She set off on a hunt for the extraordinary.

Lin rounded the corner and stopped at the site of a huge metal box. Near it, she saw her brother’s nameplate. Ah! She remembered now. Sometime in the past, he had wondered about an invention that could simulate the feeling of being underwater without the usual drawbacks of  getting wet and not being able to breath. He should have been born a fish; he spent much of his childhood in water.

She opened the hatch and entered—immediately, she felt submerged in a delightful sense of buoyancy. The world around her was a transparent dark navy, with miniscule glimmering lights suspended in space. She could just as easily have been at the bottom of the ocean as in the middle of deep space.

Lin’s ethereal plunge pulled her back into a waking state. She kept her eyes shut tight, still latching on the remnants of that magical feeling. She couldn’t help but feel a bit sad about this whole place, the untouched inventory of dormant ideas. It was just a dreamscape she created, but in “reality”, was there a place for all these thoughts to go? Or did they just disappear into the void? Was the warehouse real simply because she had dreamed of it? Most importantly, could she return?

What a strange feeling it is to rediscover a fragment of an idea because a word, smell, or image triggered it. Just moments before, it was fundamentally nonexistent. In a week or so, her friends would probably forget most of that conversation. She would probably forget most of it too. New thoughts and conversations fill in everyday, adding to the haphazard clutter in people’s brains. It seems almost arbitrary, the thoughts that pop into people’s heads at these odd times. Lin came to the quiet conclusion that she couldn’t be so sentimental about each and every creative thought that passed through her mind.

She climbed out of bed. The New England cold had seeped into her room, and everything felt damp. As she put on her jacket, the cool sleeves felt slick like water.