The Irresponsibility of Responsibility

Dearest Rachel –

You know how Dad has always been so enthusiastic about learning everything about our travels, while we (partly due to my experiences a year and a half ago in Basel) have tried to remain reasonably indifferent? Yeah, I think that’s catching up to me. It would seem that my unconscious mind is starting to look forward to the trip.

At the same time, it seems to have a lot of questions for you that I never got to ask you; mostly because there was nothing that would have led me to even think to ask you about any of it. I’ll try to get to it all, but that’s a lot to cover.

Especially since all this was going on while you and I were pelting through Narita airport (not that my dream version of the place looks anything like the real thing – it’s been over thirty years since I’ve been there, and I’ve completely forgotten what it looked like, plus who’s to say it hasn’t completely changed over the course of all that time?) trying to stay ahead of Daniel and one other person he (and by extension, we) were traveling with. I found myself asking why we didn’t just stay with the two of them at the airport restaurant, and head out together? You said something about it being our responsibility to get where we all were going first; if he were to lead, he would get hopelessly lost. While it’s true that, on occasions when he would pick us up from the airport in real life, this would happen (and this was in Chicago, where he could read the signs, not some foreign place like Tokyo), it seems irresponsible in hindsight to have left the two of them in our dust like this, just to end up waiting for them once we got to where we were going.

Besides, it’s not like leading the pack was ever in character for you, anyway. Junior’s story about you at the Istanbul airport should more than illustrate that. But that’s my unconscious for you; I think he may have altered who you really were over the past two years, as have I in general.

And in some way, while we were chasing through this enormous labyrinthine complex, this may have been our joint attempt at an apology tour.

Since you left, I find myself going back and forth about how much you know or are paying attention to what’s going on down here. Even as I ask you each day to watch over me and Daniel, I will also often assume that you’re completely inattentive to anything occurring on this insignificant blue dot in space. Why bother, after all? You’re never coming back here, and one day, it will all come to nothing, after all. Besides, your folks – and your dogs – are already over on your side (whether they’re actually with you, only you know by now, but in either case, those are a few more things that you don’t have to miss about earth). So sometimes I gloss over things, whereas other times, I feel like I go into great, even excruciating, detail.

This was one of those latter times, except I was able to do so kind of to your face; it’s a little challenging to hold a conversation at speed as you rush through an airport, but we seemed to manage. Now that I think of it, it felt peculiar for you to be leading us through while I tried to do what talking I could; as I said before, you would usually be bringing up the rear in any group, due to you taking in the sights or talking to someone in the group (or looking for/finding a bathroom, but you get the idea). Maybe this was a conversation you didn’t really want to have; it didn’t occur to me at the time.

Anyway, I was talking to you about the responsibilities of my being your executor – and yes, in this situation, we both seemed to be perfectly aware that you were dead, and I had been appointed (with the lack of anything written down assigning anyone else the responsibility) to the position. It’s a relatively innocuous position, given that, without any further instructions, I’m basically making a point of splitting what was officially yours between myself and Daniel. As long as I do that fairly, I’ve accomplished the duties assigned to me – which, from what I’m told, is more than most in my position do, especially when they have a stake in the estate. But that’s neither here nor there.

What I hadn’t thought of about the role (especially in the days before AI art and the like) is the fact that your estate – and therefore I, as its executor – has all the rights to your image and likeness, be they visual, auditory or whatever, and therefore I can both do what I choose to (ostensibly guided by the rubric of whether you would have approved or not) and allow others to do likewise. It applies to celebrities, after all, so it shouldn’t be surprising that it applies to us little people, too. The only question is, who would bother to play around with such images and likenesses?

All of which I was trying to explain to you as we charged at pace throughout the vast corridors of my imaginary version of Narita, lined as it was with shopfronts labeled in a literal foreign language, as if designed by AI themselves (currently, such programs have serious difficulties putting together letters in any intelligible fashion; and incorporating Japanese characters would only make the attempt that much crazier). And I suppose you weren’t really wanting to hear about it, given your uncharacteristic hurry to get through them all. But I felt like I needed to tell you about it, to apologize for what I was doing, and explain (to a certain extent) why.

You see, there’s a certain sense of… I don’t know, maybe longing… about such images. Between a living married couple, I can visualize a sort of electronic paperdolling of each other: “Honey, don’t you think you would look cute in this?” “What do you think of this hairstyle on me?” “Just imagine if we could go here someday, huh?” If a picture is worth a thousand words (and having sent you so many thousands of words, I ought to know), imagine what it could do for expressing certain wishes and desires.

Heck, it might have been so much easier to answer your question about what I wanted to do on a given Saturday morning. Specifics on that were never a strong suit, and I never wanted to push too hard. But a picture from a computer’s visualization, combined with the leading question “Does this look like fun, honey?” Well, now.

The thing is, like with the position of executor itself, there’s a certain amount of responsibility involved. Between two married people is one thing, but when I’m still only guessing as to what you would and would not approve of (let’s just point out that, at least in art, physical limitations aren’t the thing they used to be in life), I’m probably being more than a bit irresponsible with your image here and there.

And so dream me, as prompted by my unconscious, was trying to explain all this, and apologize for being so presumptuous about one thing or another. Meanwhile, you were focused on getting out of the airport, and on with our trip – although we really couldn’t go anywhere until Daniel (and whoever was back there with him – maybe Ellen? I really don’t know, and it’s kind of irrelevant, anyway) caught up with us. It didn’t feel like a typical conversation between us, but then again, it’s not like this was either the place for it or a subject we’d ever have thought to discuss.

Then again, I do have some clue about it all; when I first talked about the channel, you were reluctant to participate, even as a voice, for whatever reason. Sure, it may have been ‘my’ dream, but why would you stay out of it, when you were so much a part of every other aspect of my life (work aside)? I wonder if you just didn’t want to have yourself ‘out there,’ for whatever reason – and maybe that’s another part of why me and my unconscious were trying to apologize to you. At least at this point, it’s not doing you any harm, and I like to think it’s doing me some good.

In any event, if the opportunity comes up, keep an eye on me (and Daniel), and wish us luck. We’re both going to need it.

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I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

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