Only my mother would consider the postictal phase of a seizure melodramatic. Only my mother would take herself out for ice cream on my birthday. Alone. Only my mother could consider consider an aversion to peanut skins overwhelmingly depressing. Only my mother.
There’s a concept in learning and conditioning called variable-ratio scheduling wherein the number of responses required to obtain a reward changes at random. It’s used most-recognizably in slot machines. Coin-greasy fingers slipping against buttons and touch screens under flashing lights and C-major chords beneath mirrored ceilings. Generic galaxies spinning beneath their feet. Blacked out windows. Not a clock in sight. With variable-ratio scheduling there the gambler will stay, suspended in their own perception of time and space, until they run out of money or some stronger stimulus comes along to distract them. Casinos do their damnedest to ensure that there is no stronger stimulus; cocktail waitresses are beautiful but unobtrusive providing everything from liquor to food to ashtrays and would you look at that? The ledge between the slots is the perfect size to hold all of it and a cup for more change (in the few places that still pay out cash rather than vouchers).
My mother is on a variable-ratio schedule. Most interactions are neutral or they are postictal disasters. But once in a blue moon I’ll win something large or small and that is enough to keep me coming back– one more hand, one more penny, one more roll of the dice.
Ink bruises in high enough concentration turning the backs of pages brown and green. Bruises unhealed become sores when the skin sloughs off and, undrained, left wet and unclean, they rot. This is why I refuse to leave the desert content to live on the river with her shifting shores. Rivers are supposed to have banks not shores but here– landlocked and lake-fed heading west for the lowlands where she will attempt to fill the unfillable– there is a memory of the sea. We were beneath it once. Primordial salt floating beasts the likes of which only whales and immortal jellyfish remember. Whales and jellyfish and the desert.
The river is two feet above her banks roaring with heavy white water ever eastward from the mountains.
Yesterday, a man threw himself into her and a helicopter sharing my name spent the afternoon looking for him. She found no trace of him, no corpse, no clothes, nobody gasping for life.
The news reported that he fell.
I can hear her over my headphones, rushing grey, eddies tumbling over each other taller than I stand. She’s overfull and if she’s like this any longer the trees that have grown alongside her since I was an infant will rot away from the roots, going the way of the wild grasses, and be swept toward the mountains in the east until they, too, cause more flooding. There will be still more water for men to drown themselves. No reservoir can relieve her.
The Catholic church across the bridge with its stained glass and polished bronze doors counts out the hour with a bell as old as its presence in the city but try as it might she is still louder; that must count for something.
Reasons to Move to Reno:
- you can join the rest of the local yokles making reno eNVy puns (we even have a tourist shop that sells shirts around this theme)
- the weather is just as reliable and results in just as much hilarity as a well-thrown d20 that the DM didn’t plan for
- when Burning Man comes and The Burners with their Burnermobiles in a great, unending caravan descend upon the city to buy up every last drop of water and grain of granola before braving the Playa dust and neon, their very presence treats us all to a free, daily art spectacle
- you can hear gunshots across the belly of the valley on a clear night around 3 a.m. but you can hear the train call, too, lonesome and travelling somewhere new and every time you’ll wish you were on it
- The Lady in the Mountain announces herself with each snowfall. the silhouette of an etin visible from just about everywhere in the city where she lies graceful in the southwest as late as May. we miss her dearly in the ovens of July
- the sky here is a different shade of blue than anywhere else in the world; yes, different than Denver, too
- You haven’t lived until, after years of drought that panic Clark County (another bizarre but parallel world) and fire seasons that blanket the valley in ash with children at play in surgical masks with some adults going so far as to wear goggles to protect themselves, the wind grows chilled then it rains. It rains for twenty minutes straight out of the blue. The scorched earth greening before you can blink, drinks, drinks, drinks and you, too, stand outside shirtless under the sparse clouds spattering the still-hot ground with blessed water. Sterility and dust stink of the stinging rich stench of sweet, wet sage and you know with certainty: the drought is finally over.
That is why you should move to Reno.