I tired of dragging my girlfriend around in search of hidden messages from extraterrestrials, which were only proving to be not-very-hidden messages from a viral marketing team bent on exploiting my cell phone ownership to send me advertisements. Despite understanding the ploy, I nevertheless enjoy a good scavenger hunt, but my enjoyment of it only lasted for so many minutes before it was conquered by my depression and sadness at once again finding little mystery in the world. We walked over the grassy hills of Governor’s Island, and we found our way to other art installations, but all the real wonder seemed one reality away–as though there was another draft of the day written on some other Earth where all these offerings were less hollow in tone.
That’s when we came to the machine. It was a twelve-foot-tall octagon, made of black metal, held together at the sides with sheets of lobstered brass. The entrance was guarded by twin brunettes wearing all black. The line was short but curious. There was a frail older woman talking to the four people waiting. She held a basket of fruit on one arm, and she was extolling the virtues of a proper diet at informing the consciousness.
Might as well take a look at this thing, I thought. My girlfriend agreed, and we joined the line. When asked if we wanted any fruit, I took a green apple, and she selected a kiwi.
“Only one person at a time may enter the machine,” the old woman told us as we accepted our fruit. “Do not eat the fruit until you are inside. Once you are inside, you may begin eating. Eat at whatever pace you like, but once you finish your fruit, please exit the machine and allow the person behind you to enter.”
I wondered if I would try to drag the time out or get it over with quickly. How was it possible to know myself so poorly?
It came down to skepticism: what was this machine? What was the point of it? The first person who came out passed the rinds of an orange to one of the brunette guards, who dropped it into a paper bag by her feet. I heard her say, “Yes, we compost them.” Then the person nodded, gave a short smile, clearly approving of this whole composting thing, and left, without giving any clue as to the nature of the experience of eating a piece of fruit inside the black, octagonal tower.
The tower that the old woman had called a machine.
After several minutes of grimly tossing my apple into the air and catching, it was my turn. The door opened, a short balding man came out and courteously dropped a mango rind into the compost bag, and the brunettes waved me into the machine. I smiled, which I think was probably a very skeptical thing to do, and I went inside, expecting absolutely nothing save the modest pleasure of eating a free piece of fruit.
When the door closed behind me, it was completely black. I could see nothing. Eyes open, eyes closed–it didn’t matter.
“Hello?” I said.
There was no response.
I considered the apple.
Well, okay, then, I thought, and I took a bite.
I’m sure whoever had constructed this thing expected sensory deprivation to make the taste of that apple even more sublime, but the apple was mealy and not very good, and it was this slight rot that was, in the end, amplified by the machine. I was in oblivion, and I was eating something that was half-rotten. Had they tricked me? Had they meant to give me a terrible piece of fruit? One could only wonder at the intent of the machine.
After a few bites, I stood in the dark with the wretched apple at my side, wondering if I could go out without having eaten all that I’d been given. I reasoned it was only bad luck, after all; no one else had seemed to have a problem finishing. I was sure it was not intentional. It was just me, picking a lousy piece of fruit.
Or maybe this was all some tricky plot to get me to imagine that the Garden of Eden was really a giant black octagonal tower, and that eating a shitty piece of fruit was the only means of escape for Eve. Now, there was a thought to blow your mind: what if Eve had meant to get the hell out of that place? But she didn”t want to go alone, either, so she had to get Adam to commit the crime, too. Eat this worthless, mealy apple and we can get out of here. We can go get back on the ferry, get back to Manhattan, and watch that show you like on HBO.
At any rate, the point of the thing was obscure, the apple was horrible, and I didn’t finish it. When I’d had enough of the game, I stepped outside, threw the apple into the composting bag, and made the same blank face that everyone else had made when facing the people still waiting in line.