Alternate Histories: 5/7, 7/8, 9/16

[These are anxieties from two different people; here’s an explanation of why they’re together.]


Finding work. I have a job, I wanna find a better one. More money, more stability. I don’t mind dangerous–I used to work unloading the freight when it comes off the 18-wheeler, sometimes it shifts around, you can’t just take it off however. I worked with electrical and manual jacks–you have to be certified, you have to know what you’re doing. I’m not too concerned about global warming.



How we’re gonna make the transition into a new kind of world. I can feel the vision of the new world–I’m ready, a lot of people I know are more than ready, but we don’t know how to make smooth transitions from the way things are now. And I hope there won’t have to be a crisis or a tragedy in order to change people’s habits, which are deeply engrained. I’ve been trying to live my way into it, and I can see the structures crumbling. No one I know has any money, everyone I know is broke. They say the economy’s fine but it’s not fine for anyone I know. I have a lot of things I can offer the world, but I can’t figure out how to monetize them. We have to figure out how to put other structures in place. A friend of mine’s trying to start a Rhode Island mutual aid network*, where people who have real skills could share them with each other. But I owe [a very large amount of money] to National Grid and I can’t barter my skills with them.



In this story, Y and V are able to work around their apparent similarities and differences long enough to listen to each other, to hear each other’s frustrations–what feels to them like an impassable rift in the earth. It feels like if you could just fill the rift with money, you could walk across it to a good life, or a new world.

Through talking together, it comes to them that this isn’t the case. They begin to sort out when money is a convenience, and when it’s a leash. This gives them two questions to answer: how can they get the things they need? and how can they get loose?

They (and  their neighbors, their families, people they went to high school with, the local ombudspeople and state house clerks and linemen and engineers that are those people’s cousins, spouses, friends) combine the utility payment strike with templates for lower electricity use, solar clotheslines, charging stations; practice and training in operating small and large-scale ways to generate electricity.  Electricity isn’t the goal; electricity is an arena. It’s one way they question and enact and redistribute power. It’s one place they recognize and make use of relations, of bonds.

Y’s grandniece dries her clothes in the sun and charges her insulin pump at a station just down the street. V’s best friend’s great-grandchild spends their days unraveling old wires with the greatest care, disturbing the hyphae and the ground-feeding birds as little as they may. Someone wearing a headwrap containing a patch of Y’s great-great-granddaughter’s old dress climbs to her aboveground home (for flooding) in a disused power tower. Electricity sings through the brain stems of shrews and squirrels, sparks in the conversations among protists in the soil. It’s loose and bound, loose and bound.



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