Posted by Josh Wilker
1.Buy a pack of baseball cards. For best results, pay no more than a quarter and make sure the pack has a hard stick of gum sliding around loose inside. If packs long ago stopped costing a quarter or less and no longer include flour-flecked sticks of hard gum sliding around loose inside, the attainment of happiness may be impossible.
2.Carry the pack home unopened. You may hold it in your hands or in your pocket or even switch it back and forth from your hands to your pocket. It is important to feel the waxy surface of the pack and the thin bulge of gum inside. It is important to feel the hard edge of the cards inside, too, and to think of them as so pristine that you can imagine they have been created in a manner somehow removed from profane human involvement.
3.Go to your room. When was the last time you were ordered to do this? For that matter, when was the last time the world had the security of knowable rules and punishments that not only followed rationally from those rules but seemed almost like blessings?
Not a cubicle with a nameplate and some knickknacks to connote an individual personality. Not a rental unit with some photos scattered about that include you in various stages of the aging process. Not an ulcer-producing reminder of mortgage payments and depreciation. A room. Your room.
But surely the room is long gone, along with everything that was inside it: the posters of superstars, the broken-in baseball glove, the dog-chewed Nerf football, the Kiss records, the homemade lightsaber, the pile of Strat-O-Matic scorecards.
But what about the heart of the room, the box containing all the baseball cards you've already brought home? What about this repository of former moments of happiness? Is that gone, too? If you have a repository of former moments of happiness, you may still have a slim chance of being able to continuing.
4.Open the pack. You have opened many things. Bills. Dear John letters. Eviction notices. Rejection slips. To open something has come to mean you have to pay and you are not wanted and you have to move and you don't belong. Perhaps after all this opening you have begun the process of closing anything and everything that can be closed. If so, you may have lost the ability to believe in the universe of possibility inhabiting the tiny clicking sound of the flap coming loose from the pack's wrapper as you pry it up with the light touch of a finger. And the first whiff of gum. And the first glimpse of some unidentifiable piece of a card, a swatch of grass in a photo on the front, a row of numbers on the back. Have you lost the ability to believe?
6.Remove the stick of gum from the pack, blurring your vision so that you can't yet see any names or other identifying information on a card, and place the gum on your tongue. When you bite down the gum will break into many pieces. You may be tempted to associate this atomization with certain passages in your life. But maybe sometimes in life there are redemptive miracles. The pieces will begin to reconstitute into an improved version of wholeness. For a few seconds, the gum is soft and sweet. Sugar will begin to course through your bloodstream.
The rush will not last very long. The accompanying thrill of seeing the identity of a card you have never seen before will not last long either. Did you think happiness could last?
But there are only seven steps here. There is no eighth step describing how the taste of the gum will fade, and how the jolt of discovery will settle into the same familiarity that coats the surface of everything like a fine gray dust, and how life will proceed in its customary monotonous fashion. There are only seven steps, so enjoy it while you can. Chew the new gum, and when you get to Step 7, stare for the first time directly at the new card and feel the sunshine coming from it as if it is coming from some better world, some wider moment. Even if this is the only world, even if this is the only moment, for once it's more than enough.
Josh Wilker continues to cling for dear life to the polyester rainbow of 1970s baseball at cardboardgods.net.