The Zero Mile Post marked the meeting of two railway lines and possibly the beginning of the city of Atlanta. Zero Mile is a series of fictionalized stories based on real life in Atlanta, Georgia.
By Nicki Salcedo
My life doesn’t matter.
And before you start throwing affirmations at me. It never mattered. This is not a new thing. I’m okay with this. My life doesn’t matter and neither does yours.
I know this for a fact, because I heard a quiet voice behind me the other day.
“Do you know how small we are compared to the sun?” the voice said. “It would take ONE million of the planet earth to fill up the sun.”
I didn’t know this.
We were in the car, a minivan, the voice belong to my child, 11 years old, gender inconsequential.
This kid hopped out of the car and turned to say, “I love you, Mom. Have a great day!” But what I heard was, “Mom, we are all amoebas on fleas on ticks. None of this matters. Have a nice day!”
Feeling small has been happening to me for a long time. I was in Minneapolis a few weeks ago. It was February. I’ve been in May when it was approaching negative 17 degrees. That’s the only time they consider closing school in Minnesota. When it’s negative 17 degrees, it takes 3 minutes of exposure for your skin to start freezing.
I’m from the South, and I don’t like going to Minneapolis in February. I stopped renting cars there a few years ago when I realized the rental comes with a scrapper, a brush, a shovel, and a pick axe.
The guy at the rental counter explained, “The shovel is in case you get snowed in during the work day.” Eventually it happened. I got snowed in. I have many life mottos. This is one:
I will shovel shit, but not snow.
Now, when I go to Minnesota, I get a lift.
Imagine my surprise when I landed in Minnesota in February, and it was 48 degrees. That’s a heat wave. There was not a bit of snow on the ground. The driver said it hadn’t snowed all month. They were canceling snow shoe races all over the region. He said, “That’s global warming for you!” the same way my friend wished me Mazel Tov at my wedding.
None of this matters. The planet is melting. Have a nice day!
I met a nice woman on the airplane coming home. She was retired, a pale and shriveled thing, like people from cold places tend to be, BUT with large irises like the eyes of a baby tiger. Like she could see everything. Like she had the strength of someone who was good at shoveling snow.
“I’ve been protesting,” she said. “I have my pink hat.” She wanted to let me know that she’d been fighting, that we were the same.
I like that. It matters.
She’d been making calls and sending postcards and working with Somalian refugees who had never seen snow.
She whispered to me, “You know the good thing about climate change? It makes it easier to protest in Minnesota in January.”
The planet is melting, and it makes some people happy. Why exactly am I worried about being on a planet a million times larger than me AND a million times smaller than the sun? None of it matters.
Did you hear the news? They found seven other Earth-like planets out there. This makes me excited and not just because of my obsession with Jedis and Vulcans.
But then there’s Fermi’s Paradox. He’s the nuclear scientist who had a lot of ideas about the lack of life in outer space.
Fermi’s paradox says that if the universe is infinite, there should be a multitude of other life forms out there, but why haven’t we encountered any?
I’m not sure if this makes me feel special or invisible. Thanks, Fermi.
I will give you a rebuttal called the Salcedo Paradox. Alien life does exist, but might be so small or so large we cannot detect these lifeforms. Based on Fermi’s Paradox, we, humans of the planet Earth, also don’t exist.
For all we know, we are living inside the belly of a beast and the universe is its digestive tract. This theory makes me pretty happy. Happiness is anti-matter.
The universe should make me feel small. Climate change and global warming do worry me.
Protesting and rage should make me feel big. But it doesn’t work that way. Everything matters to me.
I sat on an airplane, in the sky, sitting next to this invisible slip of a woman. Her strength and power a tangible thing. Instead of landing in Atlanta last Wednesday, our plane circled above the city for more than an hour. Lighting lit up the clouds beneath us. It was a terrible storm. I felt really big then.
My kid tells me I need 1.3 million Earths to fill up the sun. I waver between utter desolation and complete elation in a matter of minutes.
Life tries to tell me I don’t matter a million different ways.
I don’t care.
It’s my job to live my life like it does.
A variation of this piece was performed at Write Club Atlanta. Write Club is a monthly live lit battle between two wordsmiths. It usually ends in lots of applause, booing, and hugging.
Nicki Salcedo knows the loops and the backroads of Atlanta. She is a novelist, blogger and working mom. Zero Mile stories will appear on the Atlanta Loop on Wednesdays.