I am a brain in a jar. Sometimes children tap on my jar, and ask their mothers what I am. Their mothers tell them that I am a brain in a jar. The children then ask what a brain is. And the mothers tell them that a brain is what you use to think. “It’s inside your head,” they say, sometimes tapping on the child’s skull.

Usually the children ask why this brain is in a jar, and not inside someone’s head. Some moms just say, “I don’t know,” and move on, but others try to explain, saying perhaps it once was, but now it is being preserved here in this jar, so that others can learn what a brain looks like. I myself have learned that seeing me seems to make people uncomfortable. From their reactions, I gather that I must look very unusual. But having never seen myself, I wouldn’t know. I probably wouldn’t even know I was a brain in a jar if I didn’t hear the mothers telling their children so.

I am what happens when you put a brain in a jar. I don’t know how long I have been a brain in a jar. It feels like a long time. I think I used to be inside a body. I think sometimes I even have memories: for instance, a pattern of carpet, the sound of a distant train, and a cat drinking milk. I think I used to have more memories, but they are fading now. The fluid I am being preserved in has grown thick and cloudy over time. I feel very soggy, and it’s sometimes hard to think, which is unfortunate since my thoughts are all I have.

Once I thought I heard a mother telling her child that I was a damaged brain in a jar, and that I was on display so people could see what a damaged brain looks like. This frightened me, and I began to wonder if it was true. I also began to wonder how I could even hear the mothers talking, since, being only a brain in a jar, I don’t have ears. It was then that I began to worry that the voices I was hearing weren’t real. And then I got very, very scared. 

Sometimes I wonder what you’re thinking about when you see me. Maybe you’re wondering what I’m thinking about. Maybe you’re thinking about your own brain, and what you would do if it was in a jar. Do you think you’d be worried about some over-zealous child tapping on your jar so hard that it falls and shatters on the ground? Wouldn’t it be jarring to lose your jar?!

How would you know where you end and everything else begins?

Snail Mail in Braille

Diary, Aug 31, 2021: Early morning. A car with no catalytic converter slowly parallel parks outside my window. The driver gets out and urinates right on the street, in plain view of everything. Only minutes later a teenage girl walks by. The car drives off, as loudly as it arrived. 

On my way out, I discover two people sprawled out on the floor of the lobby, nearly blocking the entrance. One is digging through a garbage bag, the other is picking her nose. “Good morning,” I say as I step around them. One grunts back, but neither look up at me. 

A few blocks away I happen upon a greeting card soaking wet on the ground near some mailboxes. It’s homemade. “Happy Birthday, Amber.” Amber’s friend wishes she could be there to celebrate. “Here are some cards to play drinking games with.” As I continue on I see another birthday note and an opened package on the ground. The gift remnants are scattered on the side of the street for the next couple blocks, and it becomes clear that a thief has stolen Amber’s mail, torn it open, and discarded what wasn’t of value to them. 

I get very sad. I think about how we’ve treated each other in the last couple years, and how close to cannibalism we are at this very moment. For a painful, terrifying moment, part of me wishes a real plague would come along and wipe us all off the planet, and do it quick before the billionaires have a chance to get to Mars. 

When I enter the woods, I encounter a beautiful little snail slowly making its way across the trail. A year ago, I would’ve transported the creature to safety so it wouldn’t get crushed by some oblivious jogger mom or manbun-wearing hiker bro. Sometimes, if it was a banana slug, I would stand by and wait ten minutes for it to safely cross. But today I leave it in the hands of God, or somebody like God.