Light Spheres and Parallel Lives
I woke up at 4:30am to this idea, and I was debating really hard whether I should get up to write this. I thought initially, nah, don’t be silly, go back to sleep, this can wait. Then I remembered something I heard from either an entrepreneur or an artist some years ago: always capture your inspiration the moment it comes, through whatever means necessary. Inspiration is a fleeting thing. It can take years to come, and just a split second to leave you. A mentor I have much respect for calls it “a glitch in the matrix”. So, I decided to get up and write this. I hope you enjoy it, and more importantly, take something away from it.
The slow, serene music sets the tone in the background. Everyone in the spacious living room is in little groups, talking about the state of the world, the future of hip-hop music, and upcoming anticipated movies.
“Yo, listen here. The bars on this one, in which he goes on about the “gram” and how a new culture, completely digital, is being born. This is the future. He is the future,” one guy preaches.
Bam doesn’t recognize this guy – he’s just listening, not sure what to think or how to act in this group yet. Bam doesn’t remember how he got here, but his buddy, Joel, is right beside him, so this must be Joel’s circle of friends or acquaintances.
Oh well, it doesn’t matter. It’s Friday night, and this is a sweet 67th floor apartment unit overlooking the city. The view is breathtaking!
After a few more drinks and some junk snacks, somebody turns off the lights.
“Hey, what’s going on dude?” Bam whispers to Joel.
“Oh yeah, don’t worry about it. Yo, check out those lights over there!”
A holographic sphere of light abruptly pops up in the middle of the living room. Most of the people are already comfortably seated on either the hard wood floor or the Italian leather couch. Another ball of light pops up, holographic as well. Bam is mind-blown. He thought this kind of technology only existed in Sci-Fi films like A.I. A couple more light spheres pop up, before they begin fading into alternating colors and revolving in different geometric paths – some circular, others triangular, and still others appear freeform. Together, the whole setup looks like a futuristic urban version of the Fountains of Bellagio, in the middle of an upscale apartment living room.
“Hey Bam, come here for a sec,” Joel beckoned. “This is Valerie. Valerie, Bam. She’s a good friend of Steve’s. She also used to go to ULA, so I thought maybe you guys may have some mutual friends or have taken classes together, or something. You studied economics, right Valerie?”
“Hi Bam, nice to meet you. I love your name, but I’m sure this isn’t the first time you’ve heard that. No Joel, I studied political science, and now I’m waiting to start law school at Yale in the fall,” Valerie corrects Joel, hand extended for a shake.
“That’s awesome! Congratulations! I knew someone who went to Yale Law School. I heard it’s the best in the world for law, above Harvard,” Bam responds. He’s both impressed and instantly attracted to her. She’s not what you would call a “knock out” but she is pretty, and has this confident, fun vibe about her.
“Thanks! I’m looking forward to it, but I’m also ready to just relax for a few months before the craziness starts, you know?” Valerie replies excitedly. The attraction seems, at least partially, to be mutual. “Hey, say, do you want to try something new? It’s really fun. I promise you’ll like it.”
She reaches into a brown bag and pulls out two small packets. The holographic light show is in full motion, mesmerizing its audience. The air conditioning makes a soft, lazy whir in the background. Joel is in a corner, chatting with a few others.
“I’m not sure how…involved you are in this kind of thing, but this is really, really fun,” she confesses, opening up one of the packets. Tiny pills of different shapes, colors, and sizes roll onto her left palm. They look like multivitamins, but a quarter of the size. It’s a new thing they call Kaleidoscope, both for the physical attributes of the drug and for the psychedelic effects experienced after consumption. Bam has never been “involved” in this kind of thing before, but frankly, has been lonely lately, has an all-star Goldman Sachs investment banking job waiting for him 4 months down the road, and here in front of him is a pretty girl who seems to think that he himself is not too shabby.
She’s going to Yale Law School. Yale! This can’t be that bad right? She must have her life together enough to know what things to try and what not to?
“Hey Bam, you kind of zoned out, so I took my share already. I’m going to go lie down on the couch. If, and only if, you want to, your packet is here on the counter. No pressure. Feel free to join whenever you’re ready!” Valerie says, gently grazing Bam’s shoulder as she passes him.
The night is young, and so are we. Those lights, oh my god, those lights in the living room are out of this world! I can’t imagine how much more intense that experience would be if I try this.
Joel smiles at him knowingly from a distance.
Please understand that Bam is on a slippery slope. It’s called a slippery slope because once you slide down on it, it’s nearly impossible to climb your way back up – it’s slippery. He is on the verge of potentially going down a path that could ruin him, his life, and his relationships. I’m not a high school counselor trying to make sure my students don’t wander down a stray path. I’m not a parent (at least not yet) who’s trying to ensure my kids grow up to be decent and self-sufficient. I’m just a human being, trying to tell you, another human being, to be aware of situations like this, whether it’s for yourself or for someone you care about. In the setting of the story, Bam is in a vulnerable emotional and mental state, and he’s not the greatest judge of what’s good and bad for himself. It’s simultaneously scary and exhilarating. It’s scary because it’s exhilarating, and because something that feels so good can do so much damage to his life, damage beyond his imagination and expectation.
Please understand that for Bam, he does not see the situation the way you do, much like how you do not see the situation you’re in the way other people do. Our subjective perceptions of reality (that there may be an oxymoron itself) are unique. Nobody can ever share identical perceptions with us, so that’s why some people love certain artists while others hate them. Some love sushi, while others cringe at the idea of raw fish. Some love thrillers, while others think they’re unnecessarily stressful to watch.
Here is the main takeaway: for Bam, life is now at a crossroads. He does not realize it in this moment, but his decision tonight, however small he perceives it to be, could create enormous, order of magnitude ripples in his life after the fact. You can imagine all the possible futures as parallel universes, or as the title suggests, parallel lives. Which life is ultimately materialized depends on what decision he chooses. Once he makes a choice, he will forever be on one path and never another. There’s a future in which he “makes it” as a senior banker, gets into private equity, lives life comfortably as a board member on several firms, with two beautiful daughters and a loving, gentle, and honest wife. There’s another future in which he becomes CFO of a large multinational corporation, with years of corporate finance under his belt turning around companies and merging them together. And then, there’s a future in which he’s down at the intersection of Brook Road and Killiney Street, beside the soup kitchen, has holes in his t-shirt, and stains on his jeans. He never started at Goldman in his early twenties – he simply decided that he wanted a year off to find himself. But instead within 6 months, he went from Kaleidoscope to Ecstasy, then from cocaine to heroine, and ultimately to crystal meth. He doesn’t know what time of the day it is most days, what year it is, and certainly doesn’t have a clue who or where his friends and family are.
Like most people, Bam isn’t looking at his parallel lives down the road. No, he’s simply awestruck by the light orbs dancing in the air, tempted to lie down with Valerie, and highly content with his Goldman offer.
The night is young, and so are we.