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65 Episodes

65 episodes. Weekdays, on your local channel. One single half-hour. Stay tuned.

Odd times. Streaming was science fiction. Discs housing a single episode, let alone dozens? William Gibson’s cyberpunk fever dreams. You had to sit down in front of the tv and watch it. You had to watch it uphill, while it was snowing. If the antennae wasn’t just right, if the rabbit ears weren’t in perfect coordination, the snow could run uphill, downhill, or across the field. My field of vision was narrow. A 19 inch screen.

Before streams, before discs, even before the magnetic attraction of VHS. Strips of black containing pleasure, like licorice sticks made of celluloid. 65 episodes. Cindy Cayshun demands 65 episodes to worship her. Throw away your half-hour into her gaping, slack-jawed grin. You were a slave to the programmers. There you are, you drive like a demon from station to station.

Now I can plow the Amazon and binge myself until my stomacheyes pop, sucking down all the candy-colored entertainment I missed because of schoolday afternoons, or baseball, or bad reception. I can buy entire shows and have them delivered into my house, and reverently I feed them to the beast with the blue-laser eyes. I stretch my cornea and absorb them from high definition LED screens with 8 million colors. Somewhere deep inside me a schoolboy version of myself with sullen bangs that brush against my eyebrows twitches out of jealousy as I overwrite memories of hazy channels. I can see clearly now, the rain is gone.

65 episodes. Sometimes more, but 65 was the baseline, the cutoff, the gold standard. It wasn’t like a Saturday, where you were lucky to get thirteen stretched out through the four seasons. 65 felt like a lifetime’s worth, because kid time is chewing gum. Chew it long and slow, make it last, make it last. You don’t swallow on the first bite, blowing bubbles in your stomach.

You can catch a snowflake on your tongue, but good luck proving it to anyone. Those shows melted away back then. Life had no rewind button. Pause were for cats and dogs. If you missed the show, you aimed for the rerun. If you missed it again?

In the space between channels, nobody can hear you scream.

As an adult, having burned off the ennui of childhood and ripped out of the amniotic sac of puberty’s fuzzy lip and testicular temerity, I can hold the ephemeral impermanence of those 65 episodes in the palm of my hand, something I would have scoffed at as a child. I can look at my reflection in a disc with rainbow memory implants laser-welded into microscopic grooves the width of the memory of a Friday afternoon sitting cross-legged in front of a tv that had a knob to raise the volume.

_____ will return after these messages.

We now return to _____.

I don’t miss those commercials, but in a way they’re encoded onto the experience. Boo-berry and Trix and Teddy Ruxpin and Lite Brite and overly eager kids playing with Transformers and G.I. Joe. Only you can prevent forest fires.

65 episodes. There was no way to binge back then. A five-part show took an entire week. Slice an apple into five individual pieces and try to eat a single slice a day for a week. The apple will brown by day five. But it was life then. We took our brown apples and made apple juice.

Now, as a full-fledged adult burdened by all of those invisible tasks that our parents—background characters in our lives—made disappear between the ticks of the clock, I can take 22 minutes and slink back into the memory of those times when, in the comma between the days of the week, you take a breath and sit back and the world is yours. We live in a science fiction reality made up of the fondest dreams of a bygone era.

65 episodes.

And now, back to our show.

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