Welcome to From Mustafa's Desk! Every week I write a new short story. Currently, I'm in the middle of writing a series of short stories about the people I came across and the experiences I had while living in San Francisco.
This short story features my roommate Jeremy and a wild conspiracy theory that he was on board with. Without further adieu ...
Shortly after I moved into my apartment in San Francisco, another room opened up. With a vacant room, I maneuvered to get my good friend Jeremy into 712 Hayes. Jeremy and I had met at Berkeley, and we had been living fairly close to each other in the East Bay before I moved to San Francisco.
While there was some initial hesitation from the roommates on bringing in a friend of mine into the apartment, after living with him, they all are very happy to have crossed paths with Jeremy.
On many wavelengths, he’s one of the more at peace humans you will come across. In the words of my friend Shoshana, Jeremy has “a long view of life and a short view of the moment.”
That long view on life is key to many of Jeremy’s traits; the one that stands out to me the most is how much of a free thinker he is. He’s not going to be boxed into an opinion just because everyone else in the room is of a certain mindset. He’s open to getting information from a variety of sources and arriving at a conclusion he finds satisfactory on his timeline. By the same token, when new information enters the equation, he’s willing to step off his original stance and come to a new conclusion.
Nothing illustrates this trait better than Jeremy’s beliefs about extraterrestrial life. He, like many people, believes that aliens are out there. He often does deep dives to the corners of the internet to learn more about their existence. (My take: there’s no way you’re telling me there are billions of planets out there and only earth has life. Not necessarily saying there are intelligent life forms out there who are hellbent on colonizing Earth, but there’s something out there.)
From time to time, Jeremy has taken that baseline belief and gone in some interesting directions, to say the least. One afternoon we were watching TV with our friend Phil, and his sister, Lauren. Something about Mars popped up on the telly, which provided a launching pad for Jeremy.
“You know there might be colonies on Mars. People living there and some native life too.”
Well, this was a way to spice up a ho-hum Saturday afternoon. After some inquiries on our parts, Jeremy went further.
“From what I read, there are also raptors currently on Mars.”
Yes, raptors. Like Jurassic Park III raptors. Lauren and I were dying laughing, while Phil entertained Jeremy’s proposal.
A couple of weeks later Jeremy and I were hanging with our buddy Alex at his Lower Haight apartment.
“So Alex, did you hear about how Jeremy thinks there are raptors on Mars? But not like fossils. Like these raptors are alive and active.”
“Jeremy, what? You think there are raptors on Mars?
“Yeah. This CIA source has come out and shared information about raptors on Mars. He has proof as well about their existence.”
Alex was processing this revelation when Jeremy upped the ante.
“You know Obama has been to Mars,” Jeremy said matter-of-factly without a tinge of humor.
“What did you say,” I responded.
“Obama has been to Mars.”
“What are you talking about,” Alex chimed in. “Obama hasn’t been to Mars.”
“He has. The same CIA source who revealed the information about the raptors has come out and publicly shared details of the program that Obama was part of. He even went to Mars with Obama.”
“How would he even get to Mars though,” I asked. “Come on now, what are we even talking about here?”
“The CIA has jump rooms that Obama was using. He was part of a group of teenagers who were sent there on a covert operation. He was being groomed to become president at a very early age.”
I can’t stress enough how plainly Jeremy was saying this information. You would think at the very least he would be saying it with a laugh, as if to communicate, “Trust me. I know this sounds ridiculous, but this is what I believe to be true!”
But, no. He was just stone cold. This is the truth. The truth is no laughing matter.
Alex and I meanwhile are howling in his face. I don’t know which revelation was more improbable—that teleportation technology existed, Obama was playing hooky in high school to go to Mars, or that dinosaurs are kicking it on the red planet—but they all seemed ludicrous.
“You guys can go read about it online,” Jeremy implored us. “It has all been revealed by this guy who used to work at the CIA.”
Later that day, I did go online to try to understand what in the world Jeremy was talking about. Part of me thought that Jeremy fabricated this entire thing, but indeed, there were two men, Andrew Basiago and William Stillings, who were exposing the government’s secrets.
If you are to believe Basiago and Stillings, they worked as undercover government agents. Basiago was one of the fellow teenagers who teleported to Mars with Obama. The story got enough traction that it even made its way onto the “Colbert Report” (7.5 minutes of wackiness).
Basiago also claims that he was part of a time-traveling project run by DARPA in which as a teenager he was sent back to witness President Lincoln’s assassination five or six times. If you ask me, that seems like an odd choice if you have the ability to time travel.
If it was me, I’d be sent back to the time of Jesus. I’d want to taste the wine that he flipped from water. Was it a merlot? A cabernet? As a second option, I’d take Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals to witness Jordan’s last game. (I ain’t counting those two years with the Wizards.)
Interestingly enough, Basiago ran for president in the 2016 elections. He was able to garner 96 votes. He finished ahead of Mickey Mouse who garnered 79 ballots, but narrowly behind Tom Brady who clocked in at 99 votes. (Yes, these numbers are real.)
About six weeks later, Jeremy and I were hanging out. I can’t recall the preceding action, but at some point, I brought up the conspiracy theory that Jeremy had previously proposed.
“Man it is wild to me that you think Obama went to Mars. Absolutely bonkers.”
“No that didn’t happen,” Jeremy replied.
“What do you mean it didn’t happen,” I asked.
“There was some other news that came out. The people that claimed they were government sources—it doesn’t look like what they were saying was factual.”
I was completely befuddled that in a short time span he could go from planting the flag on such a wild conspiracy theory to just as easily stepping back from it.
In the same way that Jeremy matter-of-factly presented the theory, he presented his disbelief of it in the same manner.
“What are you talking about? You were so sure of Obama on Mars. Dinosaurs on Mars. And now you’re saying that it was all false?”
“Yeah. It didn’t happen,” Jeremy said nonchalantly.
That’s Jeremy for you. His beliefs have a fluidity to them as he takes in more knowledge, which is an admirable quality when you think about it.
I’ve found myself arguing for a certain position well after I know I’m wrong. I’ve done it mainly out of ego and the need to prove myself right. If there’s new information that is presented, I’ve tried to bend it to my perspective. I’ve consciously stopped doing that over the last couple of years, but there’s always an internal pull to not admit that I’m wrong.
With Jeremy, there’s no ego when he’s putting forth these ideas. He’s presenting them, not to be right, but to share information. That allows him to change his mind and be fine letting you know that he changed his mind. It’s a quality we should all embrace.
Picking up almost a decade later, in August of 2021, Jeremy and I were hanging out in Brooklyn. He was in the midst of his year as a digital nomad. He’d hop in his car and stop into a city for a week or two, then pack things up and move to the next city.
When we were walking to his car to head to brunch, I referenced the conspiracy theory that Jeremy was pushing once upon a time.
“I mean Jeremy, you remember when you thought Obama was transported to the moon and was riding around T-Rexs or whatever, right?”
“T-Rexes? What? No! I never said there were T-Rexs on Mars.” Jeremy laughed. He wasn’t laughing at how ridiculous the conspiracy theory was. No, he was laughing at the idea that I would think there were T-Rexs on Mars. “I said there were raptors on Mars. I would never have believed it if it was T-Rexes.”
Of course not, Jeremy. Of course, you wouldn’t have.
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