Expect to court disaster twelve times before you learn your lesson. At least that’s how it was explained to me. I don’t pay attention to advice unless it comes from someone with close-cropped auburn hair. This happens so rarely, though, you might almost say I have no real guidance at all. You might even claim I make things up as I go along. A real lone wolf. A sage without so much as a balcony to stand on, or under. But you’d be wrong. At any rate, I tried to follow this particular nugget of wisdom, even had it engraved on a pocket watch I carried around with me so as to be able to tell what time it was at a moment’s notice. But I failed, as I almost always do. Sometimes I wonder why I bother attempting anything at all. Fly fishing. Listening to music originally composed in China. Trying to decipher where each section ends and another begins. Maybe there are no sections, maybe everything is supposed to bleed into everything else and we are just supposed to absorb it in enormous, indigestible chunks. But even here the language gets in the way: you can’t have chunks without boundaries, without some way of distinguishing where each so-called chunk gives way to what is not-chunk, where the sky and the trees and the clouds insist on their own autonomy and therefore throw a wrench (or something very like a wrench) into the whole procedure. I find myself in a conversation with no ready means of extricating myself. We stand at the juncture of two important roadways so the traffic is fairly heavy and it makes a noise like outsized animals snoring. In between words, between my hesitant attempts to make sense of those words as they come my way one at a time, I think perhaps I shouldn’t always be wishing to escape conversations with other people, that I have been very lonely lately and maybe participating more actively in conversations such as this one might relieve some of that loneliness at least temporarily. Certainly that’s how it used to work, when I was younger and I hadn’t heard people say yet the things they will inevitably say to me now whenever they begin speaking. I hadn’t solidified at the center like a hunk of bauxite. But the harder I try to pay attention, to participate and even work up the courage to respond, the less anything my interlocutor says makes any sense. When I latch onto her sentences, when I attempt to turn them over appreciatively and take them in, they disintegrate. I feel a panic like that which sets in when the structure you are standing on begins to tilt to one side. At first, you think everything will be fine, that whatever is causing the structure to lean will rectify itself of its own accord, that the structure will find a place of equilibrium and everything will go back to the way it was before. With the sun just going down in the distance behind some trees and the other people standing on the structure with you discussing a little light politics and what goes into the making of the perfect Rob Roy. All the while they look one another up and down in wanton appraisal before the aforementioned leaning (which does not, incidentally, right itself, does not lessen its angle and acceleration in any way, but in fact quite the opposite) encourages them to start their screaming.