Monday, February 27, 2012

The chessboard cost well over three hundred dollars and always served to remind him of a time in the past when he knew how to play, when he was actually capable of moving the pieces around with his own fingers. Now, his mind lost its way from one room to the next and when someone called his name out in passing he had to count the letters of that name on his fingers just to be certain he was the person who was supposed to respond. The match lasted two and a half hours, by which time most of those in attendance had forgotten why they had become interested in it in the first place, why they were sitting in the stands rather than at home making love to someone on the recliner. Or painting a picture with a Biblical theme. Judith and Holofernes, say. The return of the prodigal. I know the terms seem unfamiliar now, at least until you allow yourself time to study them, to let them steep in the general ambience like bits of mutton in a stew. Something cloudy and fragrant, smelling of minerals and promising to turn the evening into one you will remember but you won’t be precisely sure why. At the other end, the aisles were more or less straight and you could wander them without worrying overly about knocking items off the shelf accidentally with your elbows. Eulalie’s gaze suggested that she had been waiting, in the aisle devoted to grains and non-domestic cereals, for more than three days and if you walked on past without acknowledging her, she would just continue to wait, until you passed by again because you had forgotten something or because several weeks had come and gone, and it was time for you to reappear again after spending your time productively elsewhere. I mean, the cycle repeated because that’s what cycles do. What else can I say? I tried to lead her away by dangling a piece of fruit from a string, a pomegranate I think it was, but this ploy only ever works in the movies and we couldn’t find the camera. We kept thinking it must be directly above us, housed inside a spherical piece of plastic, but the only thing visible on the ceiling were crossbeams and the occasional motley spider web and little bits of mattress ticking gathered, no doubt, by the sparrows that kept getting trapped in there and either didn’t want to, or couldn’t figure out how to, escape. I worried that perhaps they carried disease around on their bodies and so made us all vulnerable as soon as we walked in through the front doors, our goggles pushed up onto our heads, our hands half-palsied from the excitement of coming in. Of freeing ourselves, at least momentarily, from the concept, from the category, of “out”. But Eulalie would have none of it. She said pathology is simply a product of the mind and if you let your body become accustomed, truly accustomed, to the proximity of other bodies, no matter how alien they might appear at first to your own, you will find in the end that nothing can harm you. You can live the equivalent of ten thousand years in every single minute. It will be, she said, as if those slices of time had grown tired of their meager lot in life, as if they wished to demonstrate once and for all to every larger denomination that they too were of significance and ought not to be relegated, finally, to familiar and overly sentimental phrases. To the blank spaces between Roman numerals on the face of a watch.             

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