Saturday, February 25, 2012

First, undergarments disappeared from the dryer, mostly faded and torn articles no longer attractive, if they ever were. Whispers and suspicions arose immediately involving the man down the street who wore sunglasses even indoors, who once catalogued all the old pictures in the museum and could speak of nothing but each individual item for a year and more afterwards. When you tried to change the subject, his eyebrows met at the upper center of his face and the effect was similar to that you have probably witnessed when someone close by holds a viper by the neck. For my part, I brought my own pencils with me, afraid those provided would prove too dull or soft to allow me to calculate unperturbed for the two and a half hours it took to finish the test. Someone stood at the entrance, asking impertinent questions. To throw us off, I guess. To try to get inside our heads where he was likely to find something very like enormous containers full of raw material. Facts and dates and theories named after their French or Greek creators. Then, of course, long after she walked into the room, an afterimage hung in that exact spot as if to reinforce the idea that we are not the person trapped inside our skin so much as the memory of that person held by those who have shared small portions of their lives with us. Those who have attempted to escape our stifling presence once and for all by going to bed with the first reasonably presentable stranger who happens along, or taking up skeet shooting at the gun club on the outskirts of town. It rarely works. Somewhere along the line the past rises up again out of its filthy container and stalks about on the street, looking completely out of place like a young man with a cane. Or those blankets one places on the back of a horse so as to soak up the foam that would otherwise get trapped beneath the saddle and cause the animal harm. I spent the rest of the afternoon jotting ideas down in the margins of the book I had picked up the night before and had grown so bored of within twenty minutes, I couldn’t remember what the book was called or why I thought it might have been a good idea to read it in the first place. Something similar occurred again two weeks later when she showed up carrying a bottle of Jameson whiskey and looked at me down the slope of her nose as if I were no more than an object, a peculiar work of art, say, made entirely out of the collected, disembodied wings of innumerable insects – ordinary houseflies and dragonflies, and the miniature brown grasshoppers that materialize in the dead grass around here at the close of almost every summer.     

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