Friday, March 2, 2012

My forearm twitched slightly before my eyes registered what it was I was looking for -- the blank place in the series. That place where the subtle gradation of shades of blue was supposed to have a gap in it. A band that would appear as nothing whatsoever – a zone devoid of all color -- if I had never before encountered that particular shade of blue in the actual world. According to the theory, as I remember it, I would have had to have gone temporarily blind around the age of thirty for this to work. Because I didn’t, I suspected some critics would claim this was sufficient enough explanation as to why my experience was contrary to what the philosophers and the psychologists and the engineers tell us was supposed to happen. That’s all well and good, but it was the fact that my unseeing, bony arm responded to the visual cue that had me staying awake, rolling about in bed past two and three o’clock in the morning, unable finally to trust my body to parse out roles to each of its individual parts in a responsible fashion. I mean, what would happen if my ears decided they should track the images even then swarming through my brain like winged insects? How would I explain my haggard appearance to the woman who had devoted half of her life to keeping people like me from running amok in the community? Her methods were crude, to be sure, involving wooden stakes and talk therapy, during which we didn’t so much talk as grunt, as lob our empty syllables in her general direction and pray that today wouldn’t be the day she came after us with a trowel. Rumors kept circulating that her legs were not real, that they had been amputated in a catastrophic accident some years previously, but any attempt to broach the subject was met with immediate hostility and then a hasty (usually, but not always, on her part) retreat in the opposite direction. Sometimes, after the sun had gone down and we were feeling safer than we had previously, we would gather outside her window and attempt to get a glimpse inside where the curtains separated slightly as a result of their tendency to bunch up naturally somewhere else. I would like to be able to go into detail concerning what we glimpsed there, but I am afraid I can’t. First, the memory has been tainted somewhat by age and the poor quality of the glass through which we were staring. Second, the innocent can only process so much information before yielding to an overwhelming and (in this instance, at any rate) irrational urge to vomit. Suffice it to say that candelabras were involved. If I remember correctly, someone kept re-arranging them on the table as if perpetually dissatisfied with the faint light given off and the restless shadows that it threw. I suggested the best remedy was to act as if we no longer believed in remedies, as if we considered them relics of a barbaric age, and we would no more pay attention to them now than if they had been etiquette handbooks written in stilted language and endorsed by thinkers and celebrities lately grown infamous for behaving in any salacious way they saw fit.        

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