Friday, April 20, 2012

No one recognizes the songs from my childhood when I try to whistle them now, try to unravel the tune from the knot my memory has made of it. They look at me on the street as if they can see the blood vessels throbbing inside my body and they wish they didn’t have to see this because it reminds them of the vulnerable structures inside their own, the bones made brittle by whatever process turns bone into a mere shell of itself, the retinas of the eyes filling slowly with leftover images until there is no room anymore for what passes outside before the eyes. I give in to a sudden, unexplained urge and jump up on the counter and make wide sweeping motions with my arms and my upper body almost as if I am conducting an invisible orchestra. The late afternoon sun shines in through the bay window opposite and for a moment I am carried away by the power I seem to wield over the entire scene, by the realization that no one else on the face of the planet is witness to precisely this set of circumstances at precisely this moment in time. I know this fact should actually make me feel a little lonely, should remind me that I got rid of the phone that used to hang from the wall because it was always in the habit of ringing at inopportune moments, and I have yet to replace it and I miss that sound now sometimes, though rarely. Sometimes, for instance, in the middle of the night when I am playing a game of chess against myself, which is easy enough to do given that I don’t really know the proper rules of the game. I know the piece that looks like a horse must move two spaces one direction followed by a single space in another perpendicular to the first. I know the little ones go wherever they please. Because I don’t know, though, or because I knew at one time and have since forgotten, the other rules that govern the remaining pieces, or even precisely what the object of the game is, I like to make up new rules each night based on whatever snippets of conversation I may have overheard on the street during the day. Translating what was said by people I do not know into what shall be done on the board sitting before me is no easy task and I deliberate for hours sometimes about this process before I ever make a single move. Sometimes I get impatient and wing it, assigning each piece the role of a part of speech and watching what happens when it does what that part of speech is supposed to do in the sentence I overheard earlier. Follow the others around in a predetermined sequence, for instance. Say one thing and mean another. But I usually regret this the next morning. I have been too careless in my approach, I have let the contingencies of the language infect the outcome of the contest. And I always promise myself to be more deliberate in the future, to ensure reason and technique predominate if they can’t eliminate contingency altogether. And then the next night it is the same old story all over again – a willy-nilly mishmash of event and speech. Of what happened and what was uttered and why the one doesn’t always have to precede the other. It’s enough to make you want to quit playing chess altogether if it weren’t for the fact that I love chess. I love the idea of it anyway. I love the way it makes me think of the past, as well as the faulty image of the past we, of necessity, carry around with us when we think we are carrying around the real thing.           

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