The flesh, highly susceptible to pinches and rending, serves as a questionable barrier, at best. A gauzy afterthought that belongs really in glass cases at the museum rather than out here among the brambles and the strangers carrying sharpened sticks. The question becomes not so much what is the flesh a barrier against -- that much is obvious if you have eyes and an imagination dulled but not extinguished, still capable of visualizing fractions and fractions of fractions and invertebrates going about their usual business in the leaf litter and the eaves of old houses. Rather, one should be wondering about what’s inside, what exactly needs to be protected, whether it is something kin to the flesh that protects it or something altogether separate, which is the opinion of most everyone since Malebranche, and even before if we are being honest with ourselves. Certainly you can, after separating the one from the other, try to fuse them back together again, but it won’t stick. Habit serves something more fundamental than itself. It is that which anchors us in place, keeps us from floating away on a river of incomprehensible objects, two hundred million million of them bunched up in places like fallen trees trunks in a gorge and torrent, and isolated in others, so far removed from the others of their kind as to seem mere decoration or hallucination, something dropped into the void so as to rob the void of its haughty demeanor. I thank the heavens for their interference in these matters, for their stubborn insistence that you can’t take the soil you stand on too seriously or else you will be swallowed up, both literally and in contemplation, which is a terrible fate, believe me. It is like borrowing fifty dollars from someone you have to see everyday or every other day from that point forward and there is no escaping the humiliation, the need to lower one’s eyes to the floor whenever this other person happens by. Whenever she comes up the stairs, say, at the same time you have chosen to go down. Sometimes, that stairway is too narrow for the both of you to fit. You know you will have to step aside, to make way or else bump into her with your shoulder, and that option is suddenly out of the question simply because of the debt, because of this strange artificial way we have of placing inordinate value on certain minerals in the ground, or even just digital figures bouncing around in space. All future physical contact between the two of you must now be relegated to that same indefinable space, that same theoretical other world where nothing gets done, where nothing happens except for very real zeroes piling up (in your name) like tires in the brush beside a stagnating lake.