Saturday, June 30, 2012

A couple of months will pass, at most, and then you will be able to reclaim your place, demonstrate once and for all that the walls belong to you when they do not belong to someone else. That your fears are no more than pleasures upturned and outfitted with bird feathers and grit from the floor of the abandoned warehouse up the road. I imagine the future as something embossed, patterns and words punched into it, patterns and words that I can’t make out at the moment but which will come into focus soon enough. And then, of course, I will want to spend all my time deciphering those associated with the past, will wish I had spent more time paying attention before it was too late. But it is always too late. That’s why some people refer to the human condition as a condition and not a temporary fix or a permanent fresco. They know what they are talking about. I, on the other hand, rarely have so much as a promising clue. When I ask someone to slow down, to elaborate on or illustrate a particularly difficult point, more often than not that person makes a sucking noise between her teeth and turns in the other direction. I will not be deterred by anything so flimsy as body language, though, as human communication in any of its guises. I turn inward and find there the same sorts of concepts and progressions and I know I couldn’t have put them there because they seem so completely comfortable already. Like marmots in their caves. Just try dislodging such entities with your bare hands! The noise they make, the unholy racket and the flesh wounds! What is it we are supposed to do with what has been placed before us but which we did not request? Can we find our way around it or are we cursed to include it in our every waking conversation? Is it possible to ignore the given altogether and concentrate instead entirely on that which we have invented because invention is as close as we will ever get to filling the world up with emptiness? The light is degenerating and the clock no longer functions and when I try to stand up, the walls close in like sandstorms. Somewhere outside people are building a fence. I can hear the hammering, the shouting back and forth as regards dimensions and materials, the occasional grunt as eloquent and full of import as any tractate on the career of Hannibal. Or a gaze held across the room.  

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Hard at work in a closet on the top floor, hammering out my treatise on Solitude, or at least that portion of it that believes its subject something worthy of genuine consideration and not the ridicule normally heaped upon it by deans, by district managers and their protégés, I am overcome by the sense that my every move has been monitored and suddenly is not. That whoever kept a close eye on me from the moment of my birth to the present has simply thrown up his hands in disgust, switched off the undoubtedly expensive equipment used for this purpose, and gone off to pursue his other myriad interests. Like capturing color photographs of waterfalls and high speed rail lines, and selling them to publications that will cease to exist within a decade. The feeling is tinged with a certain terror but I recognize it almost immediately as that which accompanies true freedom, and I am tempted to break out into song, but I don’t know any songs. Not the words, at any rate, because the words never seem to me to add up to anything coherent when I do manage to pull them out of the air and away from the sounds of the instruments that surround them. Perhaps this is why I am no longer welcome up the road where groups of five and ten and sometimes a hundred or more will gather together even in the high winds of the monsoon and recount their memories of earlier groups that got together to do basically the same thing. They rely on the structure of local ballads, and the tropes typically contained within them, those ballads recounting the deeds of people who were not in the least like those who listen to them but who represent nevertheless the sort of people they would one day like to become. People capable of riding about gracefully on the backs of domesticated animals, people known for both their enormous cruelty and their ability to love deeply other people who, arguably, don’t deserve that love. My treatise attempts to grapple with these same issues openly, though it never seems to gain any advantage. Sometimes it snakes its way onto completely unrelated topics because it gets bored of the original, and you can’t fault it for that because we all get bored sometimes. Every one of us, without exception. It is as natural a condition as respiration and maybe even as necessary. Why do you think we endeavor to compose treatises in the first place? As opposed to disappearing into the wilds of Borneo for a while, making contact with those who had heard rumors of our existence before we showed up and so spared our lives because those rumors were filled with promises of great prosperity, of the elimination of most forms of suffering and all forms of death. They were generated originally who knows where by who knows what onerous party, but they were generated nonetheless and served their purposes well. When they were retired, or replaced by still other rumors even more outlandish and inaccurate, those who had been spreading them initially tried to distance themselves, to wash their hands of the whole business. They appeared less and less frequently in the village square and some of them even sought to change their names through legal channels. They said they would no longer share in festivities that required them to recall the past, to celebrate it simply because it was past. Because it could no longer be trusted to pave anyone’s way forward, least of all those of us who got stuck in it the way the local tapirs sometimes got stuck in the mud by the streams and the rivers they had otherwise been navigating successfully for their entire lives.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Disorders of any kind fascinate because they represent a separate way of being, an alternative to whichever one we have chosen and which plagues us with its inanity, its predictable noises. The juvenile swallows nesting in the chimney. The guttural moans coming from the ditch that runs along the opposite side of the road. That side where the chickweed grows unencumbered and the coyotes emerge from the brush at night and scowl at you as if you have done something particularly odious. Which, of course, you have, at some point in the not too distant past, but how do they know that? Where are they getting their information? After a number of years, Eulalie finally seems to be warming to the idea of making a life with me. And sure, this life will of necessity include others, people I have yet to meet and who I will, no doubt, loathe the second I meet them, people who will eventually attempt to murder me in my sleep, I’m sure, because that’s the type Eulalie prefers. But this is progress just the same and I wish to celebrate. I call the guards to my cell by pretending to hang myself and when they hear what I have to say, they agree that something must be done to mark the occasion, but none of us is sure exactly what. They don’t trust me anymore and I make no secret of the fact that I think they have made an unfortunate career choice. Nights are the worst, with the stars scratching at the bricks outside and no one else able or willing to hear it. I think sometimes I will go crazy. This is a euphemism of course and one that does not enlighten us in any way as to the state I will actually be saddled with when the transformation occurs, but maybe that’s the point of euphemism. That’s why we expend enormous energy digging euphemisms up with our cognitive shovels and throwing them around as if they were gold doubloons. We wish to direct attention away from the truly vital and onto that which the general public considers vital because they have been taught to do so in their schools. Not that they attend regularly or pay the slightest bit of attention to what’s going on around them when they do attend. Even Eulalie agrees we have to find a better way of speaking, something that still relies on words, sure, but words that don’t operate the way they have been, to this point, expected to operate. They must, she says, borrow their meanings from the shifting color of the syntax that tries its best to hold them together (and fails) and not from any rigid definitions that have been handed down to us as if they were miraculous gifts. We know better now. We have seen directly into the heart of those who would provide us with these gifts, these so-called legacies, and we have found that heart wanting. All it seems to have been good for was moving blood from one part of the body to the other and for housing figuratively those emotions without which people used to believe they could not continue. They would have to sit down somewhere by themselves and spend the day staring off into outer space. Or its closest equivalent given that space itself is impossible to see when the rays of the sun are passing through our atmosphere during the day and so causing it to glow a de rigueur gemstone blue.                        

Monday, June 18, 2012

Circles have a way of justifying themselves, of explaining their existence persuasively without the use of a single word. This strikes those of us who are incarcerated the wrong way. It smacks of the gloating people are guilty of just by walking past our windows. I don’t remember how I got here or how long it’s been since I was somewhere else, but certain pictures move about restlessly inside my head and I suspect they might amount to a coherent, explanatory narrative should I be able to lay them out side by side on a solid surface and have a look. The effort required, though, is enormous, I know this from where I sit, my head in my hands and my pants pockets turned inside out, the result of a previous search for matches or a bar of chocolate. I can’t remember if I was the one doing the searching or if perhaps it was someone who occupied the cell with me and who has now been transferred elsewhere or has made his escape. We study circles first when we are too young, when circles seem to us entirely flat and uninteresting, detritus of a universe that goes about unseen below and beneath this one, something outshone by the full-color world in which we live, where nothing is precisely circular. Where civets slink about in shadowy branches of trees and people spend their entire lives learning to play the cello. By the time we realize our mistake, by the time we come to appreciate what the perfect, abstract nature of the lowly circle can offer us, it is much too late. We are already fatally immersed in an existence devoid of all perfection, of all beginning, but no end, and we know better than to try to backtrack, to reach back blindly into the past and fish it out with our bare hands or with devices designed to protect the flesh of our hands while still operating efficiently. You can’t imagine how hot it is in here! the air suspended just above my head, the sound of rodents scuffling about in the pipes in the walls amplified and made the more horrifying by virtue of the fact that it is the only sound that makes it through. Somewhere in this building, people are listening to radios, they are arguing over games of dominoes and the definitions of certain little-used words, I am sure of it, but I am not privy to any of this. I have been locked away like an expensive couch, or a stained one, it doesn’t matter which, and no one is coming to get me any time soon. They know what I’ve done; they know what I am guilty of and they take it more seriously than I do, believe me. They consider it something more than ordinary crime. They can’t even bring themselves to say it out loud unless there is a number of them – they are not alone – and the alcohol has been flowing. Then, their inhibitions not so much lowered as reconstructed, placed in the same general category suddenly as their hobbies or their phobias, those things of which they are not proud but which they do not let control them either, they list my crimes alphabetically and with great glee. They start in the early evening and one or two of them will continue until the moon is on the other side of the sky and wrapped in a mist that betokens neither the advent of morning nor the culmination of night. It simply floats out there with the rest of the occupants of the sky and passes by or envelopes some of them accidentally simply because that portion of the sky which we can take in at a glance is not infinite. It is necessarily circumscribed by the eye.              

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Consider the disorder of malleability, Eulalie says as she tosses candy peanuts into her mouth and chews on them in that way peculiar to her – a moving the jaw in circles and producing sounds that remind one of the alarm calls of very small birds. Some things are just going to have to remain solid and un-transformable, but those who suffer the disorder of malleability refuse to leave the most solid of objects alone. They rub ceaselessly on walls with their bare hands, coo seductively at the rocks beneath their feet and linger for hours over the bones of animals they find bleached in the afternoon sun. And sometimes – it’s rare, but it happens on occasion – the disorder pays dividends and even those who do not suffer from it can see for themselves, briefly, that what they considered rigid and immovable -- whether it be the bricks with which the exterior of their home is constructed or the heart of the woman they love – is now altered, is bent or twisted or warped so as to change not just its appearance but its very nature in hard-to-define but permanent, and not always altogether unwelcome, ways. In fact, lessons and morality plays of this sort, esoteric formulae and straightforward axioms, abound in the cabinets all around us, call to us from the side of the road as we are passing. But we pay no heed to them because we know all we need to know at this juncture. We have been let in on all the most vital secrets and those that still evade us are of such specific content and quality, such narrow focus, we can only hope to turn them into the conversational equivalent of badges you wear now and then on your lapel when you wish to gain access to an otherwise exclusive gathering. A collection of souls with very narrow noses and the tendency to drop certain letters from their speech in an affected manner, something they most likely picked up while overseas in pursuit of advanced degrees or research opportunities in deserts that by and large remained unmapped and, in some cases, entirely unnamed. Except by those who happened to inhabit them, of course. You can’t be somewhere, can’t exist for any length of time in a place, and not know what it’s called. At least I can’t. Eulalie refers to this belief of mine, this obsession, as an orientation disorder, just one more in a list of such she uses in an attempt to demonstrate to me once and for all that we don’t have to rely on any one else for our own self-awareness and definition. We don’t have to be educated by the educated but can throw up membranes and borders of our own devising much like someone throws a tent up in the back yard so as to host a wedding reception or a woodwind concert for his closest associates and intimate friends, and then no one shows up. 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Partway to the elbow is a spot, an otherwise innocuous patch of skin, that has the capacity of producing extraordinary visions when you touch it with something hot -- the coal end of a cigarette, the surface of a recently removed light bulb. I’m not saying what you see is worth the pain endured, but I am saying this spot is there for you to experiment with and make up your own mind about once you have returned from wherever it is those visions take you. D------ re-introduces me to this spot shortly after we have left the fish to spawn free of our fascinated gazes. She stands astraddle a motorcycle she has recently purchased with funds she squirreled away over the years in jars she buried in the ground when her man was asleep, which was pretty much all the time once he had come down with that ailment no one knew how to pronounce. D--------- looks like something I might have dreamt up on the spot, her legs long and tapered and butter white, her eyes following me from one place to another like those of a Doberman when it is chained. Its mobility, by definition, is restricted, and you are free to circle around it at a certain distance. You must be careful, though. Even D--------- knows circles are no longer what they used to be. Not since this particular corner of the cosmos and its inherent perfection was tainted by the recent opinions of those who inhabit it. Anymore, a circle can fall in on itself. It can collapse on one side and take you down with it. I know what you’re thinking. Who is he to make judgments of this nature? Where does he get off lecturing us concerning concepts that necessarily influence the manner in which he conceptualizes? The fact of the matter is, I used to be an egg. Or at least, I thought I was an egg, and maybe there is no difference between the one and the other, the thinking and the being, the visualization and the becoming. But it doesn’t really matter anymore. I am a man now and the likelihood of my changing back into what I was before I became one seems to be growing fainter and fainter every day. Though there are those who will tell you they see in me – in my face, in the irises of my eyes -- the rudimentary elements of some other, less sophisticated, less acceptable entity, and it is only a matter of time before those elements, whatever they may be, begin to coalesce. To alter my outer appearance so violently (and, they add, for the better), anyone in the vicinity during this transformation will likely be affected in some or all of the following ways. They will be amazed and dumbfounded and will run home to inform their spouses and their children and their uninterested neighbors of what it is they’ve seen and in the very act of re-telling it, they will most likely go blind. For the memory is not a repository where the things of this world go to slowly and inevitably fade and disintegrate with time, but rather a kind of magnifying glass and the holder of it (this is not -- can not be, please understand -- the possessor of the memory itself) wishes to concentrate the beams that are thrown through it onto the closest surface so as to inflict a great deal of damage. The sort of damage consistent with something being reproduced an infinite number of times within a finite space. You find something similar in feedback loops which eventually, if left ungoverned, grow so enormous and unwieldy they destroy both themselves and the glass in the windows of the rooms in which they originated. Or a child’s drawing of a flower photocopied over and over again so many times that there is finally nothing recognizable left of the flower, or, for that matter, the mind or the body of the child who at some point in the distant past (let’s say this was allowed to go on, just to make the point, to illustrate what needs to be illustrated, for a hundred and fifty years) who first decided for no particular reason that she was going to draw a flower using a broken black crayon for the stem and pedals, and, of course, a green one for the leaves.