Sunday, February 10, 2013

Her favorite joke is one involving five physicians seated in a circle facing one another. Their backgrounds couldn’t be more different, spanning privilege in Helsinki to want in Algiers. You can trace its origins nearly to the middle ages, but beyond that all is mist and deep recesses and should you insist on pushing further, there is the very real risk of mental disturbance and pecuniary difficulties incurred as a result of the vast distances travelled and the procuring and consumption of fine wines considered de rigueur by those who would accompany you. Eulalie declines to include in her retelling the crucial portion about the house in which they are sitting, one rumored to be haunted if only because it is cast in shadow by the forested hills just to the east of it and because the cemetery that used to stand there now stands somewhere else, and the general consensus is that you can’t disturb the dead without facing at least a few consequences. This is probably a stubborn holdover from a much more superstitious era than our own but we like to keep our fingers on the pulse of the past whenever possible because if you don’t, if you let the past slip away from you constantly the way the present does, then how are you supposed to be able to tell the difference between the two? How are you supposed to know when Eulalie’s declarations are genuine and when they are merely the child-like aping of someone else’s declarations she happened to overhear when she was traipsing about late at night in a light rain in the recently rejuvenated warehouse district where people are constantly whispering things to one another in the mouths of alleyways and porticoes within earshot of major thoroughfares like Winston Street and Albania Street and that one with a name I can’t recall but which seems to run on forever into the surrounding countryside when you walk it over a span of several days or several weeks, pausing at night to rest in the culverts or to avoid the numbing cold by breaking into an abandoned shed. You think the whole world might emanate from it, might circle it so slowly as to evade detection while at the same time causing the road to exist precisely because it has caused all other things to exist, a mutual meting out of being such as you may have read about in the old Norse myths or those that followed the Polynesians from one island to the next under a limitless expanse of galaxy overhead and a limitless expanse of rolling sea underneath. Eulalie is privy to some of these tales too. Despite her claims to the contrary, she must have accessed them, though, at the library where she is in the habit of spending two or three hours a day now that her sense of direction has been all but eliminated and the cataracts have begun to set in. She resists my every effort to remove them with candlelight and mirrors and incantations I make up on the spot, though not before I jettison all trace of the rational self and burrow down deep into that territory I never really believed in before I happened to stumble on it one day without meaning to, without knowing precisely what I had accomplished because I was in a state similar to sleep, without, of course, its actually being sleep. Without its being anything at all, really, one could identify the way one can identify the different bones to be found inside the ear, or the various species of song bird, say, by the unique sounds they make. Eulalie considers all such interference bald and obvious exercises in power and control and rejects them with an impatient gesture that lies somewhere on the spectrum between your ordinary animal snarl and the rarely misidentified silent invitation to follow someone we have only recently come to know upstairs and into bed.          

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