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VI. At a show where not a single word is wasted, she sits next to me and tells me she is afraid of two things: poetry and leaving the apartment. I sit between her and a man with whom I have eaten dinner only once, and when I have to go to the bathroom, the man’s daughter tells me that I have to go down some stairs and then up some others. Everyone I meet along the way tells me the same thing whether or not I ask, until I arrive at the bathroom. And, standing in line, a person with a camera, tells me, “grandmas really had a good thing going.”
VII. She sits next to me and tells me she is afraid of two things: poetry and leaving the apartment. And I am only afraid of the latter but that is enough for both of us, even if it’s not an adequate archive of the evening. In the note before the exergue before the preamble before the forward before the theses, Derrida reminds us that Freud’s house is a museum because it is an intersection of singularity and law. Everyone knows the way to the bathroom, even me, and I overhear a story about why someone is here: she, well, her friend—no, her friend’s roommate, well, her roommate’s friend’s friend’s old roommate, but now, she guesses, they are friends too.
VIII. At a show where not a single word is wasted, I am afraid of two things. I arrive a few minutes late and presumably miss a big fanfare about the remarkable history of the venue. It’s a very old building which probably never gets used without an appreciative fanfare. Fortunately, heavy rafters subdivide the roof and it’s not unlike being in a church or your memory of your visualization of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s old school. All week I have been reading about Christina the Astonishing who, after dying, leapt up from her coffin and into the church’s rafters because she, “could not abide the smell of men.”
IX. I am afraid of two things: I have to go down some stairs and up some others. She is talking about a piece of jewelry and not looking at my cane when she tells me that grandmas really had a good thing going. After the show we stand around talking. She and I have both come to see our roommates, who are now also our friends, and to see each other because the Internet said we’d both be there. She tells me how, on a podcast or something, she heard a term for how we all carry around our cell phones with our entire social networks in our pockets. The term is “ambient intimacy.” We all stand on the bottom floor of a very old building.
X. Up some others, my hip gives on the icy walk home but we make it. And before we leave I make her call over her roommate so that we can all four stand together. She and hers, me and mine. We are both afraid of leaving the apartment but have, in part, brought the apartments along. We are important to each other not only because we are the privileged intersection of singularity and law. We also love—. We say goodbye to everyone but then meet them again on the sidewalk. First her roommate, who tells us that they lost the car and had to go a block in the wrong direction. Then my roommate, who tells us that they lost the car and had to go a block in the other direction.
XI. At a show where not a single word is wasted, we make it. I send a text message to my roommate and she responds: “for some reason I knew that you would have texted me.” And when she gets home she asks whether she told me the funny story about how they lost the car. It turned out that Christina wasn’t dead. Today people like to write about how she probably had a seizure and that’s fine I guess, but they’re really obsessed with it. All over the Internet people are telling me that Christina’s temporary death has a medically identifiable cause. Okay, okay. Still, there’s a lot of other undiagnosed magic in that story. She did jump into the rafters for goodness sake!
XII. It’s too late to stop the cherry pulsing. Maybe to you it’s all numbers and dots– our whole past rewritten as appointment times. My parts have sprung out my back– the soft 9-volt back-up battery pad swinging unused on red and black wires. Everywhere, used and unused, I am red and black. I stuff it back inside like the ribbons for hanging up ladies’ clothing. I keep my open back to the wall, sliding from room to room so that I do not come undone. I have nightmares that always begin with a jolt and end with wondering why I’ve never bought a battery. If You Hate Resetting the Alarm Clock So Much. If I hate resetting the alarm clock so much.
1. “Finally, distrust most those stories that seem most innocuous, regardless of what section they appear in. For example: an article about a circus unicorn. Great, you think. Harmless. You’re reading. OK. But the unicorn turns out to be a goat whose horns were diabolically fused together to make one mythic horn, center head.”
2. “I have a present for you,” I tell her.
“Does it start with a J?” she asks.
“No,” I answer, and wonder what starts with a J.
3. It has been nearly five years and in the meantime we have both lost some people and become others. We are both new, old, and have particular and different failures of memory.
In a text message she asks for a place to go and, although I hate making recommendations, feel hesitant to give someone I like so much and know so inadequately, advice, I venture an idea. A few dozen characters of tenderness and I send her to a series of rooms with rotating exhibits, a small free museum in New England that she already knows about, and one of the places I remember being happiest. Despite the fact that we were never there together, that our memories–when functional, are different, I send her to a place where I can reliably achieve the elation of memory. For some reason, visceral seems precious, even if it’s just visceral to someone else.
In the past I’ve steered others away from the same rooms to keep them safe.
On my first trip to the museum I had a notebook in my pocket, a nearly empty bag, a cell phone that was temporarily activated, a pen, and, before going in, I hung up with someone in dire need of help after convincing them to give me their therapist’s number. It had taken time and my thighs were numb on the concrete bench outside the glass doors where I dialed the new number and left a concerned voicemail. They had finally crossed the threshold into an objectively dangerous madness and I could pass them off to a more qualified professional. I hadn’t realized how the pressure of holding them together had been weighing on me until I hung up the phone, realized I was no longer the only witness and, for the first time in a long time turned back to attending school.)
There I was to write a paper about a room cut by neon lights that the professor would mark me down for because I failed to mention the subway ride on the way to the exhibit. She found it an obvious connection, crucial to our experience of the installation on which we’d been tasked to write.
4. The following semester, I would experience a similar frustration in astronomy class with a professor whose grammar was too confusing to elicit the right answers on test questions. From one of her tests:
(short answer) New York only stars down to the third magnitude. _______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
5. If I made a list of things I loved the most in the world, this would be on it.
In the holiday spirit someone sprays fake snow on the glass window of the courtyard door in my apartment building. But spray paint, here, is a temporary note from the city– it means the area is condemned or marked for destruction, it means we promise we’re coming back eventually to remove the danger, to mend the down power lines, reinforce this failing bridge with steel cables, in the meantime we recognize the problem with an unreassuring x.
So the job doesn’t evoke Santa or Christ or Snow and “X MAS” is added. Ah, “x-mas,” of course, an apologetic citation instead of decor. Still, I like it, because at night the window goes black and the lobby looks like Halloween and I don’t mind mixing holidays.
In a moment which I cannot even attribute to dysphasia, I accidentally use the word passionate. When looking for what I mean, it occurs to me and I discard it and then knowingly return, deploying the word with apologies, because for a moment I can neither be adequately fast nor adequately right. Passionate is one of the words on my top four most-hated-words list. Denoting a saturation of feeling, it is left nearly empty. I only like to use it in religious contexts.
In the negative space of the holiday fanfare, an accretion of remarks: mitigating, advisory, unintelligible.
It seems I’m not the only one who finds the decorations could use some editing. Over the week, passers-by rub in new words.
The text reads x mas: but what they meant was: have fun.
To the left of that a name is tagged.
The text reads: x mas have fun but what they meant was: love them while you can.
The text reads love them while you can:
After a week off, my friends have temporarily (I expect) stopped complaining about my failure of personal pronouns. You already know that I’m more comfortable in the second person singular or the first person plural. By you, I mean I. By us, I mean I.
A story not about you or us… or me… even.. at all:
Despite the fact that they have never met, they are familiarly uncomfortable around each other. As if there has been a schism or at least an argument, they fail to speak. About another situation, one set on perpendicular sofas, in which two people neither look at each other nor touch, E remarks that it sounds like the way 4th grade felt. But to return: and with no negotiation, they confound the hosts and agree to take the room with twin beds. All day they have waited to be alone together so that they may converse as if casually without any observers noticing the palpable, transparent as-if-ness. But instead he turns out the light and slips into the other bed and they both feel a heavy cord which has strung them together all day, fall at last level and parallel to the floor. This cord can sustain 2100 lbs of pressure. It can be used for rigging or to support a ship. It is for a truss or a locomotive and all day they have been dancing around each other, awkwardly not talking and not touching and sustaining a heavy apparatus which, if not properly handled, will knock down an innocent bystander.
In a dark room, without even a cord between them, they are released and ramble freight-heavy into a different conversation. Whether or not the trial and execution of Charles I had anything to do with the coincidence of solstice and lunar eclipse, she is working on a poem about it. And when she says something, he knows what she means. This is not unique but irregular since, most of the time, her dialogue follows a well-established route, branching off for quick detours and then returning when the brush is too thick. She is accustomed to sharing the first sentence of a complicated thought before being derailed. But now they are moving together.
What I meant was: I am an L turned into a V. With a gentle, deft slide I am swung closed and rotated on pointed end. This is dance translated into letters— not even words, just lonely, simple letters. And I am the filthy, branched V– balanced and open-mouthed. And every turning-gesture, every line, every closing and closed space, fights back and is full. What I mean by passionate is that we were saturated. We were saturated and you were, too.