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You’ve asked me twice and both times I’ve told you that I don’t know the answer. Both times the question’s reminded me of an adjacent story which I also haven’t told you. The snow has blown or melted, ragged on top, into shapes seen more frequently in movies about coral or caves. I stomp a fjord off the edge and an icy chunk skitters across the sidewalk to lodge in the other bank. These aren’t the kind of shapes for the day-lit world. Maybe that’s why you’re asking. Going for a walk, ISO apocalypse facts. Later, neither one of us remembers to look up the answer.
Driving through Harahan for the–it’s hard to say how many times I’ve come. A lot. The first time, on our way to watch 24, Season One (just released on dvd!) on our friend’s leather sofa in his over air-conditioned house, you explained to me that this is one of the Really Racist neighborhoods. Anyway, this time he’s with us and so is C, who is new to your school and you’re letting him go everywhere to see if he’ll be your friend. By the way, it doesn’t work out, but you don’t realize it til after he and I are driving together and I get pulled over for going the wrong way down an unmarked one-way, and cry, and the cop lets us go as long as C drives. We don’t tell the cop that he doesn’t have a license, and certainly we don’t tell you anything at all. Before that, C says, “You know, if you add an ‘ok’ to your name, you get Ragnorok.” We’re all teenagers.
Ragnar turns. In April his mom will be out of town and we’ll lock ourselves out and break into the basement with a flashlight wrapped in a t-shirt from my backseat, after a couple of failed international calls to Brazil, where she’s staying. The shards will explode unpredictably both back and forth, skipped stoning into the street, into the fold of his sweathshirt, into my hair. But that’s not where we are right now. “Yeah?” he says, “well, if you add an ‘ok’ to her name, then it becomes ‘Rebeccaok.”
I don’t tell you this story. It’s March. When you ask me this question I just kick the drift, skid a bit, look around and suffix as many things as I can with a little “ok.”
Everyone laughs, C is trying to make friends. Ragnarok is the final battle between good and evil at the end of the world. This seems like a safe thing to add. Before this it was pool, engines, WWE, why some places charge for a cup for water. The conversation flagged when we found out that C lived in a tiny apartment with his mom and sister, that he just arrived from Kuwait. I think it must be hard to have changed schools every few months. Apparently he knows about the end of the world.
I don’t tell you this story because I’m afraid it might be too much of a tangent. I don’t know whose myth Ragnarok is. Your question was about Norse mythology. The only places I am certain about are the comparatively racist cities of Jefferson parish, Brooklyn, Minneapolis, Cambridge. Ragnarok doesn’t belong to any of those, as far as I can remember. Maybe Ragnarok is a Brazilian myth? No.
Before that battle though, three successive winters, snow from all sides, siblings turn against each other. That’s what you’re looking for. When your face is windblown and the snow is taking shapes only otherwise seen in the most unwonted earthy circumstances: places which threaten between eerie and unearthly: the subterranean, the submerged, the man-made/man-broken.
I don’t tell you because I don’t want to concatenate apocalypses. We don’t have facts but we can at least protect trajectory. I don’t tell you because the carful is gone and will never be relevant again. It is a mere coincidence that the word you’re looking for and the word that I happen to know actually do come from the same story. I have a lot of stories, but most of them require a lot of characters. And because those characters are people and those people are gone, I don’t tell you. You want an answer and no one wants a saga, especially an irrelavent one. I was too worried about glass to keep the tshirt. I don’t even think the flashlight was mine. I don’t care about wrestling. And anyway. I disgree. My face is windblown but. Whatever you ask, and maybe it’s because we’re together, I think we can all see signs of, thank god, spring.
In a world that I cannot imagine, there are many ways that the future can go. But now, despite the fact that there are a variety of presents, I can only foresee one result. I wanted to move you.
I take some notes because I am trying to get a grip on things. And now I couldn’t lose you if I wanted to.
You know I love it when things are predictably the same. For example, when faced with structural linguistics for the first time, one student in a classroom will always insist, “but what about BEFORE there was language, what about BEFORE the symbolic order. Things were actually real, then, right?” Of course not. But and I wonder where the future is, in relation to that.
You, it seems, wanted to
Thus says the Lord: I have kept you and given you as a covenant to the people, saying to those who are in darkness, “Show yourselves.”
This week, the homily was about violence and, from the pulpit, the priest asks us to think about why we live in places even when they are violent. He wants us to think about it now and also to remember it every day. It is normal, he tells us, if this concern obsesses you. Why do we wake up and stay and live here again? He tells us, “this is it. If you’d rather be doing something else, now’s the time.”
Long before I moved to New York, I used to visit. And I would sit in the library with someone who is now my friend and she would say over and over that I should move here. It was an unfamiliar feeling and one that I understand, in retrospect, to have been friendship and fondness. Now I do live here and the way that she asked me– well. If she wanted to move me… well– it is one of my most perfectly blissful memories and I think about it almost every day.
It hasn’t been that long and yet no one is surprised. In a world that I cannot imagine, the future is unimaginable. But as it is, I can see all of it.
Away from home for the first time in a long time, I ride in the back seat of a car with two people I have only just met and one who I have known for a very long time. The snow had melted enough to see the ground. The brown grasses had been part of my initial tour but now someone else is leading and mentioning some of the best same sections. She explains that they haven’t seen the ground in months, under the snow, that soon it will be covered again. “Wait, what’s that!?” she stops, eyes dragging her body back with them as they fix on a passing patch of brown. It is mud. She’s excited again. In the future, the snow will re-cover the mud, too. And when I ask her how Top Chef ended, she whips around. We have only just met — this time over her left shoulder– fast enough for the seat belt to seize. “You REALLY want to know?” she asks. “I love spoilers,” I explain.
On all of my trips I, who am so obsessed with home, take notes because I am convinced that while I’m there, I might be delusional. When I get back I review everything and judge it again. It’s hard for me to remember home when I am not in it. I just abide where I am. With you or alone. And now the fact of this and of you, well…
I can see the future and it is the way that it has smoothed my past into something appreciable. In it, we are there, and we know the language and we both know the story. For once, we both know the story. I wanted to move you
They shall feed along the ways, on all the bare heights shall be their pasture; and I shall turn all my mountains into a road, and on my highways shall be raised up. That’s from Isaiah: about a time when the world will look so different that it will be unrecognizable but still where the people live. There is no time after language, either– at least not one that we can envision because we don’t have the words to describe it.
It was a pretty queer sermon, I think. I have always lived in violent places because my family abides deeper than that violence. Nowhere is safe for us and still we turn up for each other, and when we know that our loved ones are in darkness, because it’s all we can do, we show ourselves. And when we are far from each other, we feel it in our bodies, write messages, locate home sometime after language but before the departure.
I don’t know how else to explain it except that something happened and my pain has rarely flared up enough to disable me for more than a few hours. I didn’t really know until I went back to look through my record. I don’t keep a diary but I keep a visual log of my pain. And in the last 60 days it’s declined so steeply that I am temporarily certain that I am either a different person or that language has changed. Periodic dysphasia, sure, but everything else is clearer. I haven’t taken a sick day in a full two months: a record. I can concentrate in most of the moments. I am continuous and coherent. I am one person, writing notes to home to remind myself, in case this goes away, that this is possible to get back.
In the car, she asks me if I really want to know how it ends and I say yes. There is space for new friends.
A hefty amount of stress melted off. A few months ago, my life spanned backwards, a major mountain range. From any vantage point you could see a dozen others, shadowed, inaccessible, snowy. And then the snow melted to reveal the warm brown, beneath. It was softer than expected and, it turns out, that I wasn’t lost in the mountains, but just very, very small upon a crest of a crumpled paper bag. Now I am my size and can smooth it. I can tear it in half or use it to write a note. I cannot explain how time has collapsed to give me memory of it, complicatedly–sure–, all. But I’m glad we’re here together and I can hand it to you and, I guess, you can hold it too, if you want.
She asks me if I really want to know how it ends: “You love spoilers? Really? I love spoiling things!.. What haven’t you seen?”
Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth; break forth, O mountains, into singing!
Everyone I know is getting closer together. My own life, is small enough to pick up and– I am so relieved– move me.
Back in Brooklyn, at a show, I get to sit between the friend that invited me here, 7 years ago and a dear, new friend. And the new friend turns to me and says, “I’m a sucker for any line about coming home.” And I smile back at her to maintain the surface tension of my watering eyes. I agree so hard that just hearing her say it– we are both small atop– we are both ourselves– we are both flung together, unmoving, here: home.
In the future, when the mountains are roads, I’ll meet you here.
See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands.