‘He said he’d be willing to take me with him. And when I asked him where, he got mad.’
‘I was convinced I could sing like a wire at Kelvin, high and pale, burn without ignition or friction, shine cool as a lemony moon, mated to a lattice of pure meaning. Interferenceless transfer. But a small, quiet, polite, scented, neatly ordered system of new signals has somehow shot me in the head. With words and tears she has amputated something from me. I gave her the intimate importance of me, and her bus pulled away, leaving something key of mind inside her like the weapon of a bee. All I want to do now is drive very away, to bleed.’
“Which is neither here nor there.”
‘No, the thing to see is exactly that it’s there. That Maine is different from, fundamentally other than both Boston and Bloomington. Unfamiliar sights are a balm. From the hot enclosed car I see rocks veined with glassy color, immoderate blocks of granite whose cubed edges jut tangent to the scraggled surface of hills; slopes that lead away from the highway in gentle sine curves. The sky is a study in mint. Deer describe brown parabolae by the sides of the forested stretches.’
“I sense feeling being avoided not confronted Bruce. Maybe here we might just admit together that if one uses a person as nothing more than a receptacle for one’s organs, fluids, and emotions, if one never regards her as more than and independent from the feelings and qualities one is disposed to invest her with from a distance, it is wrong then to turn around and depend on her feelings for any significant part of one’s own sense of wellbeing. Bruce why not just admit that what bothers you so much is that she has given irresistible notice that she has an emotional life with features that you knew nothing about, that she is just plain different from whatever you might have decided to make her into for yourself. In short a person Bruce.” — David Foster Wallace, from “Here and There”
The story I want to tell is not a story. It’s a graph, a clean one with an upward-sloping line. Like many scientists, I take points of data - in this case, measurements of my life - and draw a trend. Sometimes I extrapolate.
I need to move up, because the only future I want is there. As x, or time, increases, so must y. X marks the spot, X signifies the unnamed treasure - but why? The start of many of my questions. Why not seek something in the fourth quadrant? In other words, why not down? In other words, whyup? Upward mobility, buck up, cheer up, live it up, up and away, things are looking up: these are the many pieces of evidence I use to justify my perception of success as a ladder to be climbed. And it is why I put my future on the top rung. I am determined to reach it.
The problem with my study - well, there are many - but the main ones: fed up, slip up, up in smoke, give up.
These conjure painfully an image of Claudia. She sits in my oversized shirt, sipping black coffee from a cracked mug. She is beautiful. Her glasses are on, as is her determined, nearly-finished-manuscript face. She had me read the first draft before we left for Ireland. Of course, she became possessed by edits, despite many (she claimed) efforts of exorcism. And I became exasperated with her fits of sadness each time she delved into this particular novel. I slung vaguely mean things at her, insinuating that her obsession with the darkest of subject matters betrayed an illness of the head. She just leveled her even glare.
“There’s humor attached to everything, too, Felix, and there’s hope. But these mean nothing without the nasty. Don’t deny yourself.”
Thus, she drove me to the streets of Dublin one evening, determined to embrace only worthy things that would prove her wrong, while she stayed home ceaselessly working. But in the end, I stumbled through the nasty things. All of my infidelities … well, that is another story. In fact, it is a published one, and if our great wide world hadn’t just been consumed by an all-consuming mist, you could read it, and it would consume you - a characteristic of all of Claudia’s great works.
It all hinges on the significance of y, and I must admit in the darkest times of doubt that this meaning changes often and often without warning. Remember the Boy Scout days of craving merits? Working toward them was clear-cut and easy - they were labeled, they were tangible, and you didn’t have to question if they were worth attaining.
No, I don’t remember those days, either.
What’s not in a name? That’s the problem, isn’t it? If you let your mind wander freely and far enough, you will find that any name contains everything, to every degree.
I am also just an island, standing in front of humans, asking them to be my friends.
- S: BY THE GATES OF ASGARD!
- S: ODIN'S BEARD!
- H: THOR'S LOAD
- S: SON OF AN EIGHT-LEGGED HORSE!
- H: FREYA'S TITS
- H: LOKI'S GOOGLY EYES
When we return to places of learning, we are invited to consider how much we have learned since we left them. Sometimes this is difficult to confront. Sometimes it is best to treat our memories metonymically, so as not to get too close.
It was last week that a cement-mixer passed me
In the right lane and I thought
Of you, not because we shared a memory,
Nor because of that metaphor you used
To explain the way you are
(You still have no excuse) –
But because it reminded me that
Even the hardest things were once soft;
That even before we were hardened,
We were made to be that way one day.