“If you find this work wearisome or difficult to follow, please take pity on me for I have repeated these calculations some seventy times.”
― Johannes Kepler, The Harmony of the World, 1619.
“I don’t know why I told this story. I could just as well have told another. Perhaps some other time I’ll be able to tell another. Living souls, you will see how alike they are.”
― Samuel Beckett, The Complete Short Prose: 1929-1989.
1. By dawn, my stepfather had introduced us to a mythology of his own. He built a tower hide, attached wing tags, cast his nets over clouds and sky.
Back then, we lived under a three tiered sky of cartilage, hollow limb and common bone.
There were birds as big as bathtubs and birds with bellows in their throats. The wind was thick with them, twenty four to every eye, fits and flocks of them.
Birds of now and birds of then, he said. Both would be blacked out at the Halowell.
“Birds, by their quickness and intelligence and alertness in acting upon every thought, are a ready instrument of God, who can prompt their movements, their cries and songs, their pauses and wind-like flights, thus bidding some men check, and others pursue to the end, their course of action or ambitions.”
― Plutarch, 1st century AD.
2. When the cloud cover was clear, we watched him turn the anesthesia machine back on. The sound of opposing currents came through over motorized, brackish, cold. Wind fell off course.
As if I didn’t notice, a nowhere was growing inside of me.
3. Cells stop making new rejuvenated cells. Maintenance gets scaled back or rolled out in illogical ways.
Early human explanations: Our bodies over time, get worn out. Our tools get worn out over time, artifacts etc. Shouldn’t our bodies be the same?
Evolutionary function of aging. It has such a cost, why does it exist. What pays for it biologically?
4. Seven weeks we waited in our pop-up trailer. Jillison was a ghost born again. We played duck and shutter, pane and palm print, draw card and rook exchange.
We practiced disassociation strategies until we were waking strangers, until we were too young to guess what was coming again.
Hours began appearing briefly or repeatedly, as if each duplicate was undercutting into something lesser.
5. I watched my stepfather outside again, filling sacks with fallen leaves, covering echoes in rain, confirming the failed results.
I could read the swears worsening on his lips. I listened for the recoil of commas and halts of breaths, more or less single tones, pauses before the rest.
I wondered how a face could end up looking like that. Jowls and bone and eyes bulging, barely any shapes at all.
Caught me red handed, caught me empty handed, the inevitable was never far from where I stopped following along.
“To oppose something is to maintain it… To be sure, if you turn your back on [something] and walk away from it, you are still on the [same] road…You must go somewhere else; you must have another goal; then you walk a different road.”
― Ursula K. LeGuin, The Left Hand of Darkness, 1969.
6. No mental imagery. Purely conceptual. A computer that stores information but you do not have a screen attached to the computer. You can’t view it. But you can still access it.
1 out of 50 people don’t create pictures inside their mind like other people do. Instead they experience blindness of the mind’s eye. Aphantasia.
Why does it take so long for anyone to tell? A lot of conversations go unnoticed or missing in the back seat, individuals find a way to function despite it.
7. It wasn’t denial at first of course, just another way to exist further and further from myself.
Jillison wrote a reminder and left it for me. He called me the upcoming hopeless and I tried to laugh about it as long as I could.
8. My stepfather watched us with one infected orbital. He recited another fever vision under his breath. He went back in to check on the anesthesia machine. His eyes were controlled by corners of light.
Jillison was right when she said critical parts were missing. Blood-soaked, empty veined, a sky made from shadows of flesh.
She was right when she said, if the afterlife ever started, it was starting then.
“Life being what it is, one dreams of revenge…”
― Paul Gauguin, 1903.
9. Rank in level of detail.
A close friend, a partner, a family member. How well in your mind’s eye can you the contours of their face? Just how vivid are these mental images?
There tends to be a spectrum, from none to extreme lucidity.
“Consider incompleteness as a verb.”
― Anne Carson, Plainwater: Essays and Poetry, 1995.
10. He used both hours, like there nothing was wrong with it. Like he shouldn’t have to even worry about getting caught.
I could feel his anesthesia machine overheating, sweating heavily.
Synaptic ripple and retreat.
Left my eyelids there, left my pulse there, left my body as an echo chamber. My throat was numb from vomit and spit swallowed back and spit up and swallowed back.
Jillison told me it didn’t matter now. She made it simple: Hide the knives under our pillow. Wait until he comes the right night.
Kill the bastard already.
“I am awfully greedy; I want everything from life. I want to be a woman and to be a man, to have many friends and to have loneliness, to work much and write good books, to travel and enjoy myself, to be selfish and to be unselfish… You see, it is difficult to get all which I want. And then when I do not succeed I get mad with anger.”
― Simone de Beauvoir, in a letter to Nelson Algren