Anna McConnell

Big Sky Big Sky What More Could We Ask For: Part 1


ISSUE 11 | BEHIND THE CAMERA | DEC 2011

Do you know the story of the Russian cosmonaut?

The cosmonaut, he is the first man ever to go into space.

He goes up in the big spaceship but the only habitable part of it is very small.

So, the cosmonaut is in there and he’s got this portal window and he is looking out of it and he sees the curvature of the earth for the first time. I mean, he is the first man to ever look at the planet he is from.

And he is lost in that moment.

And all of a sudden, this strange ticking begins coming out of the dashboard.

[Rhoda begins to rap her knuckles against the countertop, producing a heavy, even thump.]

       THUMP.
       THUMP.
       THUMP.

He rips out the control panel, right?

       THUMP.

Takes out his tools–trying to find this sound, trying to stop this sound!

       THUMP.

But he can’t find it… He can’t stop it…

       THUMP.

It keeps going…
… few hours into this–begins to feel like torture. A few days go by with this sound, and he knows that this…

       THUMP.

small…        THUMP.         sound…         will break him.
He’ll lose his mind.
And what’s he going to do?
       THUMP.

He’s up in space, alone, in a space closet!! He’s got twenty-five days left to go with this sound!

So the cosmonaut decides that the only way to save his sanity is to fall in love with this sound.

He closes his eyes… he goes into his imagination… and when he opens them…
he doesn’t hear ticking anymore…        he hears music.

and he spends the remainder of this time, sailing through space in total bliss… and peace.

(Another Earth)

 

 

 

 

 

READER: What lies before us are a few scraps from the files of The Author, what could be called—if we’re in the mood to be kind—the sweat of a young artist. If we’re in the mood. Alternatively, it might be called: what happens when one tries to write it all down. Treating one’s real life, chock-full of real people, as fiction does not lead to… to… Well. All I’ll say is that treating people, including oneself, as characters rarely bodes well for fostering love, which, in the end, might just be the only power in the world that wills us on.1 I’m not sure how good it is for integrity either. Or truth. But maybe that’s the truth—love, I mean—in which case, perhaps these documents could be the story of how someone found the Truth.

N.B. I have included a few notes to guide the reader, as these scraps (arranged chronologically) jump in place and time. Also, titles, to break it down. To break it down further, I have also included Acts to help show the chronology, the movement in her thinking.

As a brief overview, I’ll say that these scraps begin with The Author as a sulky student at The Center of Knowledge. There is a brief, post-COK period where she finds herself in Brooklyn; the remainder occurs inside of a car, catching out to The Heartland, in the Heartland, and then catching out again, inside of a car, again: skirting the outskirts with the grey road, the chem trails, the crazy hag hacking and burping, and maybe gurus. She might find herself in an Intentional Community in the Ozarks. Maybe she knows, by this point, the danger—no, the pathetic-ness—of tempting fate for one’s own egoistic bull but once you pop you can’t stop. For serious. When will she get it? Will anything ever stick? Well. I’ll all say is that if it’s anywhere, the remainder might be where it is at. Then again, I just got back.

N.B., Take Two: For my HYPOCRITE READER, the first half of these documents are published here, below. The second half will be published in next month’s issue, “Home and Pain.”

FIRST PROLOGUE: TRANSCENDENCE.2 (“TRANSCENDENCE.” The Grief Armies Assemble. What Can I Do to Make You Believe Me. Hymn to the Moirae. All Things Become as Nothing in Our Hands. And a Dream.)

Transcendence: The Grief Armies Assemble.

Pock.
                   Pock.
          Pock.

The ball was carried, back and forth, without force and without enthusiasm, forming a low and careless arc in the air. The air hung white, thin, relentless. The kind that might make an asthmatic gasp for more. Looking up: no clouds, no sun spottable to break it up, it simply rose and rose and rose.

Focus your eyes on the court. Here are two girls, sophomores of that prestigious madhouse, playing. One is Em, pretty but thick, with a thick brown ponytail and a tennis skirt that is, despite her efforts, riding up to expose pimply hamhocks. The other is Simone: tall, with thighs that curve out like chicken wings or the bow of a violin, the kind that are increasingly common these days amongst the bodies of older women with pushed back faces and an empty nest…

Shall we make Simone an asthmatic? She isn’t, and the ground in Chicago is flat. Perhaps the gasping came on account of the cigarette breaks, taken at the end of each match. And as for the lame play? Well. Simone’s blouse was far too thin, and on account of her own thinness she was the type to have regressed to flatchestedness and so thought she could get away with croptops or nothing. But believe me, starvation won’t change the size of one’s nipples, and so those hardly sheathed jewels pluckered out into the limelight as incongruous demands of her soft, fragrant sensuality. And they were there, so Em couldn’t help but look.3

They are through—headed back to the apartment. Em lumps alongside the bubbly Simone. Simone of the Pink Face. Not to call her pink-faced—on the contrary, her skin is white, translucent—but within her face. I imagine the wet pink seeping from the corners of her eyes, like a cocker spaniel… She is gummy—gums are pink. Also, pockmarks. Faintish pinkish scars across her nose and cheeks: the remnants of terrible acne. Here is something that Em will not notice until a long time afterwards—until she is piecing together the bits of Simone’s face, and, cradling these pink pocks, will puzzle as to what they were for. And when she realizes, she will experience a fierce yank in the belly: the impeccable, impenetrable Simone was once ugly, and had known its shame. And she, Em, had been facing those marks for the whole of their friendship and had refused to see them. We are blind.

Simone is jabbering. “I’ve finished, finally. Built from below up—reach the night face up—wallpapered the penthouse graffitied in trips and Freudian slips, finishing touches were the mirrors for the mirror stage, you know how it is.”

How can I tell you any of this? I wanted to convey a little world. There are a zillion little souls out there screaming to be heard, scratching at the screens in their ugly little voices, nasal, scratching, and it is enough to make your fingers tickle. Like you’d like to press and push your fingertips together to stop all the tickling and feel it all turn to chalk. And inside, there is air rising, there is a bubble growing within Em’s belly—empty, expansive, full of anguish, because she doesn’t know what to listen to and what not to listen to anymore. Because she had to tune it all out because it was all lies but she doesn’t know what to trust and what to not, but she taught herself how to not and now she does not know how to go back.

There are few birds left cheeping in the bare sky above.

 

Upon return, Simone shows Em her latest creation. The story is composed purely of images, thick. There is nothing to say about it. It confuses Em—she can’t keep the pronouns straight, and she’s not clear on the plot. Once Em has finished, she doesn’t know what she could say, so she stays quiet for a long time—her head bent over the white sheets, pretending that she is still reading. She can feel Simone, waiting, patiently, behind her. She can smell Simone, the damp imprint of sweat that has risen from inside her. Watching behind her. Waiting for her to speak…

 

…For everything, to Simone, was simply an object to fit into one of her stories. And it seemed her interests changed with every word she spat—gypsies, stockings, Artaud, Kaballah, Deleuze, clothes pins, Lacan, Poland, salt flats, kitsch, Antarctica, The Passion of Joan of Arc, Judas—and all for the purpose of writing. Everything was an object to pick and throw away, to experiment with as a new writing style—for she was determined to be a writer.

It is easy for Simone to act. It is easy to act when you have something to act for, when it all becomes toys, beautiful objects to arrange around you.

Em leaves for a walk. Behind campus, the houses—broken, chunks of their foundation disappeared as if bitten by a yeti—prepare for Halloween: polyester cobwebs knowingly spread across chain link fence, grey; and beyond that, the sky again. The sky is the sky until it hits the earth—and even then, the earth reflects, glistens, this presence. This is how it always is…

This. It is in this that she can trust: it is only in this that there could be answers. But what? She cannot speak to it and it will not speak to her. We cannot speak to it; we can only keep trying, in all that we do, to speak of it. And if we please, it will recede seamlessly into our backdrop—though that won’t change it—it is here.

And when the light shifts, then the gloaming comes, it is the same. Shadows shrink, distend with the pitch of time—faces and buildings grow long—and darkness. This too is the same.

She never had this conversation with Simone. At the start of their friendship she tried, walking together by the water, a duck. She recited a poem.

I don’t get tired of you. Don’t grow weary
of being compassionate toward me!

All this thirst equipment
must surely be tired of me,
the waterjar, the water carrier.

I have a thirsty fish in me
that can never find enough
of what it’s thirsty for!

Show me the way to the ocean!
Break these half-measures, these small containers.

All this fantasy
and grief.

Let my house be drowned in the wave
that rose last night in the courtyard
hidden in the center of my chest.

Joseph fell like the moon into my well.
The harvest I expected was washed away.
But no matter.

A fire has risen above my tombstone hat.
I don’t want learning, or dignity,
or respectability.

I want this music and this dawn
and the warmth of your cheek against mine.

The grief-armies assemble,
but I’m not going with them.

This is how it always is
when I finish a poem.

A great silence comes over me,
and I wonder why I ever thought
to use language.4

“Be careful—I hear he’s a god-awful translator,” Simone said.5 “But it’s sweet! Oh, Em, you’re cute. Look at Em, my mystic friend. My crunchy friend.” And when Em protested, Simone—ever eager for critical debate—flashed back. “Don’t you see? Don’t you see what you’re doing—it’s exactly the same. Except yours is dangerous—it won’t tell you anything, Em. You won’t get anywhere with yours.”

And so the world appeared to tremble beneath Simone’s precious mouth—she is able, with a single shard uttered, to pickle the world into a crude mass of pearls singing from her throat. Masturbation. That’s what it all is, if we do anything with it—the world becomes our pornography, and we transcend every time we come, mastering it, the masochist with his whip. And what we see will become a throw-up of mirrors, shining back at us our faces. We will see our faces everywhere—twisted, crumpled, haughty.

Haven’t you been here before? Can’t you hear all these paunchy males, whinnying and braying? What happens when the noise takes over, and you cannot see the world anymore? Not that you could ever see it. But it was beautiful once. And now, here she is, and everyone is telling her that it’s a lie. Think critically, think the world, make the world, make it work for you.

Everyone is telling her to rise up.

Humans. We are born half animal and half god—but it is in flux. You choose—whether to indulge your animal side or your god side. Most people are animals— look at them.

Munch, munch, munching at the viands.

This is what they say. The mallard floated in the muck. The world is sinking.

This is how it begins. It begins with Em losing a battle. Don’t you know how hard it is, when someone is telling you that you are acting silent, don’t you know how hard it is to force yourself to speak?6 And how angry it makes you—because maybe before the silence was helping you to connect to something... But now—how are you supposed to not be quiet when every moment goes by and you have her voice in your head urging you speak up

Because now Em is stuck. What was once beautiful turns to rot, holes in your teeth. But she clings on to the silence, because it was good before - though it has grown deformed—telling herself that it still represents something of higher value; and she resents Simone, for she cannot do anything now for fear that it will distort. She lies on her bed—she cannot move.

“I wonder if they have gypsies in Israel!” Simone yaks away in the kitchen.

 

Outside, everyone’s becoming increasingly squirrelish. Small women in leather coats squirreling away outside bakeries with burgundy claws full of chips chewing them with their front teeth.

 

TRANSCENDENCE. What Can I Do to Make You Believe Me.

“Did you play with her genitals?”
“Nah, man. I couldn’t even get her bra off.”
“You should’ve played with her genitals.”
“Yeah.”
“Start with the genitals next time, man.”
“Yeah?”
“Yeah. Get their juices flowing first. They like that.”

Noah7 stands doped up against a wall with his posse: a dweeb from Iowa who hit his luck in Wicker Park and now leans squeezed in white pants, shirt and ascot, oversized glasses and teeth; a formerly fat kid in plaid; and some other fools. Noah himself is slightly chiller: he has the swagger and the addiction that often comes with those who know they will never need to work a day in their life. He is small, with small hands, boat shoes and a bandana accenting hair that sticks straight out like Dylan. Noah is a writer, so he keeps on his person a legal pad and a sharpie wherever he goes…

 

[CHUNK IS MISSING.] 8

 

Simone dreamt that she was in a white nightgown, and Noah mounted her. And she couldn’t move. Simone acts this out for Em now. Her white nightgown hangs on her like a sheet on a hanger. The sun beats down on the floor.

“And I couldn’t move—I was paralyzed.” She demonstrates—she draws together her shoulders, placing her hands and arms flat against the front of her body, stands still like that, paralyzed, for a moment.

“And then—you know the face that Noah makes? When he looks like a goblin? Well, he makes this face sometimes. Sometimes his face is totally angelic, but sometimes he—he looks like a monster.” She pauses, touches a finger to an elbow, shudders, for a moment. “He starts having sex with me, and I am totally paralyzed, my legs feel dead, numb, like I have no connection to them. I can’t lift my arms, and I can’t speak, either. And then his face—he is looking at me, his face is close to mine, and he turns into a goblin! And he is laughing, and it is so, so terrible.”

“Mmm,” says Em. “That sucks. That sounds like a really bad dream.”
“Oh, no! Sweetpie,” says a third. “That’s terrible. I’m so sorry. That’s awful.”
“Yes,” says Simone. “It is. Well.” She looks distressed. “I’m going back to bed.”
She retreats. Em and the third return to the dishes; later, the two meet for a movie. The third asks Em if she’d heard from Simone—“she says she fainted.”
“Really? What happened?”
“I guess she hadn’t eaten all day. And then, she took some pill—”
“What pill?”
“Uh, it’s unclear. Some pill she got. But anyway, yeah, and she was feeling sort of queasy—“
“She should’ve had something to eat.”

“Yeah. Well. She was feeling sort of queasy, and then she said she was standing in the kitchen, and she collapsed, and has a bruise, or something… She sounds really upset. She wants us to come home, now, and help her. She wants us to bring her soup.”

“Soup? I want to go to the movie. Didn’t you tell her we’re going to a movie?”

Afterwards, as they wait for a takeout egg drop soup, Em speaks. “It was too beautiful. Nobody has dreams like that.”

“I don’t know,” says the third. The third sounds tired. They return home. Simone is perched on her bed, scribbling on a legal pad. Em places the soup on her table, as directed. Simone follows to the kitchen to show where she fell—she shows the place on the doorframe where her side hit the wall. She shows where she lay, crumpled. She shows the faint bruise on her hip that has emerged.

 

[CHUNK IS MISSING. FANTASY BELOW (“IN MY GRANDMOTHER’S DREAM”) TO MAKE UP FOR THE MISSING CHUNK.] 9

 

She had been sleeping. She had not even known he was in the bed with her, but now she wakes to him mounting her. She suppresses her startle. She barely recognizes what he intends to do–he has not tried to enter her for weeks, at least. It was an almost forgotten activity. But now he is ready. A flash of resentment strikes: he must have been stirred by a sexy dream, why now, why always on his terms, in the morning when he has a morning boner that has nothing to do with her, or at times like these... But she leaves it at that. She is learning to let her thoughts pass and slip out of her. Very Zen-like, she tells herself, because nothing good will come from thinking these thoughts. Better to make good with the good that he is here, now—so she readies herself, changes her startle into her most bewitching look, and he mounts, and she looks bewitching, and as he does she realizes—her eyes still set in that stare–with real horror now that there is no hole there, that she is as smooth and seamless as his yellow face. What once was a slit has simply vanished as if it was never there. Even her insides feel full, solid. Like it was never there. Like there is nothing missing now.

Because maybe before it felt like something was missing but now it is solid, like the hard, solid meat of a tuna steak, like mahogany. Except it can only be horror that she feels—maybe she feels an instant of good at her new found solidity, like nothing is wrong, nothing is missing—but if there ever was even a second of that it would vanish for surely he will be angry when he finds out that there is something wrong, that he can’t. She makes a move to stop him but he looks at her set, with those dead eyes, sallow, opiate; eyes that in her most poetic moments reminds her of plums, the inside of the eyes almost—at spots—the color of the flesh of a plum, deep yellow, and on the inner rims, and running down in rivulets from his broken eye flesh, dark lines of black red, the skin of the plum. He looks at her with those plum eyes, always unmoving, and his thick lips, set in that grimace of disdain, of disappointment, at all that she has failed to bring. He looks at her as if she was not there, and he does not process her trying to push him off now frantically; trying to push him off with one hand and hold his sunken chest at bay, and the other hand pulling down at her nightgown so he won’t be able to see what she is missing, what she has filled.

But he does not process, and he quietly takes her wrists up in a hand and uses the other to hold his base and he pushes against her solid mass and she shuts her eyes and he slips into her. And she is amazed that he has slipped into her because she has been a solid mass but as soon as she does she feels that the solidity, now, is writhing. And when he leaves to return there is a sucking noise, a slurping noise, suction. And she lifts her nightgown to see how it has happened and her slit has turned into a gash, a wound, writhing with little worms, lifting their heads from their formless bodies up and falling back into the mass again, white, pinkish, lifting up and falling, lifting up and falling, connected to the wound.

~

“Lie down with me. I need you right now.”

“No!” she protests. “I can’t do that.”

But she is already in the wrong—she shouldn’t have been there in the first place. And what have they been doing? Writing exercises. She hasn’t felt so good in a long time. They had crossed each other on the street; he had begun talking to her, honestly, desperately. He’d put the joint in her hand, the pen, supplied the paper. “Let’s do an exercise,” he’d said. And surely there was no harm in that—she couldn’t run from paper, unwritten words—by now they were under the dim light of his room: a mattress stained with rings of cum, towers of books, butts and ash ground in to a beige rug, and Dylan posters, to remind us that there were heroes, if we chose to face them.

He has her read what she writes out loud. He applauds her every word. She writes a scene about him and Simone, and how they disgust her.

And now, again. “Come here. Lie with me.”

So surely she is stuck. That she had written with him was certainly more hurtful to Simone—and if she refused then he would get pissed, and tell Simone—and besides, where else would she go—it was too late to go home—

“Fine. But no kissing.”

“I promise.”

She crawls under the sheets and he sticks his fingers up her cunt. I’m just playing, I’m just playing, he is cooing.

Before you tell me that she should have run let me tell you how it felt. She should not have been there in the first place. Writing with him was worse than this. She could not help that he stuck his hand in her. Now, what was she to do? Was she to run home, where Simone would be? And what she have told Simone? And if she had said nothing? She couldn’t trust Noah. And if she had complained? She would sound unreal, lame, and he is just playing, just playing…

He continues to talk in his soothing voice, to talk as if she were the crazy one, for taking this play so seriously. He continues to whisper about the hypocrisy that surrounds him, to tell her that she understands, that she will treat him with passion. She mutters a complaint—laughable. “You think she gives a damn about you? All this talk about friendship. Haven’t you learned anything yet—only as creators can we destroy!”

And perhaps, when he sticks himself in her, she tells him not to do that. But she knows, if she did, what his answer will be. She knows what his answer will be and anyhow she had already nodded her agreement that she understood what hypocrisy is and I was on his side and anyhow I had nowhere to go, where would I go, who would I tell, he was my only ally in this, we were allies in this, our secret, our understanding. And once his goblinish nails were scratching inside me there was no point in not kissing because the next step was already taken and if left at that then it would have been cheap.

But if we put our mouths together than we could close off the lies our mouths kept spewing and he kept cooing just playing, just playing. Because even he too couldn’t help but speak lies because that was what our mouths were made for. This wasn’t just playing, but he couldn’t stop, so I had to make him stop. And anyhow it all seemed that it had been decided already for I had nothing else to do but what I did. I kissed him, and it was lame and worn and passed already.

TRANSCENDENCE. Hymn to the Moirae.

Hear your prayer.

Daughter of darkling Nyx much named, draw near, infinite Moirae, and listen to my prayer; who is in the heavenly lake, where waters white burst from a fountain hid in depths of night, and through a dark and stony cavern glide, a cave profound, invisible abide; from whence, wide coursing round the boundless earth, your power extends to those of mortal birth; to men with hope elated, trifling, gay, a race presumptuous, born but to decay.

Moira. It meant portion, as in the portion of one’s life: fate. For the triplets Moirae: Clotho, spinner, spinning the thread of life–Lachesis, alotter, taking up the thread against her rod to measure out each mortal’s portion—and Atropos, unturning, the inexorable. With knotted hands she’d pluck the thread and press it into the deep of her scissors splayed, and cut.

So that explained portion—as if all our lives could be one spun together onto a single spool.

But excuse me if when I learnt portion I thought of food, not spinning. And so I imagined fate--each human life—as a thigh, or a jelly, or a breast, spread out as a portion of the spinsters’ daily bread. Some half-masticated. Crusty. A stench.

For it is inconceivable that the spinsters would have cared much for manners—there was no one else beside them: even the gods reigned below. The gods were moved, but none can break the ancient Sistes’ iron decrees. Ovid, Metamorphoses. And if grooming habits reflect etiquette—they were bearded. Before my grandmother died she grew a little beard. Thick, short hairs—each an inch or two—that curled out, then in. Sparse enough to make my goose bump, full enough to be indescribable as anything but. This is how the Moirae were. Plato describes them as filleted heads. The first blueprints that my mind drew up were gentler than reality. I imagined old woman bodies with fish heads for heads. In truth, filleted is boneless, or a loop of fibers–these women had no faces.

There are accounts of the Moirae visiting mothers-to-be at the hearth. For instance, as Thestias bore Meleager, the Sisters said: “to you, babe newly born, and to this log [there was a burning log] we give the same life-span.” The Sisters vanished and Thestias hid the log. Years later, in fury, Thestias threw the log into the kindling. The log itself groaned, or seemed to groan, as there it lay licked the unwilling flames and burned away. Unknowing absent, Meleager burned, burned with those flames and felt a hidden fire scorching his vitals…The fire, the pains increase, then sink again; both die away together; gradually in the light air his spirit splits away as over the embers spread a veil of grey. (Ovid, Metamorphoses.)

These words are beautiful but the one I prefer concerns the birth of Hercules. Hera, old, yellowing at the thought, approaches the Sisters on both knees. Gets them to keep Alcmene stuck in labor. But Alcmene’s pal, sweet loyal Galinthias, fearing that Alcmene, unable to bear the pangs, will grow mad, tricks the Moirae to let go their grip. They do and the child is born. The Sisters punish her. Ovid puts it delicately: the Moirae turn Galinthias into a weasel and give her a “grotesque” form of mating: “she is mounted through the ears and gives birth by bringing forth her young through her throat.” Slippery. I was sick when I read that first and felt the sensation like a marble, propelled from my swallow and pressing and cutting out into the dry air. The second part did not come as clearly and it took me a while to get it, but when I did, in the violet shadows of the bedroom— a presence, like a bogey, pressing into the drum of my ear.

I have been listening for signs and all there is is silence. I have a confession. When I am riding in the car there is a recurrence. That we get in an accident, and my skull is being crushed against the sidewalk. I’ll be riding and I can’t stop feeling this feeling of my skull shattering. I feel the top part, the temples and the divot above atlas, hitting the hard concrete. I’ll think about the air rushing, tickling around inside my head, thousands of minute scatterings of bone.

But when I close my eyes—there is a man, standing on a beam high, high up in the air. Below him a body of water is rushing. The man, erect, has his arms pressed to his sides, his feet together. There is a rope tied from the beam to his ankles. He falls. Stick straight. Like diving, except with arms still pressed together. He doesn’t change his position. He falls, down, down, until the rope catches, he dangles, flannel in the blue air, still perfectly still, just a few feet—what, six feet, seven yards—from his blue death. It is this, over and over and over again.

Fate. That is why I did it. Before the effect one believes in different causes than one does after the effect. That’s what Nietzsche said. So I should resist the temptation to explain why Em did it: truth lies on a continuum and to pluck out some pulpy hairs and dangle them as reasons would be to misguide. But listen to this:

Yet I am indeed already there in the future; it is for the sake of that being which I will be there at the turning of the path that I now exert all my strength, and in this sense there is already a relation between my future being and my present being. But a nothingness has slipped into the heart of this relation I am not the self which I will be.. Yet as I am already what I will be (otherwise I would not be interested in any one being more than another), I am not the self which I will be, in the mode of not being it. It is through my horror that I am carried toward the future… Anguish is precisely my consciousness of being my own future, in the mode of not being. The freedom which reveals itself to us in anguish can be characterized by the existence of that nothing which insinuates itself between motives and act. It is not because I am free that my act is not subject to the determination of motives; on the contrary, the structure of motives as ineffective is the condition of my freedom. There is never a motive in consciousness; motives are only for consciousness. It is by nature transcendence in immanence. Anguish as the manifestation of freedom in the face of self means that man is always separated by a nothingness from his essence.

Jean-Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness. So if anguish is consciousness of that odorless, massless freedom which won’t cease rising and which haunts us as the ever present–and if Em could not bear it anymore–if freedom paralyzes, then shouldn’t fate free?

Haven’t you ever fucked up, did something you didn’t mean to do—and then, what do you have to do, you have to keep pushing it, just keep pushing it—just so it doesn’t all become for nothing? All things become as nothing in our hands. Everything repeats—it keeps returning, hitting back, back… To what? To nothing? So I kept pushing because I wanted something to become of it, because I didn’t want it to have all been for nothing. You know how it continues. Em tells Simone that she and Noah care about each other–Simone is crushed but, seeing that Em won’t back down, eventually tells Em that if she wants to be a writer, she will have to take in all the emotions, including suffering. “So I will suffer. God, I feel like Jesus Christ.” And another meeting. Simone, clad in a white tunic, her fingertips cradled, forming a cage lain on her lap, tells Em that she will forgive Em some day–not now, she is not strong enough for that–but some day, Simone will forgive and they will be friends again. Em cursed Simone silently on the way out.

And Noah—even Em must have known how that would go. They sleep together once, he tires of her–but doesn’t care enough about her to make her go away—so she keeps coming back like a sick puppy. Honestly, I don’t think that I felt one way or the other about it—I didn’t care about him, I didn’t really care at all, but I had to keep telling myself that I cared so much, because if I stopped—if I stopped acting like I cared—then what, what would there be? How would I move? What would there be to move for? So I kept moving.

Maybe that doesn’t sound like fate. It felt like fate, you know, to hear yourself in your head. In those blue hours alone, when everything becomes still, when everything becomes the same, and you hear yourself. You hear yourself articulate what you’re going to do, how you are going to act—and then, it doesn’t matter how you feel about it, it doesn’t matter whether you don’t care or you think it’s bad or you don’t want to, you do it. That is how everything is. That is what I did—I began writing about it, every melodrama that played out—and soon, when we were together, I would hear my voice speaking out my actions, dramatizing them, as I moved. For the first time—I was free to move. When he bashed my character, I wasn’t there—I took it in from the ceiling, wrote it in my pad, and came back the next day for more material. Material wasn’t enough—I began to form it into a story–but of course, I could not get to the end because there is no end.10

TRANSCENDENCE. All Things Become as Nothing in Our Hands.

Em enters the apartment with her head down and her shoulders erect. Simone’s room looks out into the foyer: the door is open, Simone is in there, propped on pillows, bent over, reading. Em turns away quickly, silently—Simone’s voice calls after her.

“Hey, how you doing?”

Em nods.

Once shut in the privacy of her room, Em takes out her notebook, tries to write. She can’t write like this. This can’t be the end—he didn’t know what he was saying—she will track him down, make him explain himself, give it another shot. She is bristling. She touches up, stomps out. And as she leaves—

“Have a good time, Em.”

She looks towards the voice.

And something caught me, then. She sounded different. Like her voice was begging me to stay. It made me look—her face, composed, as always—but off. Twisted, mottled.

They are staring into each other for a moment.

And then the word came to me. She looked pathetic. Pa-the-tic. I couldn’t stand to look at it. But after that, I couldn’t get that word, that face, out of my head.

Pa-the-tic. Pa-the-tic.

We turn away when we discover each other as if for the first time.

 

Em tramps towards his house. Blackness has settled. This won’t be the end—she will keep pushing, keep pushing… But if he doesn’t let me in—and what was it all for? That I hurt a person, and a handful of scraps? No point thinking like that. Make it of value—create a story for her. Keep going—make it worth something. Make something of that face that you created. How was that face? Hopeful? Twisted? Pathetic. Pa-the-tic. Gives a good beat. And those legs—tucked. Endless. Hands by her sides and then extended towards Em, palms that were translucent with tracings of blue, even from that distance. How are her own? Thick, mottled. Salami hands. All things become as nothing in our hands.

Pa-the-tic. Pa-the-tic.

Stomp on.

The sound of her footsteps is the only sound that follows.

SECOND PROLOGUE: SUFFERING.11 (“THE ETYMOLOGY OF PASSION.” Searching for a Strap-On. We Trudge through in Silence. Our Hands Still Gripped Together Like Searching for a Memory Still Warm. Our Shameful Bodies Slumped Like Bent Spoons.)

THE ETYMOLOGY OF PASSION.

Why did you stand me up?
Because I was trying to make you suffer
my fool, why did you spit in my
cunt? Because I was trying to make you
wet, my queen.

“Our sex. You always want it, I mean, it has become so–it’s all emotion. Emotion. Not passion. It’s always me, Em. I need a little passion.”

So I tried to be how I was-when we were still new. I bought a family-sized bottle of red. I took you out for Thai. Booth. Yellow lighting. Eight curries with pick-your-own-meat.

I drank and came up with something frivolous. My single-sex private school was the best, I boasted, and our mascot was the beaver. You jumped on that. You put on your special voice: your “hyphy” voice. Your single-sex private school mascot was the tiger. You’ll always be a tiger, at heart.

“OH, BEAVER. OH, BEAVER. OH, BEAVER.”

I don’t remember the jokes but they centered around the beaver. I couldn’t remember the jokes, so I giggled.

“Yeah. You like that shit. Don’t you.”

I don’t remember the jokes, so I looked at you. A look is for many words.

“Yeah. I know what you like, Beaver. You like that freaky shit. You’sa freak.”

oh beaver oh beaver oh beaver
how can I / believe you?
Sometimes I wish
I was the man and you / were the girl.

~

I follow you to the toilet. I grab you, I hold you, with all the - every that me is left.

I claw at your back. I press my pelvis into yours. I am scratching... nibbling you with all my force. (It’s the most I can do without a dick to stick into you.)

Do you know what it’s like not to have a dick? Not to have a cock? Not a phallus?

Every time you feel emotion towards me—welled up towards me—you have force. YOU HAVE A FORCE. You can STICK all your emotions somewhere. STICK them into me.

And I?

You’re not supposed to let your emotions “bottle up.” You’re not supposed to have them “welled up inside of you.” And what if you are a well? And what if you are a bottle?

Sure, I can straddle you. I can “ride your cock.” I can “fake it” and “fuck you” and “ride your cock.”

Now what the fuck does that do?

How could you shrink from my claws?

I was trying, the best I could, to stick my cock in you.

 

You tell me I’m depressed.

Obviously!

Depressed—I would go further—I have a HOLE in me.

Woman—by definition—is always, is depressed—to say the least!

 

You shrink. “You’re hurting me!” You look hurt, in the eyes.

“PASSION! You said you wanted passion!”12

What is passion: throwing whole self in it. I gave you passion. I threw it all in. My anger. My hurt, of course.

And in the morning: “I thought you wanted to kill me.”

Of course I did! THAT is passion. But for you, passion lies at the level of the flesh that is for you the level of words, i.e. let’s talk about sex and your sex through the metaphor of your grammar school mascot in the voice that I use for everyone when I am dicking around.

Are you for real?

And in the end- when everything has died down—without
Without

When everything had died down and then I say, “I’m sorry that I hurt you. I was trying to have sex with you.”

“What.”

“It’s like. It reminds me of that human rights class. The first article we read—it was about violence and the law, and how they’re like, obviously, so closely connected. They gave an example. Of a man being taken away in court. The civility of the court—the violence of the lockup. It’s all so close. When I am hugging you—and that hug becomes—too hard. When—”

I show you my arm, with bruises for thumbprints. It’s one and the same.

~

I can’t say how it ended. I don’t know if I told you I hate you. That’s a lie. I don’t hate you but I’ve never wanted to kill someone so much. I don’t hate you but you weren’t far off when you said, I looked like I wanted to kill you.

Don’t you realize the funny stuff we get into, when we talk during sex?

I’m yours!

Whose pussy is it?

Yours! It’s your pussy, your pussy!

My pussy!

Doesn’t that sound strange to you?

How are we supposed to have sex anymore?

~

And THAT is the passion that you feel. The passion of a
passion of a—
Never finish me. What would there be left to eat?
All your horrendous sighs letting me know that this
Is all there is left.
Lick your dumb hard, shovel it up my cunt. I’ll grip your shoulder. Just let me know
that I haven’t turned into a wimp. Let me know that you haven’t turned into a wimp.
Be a guerilla girl for me: put on a mask: scream a little.
Don’t look me in the eye. Tie me up and stone me. Show me that you still care.
This isn’t soup.
If it was soup we’d be eating it with spoons. Instead, we’re not.
Why don’t we stand dupe-eyed waiting for something to happen. Let me brush away this gap between us with a raising of my hand and a raising of my voice. I hope you suffer. If I make you suffer, who will become passion, you, or me? I would bat that distance right out of the field I would wrestle that angel out of the sky because we haven’t turned into a Walgreens yet we haven’t turned into it no we have not so don’t say we have.
My carapace:
ripping at my cartilage
making me weak.

THE ETYMOLOGY OF PASSION. Searching for a strap-on.13

“That was really fucked up the other night when you said you wanted me to hit you and fuck you.”

“Why? I meant it. I mean, you don’t understand—what it’s like, to be a girl. I mean, love is- very tender, but it’s also like, you get to stick yourself in something. You get to be aggressive all the time. I just have to wait. There’s aggression. You’re always aggression.”

And—

“I mean, not that you would but you always could rape me if you wanted. There’s a possibility there, built into you. No! I’m serious! It’s like, what’s that word you always talk about for when boys are just talking about their cocks when they do anything?”

“Dick-swinging.”

“Yeah. And don’t you think—if the boys, if having a cock, the feeling of it, affects the ways boys think, how do you think the opposite of it feels? To have the opposite of a cock. The. What’s it called? Catalyst? Just a hole. A big, cavernous hole.”

“C’mon. You’ve read Simone de Beauvoir.”

“Yeah! And what does she say? How does that relate?”

“I mean—”

“I’ve read her novels, too. Bullshit. The Mandarins. Do you know what that’s about?”

“She has an affair with a Chicago jazz musician…”

“Yeah. I told you that. It’s a fictionalized account of her life, and she feels pathetic. Her relationship with Sartre. He doesn’t want to fuck her anymore cause she’s getting old, so she has to wait around, looking to be fucked. Has to be fucked by some scummy jazz musician, who’ll leave her too—’cause she’s old. Anyway. To pretend it doesn’t matter. That’s bullshit.”

“You’re a feminist’s worst nightmare!”

“No! And what about all the new ones, with the strap-ons. At least, they’re admitting it.”

“So why don’t we get you a strap on.”

“So I can fuck you in your asshole? Don’t think I haven’t thought about it! You should read my notebooks, boy.”

“What…”

“Anyway. It wouldn’t be the same. It’s like, can you imagine holding a bottle and sticking it up my ass? I mean, I guess they have ones so it’s supposed to pleasure you too but I don’t know…Sorry!”

“No…no…”

“I didn’t mean anything by it. I’m happy! I don’t mind. It’s just—I think it’s interesting. It’s…interesting? Don’t you think?”

“Yeah.”

“C’mon! Look at me. I’m not upset. It doesn’t upset me. Sorry, I didn’t mean to freak you out. Did I freak you out?”

“No, no. Just—you wouldn’t want to sleep with Freud, would you?”

“No…”

“It’s like, bro talk, that’s probably a turn off for you. Gender theory. It’s a turn off, for me.”

“Sorry! But don’t you think it’s interesting? [Laughs.] I’m sorry, baby, I was just being honest. Don’t you think I’m smart?”

“Yeah. Smart. Very.”

“I didn’t mean to freak you out. No-oo! I was just—this is when maybe it’d be good to have a best friend who wasn’t your boyfriend!” [Looks sweetly at him. He doesn’t move.]

“Whatever. And I get to have something grow in me! The ultimate creation. Act of creating something in the world. You’ll always be alienated from your labor. Right? Okay. Fine. And it’s like having a cock, right? I’ll get to have that feeling of having something push out of me.”

“Right…”

“It is!”

THE ETYMOLOGY OF PASSION. We Trudge through in Silence. Our Hands Still Gripped Together Like Searching for a Memory Still warm. Our Shameful Bodies Slumped Like Bent Spoons.

“I didn’t say that. I said I took comfort in the thought of death.”
“How can you say that?”
“I don’t know when this unhappiness will end.”

“I wonder whether more boys kill themselves than girls.” In the morning—me, acknowledging the fact, with a cool, rational nod.

“Yeah.” You are still depressed. “I don’t know.”

“Because of what you said last night. I get mad depressed too but I don’t think about death. I imagine an endless life, endless years of suffering, and stasis, and no end. Not being able to do what you want–having nothing you want.”

I do not look at him when I speak. I am reciting a speech that I know. It is a speech I have memorized by heart. I continue.

“Em. What the fuck are you talking about?”

No matter. We will continue. I will continue, to drag our bodies through this life as I masticate us and spit us out, tied up like poems, until all there is left to speak of, something that could have been something, has turned to scrap.

OVERTURE. (Overture. The Overturning of a Rock.)

OVERTURE.

All these conversations take place on rooftops. One rooftop, in particular, off the Jefferson L stop in Bushwick, in June. Across the way, a man keeps pigeons in a cage. A small coop for pigeons filled with boxes of wire cages and all through the night the pigeons are constantly squawking, singing. In the city’s night sky, the pigeons become silhouettes and the sky is pink and pasted on. Each night the man comes. He goes into the coop, and takes the pigeons one by one out of their cages, holds them by their claws. Hear their wings flap! Otherwise, or perhaps because of this, the night sounds still.

Y: I liked to read about the big things. Metaphysics. I found it eh to read about people. More interesting to read about the big things.

X: The big things. Like God? It’s not that I wasn’t interested in that–it’s just. I couldn’t see it. What would I be looking at? Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I don’t believe in the big things. No. I believe. I believe. But what’s the point of reading about the big things? Why are you interested in reading about them?

Y: To get a better understanding of God—

X: A better understanding. I don’t know. It never worked for me. Reading about the big things never made me see God any more clearly: I’d just see words, descriptions of God. Images. And I know that that’s not it. That seeing is just a first step towards getting closer. Maybe the first step: you start to imagine Him through images. Like a dream. That’s all I can do. I want to get closer to God, too. I want to experience Him. But maybe the best way to do that is by reading ethics, you know? Learning how to turn my soul so that I can then face the Good, or God. If I want to be with God, I’d better learn how to turn my soul. Because it’s not like I don’t believe in God. I’d like to believe that the fact that I don’t experience him at all is a sign that He exists. And that the fact that I’m drawn towards ethics, that I want to turn my soul, is a sign that He exists. Because if He does exist then I certainly wouldn’t be able to see Him now. Not the way I live my life. My soul is turned, I know, away from him. So the fact that I don’t see Him, don’t feel Him–maybe that’s proof that He is there. There are all those metaphors around, in speaking about God–looking, un-looking. Being turned from him, turned around. If God exists then he is very far away from here. Good that I don’t see Him.

Y: I like it. I like the way that you describe your God. A distant God. Sounds like Schreber. GOD IS APPROACHING. Schreber would lie terrified in his bed, terrified that God could sniff him out because he was too attractive–that God was going to swoop down from above and snatch him from his hospital bed—

X: Of course! Isn’t it all about approaching, a constant approaching and movement towards and away from God? The Hindus with their shrines. The Christians having God come into the room and they’re eating their bread, imbibing God, trying to get Him inside them. Transubstantiation. What is that. Eating God.

Y: Yeah. That’s something I really don’t understand.

X: But anyhow. How else could it be? What else would it mean to believe in God? What do you mean when you told me the other day, that you believe in God now?

Y: Well. I feel the presence of God’s love. I feel God’s love.

X: Feel! Love! What is that, feeling His love? What do you mean that you “feel” it? And what is it, what’s this “love”? What does “feeling” mean? What does “love” mean? I’m sorry. I don’t know. I don’t know. It’s not that I don’t feel it. I don’t feel it or not feel it. I feel the same. I have always felt the same. I don’t know if I feel this way because God is present or not present. How could I know the difference? I like the world. I think it’s a lovely place to be in. I’m happy to be here. Is that a sign of God? What do you mean? What do you mean when you feel like God’s love is always present everywhere?

Y: Like when I am feeling down, I feel Him. He is there. When I am feeling happy, He is there.

[Silence.]

Y: And how do you feel? I mean, what is this world that you live in, this anti-God–I mean, this world without God’s presence. How do you feel?

What is this world she lives in. How does she feel. Anxiety. Like she can’t escape herself. Like not hearing the question. She thinks of Schreber and his heaven: when you die, all those nerve-souls zapping up into space to form a wall around God. The wall is there to protect the people on earth from having to feel God’s presence. The nerve-souls are turned around, they are facing away from God: they approach God but they never face him, never see Him. She thinks of the Sufis, twirling, twirling so fast because if they twirl fast enough than they can get God inside of them. Ecstasy. The sensation of moist fingers pressing dry bread firmly against a rough and wet tongue. Looking. Un-looking. Plato and his cave. All those metaphors of turning, everywhere you go, it’s all the same: all these metaphors of facing God or not facing God, of being turned, of turning oneself around and around in order for him to approach.

Words. These words won’t go away. That’s all it comes back to–a conversation about this and all she can think about are some repeating metaphors about gods. Can a metaphor take you there? Maybe she isn’t totally wrong. All these rituals, all this liturgy about turning–they’re all metaphors too, right? Metaphors for approaching God. Metaphors for being unable to approach him. For needing to speak about Him through metaphor. For trying to survive in a world where He is or is not present. All these metaphors of overturning. Where do these metaphors come from? Where were these words born?

THE OVERTURNING OF A ROCK.

These potato bugs scatter at—exposed to their first sunlight, with shells weak, moist, dusky, and legs, if you can call them legs, sinking as they try to escape the sun, shamed, running roundly within the circumference of a shadow intaglioed into the floor, the shape of their world—the overturning of a rock.

PART ONE, ATTACHMENT14 (The Beginning. The World Didn’t Answer, So Let’s Get Twisted. IT’S HERE, NOW. ARE YOU? The Day Before She Left New York. The Thrill of the Ordinary. Good Advice from Bruise. Attachment. One Final Word.)

The Beginning

It is the beginning of spring. The beginning of spring, this spring, seems to entail dead baby birds popping up on the sidewalk, flattened, preserved like pressed flowers.

The World Didn’t Answer, So Let’s Get Twisted

Last spring, my first spring, in Brooklyn seemed to entail dead baby birds popping up on the sidewalk, flattened, preserved like pressed flowers. Judgment Day came and went: a lone man crusade visited NYC, plastering signs about the imminent end (May 21, 2011, to be precise) throughout the city’s buses and subways and telephone booths. ‘Round midnight of the end, I went to the store for a handle of Jack. A feeling of jubilation permeated the air–normally, I’d keep my eyes peeled as I walked through Bed-Stuy, aware of my position as an unwelcome gentrifier. But the common enemy forges unexpected alliances, and hesitant laughs. The world didn’t answer, so let’s get twisted, a Puerto Rican grinned at me as I slid my twenty beneath bullet-proof glass.

The world didn’t answer, so let’s get twisted. So Judgment Day came and went, as did my brief delusions of camaraderie with the block; but the outdated advertisements remained, as did the birds. Sometimes they looked like condoms. Sometimes they were condoms. Barely un-embryonic, still translucent flesh–the only way to be certain was to bend over each form, and to examine it for signs of life: black dot for an eye, faint outline of a beak, crushed feet. I remember bending: bending to study at least six distinct corpses in the distance from my house to yours; bending to snap granular cell-phone proof as a Hassidic woman and her retarded son, still dressed up for God, scurried past.

At what point can we give up?

IT’S HERE, NOW. ARE YOU?

And Nigh said:

There is a collective, if you could call it that, it is not even that: scavengers
in the desolate mountains of Northern California, it is on top of a mountaintop,
a bunch of kids subsisting
off of food stamps and surrounded by mossy bushes and dark, wet
leaves; fog that blocks off the sun
and her probing stare.
On the wooden porch, I saw the most beautiful, beautiful beauty that I had ever seen. On the
wooden porch, somebody had carved in big block letters:

IT’S HERE, NOW. ARE YOU?15

The Day Before She Left New York

Lighting another butt off the last, she sat in Sheridan Park and watched a dog (the kind bred for city life: compact body and spindly legs just begging to be broken off and gnawed; their legs cannot support the weight of their body—they tremble when they stand) convulse. She watched his insides spasm, the rippling of his sleek brown coat, silent gasps as he hacked up masticated doggie treats onto the concrete. Around his neck, a slack red leash. At the other end, his owner: bony wrist attached to a bony body, well-groomed in her Sunday casual (not much: it is a preternaturally warm day for October); she was chatting with a friend, sitting on a bench, oblivious to his pain. He was turned away from her, as if in politeness, as he hacked in pain.

When she picked him up, his body was still spasming: a ripple down the length of his exposed butt hole to his skull. She cupped a hand beneath his hard belly, oblivious to his pain, not even looking at him; somehow ignoring the shaking heart beat that her hand must feel. She dropped him in his carrier, a red mesh bag, pushed down on his spine as he continued to hover and tremble and hack up again; forcing him to lower himself mid-hack as the sound of the zip–right above his head, pressing upon those perked up ears–this red world closes in on him.

To imagine being in that little mesh cage, no space to even vomit, vomiting on top of his paws–the sound of the zipper and crinkly mesh and this red world enclosing in on you…

The Thrill of the Ordinary

“I’m learning to appreciate that everything is good in its own way,” Bruise tells me. “It doesn’t have to be super intelligent or whatever, or, everything is intelligent in its own way.”

Good Advice from Bruise

“Spend the next five years of your life as if they don’t matter. At all.”

Attachment

“It takes so long. When will you be a real friend? Why does it take so long?”

Driving into Ohio: we’ve looked forward all night the sun to break but when it breaks it is behind us. On the sides, in the front, there are a few minutes of something that is not pitch black and a lot of fog falling between and around the barrier of the highway and then the sky is a pale blue and there is morning traffic.

“This is the worst time to be heading towards Chicago. Into morning traffic.”

 

“I want someone else to take control.” She takes my hand. Her hand is small. Very small and childish. Her fingers are cold.

“You’re one of my favorite girls I’ve met. One of my favorite people,” I correct myself.

“It’s like a shadow. When it’s not there, I feel like a part of me is missing. And when it comes back, it’s like, oh, yeah, here it is. But I don’t want it. I don’t want the feeling. I want it to go away.”16

“But you can beat it. You can’t beat it by making it disappear. It won’t disappear. But you can beat it by turning it into something—something—”

And then, politeness. We have pulled over to get gas and she has pulled out her uke.
“Do you mind if we stay here for a while?”
“Oh, no. Do you mind if I sit here with you?”
“No. Do you mind if I practice the same song over and over again?”
“No. Do you mind if I eat some of your almonds?”
“No. Just stand up for a bit. For your own good.”

One Final Word

“Just—when we get there—if anyone asks, say that we slept in the car. Don’t say that we took a nap in a motel.”


1 Dear HISTORY. Yes: LOVE. O History, I know that you’re pissed at me now because you think that I have abandoned our book-ridden apartment to drive to The Heartland to abandon the quest for Truth in order to run away from my suffering and pursue LOVE over Truth. But History, what if the Truth IS Love? O History, listen:

The ten thousand Dharmas return to the One.
Where does the One return?
Return: that is the key verb. Because Historyi , yer spending yer life seeking Truth in books but what if the Truth is just that, just this: that yer thinking mind is attaching itself to forms in the desire to wring Truth (permanence, that which won’t die) from them. What if (and it is, it is) the Truth is just this: everything is always changing, changing, changing because you are attached to form; but if you could just still your mind then you would understand–in the words of The Great Zen Master Seung Sahn, that universal substance is never changing… If [you] are attached to name and form, then everything is always changing, changing, changing. [You] can see how this view makes everything: time and space, cause and effect, name and form. That just comes from [your] thinking mind! Now that [you] see this mind is completely empty, this world is empty, everything is empty! And once you understand THIS (Truth), then you would see that moment world is truth, because in one moment, everything is already complete. Form is form; emptiness is emptiness. Mountain is mountain, and water is water. This truth. But here is a very, very important point: in itself, truth has no function. IN ITSELF, TRUTH HAS NO FUNCTION! Where does the One return, History? The One returns to THE EVERYDAY WORLD, with all its forms and names, because we’re stuck with our thinking mind. Now that we know that, we’ve got to think about what we will do with our enlightenment—yer stuck in truth, it’s a matter of how you deal with it—and you deal with it through LOVE, compassion. O History, I confess, I don’t know how knowing that all is One generates LOVE (I’m beginning to believe, History, that there’s got to be an outside force—that if Christ is Love then Christ is Our Savior but I’ll let that point pass): the point is that LOVE saves us. I am going to die! You are going to die! Everyone, everything that we know is going to die! The world is going to end! Everyone has always known that instinctually, whether yer Buddha or not. So why don’t we all kill ourselves: how do we all continue to survive? Where does the One return? To LOVE, through LOVE, History: that’s how, that’s where.

i HISTORY: hippie-name made-up. (I do not think that The Editor is the kind of fool who appreciates hippie-names.) HISTORY: my apartment mate, The Editor.

2 Three Pokes at Transcendence:

  1. (Mine, as I was then. Alternatively, could be called: “What I took away from The Center of Knowledge”):
    We are born half animals and half human,
    Everyone must rise up.
    Most people are animals, look at them—
    Munch munch munching at the viands,
    Women squirreling away with their two front teeth.
    The mallard floated in the muck.
    You choose: whether to indulge your animal side, your human side.
    The world is sinking.
  2. See “Hymn to the Moirae.”
  3. (The Best Poke. The Great Enlightenment.)
    Sky is earth, earth is sky—sky and earth revolve.
    Water is mountain, mountain is water—water and mountain are empty.
    Sky is sky, earth is earth—when did they ever revolve?
    Mountain is mountain, water is water—each is already complete.

3 O my dear, dear Simone: I am sorry. For this and for everything. Please believe me. Please also believe that I did not stare at your breasts all the time. I was not crushing on you. I am not crushing on you. It’s just that—well, you know how sometimes you do something and it’s just simply awful, nothing else but awful, and yer trying to justify it to yerself and you think, well, maybe I did it because I was actually in LOVE with the victim of my awfulness all along—and then, afterwards, you fixate on your victim, and try with all your might to fall in love with yer victim. But don’t worry. I no longer believe in justification.

4 A Thirsty Fish by the Sufi mystic RUMI, c. 1207, trans. Coleman Barks. Here is the poem that The Author carried around in her pocket throughout high school and into The COK. At a certain point, she abandoned it–perhaps it was after she recited it to her genius of a Persian Marxist boyfriend of the time and he informed her that what she was clinging onto, what she had been clinging onto up until then, wasn’t really a poem–it was just a crummy translation. Not even a poem. But HISTORY told me that I should return to what I knew before, and so I am, and I still believe that this one might be where it’s at.

5 So, to be fair, Simone didn’t say that. See note 4.

6 Oh, Lord. There are pharmaceuticals to take care of that, you know. Might also help with all that weight.

7 NOAH, hippie-name for The False Prophet. No. The False Prophet deserves no hippie-name: Noah is just a name. To add to the list of What I Took Away from The Center of Knowledge: BEWARE OF FALSE PROPHETS.

8 Readers: there is a chunk missing in this document—because there are some things that really must be passed over in silence (and these are not what The Author thought they were: perhaps what has to be passed over are the private and hard details of a friend’s life… anyhow… perhaps that is obvious to everyone except The Author, but doesn’t that go to show that the only really SACRED thing in life has to do with LOVE? RESPECT? Dontcha see, History! Maybe we’re not so alone, after all.) Anyhow. Here’s the filling, for this chunk: so The False Prophet is an incurable jerk and all the girls know that but still fall for him because, well, he is a False Prophet and plays his cards such that every girl thinks that she can be the one to save him. Simone falls for him—really, really falls for him—exposing us all to her vulnerability in a way that we did not even know was possible in her… that was scary. The False Prophet remains a jerk.

9 Another chunk of time is missing between Simone’s Bruise and the pitiful section that follows, in which Em will find herself in The False Prophet’s den. During this chunk, not much happens: The False Prophet is a jerk, Simone is vulnerable, and Em wants to give up.

10 Yiiiikes. BE HERE NOW NOW BE HERE BE HERE NOW NOW BE HERE BE HERE NOW NOW BE HERE BE HERE NOW NOW BE HERE BE HERE NOW NOW BE HERE… The False Prophet used to look at me and say: ew. I would like to look at me as I was then and say: ew. I’m losing track of remembering the point of art that just pukes it all out there… something about going under to cross over… maybe… who knows what going under really entails… certainly not that… oh well… let’s just finish this off…

11 For more on suffering, which is important, please see the notes on Bruise in Part I, ATTACHMENT: “Attachment.”

12 Because that’s the really messed up part. You were really smart, and getting smarter, and I loved you—I really, really did (and I think, despite what your lonesome and twisted soul says now, that you really loved me too)—and I wanted to be smarter for you, too, so you would keep me. So I decided to outsmart you. I looked up what passion meant on the internet, and found that it came from suffering. Well. In all honesty, I believe that the website also advised to not take etymologies to heart but we’ll take what we can, we’ll make it work for us…

13 It happened in the lobby of the library. I apologize for the lack of stage directions. The Author was eager to get the words just as they were, so she rushed upstairs and wrote it all down just after the occurrence—she caught the words, I think, just as they were but in her eagerness, forgot the directions.

14 N.B. The scraps pick up some indiscriminate time after The Overture: it ends with The Author driving into Nebraska in a Blue Explorer; it begins with The Author in New York—she’s working at a boutique, she’s looking her best: twenty pounds lighter than The Author of Transcendence (twenty pounds: is that the weight of a soul?) and certainly more pleasurable to be around, she’s smiling, and–as evidence by the lack of scraps—hasn’t written in a new word in months. In this section, The Author will pick up her bags and catch out with BRUISE. BRUISE, hippie-name changed. Now, BRUISE is a brilliant, brilliant soul that The Author went to college with; her parents are in Shang-Hai; she’s been bumming around the USA in their blue Explorer for the past year. I only wish that I’d gotten to know her—gotten to be around that energy!—sooner. Anyhow. So, a few days earlier, BRUISE asked if her commune friend NIGH (hippie-name unchanged) could crash at The Author’s apartment. NIGH is some kid from Nebraska who, like BRUISE, has been bumming around the USA and all its communes for the past couple of months. I said yes, and NIGH and I spent one night together and really hit it off. Really hit it off: what I mean to say is that sometimes, you meet somebody, and its like they light up yer whole soul and take you back to a part of yerself that you thought was dead in you, maybe you might’ve been right with yer instincts, where you were before you started going anywhere (The Buddha says: “All things are already enlightened.”), but you think that that’s, that’s gone for me, I’ve learned too much, these insects have infested far too deep… But HISTORY said maybe I should revisit what I knew before, and let me tell you, one night with NIGH was like that lamp, that old eternal lamp. But then that lamp had to drive away in the morn for a doctor’s appointment back in The Heartland (he had a blood clot–not a big deal as of yet). Anyhow, BRUISE and I talked the day after, and she said that she was driving up to Lincoln to pursue blood–and I went with her. Got up and left, with just one change of clothes and a notebook. Caught out.

After all, the Zen Master Seung Sahn says of the four difficult things in this life, the third–to encounter a keen-eyed Zen master–is very important. The Zen master says, if you meet the wrong Zen master, you will go the wrong way. It is like one blind man leading another blind man into a ditch. Zen students should travel from teacher to teacher until they find a keen-eyed Zen master…. If you don’t taste sugar, you can’t understand sweet; if you don’t taste salt, you can’t understand salty. No one can taste for you. You have to do it yourself. Don’t get stuck with one Master, if you’re not tasting yet, you gotta catch out, keep seeking for your keen-eyed master…

15 “Not knowing how near the Truth is, people seek it far away. What a pity! They are like one who, in the midst of water, cries out in thirst so imploringly.” -The Great Japanese Poet and Zen Master Hakuin

That’s right, History: IT’S HERE, NOW. Ooo History, when I press you, you tell me that yer values have something to do with wanting everything to be full full full experiences. It’s one month into My Return. It is another skyless night in Bushwick and we are sitting outside Swallow and I am guzzling my green kombucha. He says he’s looking for truth, something to hold onto, something that won’t go away (something about the coin of God and not the coin of Caesar); and I tell him he should stop looking for it in books, in the letters on a page. He’s getting pissed: he’s telling me that I should Stop Calling Them BOOKS! He is Looking at the PAST! Because we’re wedged in this little place with all the past jammed up against us, so studying the past will help make the present more full. Maybe. But what if there is no fuller? What if the full is right here, right now? WHAT IF YER LOOKING IN ALL THE WRONG PLACES, HISTORY. HERE YOU ARE SAYING THAT YER TRYING TO FIND FULLNESS AND TRUTH AND SOMETHING TO HOLD ON TO AND YOU’VE GOT YER NOSE BURIED IN YER BOOKS BUT DONTCHA KNOW THAT WE’RE MORE THAN JUST BRAINS. DONTCHA KNOW THAT THE WORLD IS MORE THAN LETTERS. DONTCHA KNOW DONTCHA KNOW DONTCHA KNOW.

Nigh told me about Black Bear, how they’ve got a piece of wood on the porch and somebody carved: IT’S HERE, NOW. ARE YOU? What do you think about that?

Ooo, History, Here is some TRUTH for you:

  1. THE SEEING IS THE RESULT OF HIS HAVING NOTHING TO STAND UPON. NOTHING TO CLING TO. NOTHING TO BE BOUND TO. WHEN WE CLING TO PURITY WE THEREBY MAKE A FORM OF IT, AND WE ARE PURITY-BOUND. WHEN WE ABIDE WITH EMPTINESS, WE ARE EMPTINESS-BOUND.
  2. INEVITABLY LEADS TO BONDAGE: IN THIS THERE IS NO EMANCIPATION. SO LONG AS THE SEEING IS SOMETHING TO SEE, IT IS NOT THE REAL ONE; ONLY WHEN THE SEEING IS NO-SEEING, THAT IS, WHEN THE SEEING IS NOT A SPECIFIC ACT OF SEEING AND A DEFINITELY CIRCUMSCRIBED STATE OF CONSCIOUSNESS—IS IT SEEING INTO ONE’S SELF-NATURE.
  3. WHEN SEEING IS NO-SEEING THERE IS REAL SEEING; WHEN HEARING IS NO-HEARING THERE IS REAL HEARING. THE MIND FLOWS OUT AS IT COMES IN CONTACT WITH THE ENVIRONMENT.
  4. WHAT WOULD YOU CALL IT THEN? I WOULD NOT CALL IT ANYTHING. NO DESIGNATION IS POSSIBLE. THEREFORE I SAY THAT WU-NIEN (NO-THOUGHT) IS BEYOND THE RANGE OF WORDY DISCOURSE. THE REASON WE TALK ABOUT IT AT ALL IS BECAUSE QUESTIONS ARE RAISED CONCERNING IT. IF NO QUESTIONS ARE RAISED ABOUT IT, THERE WOULD BE NO DISCOUSE.
  5. IT IS LIKE A BRIGHT MIRROR. IF NO OBJECTS APPEAR BEFORE IT, NOTHING IS TO BE SEEN IN IT. WHEN YOU SAY THAT YOU SEE SOMETHING IN IT, IT IS BECAUSE SOMETHING STANDS AGAINST IT.
  6. SO LONG AS THIS WORLD, AS CONCEIVED BY THE HUMAN MIND, IS A REALM OF OPPOSITES, THERE IS NO WAY TO ESCAPE FROM IT AND TO ENTER INTO A WORLD OF EMPTINESS WHERE ALL OPPOSITES ARE SUPPOSED TO MERGE. THE WIPING-OFF OF MULTITUDES IS KNOWN AS THE TEN-THOUSAND THINGS: IN ORDER TO SEE INTO THE MIRROR-NATURE ITSELF IS AN ABSOLUTE IMPOSSIBILITY: YET ALL BUDDHISTS ATTEMPT TO ACHIEVE IT.
  7. THE WIPING ITSELF IS THE WORLD OF THE ORIGINAL BRIGHTNESS.
  8. THE LEAP. “THE LOGICAL LEAP IS THAT THE ORDINARY PROCESS OF REASONING STOPS SHORT AND WHAT HAS BEEN CONSIDERED IRRATIONAL IS PERCEIVED TO BE PERFECTLY NATURAL, WHILE THE PSYCHOLOGICAL LEAP IS THAT THE BORDERS OF CONSCIOUSNESS ARE OVERSKIPPED AND ONE IS PLUNGED INTO THE UNCONSCIOUS WHICH IS NOT, AFTER ALL, UNCONSCIOUS.

16 Everyone has a shadow following them. How can you not step on your shadow? A long time ago in China, Zen Master Bo Kong said that. Zen Master Seun Sahng says, the sun is shining, so you have a shadow following you, all the time. But how can you not step on your shadow? Don’t check. If you attach to speech and words, you will always have a problem. If you are thinking about some possible answer to this, you are a thousand miles away from the truth. The truth: everything, just-like-this. The world is already complete, and never moving. Thinking is always changing, changing, changing.

Oooooo grrl, you spit so many words that sound so close to truth, why do you gotta show me yer vulnerability when the sun is just beginning to rise? You know that I wanted you to be my keen-eyed eyes this time: I wanted to have a girl, just once. But dontcha know that I’m gonna run when you shower me with weakness; dontcha know that there is no truth in attachment. Listen. Don’t attach. You know that you’re attached to your lonesomeness as if it was a shadow—those words are yers, not mine—you know that your lonesomeness, as much as you hate it, is a part of yer ego and you can’t let it go because it’s become a part of what you think you are, a part of yourself. But that is not your true self! It’s not your true self, and it’s not going to get you any closer to something larger than yourself—the truth—because you’ll only reach the truth, which is your true nature, if you DON’T ATTACH. Please. Attachment to your thinking is delusional and it’s going to make you suffer, grrl, because your thinking will always be changing, changing, changing. Please. Stop suffering. Stop kidding yerself. There is nothing, nothing that is noble about this suffering.ii

Listen. The Buddha said:

Abandon what is unskillful. One can abandon what is unskillful. If it were not possible, I would not ask you to do it. If this abandoning of the unskillful would bring harm and suffering, I would not ask you to abandon it. But as it brings benefit and happiness, therefore I say, abandon what is unskillful.

ii but Marina Abramovic’s fourth rule in her artist’s life manifesto is:


4. An artist’s relation to suffering:
- An artist should suffer
- From the suffering comes the best work
- Suffering brings transformation
- Through the suffering an artist transcends their spirit
- Through the suffering an artist transcends their spirit
- Through the suffering an artist transcends their spiritiii

Can an artist stay enlightened? Is it always just THUMP THUMP THUMP: thudding back down to the ground, again?

iii I’ll concede you one point, History. Upon my return, I whisper: I feel like I’m going crazy, History. I walk around and I see all these people on the subways and it seems so stupid. Like they’re all just animals. Animals dressed up in clothing. And they’re all just suffering so much, and attached to their lives and their worries. Why? And you gave me one of those looks and one of your sighs where you sigh, Oooh, An-na, and you sound like your throat is made of tears and you say: maybe people want to suffer. Maybe people like to suffer. I do not want to not suffer. Okay. Okay. Okay.

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