In the morning the light of the day through the subway exit is brilliance. There is nothing cleaner.
At night the trees are frozen in the streetlamps, the limbs as still as figures on a Grecian Urn, a flash photograph in the darkness.
I have had dreams I in which I am captive, the Nazi soldiers arbiters of my fate. He with the most needed skill survives the incursion. What will save me? My skill is at cards. Who won’t let live the master of chance?
10:00 am, Amherst, New York. 1976.
Moon is in Scorpio, Sun in Libra. I’ve known the man for thirty minutes and here we are, sitting at the computer, analyzing my fate. I tell him I have to stop worrying about the sting. We are strangers; I am playing a role within a role within a role. I am my outward persona discussing my outward persona. Inward, outward: I can never make them balance. Is this just postmodern malaise? I like this man because he reads emotions as something significant, even as he rejects buying into the system that elevates them. This is a kind of shorthand, a symbology where we can embrace depth without giving it power over us.
Meaning is inscribed in the system through which we track it, in the systems that we use to define it. I live in early eighties theories. I read feminist semiotics. I read Foucault. And then I feel selfish, absurd.
“Who knows how long we’ll take to learn/To live as stars-
Free in the midst of what is without end/And needing no one to feed us. ”
Over dinner – pasta sauce with olives and spinach, eggplant and zucchini, summer squash and mushrooms, after the silence and the breaking of bread, we open the discussion. Variety, choice, postmodernism. David, Melora, Jonathan and I. It always comes up. Can you objectively discuss happiness? With Jonathan it always comes down to the table and God. You compare your experience against the wisdom of the ages. This is the only possibility for objectivity. If someone else’s objectivity is different from yours, you simply know that it is wrong.
When we discuss possibility and choice, we discuss agency and identity. I end up, as always, with the question: why insist on the idea of the one essential self? Are we one? Or are we a sequence of gestures, defined by the multiplicity of our interactions with others? Are we, as the proverb has it, a composite of the company we keep?
I think we are living out fictions, narrative dreams. We are characters with each other. These are our faces. These are our roles. We all live in a story. We just have to choose what kind of story it is.
Sun through the window, sun through the window, sun through the window.
Cold mornings, anything exposed is bitten, wind-worn, made brittle. Who knew the journey would be a drying process? Open wounds scab over; once firm, strong skin cracks open; the tongue becomes felted and dull.
I am closed and I am open. In posture, an open and shut case. I’m sorry for the snow. It’s just what I left behind. It piles up in drifts around us. An invisible aggregate of people and actions, places and belongings, beginnings and motions toward, like waves that will never crash on the shore that will never be.
The photographs I catch lurking unexpectedly have backgrounds with pieces of things that I once knew intimately. The everyday. What should be easily forgotten becomes intractable. It’s the most literal form of semantic despair. The objects are associative and handle more easily, butter knives next to the cold steel of sentiment. Better, weep over the window. Better, weep over the twine. The axis of memory holds events and people – the system is too complex to reframe. Posit it on the mirror. Make it into the substance of me, now. Hold the tragedy. There is no tragedy. Only an aching difficulty, like reading a road sign from a distance. In the darkness. In the fog. Like watching the exit pass by.
appendix: “Men are wise in proportion, not to their experience, but to their capacity for experience.”