I withdraw into myself, and discover a world, albeit a notional world of dark desire rather than one of actuality and vital strength. And everything swims before my senses, and I go my way in the world wearing the smile of the dreamer.
—Goethe, The Sorrows of Young Werther
Frequently you would revisit these nights, to soothe the ache in your bones, to clothe the fragile coldness now about you, to capture back a moment from the evening so that you might renew the isolation you once remembered this by … the sky, a hundred faceted gems halfway hidden in the partial elegance of a natural mist.
A chill restores to you a fear of mortality. Slowly you begin to take notice of a cavalcade of lights now lining the street in a pale and detached sequence … abiding your senses becomes increasingly more anomalous … their luster seems to contour ions the width of the pavement in incandescent arrangements, seizing repose along a bed of darkness.
Suspended, sequestered. Your swan-posture comes to be curiously amiss from the effulgence. A stranger—still stranger, a silhouette—stands among a highway of brilliant halos. You see him throwing shapes against the landscape, hanging portraits of his retired heritage … inaugurating the ceremony for your private obsessions.
You inherit sounds living at the very limits of life. The sonorousness is like an orchestra of the exiles. You feel a breath of warm air at the back of your neck while your soul waits for an echo. The embrace is menthol. With one hand you smoke a cigarette and watch the long journey of your breath extinguish itself in improvised movements … with the other you try your hand at the shadow’s feature, like a matriarch of eternal sadness.
The meteorologists were having difficulty mapping the atmosphere, though the data coming in was magnificent. On the monitors were displayed a pixilated scroll, like a long digital waterfall, intruding the screen in ordinary patterns to beg us a clue. This was the algorithm of your obeying anima, while we would chase storms to satisfy flawed predictions.
In the summer of 1992, you would take frequent visits to the sea, carry on unfinished discussions with the beach of ocean mythologies, and stroll the shore the length of god’s acres, sucking the salt from your hair. You harbor a great grief to pardon the current laboring to sustain its cadence.
The sand is coarse on your back and bare legs, resembled on your limbs like granular continents. It gleams from the heat, and on certain occasion collapses in tiny colonies off your skin. The gesture is an avalanche you intend to eclipse the sun. Its falling action, leaning against the horizon, is like a temporary deluge of expiring diamonds … studied from a distance … as it settles back beneath you.
An unexpected tenderness brings you closer to death; when we will relive tediously certain events crucial to our courtship of it—black gardenias, gold necklaces, sickle charms.
You get inside the night. Host. Parasite. You feel its depth in rough approximations. To arrest sensation you search in brief exhaustiveness the faces of passersby. Expressions maneuver indiscreetly through the twilight; they bleed, they redeem, they evangelize the scenery. They are Himalayan as they deliver to you your every silence.
For the next twenty-three years you fill a vacant position in a marketing department. You grow fond of the culture and the role they’ve assigned you—the expectations are reasonable and the assignments recurring. You will become astonished at the concept of remote commerce; fascinated with the complexities of tabula rasa and carefully calculated machinations, analyzed trends over trailing, long-term periods, and the instrumentation of the Internet (wealth immediately spent). As a response to your panic you print sheets you believe are worth keeping, afraid the information you seek will one day be closed to you, closed to all of us, no longer accessible.
—I am in order with my solace, you said. But there is no peace in you to inhabit the dust of great eruptions. All this time you speak out against the intrusiveness of the elements with a thought you just collected but couldn’t follow, a slow text of total sums, editing applications, and déjà vu all over again.
Your desk is kept immaculately stacked with papers and manuals, with utensils and condiments. You arrive early to campaign meetings. On this morning’s agenda is bounce rate, arguments in competitor behavior, and innovations in supplier technology … you retire early having exercised all of your limitations.
You are a passenger in your mother’s car. That day was spent sculpting an uncertain concept on the phantoms that move among you, that now replace the woman beside you as another person entirely, without any theory of interpretation, just a static persistence.
You wonder where your mind goes as a moving field of vision occurs to the action of rain. Beyond the car window you recite a pastoral poem to the tall meadows that tremble from the mending tones of your sobbing vowels. It is a revision to an original you once dedicated to your childhood, replayed in imaginary versions, often repeating themselves.
From your seat you trace the arcs of the highway, stealing away pieces of yourself. It’s a little while you leave to chance, to memory: the bending of an obedient image, an unintended instance owing debt to objects undesired, an instinct to resist the consequences of the actual places around you.
It’s almost as if there was something sacred in the way in which you forfeited existence to replenish your past into selective histories, to be in love but only on the condition of remoteness, on the terms of ablation, worship.
Her slow, ascending glance was often a modest remuneration compared to the cost of having lived and loved, for what else is there but such guileless reassurances?
At the age of five you were given ballet lessons. You liked how it felt when you put all your weight on your toes and threw your body secretly across the stage in the low light of the auditorium. You liked the way your dance instructor gave you affection, the way she turned you into a mannequin, the anonymity of your rehearsal dresses, how innocently you were condemned to perform.
Not until many years later would you abandon dance for theatrics, to test the threshold of your imagination’s malevolence / maleficence. You are not so much oblivious as you are proof against a subtle process of decline, a somatic deterioration; a body caught unaware to receive the harsh lesions of some disguise, worn loosely but held together enough to withstand a recital you could not act out yourself, alone, on an evening such as this, ornamented with silk, metaphysical curtains, a comforting warmth peculiar of the season, everywhere and all at once, suddenly, in undue haste, to bring you back, if just for a second.
The figures of your past are gathering for a banquet—they have spent your body to conquer their labors of haunt, made prisoner the faces in the moonlight, saved you for their wonted rituals —building great pyramids to the heaven you shout. You are coming away with the trade winds. Howling. With the hunger of a storm, easing you along like a low, ragged cumuliform cloud looking ominous (but by itself not dangerous) to voyage the unsafe, and let the pressure that makes claim to this inclement climate disappear into the night, the same night fastened to the back of your eyelids, that you hope will help apprehend the people now in all manner of speaking moving in and out of your periphery, so that you may forge an outpost to inventory, to remember and replenish, many of the same marriages, so that you can eventually forgive them later on for their absences. It is still winter for many of us.
There were those of us in the field—close (safe) enough to materialize the atmospheric process, amalgamate its behavior into something that could be touched, desired—that had chosen to disbelieve, resigned any reason to reconsider the model of our intentions. Examine the clouds, look for a red sky. You have time to a microsecond at your side. Fractals. (Mental pictures of dynamic systems.) Bringing visions of your chest, only your chest (and making our way farther out), reading you in brail, watching you exhale, expand and compress, rise and descend, while our instruments measured the tides. It’s that beach again, in Barcelona, on the north shore of Long Island, in Nice, in Tel Aviv, Hollywood, Florida, a fascination with your appendages, the nonchalance concealed by your sunglasses, the emptiness of the weather and the hesitation to start all over failing to follow our forecast. There were those of us who could never let it go.
Jared Daniel Fagen lives in Brooklyn, New York and is a founder and editor of Black Sun Lit. Some of his other writing can be found here.