When the light seems more beautiful than usual I remember there is such a thing as photography and I have a camera. I dig it out. The crevices in its body are still white with playa dust from Black Rock City years ago. A sock hangs off the lens. The lens cap is probably still out there somewhere in the fields surrounding Spenser Abbey, where I dropped it last November, walking back and forth during my last retreat. These trips to the desert and the monastery were the last times I took pictures with my good camera, and I like the snapshot of myself the camera object reflects, the idea of being a person who has been to these places, tried to capture them, though there were long intervals of nonmovement in between. The battery is dead. The light is changing.
When I was a child and I was upset at my family and wanted to punish them, or when my family was upset at me and I wanted to punish myself, I sometimes resolved that from this moment forward I would not speak to them, unless I was asked a direct question. I tried this many times and found it incredibly hard to do, a great test of my endurance worse than turning the air conditioner in my room on as low as it could go even though it was winter, or using rusty nails to build an obstacle course under my swingset. I don’t think anyone ever even noticed I wasn’t talking; I couldn’t hold out long enough. It was sometime in my teens that I firmly decided silence was the best way to win an argument, that being the person most able to walk away was the real secret to maintaining the upper hand, and I started keeping my ability to vanish like a trump card in my back pocket at all times. The older I’ve gotten, the easier it’s become to cease communication for long periods, not to say anything even to the people I’m closest to or most want to be close to, sometimes not to answer even when a direct question is asked. When silence becomes a habit, it is hard to stop, I feel gagged, and even though the person who put the gag on was me, I forget how to take it off, and because I do not remember, I assume that someone else, everyone else, must be holding it tightly in place.
My past lovers have inhabited entire brands of drugstore shampoo. When I smell Pantene or Head and Shoulders on a stranger, it’s like rubbing the genie out of a lamp.
I try to summon up some thoughts of my own and it seems that everything in my mind is a recollection of something you said to me in a conversation in which I said little, but I was the one you were talking to, so does that mean that what you said is partly mine, that I am allowed to think it now as my own thought, and how do I know that what I heard was what you actually said, that the words in your head when you were speaking were even the same as the ones in mine now, that I attribute to you, that I hear your voice saying to me in a voice that sounds something like my own? Who owns the thoughts and who does the allowing? I suspect it is neither of us, but can you feel it, does it tickle when I think with your mind?
It is impossible to exist in isolation. Nothing exists in isolation. Nothing is itself only. What I perceive as separateness is yearning for connection, yearning for connection is not the same thing as disconnection. This nausea is my body telling me that what I think is going on does not match up with what is going on. This nausea is my body telling me to stop walking around in a nightmare. Wanting to be connected is the very thing that saves me, even if it feels like I am living in a cold, lonely, hell. Being connected does not depend on doing anything. I could stop speaking for the rest of my life and that would not change the fact that I cannot exist alone. I cannot exist alone. It is not possible. That lonely object is not, cannot be, me.
Stories have characters because people are can live other lives, enhabit other bodies, learn through touch, it helps the words become invisible when the reader can move around in a body, in a space. I sometimes think I have no imagination, but the profound experiences I have had inside literature prove that this is false. I have no trouble submitting to a story entirely, and though I may at times hesitate to create narrative “on purpose” because the incompleteness of what I describe bothers me, I still create stories without trying, stories so completely immersing that I cannot remember what the world was like before I entered them, I cannot picture any space outside them, and everything around me that does not fit the plot is edited out before I see it.
The time is going by and there are so many things I haven’t said yet and most of them start with I love you and end with having an answer, not pre-prepared and poetic and abstract, but concrete and specific to that moment, when you reply, as you always do, “what does that mean?” It will mean something and you will finally understand.
I want to be seen. I am terrified of being seen. I want to be seen. I am terrified of being seen. I want to be seen. I am terrified of being seen. I want to see. I want to see. I want to see. I am terrified to see. I am terrified. I want. To see. See. See. See.
From Enrico’s translation of Wittgenstein’s diary, August 6th 1916:
Only he who does not live in time but in the present is happy.
For the life in the present there is no death.
Death is not an event in life. It is not a fact of the world.
If by eternity one does not understand infinite duration but timelessness, then one can say that he lives eternally who lives in the present.