by DAN CARVILLE
You asked me, picking at your lower lip, did I see you as a person or a woman?
I guess what bothers me the most, besides you retching when I told you the score, is how you said you gave up on people. It was not for you to decide that bit of business. I had all this faith in you. I know now that it was not faith in your desires, but only faith in mine. The way I love you almost appalls me, too.
Since that day, I saw again an image I cannot forget, of a round window there in a place that I know. I always search for myself in it, as a fool looks for what he remembers of his own face in the mirror.
You said you were below a bridge, looking out on the canal. Your throat closed (you had pertussis last year). I credit you for this — everything in the world that deserved to be taken seriously, you gave it that allowance. But you did not laugh a lot.
I know I sometimes go on and on about reflections. But I really only love them when nothing is reflected, and I get to thinking, whatever might belong there. Is that now a sadistic way of looking at the world? That is what you said to me. You did not admit you wronged me, lied to me, destroyed the feeling there.
I have never forgotten anything either. I only pretend to so I can seem more like other people.
Slipping away from the city, all the trees shed their lights when the train swings near. Place aches, so I will not go to any of ours again, half-hoping to find you swiveling your neck to absorb the next scene. Within the frame, one man calls to another, hidden beyond a door. God, you said you loved all those things. I tried to forget that, and here it is.
We talked sparingly of my true theistic beliefs. You see, I do not care who views me praying for you, or against you. When a person does not care where they are going, only with whom they have been, it makes a sorry sight for any decent deity. I have to admit I am the one who did all this, tracing a new pattern over the old. It resembled the original too closely, I see now.
I grew to trust the writing advice of Derek Lam when he was first my instructor, and then my friend. I showed him some of these lines, especially the one where you did not realize what you had managed. He said that the second person, used it in this way, was so overdone. He’d had enough of the editorial, worldly You. Who gave these writers, he said, the right to make their primary subject all of ours as well? I told him this struck me as a kind of disturbing fastidiousness to one particular part of speech, and I also mentioned that he didn’t know you.
That address comes before the invention of self, incarnate in us all. It reforms speech as the primary act. Calling to a person so radiates truth, because I would never lie to you, my darling. (See how this statement excuses both of us from culpability?) Calling to a woman is no different. In stockings and tights, denim or polyester fleece, the sullen take their bows. I looked for you there, among the carollers, thinking I had heard your gravelly voice.
There is a Manichean residue on what you touch, as well as the oil from your hands.
A laminated card, or a picture shifting out of its frame. A half-eaten sandwich that resembles the skull’s refractions in brightest light or unexpected darkness. A ramshackle, bouncing strategem. Rumors of insanity in final days, last strokes. A telescope tripping on its legs.
I showed someone else the things you said. “She was probably just confused,” my correspondent wrote, “don’t you ever feel that way?” I said I did about various things, including bocci and Old Maid. A moment later my phone rang. The voice on the other end of line said, “You can’t understand why a person would be wary of someone who is never confused, or at least not very often?” I hung up the phone.
The thing about the second person is, ‘you’ constitutes the highest form of address. It will always be what we call a king, or a queen. You (you) can never take that away from me (again, you). In the border wars of Apollonia, men would bring their wives to see the fight, and the fight to see that they had wives. I have been party to this general type of thing before, but never as completely as when you exposed who you are to me.
I should not have listened so closely to you.
Take, for example, a capsule. Sealed inside, a daring pilot knows nothing of the world he enters. Each cadet is equipped with the same rations, the identical equipment. Of maybe 1000 pilots, one or two turns over the possibilities within the fragile walls of his enclosure. He emerges from it like the rest, but what he sees will be different from his fellows. The place he has come to is not unfamiliar.
I told all those pilots that they also didn’t know you, not like I thought I did.
A couple of days before I told you to go away you sent me some pictures of yourself. I nearly did not recognize you because you looked so unhappy in them. The light I saw was only my own light, and the stars their reflection.
Imagine how the world would be completely changed if only everything limited itself to one chance. Or don’t, but that is how I plan to live out my days. It is as you said. From high enough up, they all look like ants.
We always have a right to defend ourselves. I hope you are done, and that no one heard you.
Taking another form (not the tu form) comes beset with danger; this vibration of language is what gives time all its legerdemain. On occasion, I prevented myself from turning towards you, where you sat, arraying your things around you like the function of a light disorder. You showed me the inside of the capsule: exactly what was foretold when the man wrote, “Not to be pulled in.” Pressing indistinctly on the high cheekbones of your face. You could hardly call such a thing beauty.
Dan Carville is the senior contributor to This Recording. He is a writer living in Brooklyn. You can find an archive of his writing on This Recording here. He last wrote in these pages about the falcon and the angel and the light in the trees.
Photographs by the author.