Yonge rebranded after I left. Queen gentrified. College became expensive. A subdivision sprang out of a rut in a field between my two drives. Going up and going back. They are paving over the lake. I am between. In circles I greet every morning. In the afternoon I pluck feathers from my teeth.
Gimme a large, he said, pointing over the counter. Which one, I asked. You can take your pick. Doesn’t matter, he said. This is where I should have said something—this one, I might have said, is a bit larger, whereas this one is more round. Depends what you want. He might’ve smiled at that. Then, at the cash, I could have offered something about myself. Whew, it’s been a long day. Our busiest days are Tuesdays, don’t ask me why. He might have talked about where he works. If he didn’t say anything I would have asked him. Then I might have said something about what he said. Finally, I’d wrap it up, hand him his change, and I’d notice something in his eyes, a reluctance. Maybe other customers would be waiting but we would stand there for a moment or two without quite knowing what to do, feeling his reluctance growing, rising into the air and circumscribing us both. Well, I get off in fifteen minutes if you’d like to wait. He wouldn’t even check his watch.
With my sword held high I marched the division across the line, into Russell’s cannons. An unexploded ordnance hit our flagbearer Rutherford in the chest, putting a large hole into him. I could see his bared heart pumping. And all I could think about was the wisdom I had gained. “There’s no greater truth!” I shouted, goading my men on.
It is so good that it is a part of me. I have written a story that is so good I am a part of it. This is a common mania. And now I cannot act. The story does not act, because it is not alive. When I read it, it is alive. But if I read it too often it will become dead. When I am not reading, the story does nothing, unless I think of it, but I don’t want to spoil the imagery by thinking of it too often. I am not dead. My story is not dead. I cannot think. I have put everything I had into three sheets of paper. And now I am nothing for a while.
I look quiet, but inside I know that I am a tiger. I don’t mean to say that inside I’m violent: only that even though I may look quiet, I know there is a torrent of feeling in me, a wave of desire. Ah, but you might say, that is not a tiger—that’s a tsunami. True, I might be more like a tsunami than a tiger, although this other feeling, this feeling I have of being quiet, seems more suited to a tiger than to a tsunami, which can only be loud, sudden, devastating. Of course, one can’t rule out the possibility that I am merely some other thing, some other thing which for reasons I don’t understand is neither tsunami or tiger.
Identity seems false to me. When I imagine an identity forming around me I look in all directions and get panicked. I do not wish to trap myself in any discourse. Identity is a discourse. Any person can decide who they are and then become what they imagine. There are real barriers. But the imagination can find its way over every barrier.
I discovered upon waking that my mouth tasted like the green craft foam used to approximate moss and fungus. The plastic plant baskets on our stairway landing, when I was young, were filled with this foam, which I occasionally scraped with my fingernails, for reasons unknown to me. Ever after I have associated this taste with sick, and don’t know for sure whether it is my sick that caused the taste or this association. My sheets were soaked through with sweat, my underwear a tangled and wet rag. And yet I do not feel as if I were sick. I do not remember this sickness. It came upon me in the night, and left when I awoke, leaving only a foul taste in my mouth, a taste that reminds me of a time when I was young.
Like Ferdinand Saussure, the Chinese scholar Ernest Fenallosa believed that in language there are no concrete objects outside a web of correlating meaning. Fenallosa based his ideas on a close study of nature: in nature no “thing” exists in isolation because things cannot be removed from their relationships, represented in language by verbs (in order to exist a thing must be the object or subject of a successive or continuous action).
I don’t know for how long I’ve tried to make myself a noun. Nouns are endings, deaths, and I have felt dead. Nouns are by nature distant. From this day forward, I act, like a verb: I will construct objects and subjects, become an impromptu object or subject, correlate in turn to objects and subjects via other verbs. Nouns drop in and out of the lexicon, they are replaced and forgotten as newer words supplant their meanings. Verbs, the core of action, the core of thought, even supplanted figure into other words, their relations (the Latin jacere, “to throw”: eject, subject, object, abject, etc).
At times I am open and at times I am closed. When I’m open, I am directionless, fluid, pliable, and, above all, honest. Closed, I am guarded, unassailable, distant, and I may lie for reasons unclear even to myself. I have never been simultaneously closed and open, which leads me to believe that closed and open are opposites on the same spectrum: “open” an inversion of “closed”, and vice-versa. When I’m open I must feel closed, because I continuously demonstrate my desire to explain myself; likewise, when I’m closed I must feel open, because I constantly feel as if I’ve said too much. Finding myself in either position, I often wish I was in the other: for instance, I desire to be closed when I feel I’m too open, or, not recognizing that I’m open, open. Open, I wish to be closed or open; closed, open or closed.