Her uncle worked for the company that took over food services at the university. I think about this as I work through the minuscule package of hummus that somehow cost me five dollars. They all seemed connected to evil in some way, intimately connected in a way they could not be extricated from, but a mundane evil that allowed them to have clear consciences when they went on their ski vacations or when they travelled together to diverse locales (like a flock of geese waddling from one expensive restaurant to another, consuming everything laid before them)… 

When I met her in Paris she expressed discontent at her job, or maybe it was only indirect discontent. She said she could not do the job the same way that she had before, that something no longer worked in relationship to the job. I thought at the time that it was the effect of a new hire, a Machiavellian hire, a supervisor who was an undermining person who made it his mission to slough off responsibility on her (she’d been at the company much longer than he had), as if he was a duck with waxed feathers, even though he was hired principally to “show her the ropes” or more appropriately “onboard her to industry standards.” And maybe it was partially or even wholly this man, who lived in the suburbs and had no issues operating as if he had emerged from a previous century, demonstrating the existential pointlessness of office politics and white collar work… 

But I thought also it was the effect of dating me, not only because of the way I had left her (maybe suddenly, like a collapsing house of cards) but because I was undermining, somehow fundamentally, through my cynicism, my complaints… 

When she mentioned her bosses, who ran the business like it was a toy and frequently left their employees to go on long vacations in the Caribbean; or her clients, who were for the most part spoiled trust-fund brats with a single idea, or real-estate administrators with somehow even less than that, it was hard not to say “fuck them”… 


If we’d stayed together I would have gone on one of those trips with her family, joined their flock of seagulls, would have landed with them on the rooftop of a decaying hotel in Detroit, drank the wine and eaten the pasta with shrimp swimming in butter sauce. They often advised their children not to expect anything when they died because their plan was to spend it all, which seems like an apt metaphor for a well-meaning but feckless generation… 

It was a surprise later to discover when I criticized her bosses that she thought I was devaluing her, but I’m self-aware enough at least to realize how that might have been, though I was not especially forceful in my denunciations, though they did not include her, though I acknowledged my own complicity at every turn and was perhaps always denouncing that part of myself… 

Their children were fine—precarious as anyone in the middle-to-upper-middle class but better off than almost everyone else in their generation except the trust-fund kids they went to high school with… 

Why am I writing this out? I feel unresolved tonight, probably some part of it is the heat, but another part is that I think about this often, that I have sometimes been resistant to interrogate it, sometimes too close, content with whatever pat conclusion I’ve come to in the minutes between responding to anyone’s text message: we had incompatible ideals; I need to believe in the work of my partner. The truth is that I believed in her soul, saw it as a vast and sensitive and bottomless, tender (I want to say even wet, like it was an immense body of water), believed in it inherently and in its potential but still gave up on it, or turned my back on it, for reasons I don’t totally understand, seeming to happen all too quickly, but which seemed to boil down to: I could not change her relationship to this part of her. I could not reside in the home she had made alongside of this vast body, facing away from the water that was what attracted me to her most of all. 


The idea that you should not write on something because it has already been written about is stupid, because a) your writing will be different because it is informed by everything that has come between you and your antecedant, b) you can always say it better, c) if you cannot say it better you can “make it new,” which is almost as good as making it better, d) things are constantly forgotten because of the limits of the human mind and memory and study, e) writing is a form of action and to explore a concept truly you must tie thought and action together, and f) scholarship is useless without action and new material must contextualize scholarship according to its relationship to the current moment (even if only subtly—this is a form of making it new but less unconsciously, less tied to aesthetics, a governing practice). To produce work that exists only in an academic silo is the equivalent of throwing away your life, but it is impossible to produce work like this if you are motivated by passion and a desire to understand, even if the path that you are walking has been well-treaded before you…  


A pinch, a fog… something has descended, a tension that I don’t notice until it is already acting on me, on others, through me. I am unhappy and distant, critical and unwieldy. It’s something I need to excise. I see something looming on the horizon, something terrifying, and I don’t feel that I am ready. And it’s far enough away that I don’t have to be. But it’s close enough now that the only thing to relieve the tension is to stare directly at it, and I have so much to do… I need to be more serious about how I’m spending my time, instead of letting the undone pile up as I ignore this thing that is coming. An examination. I don’t have the time to be so diffuse, though I’d like to order time to stop for a week, to live in the emptiness that would provide. I need to plan my time as if I am already being examined. That is, in actual fact, the exercise. 


I feel as if I’m not being fair to you. He said that standing on the trunk of a tree bent to the earth by the previous week’s winds. The green leaves of the crown only just beginning to wilt.

He was looking in her direction, two hundred metres away, on the other side of the park, searching for him. It’s not that there’s someone else, he said, descending from the trunk, it’s that—well, I never really wanted this in the first place. I mean, I liked what we were in the first place. Until I didn’t. But this is something else entirely, though I like talking to you.

She had just spotted him and was coming over, waving. Sometimes I think I am too easily satisfied, too pleased by ideas. I want to be shaken to my core, he said. I’m old. I want something for myself.

She was still too far to hear him.

I see where I’ve gone wrong, he said.

They hugged.

It feels like forever since I’ve seen you, she said. Yes, he said, a long time. We’ve been like two ships passing in the night, she said. Not quite, he said, since we live in the same city. Yes she said but you know what I mean.

Well look at this tree what has happened to it? A great big wind, he said. And what was the cause of the wind, she asked. Flapping your wings? No he said, not that.

They were sitting now. Listen, he said, I feel I’ve been unfair. What do you mean? All this talking. It can’t be good for you. And I’m not sure, he said, continuing, that it will lead where you want it to lead.

I’m not sure I follow, she said. I don’t want to hurt you, he said, and I feel I am doing that. How? she asked. By talking to me? Yes. It doesn’t feel right. And that’s how I know.

I can take care of myself, she said. I know we were only talking. I knew it didn’t mean anything. Not necessarily. But there were tears rolling down her cheeks.

I’m sorry, she said. Don’t you be sorry, he said.

I really just want to be friends, she said, laughing a little.

Is that true? he asked. No, she said. Probably not. But I wish that was the case.

He didn’t say anything.

Actually what I wish is—nevermind, she said, when she saw the look he was giving her.

You’re a very generous person, he said. I know, she said. The friendship you offer is beautiful. Oh god, don’t say that. Why not? Just—listen. I think I’m going to need some time. Yes, he said, I thought so.

Two sparrows flew down from the crown and hopped hopefully in the dirt in front of them.

Look at that, she said. Your cousins.

He laughed.

I think they’re only hungry. No, she said, they’ve come to say hello. Hello, he said. One of the birds flew up to the trunk beside him. Oh god! she said, they are hungry. It’s a social visit, he said. But I’m a poor host and have nothing to offer.

Give them this, she said, reaching into her pocket. There was nothing there.  He pretended to take it from her.

Here you are, little bird, he said, extending his fingers.

The bird edged closer, its little feet skipping uncertainly along the trunk. Finally it closed the gap and took one peck at his empty fingers.