Betrayed by Mathews’s Algorithm


The car creeped slowly down the street with its hazard lights on. Inside there were three people doing their laundry: they looked rough, like they’d been there all night, and they gazed at me suspiciously. A dark car: sometimes the interior lights are on, sometimes they are not. A man came in and said that it was so quiet outside he wasn’t sure if he was alive or dead.


Sometimes I will spend the entire day inside and only leave my apartment well after the onset of night. The two women running the bar didn’t know what to do—we stayed inside but not away from the windows. At night things become softer, like a whisper, like being wrapped in a cool blanket. He told us that the shooting had taken place across the street, and that the shooter had fled on foot.


In the morning I went to the coin laundry to exchange my ten dollar bill. It parks in the same spot every night, idling right in the middle of the street, forcing traffic to maneuver into the opposite lane—even if there’s a space for it somewhere against the curb. Afterwards I sat in the coffee shop and waited for my breakfast—the coffee shop was completely empty. Sometimes the car has its engine running and I can hear it from my apartment, and sometimes it sits there in complete silence, as quiet as a ghost.


We heard the gunshots from inside the bar. I found my head swimming as I entered the world dazzled by that dim clarity. Soon a police officer arrived. I feel impatient, when I’m walking outside—impatient to fit the whole world inside my head.

When I feel this way, what has happened? I’m looking for something much larger than me. I want relief but no relief will ever come—not in the way I imagine. Somehow it seems tied to neglect. When I feel neglected, even or especially if I’m the one neglecting myself, I imagine, on a subconscious level, that there is a solution to this feeling. That something will liberate me from these feelings. That I will be pulled into some kind of peaceful understanding. 

It is a deeply religious feeling. And I know it is tied to not getting something at a time so far back I cannot remember. I would never be able to tell you what I did not “get.” I can only guess myself. 

But it is something so integral—I imagine—that if I got it my reality would solve itself. 

I will never find this peace that I crave. But the feeling has a strong hold over me, even when I know that the things it tells me I want are wrong. When there is no way that they could save me, could in fact only cause me more problems, more want. I suppose perhaps that is what I want—to feel that irrepressible need, as if an acknowledgement of my lack, or maybe more accurately a dwelling in it would make more sense to me than to think that—possibly—I might already have more than I could ever want. 

More than once this term I have said, to Alex, “I don’t like Jimmy Corrigan, I hate his misery, his abominable sadness. The way his misery comes from inappropriate want.” But of course I also hate that in myself. 

What do I want? I am not sure, except that I know that I am always wanting. To what extent this is merely a physiological circumstance is unclear to me: I know running helps. I know I can want less. I know I can want more. At the Medieval Women Workshop a man reads about love (as madness) in the Symposium and love (as madness) in the work of a medieval female mystic. The conversation turned to dissolution, and language. 

I wanted to say, “On the topic of dissolution I always think of Dido on the bonfire in the Aeneid, the Trojans glimpsing the smoke from afar.” In response to a question from the back making the connection between Plato and the mystic their use of language, I wanted to say, “Language—as both Jacques Lacan says in Seminar XX and Anne Carson in her study of the origins of the Ancient Greek lyric—is the origin of want. It is where boundaries of self are first threatened.” 

I said neither of those things. I thought it better to keep my ideas to myself, as if in doing so they will be made stronger, which is the opposite of what will take place. It is a delusion. 

And sometimes love is. Love is madness but also is not. There are many kinds of love—divine love, romantic love, love for your neighbour, charitable love, lust. Their meanings are twisted and turned and shifted: love for the divine is romantic, lustful; love for the divine is merely the love for your neighbour who wishes to do you well and loves you in turn out of obligation, no more or less than he loves anyone else. What would it mean to love the divine so powerfully that he fulfills the want that is always inside you?

This is a question that I think of, sometimes, not because I have a particular desire to be religious but because I sometimes feel so undone by desire.