I don’t know anyone who reads. I don’t read. I don’t know how to read. No one knows how to read. There’s no such thing as reading… I’ve never read anything in my life. No one has. No one has ever known how to read. History is full of people who could not and didn’t read. History was written by non-readers. History is writing and not reading. Historians can’t read. Neither can I. At the moment I am equidistant from all forms of reading. I mean, I’m standing in the middle of nowhere, and reading is very far away from me, set up on plinths that seem to keep their distance as I approach. That doesn’t make any sense, but it doesn’t matter, because there’s no one around who can read this. It’s okay because reading as a phenomenon hasn’t been invented. In the future we will have readers, and they will begin their histories with sentences like “For a long time, no one could read…” They will chart the history and development of reading. They will list all of the notable non-readers: Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Descartes, Rousseau… “What a shame,” they will say, “that all of these figures couldn’t read.” If only reading had existed then, where could these figures have taken us? The answer is nowhere. With or without reading—reading doesn’t do you any favours. If Plato could read he would not be remembered. No one would care. He’d be poisoned. What’s the history of the world without reading? It’s the same history as today, because this is that world.
Reasons for an epiphany: often a moment where the truth shines brighter than falsehoods. What is this feeling that has brought you out of the night? Asked again early (too early) in the morning when you suddenly wake up out of sleep. How does understanding build? Slowly, and then all at once.
Overheard: “Prepare to dull your feeling.”
All anyone wants to talk about at the party is love. Perhaps love would be less complicated if people were more careful with what they were offering. (Be more careful, you tell yourself.) The problem is not that it is difficult to offer love but that it is often a matter of understanding the ways in which you restrain yourself. (I need to be more gentle.)
Outside the party there is a man in a bicycle helmet (he has no visible bicycle) who turns its light on, briefly, to make out details on distant objects.
First, a pile of trash, which he scans with apparent interest. Then, me.
Everyone wants love.
All of the couples on the podcast want to be together and that’s why they are able to work through much greater challenges. It is not a matter of “want” when in fact it is something that is not wanted. (Overheard: “Stop following me.”)
Some nights as my shift ends at the library I find myself in a bad mood. Not a bad mood necessarily. I am not angry, or upset. Only incapable of original thought, exhausted, ready to go to bed—to go anywhere—but stuck in place. It’s a mood that’s “bad,” I guess, because it feels so unproductive. But it isn’t “bad” to be unproductive, to feel tired and worn from a day. It’s just how I feel. What’s upsetting, possibly, is knowing that after biking home I won’t be able to sleep. Not right away, because biking—and working at the library—always works me up. I need time to cool down.
But I chose this shift knowing exactly what it would do to me. It only feels bad because it feels like it turns life only into a matter of endurance: even though I’m doing nothing more complicated than waiting out the clock. It’s likely the solution is an easy one, to concentrate on the feeling and not wish for it to be anything other than what it is. Instead of sliding sideways, moving further and further away from myself, frustrated at my lack of cognitive ability, embracing my limitations and coming to a stop.
I’ve been thinking about the ways I do this not only in moments where I feel exhausted, but where I feel generally “overwhelmed.” Often the problem is that I need to break down whatever it is that is overwhelming me, take conscious steps to relieve the problem. I feel ashamed about this because this has affected past relationships—not knowing what I’m really feeling, I might try to deflect or delay until some future moment where I’ll feel more composed (but that moment is itself a fantasy).
Instead of admitting my failure, and asking for help (“Could we make plans for this right now, because it gives me anxiety to think about this as something I have to do ‘in the future’”) I have tried to both please and also push it forward, or away, so that it is out of the sphere of my immediate responsibilities… Instead, no one is pleased. The feeling of “overwhelm” builds and it seems like I am rejecting a request. Generally it stresses me out to imagine that I am imposing my needs on someone, asking for what I want, but the way things are enacted when it’s like that it becomes exactly the opposite (the inverse of my fears). I want instead to be more generous with my time or feelings, be more immediate, ensure that the people I love feel loved and supported. As it is now, I think I am only able to do that some of the time.
Moving restlessly—sleepless. A writing prompt: Think about sprawl. (Unrelated.) But I have a story to match your theme because all I think about is boundaries, space, limits. I’d like to change some of that thinking. I feel better during the day but when night comes I have difficulty sleeping (in fact it feels as if sleep has left me entirely). Perhaps it’s only the shifting of the clock (a falling back), perhaps its that I tried to go to sleep even earlier than normal. A busy week ahead: time to clarify, time to work, time to draw conclusions and tease out my thinking. Anxious to be finished as well as to begin. Combined with another thought: why did I turn something away from me? In this moment I see the role my phone plays—I am soothed only when I look at it, I am anxious when I look away. Even when I know that no communication will come. I speak, but I don’t wish to speak. I don’t speak. I stare into the glowing container. I wish to change this relationship. I wish to change many relationships. I am tired of following soothing. I think I wish I were not so afraid, which is not quite right. I wish I had been more brave. Please don’t read this. Asleep with an image next to you (until it faded from the light). Wake up from a dream of kissing them on their knees, gently.
I lied—please read this. Please read this. You’re important to me.
A novel about everything bad that can happen, told in many small parts. Perhaps less of a novel and more of a curiosity (a path curiosity can take). Today I burned sage that I picked at my parent’s home in Saskatoon, filling the entire apartment with smoke. The air by consequence feels now pure. I would like to do the same to certain habits that I have found in myself, a certain darkness: to shed light on it. To fill it with smoke.
I still haven’t written about the lights I saw biking home with Liz and Rohan. It was long past sunrise and we were on the beltway, unilluminated by streetlight except near intersections. Only Rohan had a light bright enough to lead us, and so we biked in front of him. Or slightly behind, anxious about the gap between illumination and non-illumination on a trail that was covered with hazards (pot holes, branches, the occasional dog straying far from its owner).
We had gotten turned around—coming to pause underneath an overpass, lonely and imposing in the darkness. Rohan mapped out a new path on his phone while Liz and I went back the way we had come, realizing our mistake only when we found ourselves in perfect darkness. I was eager to get home—a ride that had only taken me thirty minutes on my way there was going to take well over an hour.
Ahead of us on the trail was a cluster of bright lights, tight and focussed and hovering into themselves. It looked like something from a movie about a close encounter with an alien race, the way the lights seemed to cohere into themselves, a coherence that suggested, to me, a kind of sentience or intelligence.
Whatever it was, it was on the trail, clearly moving but also seeming from my vantage rooted in place. As if it was just hovering, holding its position as it swayed back and forth in the wind, scanning the forest or scanning for us. If it had made a noise, or moved suddenly, I might have turned around or darted into the brush. Who knows what I would have done. As it was I was transfixed, waiting for it to arrive.
Only when it was almost upon us did its shape find emergence—a peloton, a group of spandexed men riding through the beltway at top speed, in tight formation, with the same bright white light affixed to each of the handlebars of their expensive bicycles. “Keep right,” they called back to each other, as their frames whirred quickly past us.
We’d stopped cycling, both to wait for Rohan and because we knew it would be dangerous to try and press forward through the crowd. I felt like a rat trapped between four wheels of a car, quivering close to the asphalt.
Like a speck on the horizon, as far from myself as the lights had been.
Two weeks later I was biking home following a late shift at the circulation desk of the Law Library, making a turn that I have made hundreds of times before. Except I was suddenly on a street that I didn’t recognize, a street shrouded in darkness that my bike lights barely pierced. I turned, trying to correct myself, and found myself in a long alley that ended at the major road I had wanted to avoid. I wasn’t quite lost, but it was disturbing how quickly I had lost my place. I was forced to double-back through a neighbourhood that I knew intimately, that I had lived in and adjacent to for years. Most of my adult life.
I couldn’t figure out what about it had changed—why I was suddenly so confused, or what part of myself was missing in the darkness.
What am I doing here? The worthy knight Lanval is neglected by Arthur, his king, when he distributes gifts among his men. Lanval feels dejected and wanders off alone. There he is greeted by two maidens, who tell him their demoiselle is waiting for him. She confesses that she loves him and promises to fulfill his every desire, so long as he tells no-one of her. For a long time, he is able to do this, making friends and throwing parties with his new riches, until he rejects Guinevere and she threatens to expose him as homosexual (the only reason he might have for not being interested in her). What he says is that he loves someone so perfect that even her handmaidens are more beautiful than the queen. Law of transitive properties. Guinevere misrepresents this to Arthur, making Lanval the aggressor, and locks herself in her room, refusing to come out until Lanval is punished. Arthur threatens to have Lanval killed until the demoiselle, who Lanval assumed he would never see again, arrives on a beautiful horse, with a falcon and trailed by a dog (a greyhound). After the trial, as the demoiselle is leaving, Lanval suddenly runs up beside her and mounts her horse, and the two ride away to Avalon. Neither is ever heard from again.
I meant the office. What am I doing here? I’m sitting in a darkening room waiting to go to work.
Read psychoanalytically, Lanval supplies himself with love in response to his neglect, a love that is so unearthly and perfect that he has to remove himself from society once he realizes that the two are incongruous.