(Page 2 of 2)
This morning I spend hours reading anonymous suicide notes I find on the Internet. I stop when I cannot read anymore. I return the next day, and the next, until there are no more notes to read. A week passes and I start again from the beginning. As I read the notes for a second time it’s as if, with the exception of a few lines, I’d never seen any of them before. With the third and fourth readings I grow more familiar. By the fifth, I have to read each one aloud. I soon forego the names and salutations. I do not pause between each note and let them run into each other. They work better this way.
I know what I’m doing. I write my own notes and leave them on the trolley; I am not afraid of having nowhere to go. A wooden boy is only a hoax. The water is tainted by the bodies they threw down the well.
If you fall into freezing water, do not panic. Try to regulate your breathing. Reach for where the ice appears thickest and try to swim your way out. Kick your legs with your body in a vertical position. If you are certain that escape is impossible, do not struggle; instead, prepare for loss of consciousness. Try to prop your head where it will remain above water. Don’t think about the girl from convent school who was trying to save her dog. Don’t think about Haley Joel or the poem he read at her funeral.
In Anya’s kitchen we eat from place mats that reproduce Constable’s landscapes. The Hay Wain. The Cornfield. Boat-building near Flatford Mill. On the wall above the table is a poster of the morning sun through trees. Words are superimposed over the image. Two Foundation Facts of Human Enlightenment: 1. There is a God. 2. You are not him.
Before convent school I lived next to three different graveyards. Now I live next to a park that was originally a huge cemetery. When the land was rezoned, it was decided that digging up the bodies would be sacrilegious at worst, impractical at best. Boundaries were established and it was agreed that the area would never be developed. The law was honored and the dead largely forgotten until construction began on an underground parking facility thought to be outside the perimeter. This, I suppose, is the relation between the Old and New Testaments.
We travel to Lourdes to be blessed by the Virgin. The wooden boy’s logic is sound. If he cannot be God then he will settle for sainthood. Before he is beatified, he must receive this blessing. We stand in line during the hours when the sun is strongest. There are two women ahead of us; one tells how she was burned as a child and had to take ice baths twice daily for the next two years. The other has pale skin and tiny scars all over her face and arms. We have to talk in whispers, otherwise we are shushed by automated loudspeakers hidden in the bushes.
In the final years of the Cold War, the U.S.-based Trinity Broadcasting Network claimed proof of the literal existence of hell, accessible via a borehole in the Siberian wilderness. When the well reached a depth of around nine miles, drills broke through to a cavity. Various heatproof sensory devices were lowered. Among the data returned were temperatures in excess of two thousand degrees Fahrenheit and audio recordings of the screaming damned. Accompanying reports described an ephemeral winged creature rising from the well and stealing across Soviet airspace.
Here is my favorite story: you are a statue and I am a mechanical bird. Everything we have we give to the sun. First upon the table: our neuromance, then: to solve the riddle of bodies.
I always try for the back of the carriage. When the window is open I breathe harder to smell the water. I am sorry for ruining your photograph. I was trying to look drunk. It was a kind of double bluff. I wish I had something else to say that would make these other things seem trivial. The trolley stops where police cars have blocked the roadway. Some of the people get off and continue on foot. This makes no sense to me. After several attempts to engage the police, the driver backs up and we take another route.
When I open my eyes I pretend I am someone else. I try to see the city with new eyes, confuse myself within the familiar, like remembered scraps of an old dream. We are crossing the bridge that this body has crossed a hundred times before. But in this new occupation, I encounter it as original.
Where are you, Buratino? Remember how we’d walk into rooms carrying everything we knew, our bodies like weapons, the night something to be taken and emptied? Here is the most important thing I will ever write:
My single motivation is authentic experience. I can only approach it by telling stories.