The fuse of loneliness lit, they wait for the explosion that never happens. In their waiting, life collects, like rainwater in natural basins in the rock. There is the gradual accumulation of small disappointments, the trophies of unanswered telephones, bus tickets, the wilting of white chrysanthemums. By the light of the explosion, details glisten, and the explosion’s roar drowns the sound of every gesture.

Where the sentence begins, so ends the whole range of possible other worlds. And the establishment of one connection is the necessary annihilation of all other connections — and this annihilation is like the explosion the lonely anticipate, having lit their fuse. It is a form of clarity, the generous absence of object or incident, the description, by withdrawal, of a sensuous space, such as one might find in a quiet modernist gallery displaying a small, select number of artworks. There, space is cut as if by a couturier. We can imagine the soft, decisive crunch of the scissors through the cloth: the hem is tugged down, the sleeves are very fine as they brush against the sides of the tailor’s face. The moment before the chrysanthemums settle. Checking the timetable on her phone.

And with the beginning of the sentence, too, the annihilation is reconfigured, the whole order is moved about. It is not merely to turn the kaleidoscope, so that the shattered cathedral of the pattern changes — but to look through a different kaleidoscope entirely. I have incurred the wrath of a samurai’s daughter. Hi there, it’s me, the egoist. Their smiles, a kind of emotional flotsam drifting on the surface, evidence of a distant catastrophe: the inert serenity of wreckage floating in a current, like inane ducks bobbing in a line. The shaving away, year by year, incident by incident, of the chance of joy — note: problems with serotonin.

For a while, there was no conversation. The gale of talk had blown itself out, and he became frightened that there was no map to this landscape, no route they could follow that would take them out of the silence. It was strange, how panicked they felt at just a small failure of speech. The loss of golf, the supposed oddities of a mutual acquaintance, very swiftly and mysteriously led to the surface of an unknown moon, where his footsteps in the ashy, faintly phosphorescent dust trailed away behind him, bifurcating the entire world with his solitude, reminding him of the fate of Crusoe on his island. And she couldn’t think of a sentence to start the encounter moving again. She, too, experienced sensations of vertigo: she sensed an alien planet blooming inside her own skull. There would be no pity. No ascent. No recognition of her talents, incarnate with their unique frost design. No fingers in the right arrangement, no grand ceremony, no orchid, perfectly offsetting. None of this, none of the perfection. Even as it happened, she was aware of how curious it was that just a few powdery pinches of speechlessness could engender such distress.

Above the trapped miners, a full moon was beginning to rise on the ninth night after the collapse of the shaft. And it troubled her, as the perfume of blossom in spring unsettles the air: how could you know whether you had, or had been, truly loved?

It was not a fable, but she thought of the river, and the painted lines on the corner of the building at Cormorant Street, with dates like 1902 or 1933, each indicating the record of inundation, each a high-water mark.

 

 


from the series construct (2012–present, ongoing)

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