From my novel-in-progress, tentatively titled:
IMAGINE A DEATH
Imagine a death — which really occurs. Imagine the sky, which holds things. Even the dog that just lies there, limp and frightened, knows generally that the sky can hold things and that on some days the sky might be lighter and emptier, and that on other days it might be filled and penetrated with an unpredictable continuation of history and love and fire.
She was washing her hands because that is what one did when one’s hands were dirty. She washed her hands under the hot water, eyes about to burst open from the intense gaze she had been wearing for so many moments now. She washed her hands because that is what one did when their hands were dirty and her hands were dirty now. Under the hot water, she washed her hands, furiously wringing and clasping her hands, scrubbing her palms with her nails, intent and watching the blood spiral away from her, down the drain, down the pipes that connected with other pipes, further and further away from her body standing in front of the sink now, miles away perhaps, in another body of water, in another time, a new life for red fluids that loathe mystery and were not ashamed of it. Not unlike the process of becoming, she thought, as the water’s color faded from red to clear and even the inexhaustibility of the gods couldn’t bring back the blood now.
She could still hear the voices emerging from her insides and in this moment she only knew to focus on the washing of her hands because any reminder outside this gesture would bring her back to reality and being brought back to a more concrete moment that could be signified by a time on a clock or a date on a calendar would mean the return of a perpetual dash, the pain of the foggiest yet penetrative idea, the pain of a thousand deaths, the pain that wouldn’t subside even with prayer, and the immense guilt that she couldn’t wash away even with the muttering and the chanting and the boiling of hot water on the stove.
The hot water was impregnable. The breeze through the window was hardly noticed in this moment.
Yesterday, her neighbor, the photographer, had pointed out to her the textures on the brick wall outside their building. She had nodded in politeness, wanting to get inside to boil water and make tea, but he had insisted on having her follow him to a certain corner of the building on the other side of the alleyway, of which she clearly remembered the stench of rotting garbage and urine, and where he had asked her to run her fingers along the gritty, split-open concrete where perhaps an earthquake or overzealous tree root had overturned the street and concretized a holy, sinister, and ungeometrical meeting of upwards street with wall. It was evidence of some kind of higher, incomprehensible force and perhaps on a different day she could have focused a little bit harder and youngly discharged some feeling of majesty or other capacity of wonderment, but on this day she had been very worried.
One might think to bring sacrifices to this corner, he had said.
She had nodded, politely.
One might try to capture this texture, this violence, this wound of the city in a photograph.
She had nodded again, head turning in the other direction to try and signal that it was time to go and that he was keeping her from the comfort of her mundane routine. All the dead stars of the universe falling infinitely and precariously slow. She wanted to exclaim—
One might try to capture such a moment, but in this case even a photograph wouldn’t suffice. Don’t you agree? How would you capture its texture? Can you feel it?
Again, she had nodded and ran her fingers along the jagged edge again to demonstrate her understanding.
He had looked at her and saw that her head was turned away. She’s quite beautiful, even looking away, he had thought, and suddenly had had the desire to photograph her but then had decided it wouldn’t suit him to be so bold already. Instead, he had thought, he’d go the animal route.
You know, if you ever need someone to watch your dog, or take him out, or anything, I’m almost always around.
She had looked confused.
Oh, I hear him barking sometimes. And during the storms last week, I could hear him. I think he’s afraid of the thunder.
She had stared.
It’s a “him” right?
Yes, she had finally acknowledged. She had looked down at her shoes. One of her shoelaces had torn and split apart and the shoes were both covered in mud.
I’d better get going now. And without waiting for a response, she had abruptly turned her body around and started back down the alleyway. Glimmers of aluminum cans had shot up as she walked through the sheer excess of filth and funk, the sour expression on her face acting like a staff parting the red sea and when she had heard his voice calling out for her behind her, she had only quickened her pace and reminded herself to not give in to the gesture of turning around to face him.
That had been yesterday.
Today, the city was restless. The entire continent, this entire land mass seemed engulfed in some strange and somber ritual of sweating and shaking and racking and the reverberations in her heart seemed heightened but she wasn’t sure whether it was the suffering of the planet, the shaking to its very core, or just heartburn.
The effect of what they had done to her was evident in the things she was capable of doing to them now. Of the imagination she was able to endeavor in now. Of the violent possibilities open to her now. This was the effect of what they had done to her. She tried not to think of them but in the quiet moments and with unwelcome heat, memories emanated like steam rising up from the black asphalt.
Her hands no longer felt the heat of the water but they were starting to wrinkle. Laszlo, who was the dog, looked up her expectantly and she knew to turn off the faucet, to walk over to the kitchen, to pour some dry food into his bowl, and to set it on the floor.
She watched him approach the line that separated the kitchen tile from the rest of the apartment. He sat and waited. She stared at him for a moment, trying to dig into his eyes in a futile moment when his posture only expected fulfillment of hunger and routine and she gave in to the realization that she was looking for something where it didn’t exist. She nodded and Laszlo, with small but hurried strides, approached the blue metal bowl, his bowl, her bowl, a bowl used by him yet owned by her.
Upstairs, she heard the old man coughing.
Downstairs, she heard the TV blaring. She thought she could make out the sounds of a train rollicking down the tracks.
On this floor, she sat on the edge of her bed and slowly lay back. She closed her eyes and willed herself to vanish, scrunching her eyes in an attempt to close them more than they already were, clenching her fists, and overextending her legs straight outwards parallel to the hardwood floor. As she lay there, her body stretched out as if floating above the bed a few inches and possessed by some brutish and dark demon, she felt the particles of her body squeeze together, being pulled together by some magnetic force, each of the particles coupling with another particle and clamping down inwards so that in the space of two, there was the space of one, this process repeating over and over again until there was, in a brief yet eternal second, only one last and very singular particle of dust, floating there in the light above the writer’s bed, cowardly and not daring to venture out of the direct beam of light, one last particle as evidence of an extended and embittering journey into adulthood, into sleep, oh, the privilege of restful sleep, breath having lost its role of necessity and thought its role of recovery, and as she felt herself disappear forever, the particle of dust assimilating into the other specks of dust floating freely in the air in a room hardly cleaned or dusted, and illuminated by the light coming in through the window, like a permanent fugitive she opened her eyes, felt all of the sensation of a hundred wounded bodies return to her own, and, after letting out a reluctant sigh, reemerged into the air of the room, the sounds of the dog breathing, the old man coughing, the rumbling train on the TV, and her own breath steadily emerging. She has never been to the desert before, she thought to herself as she blinked her eyes open.