https://twitter.com/jonsarkin — Jon Sarkin jonsarkin.com
Jim raised his glass and then, reconsidering, put it down without drinking. To get here I’ve traveled some hard miles, he thought, the road was gravel and rubbled with rocks. This is not a metaphor. I mean he DID really walk miles to get here, and the road he walked WAS gravel, but at the same time, it IS metaphor in that his journey WAS challenging. But metaphor and literality – non-metaphor – are not mutually exclusive. But back to Jim. He was sitting at a table, an old oak table, that had seen better days, but so had Jim, and after all, haven’t we all? I don’t want to get all maudlin and hang-doggy. I really don’t. And neither did Jim. Yes, he WAS in a foul mood, but this was par for the course. Even birdie, whatever that means. Myself, I’m not much of a golfer. But that’s another story, and boy, what a story it is! And to say I’m not much of a golfer is an understatement of understatements, a sort of anti-hyperbole that bends back on itself like spacetime does in the presence of a black hole. I’ve no idea what I’m talking about of course, but talking about things I’ve no idea about is, I hate to admit, a compulsion of mine, like going on and on about phonies, when I myself am like the biggest phony you’re ever going to meet. Admittedly, this is a poor example, but citing poor examples is my stock in trade. It’s my trade in stock, too. Again, I have no idea what I mean. In that way, I’m a lot like Jim, aimlessly and randomly caroming about this life like a drunk playing pinball.
Among other things, Jim found that he was the first person who was ever nauseated and petrified and confused and frightened and even critically illed by behavior exhibited by humans. He by was alone on this score and anxious and excited and stimulated to know that he had discovered this grey underbelly of our species. Man had been, until then, wholly ignorant of his troubled, decayed morality and spirituality. Happily, Jim kept detailed, impeccable records of his troubles. You can learn from them if you want to. Just as someday, if you have something to offer, someone will learn something from you.
Jim is a man, who chooses his word carefully. Strike that. He choose his *thoughts * carefully, and I suppose that the words which ensue come out with the same care as do his thoughts’ composition. But the thoughts are worthless, so the words, in the words of T.S. Eliot, are “meaningless as wind in dry grass or rats’ feet over broken glass in our dry cellar.” What in the hell was he talking about? I mean, everybody, including me, makes such a big deal about Eliot, but I think there might be some “emperor’s new clothes” mojo going on.. You evere read “The Wasteland?” All these allusions to myths, foreign language thrown in. OK, we get it – you’re well-educated. I guess i’m just kidding. He *is *a big deal. Anyway, back to Jim. Thinking about Jim reminds me of Gogol. I don’t feel like explaining why, but I’ll try. The little I’ve read of him smacks of a kind of meta-fiction, where he psychoanalyzes the character. I’m doing that now with Jim, or is he doing it with me. Am I doing it with myself, obsessively turning over and over the same rock of my mind? I guess I am. But I’m being self-effacing. My thoughts are *not *worthless. Or maybe they are. It depends on your perspective. There are plenty of folks who think they’re nonsense, and their opinions haunt me constantly. I know I’d be better off not caring what they think, but I do, and this cloying possibility that they might be right – that my life is a waste, makes me chocked with anxiety and uncertainty and fear. This is ugly stuff. Untidy, stuffed with bad craziness and unhealthy rumination. I am compelled to explore this. But back to Jim. He was in the kitchen. It was a sunny day, and the sunlight was shining through the window over the sink and leaving squares of brightness on the linoleum. He was sitting at the table staring at the floor. A cloud obscured the sun and the color of the squares dimmed. Outside a bird chirped. It was spring, and he wondered if it was migratory.
Jim greeted him warmly and he welcomed his visitor into the house, its wallpaper yellowy-old and peeling. They passed through the hall into the dining room and the dining-room. I should describe this room, but I won’t. I am a man of few words and a miser of description. I reserve my words for my characters, but even then, my descriptions are taut and brittle, like cheap leather or a tiny unsatisfying meal. My characterizations are like pebbles tossed in the sea. Jim had, in the words of Gogol, black, burning eyes, beetling eyebrows, a furrowed forehead, a fiery scarlet cloak thrown over his shoulder. There! My word-portrait is finished – overdone I think! You see, reader Jim and his friend are very much like you and I – when you look at them more closely, as Gogol noted, you discover that they possess a great number of of the most elusive peculiarities, and as such are terribly hard to portray . In cases like these, according to Gogol, you must concentrate all your attention before you can force all these subtle and invisible traits to disclose themselves to you, and, generally, you have to train your eye, already expert in the science of uncovering the secret places of the heart, to penetrate more deeply.
*Jim is somewhere, but where? He’s not sure. He’s even less sure where he’ll be. This he shares with us all. His delusion of certainty has melted like the iceberg that became a little too friendly with The Titanic. Whatever happened to that iceberg? The sinking of The Titanic got all the press. Not even a mention of the iceberg at all. Jim sometimes feels like that. But sometimes he also feels like The Titanic. And sometimes he just feels like the impact between The Titanic and the iceberg. Sometimes he feels like a passenger. Sometimes he feels like someone that was going to be on the ship, but something prevented them from doing so. And sometimes he feels like all these things at once, an ineffable bolus of existential free-fall. * * * *Jim once had it all. His realm was swaddled in first-person pluralities. His laughter sounded like waves crashing on some rocky outcrop. He loved the smell of wood-smoke. He was doe-eyed. He had a passport. * * * * * * *
Jim was at the gate. The gatekeeper, a peasant from the countryside, a man of about forty with a big bushy red beard, a man who laughed nervously after each comment, a man who insisted upon profusive apologies regarding the gate’s broken condition, a man who smoked continuously and seemed to Jim on the verge of falling asleep, a man who droned on endlessly about his village, boring Jim about the unusual weather patterns in his valley and how lovely it was in summer, that Jim should come visit in summer during some festival, but Jim wasn’t really listening because he really didn’t care, he had no intention of going to the damned festival, Jim was puzzled by the gatekeepers boring drone and his guzzling of reality, his total drain on everything alive.
Jim fell asleep on the park bench. When awoke, there was a cool breeze and dusk was gathering. The traffic sounded like smoke, impatient and insolent, like a child about to throw a tantrum. Jim had these thoughts because he was in that state between sleep and wakefulness, where traffic sounds of smoke and is heedless and impulsive. He had stuff to do but it could wait, for what, after all, is stuff but someone else’s dreams?
Boy, does Jim ever love his solitude! He doesn’t mind the filth that surrounds him. Many find his solitary, filthy existence ugly, but he really doesnt give a shit. His overflowing ashcans are filled with unobtainable dollars. Neighborhood children scream under his stairway, sobbing in armies. Old men weep in the park across the street. He is quite judgmental. This results in a kind of mentally incomprehensible prison, a soulless jailhouse.
I awoke as a large bug. I know what you’re thinking. That I stole this idea from Kafka. Not true. OK, it’s partly true. OK, OK, it’s totally true. But I didn’t really awake as a large bug, so I’m nos stealing nothing from nobody no-how. I awoke as I usually do, befuddled and needing to pee. Peeing relieves my bladder but never my befuddledness. I fool myself into thinking a strong cup of coffee will do that, and although it does turn down the volume of my addled brain’s transmissions slightly, it doesn’t do much, truth be told, to de-web the intricacies and complexities of my cobwebbed mind. This mental untidiness dogs at my heels all day, and the stuff I do to tidy it up is like arranging deck chairs on a magic, swirling ship.