BY AARON PETROVICH
INCESSANT TEDIUM (pdf version)
REMAINS (pdf version)
In the presence of the unlikely, it sometimes works like this:
You've no idea what is happening to you. You can recognize that something has happened in the world, but you have no idea what is happening to you. You can understand that something has changed, but you don't know how this change is affecting you.
Your sense of self is evading you. That essential part of yourself that would lead you to do what you always have done, eludes you. You can only guess what you might have done. You can recall quite clearly what you used to do, but you are not entirely certain why.
You have misplaced that element of yourself that once provided you with answers to questions of why. Although you cannot locate it, you sense that this is the part of yourself that has changed. That is changing.
And you intend to find it.
You embark, so to speak, upon a journey, of sorts, which will lead you, once again, you hope, to yourself. You monitor yourself. You take an inventory. Which are words we use. You smell yourself. Touch your forehead gently. Run your fingers through your hair. You see yourself reflected in a storefront window.
You are, with reflection, a stranger to yourself.
You catch yourself engaged in an automated gesture. From your past. A repetitive learned behavior. That you no longer recognize. You catch yourself posing. As you once posed. For women or for men. You watch yourself smoking. The way you clutch your cigarette, in pressing fingers. The way you flick. How deeply you inhale. How you inhale. Your crooked brow. Your clenched jaw your. Bent neck. As you walk. You walk.
You take it in. It all in. Take it all in. As you begin.
You begin upon your daily course, that course that normally would lead you where you normally would go. You start down this path, but you cannot recall that point in time at which you leave it. First, you are on your daily path, and then you are not. It's that simple. It works like this. Perhaps you have walked left where you once walked straight.
No matter. You have diverged. You diverge.
You read a road sign, which you do not recognize. You approach an unfamiliar intersection. You approach unfamiliar intersections with equal parts wonder and fear. You wonder if cars do here what cars did there. You wonder if red lights now mean what red lights meant then. You fear that they do not, because you see an unfamiliar face. You see faces. You see faces that you have never seen before. These are not your people. These are not the people of your daily course. This is not your coffee purveyor. This is not your newspaper vendor. These are not the people of your world. They have never inhabited your world.
You have never made a place for them.
You realize how small has been your world. How perfectly small. How precious. How preciously little. How little. You have, in the past, harbored internal fantasies of inclusion, but you have lived your life in function by yourself, for yourself.
No more. You vow. No more.
You make yourself this promise. You make yourself this and other promises. You promise yourself to broaden your view or rather your horizon. Or rather you promise yourself to broaden your view beyond the limits of your horizon. Your experience will embody the whole. You will contain the whole and your choices will alter its course. You alone can alter its downward course because you will experience -
You experience love. You are experiencing love. You are experiencing an all-embracing love for everyone. You have, in the past, voluntarily recognized the importance of love, but you have never leapt into it. You are not a leaper. You have never leapt. You do not leap.
You embrace. Nothing more. As you walk. You embrace.
You stop. You have stopped. You notice that you have stopped. You notice that your eyes are wet and that your head is bent, a little, to the left. Your head is bent to that precise angle from which perspective we may view interior worlds.
You cannot recall what you saw in there, if indeed you saw anything at all in there, but you can recall that you have lately promised yourself, love. You wonder what led you to this conclusion. They happen this fast. These shifts. These shifts in understanding. These shifting glimpses.
You look left. You do not see what you think you might see left. You don't know what you are looking for left, so you look right. There is nothing for you right. You look skyward because the sun is revealed to you from behind a passing cloud, but you do not find in its illuminating light the eye of God. This has not been your revelation. You are not looking for God. You are looking for yourself.
Which is a phrase we use.
You take again an inventory. You engage yourself once again in automated gestures. You pat your right pants pocket to hear the jingle of your keys. In your left pocket, you can feel the impression made by your wallet or by your cell phone or by your palm pilot on your thigh. You are not concerned with the objects in your possession. What concerns you are their impressions made on your thigh.
What concerns you is your thigh.
This, you realize, is your thigh. These are your legs. You are standing on them. They support you. They put you in motion. They cause you to move, these legs of yours. They move. They represent the culmination of a complex series of neurological impulses. They are composed of a complex interaction between light and matter. You are composed of an interface of matter and of light, but this does not comfort you. This places you instead in a state of confusion. You cannot understand what keeps you together. Why you have not fallen down. Why you are not an electron cloud. Why you are not a bee swarm of accelerating particles. Why you have not fallen to pieces. Why you are not in pieces.
You are in pieces. You are falling apart. You have come undone. You're afraid to move. You're afraid that, if you do move, you will fall over, and you will not recall the mechanisms that will allow you to stand back up. How could you? They exist on a molecular level beyond your perception. You cannot see them. You cannot understand them. You cannot see to understand them. You cannot even understand the mechanisms in place that allow you to stand, as at present, erect. Then you see that you needn't understand. You already are erect. Then you take your first step. Before you realize that you can test your steps, you test your steps. It sometimes works like this. Before you can accept that you can walk, you already are walking.
As you walk, you pay exclusive attention to your walking. Your walking is the entire focus of your world. With all of the things that are happening in the world, your walking is the only thing that is happening in the world. But you are not its master. You are not willing yourself to walk. You do not say to your left foot, rise. You needn't say, right foot, fall. It falls. Your walking is occurring independent of you. You are operating independent of yourself, and yet you feel more within or rather with yourself than you have felt before.
You fear no more. You navigate effortlessly. Your feet rise to the curb. You rise. You avoid approaching people without walking through or over or without walking into them because they are as much a part of your walking as you yourself are. You have no more part in your walking than they themselves do.
They are as much a part of you as you yourself are.
You turn corners. You cross streets. You cross traffic. You would leap. If having leapt, how you'd bound. You encounter a stairwell. You encounter a descending stairwell, and you feel confidant that you can take it.
You descend. On your feet and down. Your very own hand retrieves your metrocard from your wallet, where your wallet has made a faint impression on your very own thigh. You slide it in. The card. You turn the turnstile. You descend again a stairwell. Go deeper. You go deeper. On these feet of yours. These tremendous appendages. They have gotten you here. You have been gotten here but -
You have no idea where you are. You are in a subway station, of this you are certain, but you have no idea which one. You have forgotten your former preoccupation with destination. You have never visited this station before. You have never taken this line. You have a vague idea in which direction it is running, but its course does not concern you. What concerns you are its stops. Where it will stop. Where you will stop.
You look outside of yourself.
In the faces of your peers, who wait to board, with you, this train, in their fixed expressions, you recognize the event that has brought you here. Right here. To the present.
Sometimes it works like this.
At other time you find yourself standing perfectly still, awakened for a moment, and for no apparent reason, from a silent eternity.
You have read of a relationship between light and soul. You are standing in the rear car. As you stand at the rear window of the rear car, staring out, you remember candlelight. You are made of such light.
No. You are made of what also makes light.
Pale bulbs at eye level illuminate suspended elements of the tunnel incompletely. They are racing away from you. These pale, pale bulbs. Into the depths. These stark lights and the portions of tunnel revealed by them. Into lengthy depths. These segments of black, wet track. These beginnings or ends of sprawling graffiti and the walls that are their canvas. Racing away from you. These yellow hand rails and red water lines. Into an accelerating depth. These walkways - these thin walkways - that could support the width, only, of one - carefully held in lingering fingers of light; racing away from you into a tunnel the total shape of which you can only guess.
At the end of the tunnel, the total shape of which you can only guess - at the edge, in other words, of your perception - the pale lights, miraculous, diffuse. Insufficient views afforded you by individuated light are replaced, at the edge of your perception, by a singular glow that appears to you brighter, even, than the sun.
You awake on the train, but not from sleep. You have not been sleeping. You awaken. You were lost, but not in thought; no. You're lost like that still. Still, you have been awakened to something. To or from something. Or by. Some other thing. Something troubling. Some troubling sensation some. Rude awakening.
Which is a phrase we use.
You look about yourself; find yourself reflected in the rear window, in Plexiglas. You find a scattered blur of yourself reflected; shaking. You find that you are shaking, but not in fear. Not fear nor cold nor agitation. You are shaking with the motion of the train. The train is moving. You are standing on it. You are moving with the train. You can't keep yourself from moving. The train is all around you, and then you put your finger on it:
You cannot be certain, as you stand there shaking, if the train is causing you to shake, or you, the train. It betrays you like this, your reason. Sometimes it works like this. You can understand that the train is shaking, and you can also understand that you yourself shake like the train shakes, but you cannot understand the relationship between these two events. You cannot be certain which comes first. Which event leads to or from the other event. What is the cause and what, the effect.
Cause and effect relationships exist only in time and you have been awakened, you realize, but only to space.
The day in the week: You've lost it. The hour in the day: There is a hole in it. Your watch is on your wrist, but you do not believe it. Time does not pass like this. Time, according to the watch on your wrist, is passing, but not according to your experience. You have been on this train, according to your wristwatch, for seven minutes. What your watch fails to reflect however is that you have been on this train for as long as you can remember. This train is the only thing you can remember.
You can only remember this train. You can remember motion. You remember your left locked knee and a firm fist gripping the silver handrail above your head. Your fist is wet with sweat. You can remember your wet sweating fist. The watch on your raised wrist ticks. Inexplicable. It ticks.
You grip; sweat. You lean. You grip.
You lean when the train follows a curve over the inter-locking tracks beneath you. Or, leaning, you affect in the tracks a curve. No matter. As the train follows the curve, and as at the end of your raised arm you lean; swing, you remember the fever pitch friction scream of metal in conflict with metal. You remember that you have in the past heard the train's scream because you can at present hear it scream.
You would rather like also perhaps to scream.
You would also like perhaps to scream because you can only remember what you can at present experience, and you don't like it. The train screams, therefore, the train has screamed. This is the present extent of your reason. The train moves, therefore, the train has moved.
Will the train always move?
You have a vague recollection of stops. You know that a train has stops, but you cannot recall for certain if it has indeed stopped. You cannot recall when last it stopped. If last it stopped. You wonder if it ever again will stop. You are prepared to accept the possibility that it has made its last stop.
You lean; grip. You sweat.
You are willing to consider the possibility that you are dead. Perhaps it works like this. The light at the end of the tunnel: You've seen it. Perhaps a person slips like this, to the other side. It's hard to say. You've never been dead before.
Perhaps it has come to this.
Your eyes are open. Although your entire life does not pass before your open eyes, you take your last you think breath. You take it to the chest; hold it.
Your last you think breath in chest, you open your mouth as if to scream.
You open your mouth as if to scream, but on the tracks beneath you, the train applies its brakes, and plays your scream. Like a musician. Like fingers on a cornet. Through your open mouth, the train's brakes squeal.
On the tracks beneath you, it plays your scream.