Tuesday, January 29, 2013
a system of inter-states (part 2)
the deep night, the interstate.
several hours pass by in silence.
suddenly the driver clears his throat and puts to me my own question:
“so then...are you enjoying your travels, son?”
for a moment I think this comment is merely a part of a dream. a day dream, a night dream, a fake dream, a real dream, doesn’t matter. just a dream. almost a joke. I don’t feel the need to respond right away. nonetheless, I turn the question over in my mind, several times, very slowly and carefully.
because there’s no clear answer forthcoming, and yet I don’t want to just leave the driver hanging in silence, wondering if I heard him, wondering if I’m even alive, I repeat the question aloud, to myself, in a faint, faraway tone of voice:
“so then...am I enjoying my travels?”
“precisely, young fellow- that is precisely what I have been wondering.”
“well, I can say right off the bat that I’m not going to answer as you did.”
“remind me how I answered again?”
“your answer was ‘indeed I have not.’”
“oh sure- that does sound vaguely familiar.”
“it was a few hours back, somewhere just past cape girardeau.”
“yeah, that sounds vaguely familiar as well.”
(a very long pause)
“well, sir, I suppose my answer is typical of what you probably hear a lot in your line of work-”
“don’t be too sure about stuff like that, son. this is a line of work like no other.”
“yeah, I’m beginning to see that...well, in any case, I would say that these travels have had their distinct ups and downs.”
“well of course they have, son- but that isn’t quite what I was asking...let me rephrase a little- have you been able to enjoy the distinct pattern of ups and downs you refer to?”
again, a significant silence.
again, this driver confounded me.
the deep night, the interway.
a strange and unsettling question.
my first impulse was to say, simply, no.
but I checked that first impulse,
and turned this new question over slowly and carefully also.
was there a pattern?
I have to admit, I had never really thought about that!
was there some kind of relationship?
what does that word mean- “relationship”?
think about two people in a small town somewhere. say that they had a brief love affair or a business partnership of some kind. say that it ended a little abruptly and angrily. you overhear one of them saying to a friend in the grocery store- “we’re no longer in a relationship” or “the relationship’s over” or ‘it was a fucked up relationship” as opposed to “it is a fucked up relationship” or "gosh, we still have to live together in this god-forsaken town for the foreseeable future so we might as well try to come to sort of...truce...I mean, let's face it- whether we like it or not, we're still, quote, in a relationship- it's completely unavoidable in a small place like this. until one of us moves away...but geez loueez, even then...wouldn't we still be in, quote, some kind of relationship? using the term in its broadest sense, of course."
"but why use a loaded term like that in its broadest sense? aren't you just inviting more drama?"
"no, not necessarily...in this case, more the opposite- there's already a shitload of drama! a proper understanding of our relationship could really simplify things, I think."
"well, doesn't that sorta depend on what the other person thinks, also?"
“son, have you come up with an answer yet? I thought it was a pretty straightforward question.”
“maybe for you, sir.”
“struggling a little bit, fellow?”
“no, I can’t say I’m struggling.”
“well, what can you say, then?”
“ok then...I guess I can say that...sir, please don’t criticize this answer right away...even if it’s not perfectly clear or consistent with the world or with language as you know it, could you possibly just let it go for a second and let me gradually grope my way blindly towards something resembling a halfway coherent response?”
“by all means, young fellow- you take all the time that you need. I won’t say a word until you’ve gotten it all off of your chest...”
“thank you, sir.”
“are you by chance gonna convert this experience into some sort of haiku?”
“there’s an outside chance, yes, son- does that disturb you at all?”
“no, not really.”
“glad to hear it.”
“glad to say it.”
“we’re golden, then, it would seem.”
“we do seem to be on the same page about certain things, sir.”
“son, does it ever seem to you that we’re just characters in somebody’s novel or story? you know, completely made up? completely created from scratch? totally arbitrary, the merest whim of an author somewhere? who could just as easily have created entirely different characters? who has in fact created entirely different characters? who, in the service of some bizarre plot twist, will probably alter us at some point in such a way that we become unrecognizable to the reader and perhaps even ourselves?”
“no, sir, I can’t say that I’ve ever thought about it in quite those terms...you’ll maybe remember me telling you that I haven’t known too many writers...”
“I remember that very clearly, son...by the way, I may be old, but my memory just so happens to have remained incredibly sharp...might even venture to say that my memory is actually improving with time...”
(to be continued)