Tuesday, May 6, 2008

How Old Am I, He Asks, In My Shadow

Somehow the days pass. And pass and pass, until the one day comes that does not pass but only ends, like throwing a switch. Then time goes on but the days - our days - end.

I envisioned my daughter's sandals, empty, stepping towards me over white sand. In a dream, two nights back, subjected to intense self-mutilation, swathes of my scalp scraped off with a razor. And instead of sympathy or panic, there was merely anger, and accusations of melodrama.

I wrote elsewhere recently, of melodrama: "Is there, behind it (of course there is, behind it) a sincere felt experience that doesn't trust itself, thus exaggerates. Melodrama is the voice which doesn't trust itself."

And in the same piece, later: "The challenge for me, as a writer and a man, is how to express that felt experience without cheapening it by extravagance or dishonesty."

How one can communicate - by mail, by phone, by semaphore - does affect one's sense of place. We are in space differently according to how our voice, our words move through it at our behest. Also by the proximity - physical and otherwise - to people who have harmed, or who may harm, our bodies.

The search has been called off for the missing man. The first bird song begins a few minutes before five a.m. It must be there is only a body out there now, a body and a missing bike. The moment of one's writing feels like balancing on a fulcrum in a candelit room. Why, Jeremiah asks, are our shadows sometimes long and sometimes short.

How old am I, he asks, in my shadow?

I make the coffee in the dark. Sometimes I can do it that way and the other times I need a light.

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