It’s a hundred and two in the valley and we’re driving through a snowstorm. We huddle for warmth in the back seat, everything we own in two small cases in the trunk. We hurdle down the main artery that pumps what passes for blood in this country. Removed from the skin-tightening heat by a thin film of glass and plastic we freeze in polar winds. This gale, while totally independent from the northerly wind blowing the snow around beyond our capsule, gives the sensation that the cold harsh wind in and the flurried sweltering blizzard out are somehow intimately related. It gets hard to breathe.
Be kind to your reader if you want her to be kind to you. Don’t lead her down blind alleys or kick the floor out from under her. Books are life!
Sage’s advice is wearing on me these days, exposing a putrefying skin. It’s the skin of a coddled fool seeing for the first time the hideous topology of rot and decay running off in every direction and trying desperately, futilely, to disassociate the immortal identity from the degeneration. It gets caught in the throat and can’t be hacked loose.
Be kind to your reader if you want her to be kind to you. Don’t lead her down blind alleys or kick the floor out from under her. Books are life! So write like it!
We put our cold hands on the window panes to feel the valley’s warmth. Our rebellions against captivity are desperate and short-lived, but for fuck’s sake, they are productive.
All at once we stop. Curbside. Doors open. Get out. Trunk opens. Suitcase out. Hugs happen. Bye. Love you. Here’s twenty bucks. Love you. Whoosh. Whoosh. We’re off. They’re off.
They will drive back exactly the way they came, fighting and cooing and carrying on in their snow globe rolling through a summer snow storm. We will line up to give away everything to the people in ascots and then line up again because we’re starving now for the first time in two weeks. Line up to show off our new fancy socks and then line up one last time to sneak in through the side door of the bird that will coddle us for twelve hours back to our life that has–mysteriously and accidentally–become perfectly comfortable.
We have nowhere to live come May. We drink our faces off on the porch with the woman who fell three stories from the car park ledge on Boxing Day last year and who can’t stop talking about it. We get blisteringly intimate with her, touching her wonderfully cold metal eye socket and admiring her desecrated but delightful half-toothless smile. I forget for a moment how bummed I am wasting another two weeks of my life trying to curl up into my kin’s snake pit just to find yet again that I just don’t fit. We say goodnight and go inside. We make soup, get naked, and eat it in the tub. We go to sleep happy.
At four the next morning I am startled awake by a dream about pollen falling thick and yellow on the deep sea floor. I write for the first time this year. First I write for two minutes, but then for three hours. I could write forever in a deep dark January night with you here by my side. I tell myself I’ll stop when you start snoring because why not. But you don’t. You’re breathing is steady, rhythmic, and strong.
Books aren’t life. Not this book. Not this life. But I’m a fan of the that old saying so I’ll treat you kindly, dear reader, if I want to be treated kindly. And maybe some other times too, but only by accident. Kindness won’t be the norm around here because even though this isn’t life it is some loose approximation of life and who am I to cheat you out of the cool comforting embrace of the deep sea of emotion that you can only feel once you swim out past the intertidal zone of relationships that cling so needily to the rocky shores of kindness.
Come on, then. Let’s go for a swim tonight. Out past the break. Past the coddling kindness and into the depths.
And if they don’t join us, let’s go alone. And if you won’t join, then…
I’m swimming alone, a white zit on the smooth black face of the sea. Where’s all that kindness now, dear Sage? The reader has made it this far. The reader knows what we in our great rush to exhale can’t even guess. The reader knows that there are only blind alleys. That every plank is a trap door supported heroically by a deeply bowed toothpick that is ready to break. Books are life! but only for those of us who need the stories that reach into the abyssopelagic and pull up, intact and accounting for pressure, the rarest of specimens.
Come on then, let’s go for a swim.
We kissed and fell on the sofa. `You started it,’ she whispered gigglingly. Years later her daughter went for a swim. She drowned.