Serialized Short Story, Part 2: “the vicariousness of another’s remembrance”

. . . the complexity of movement, and movement requires the sort of friction that will always rub somebody wrong. If there’s to be a real peace, of the sort you’re looking, surely it is as tentative as a handshake deal. When, whether as an achievement or a goal, has it not come without a boot on the back of somebody’s neck? Our sense of an ending comes too easily. Mourning and remembrance end long before our bodies do — our ashes burn longer. Even if your fundamentalists are right, it’s because our wicked ways are as fertile as our bodies, the wages of sin a hand-me-down prize, for the earth and its beasts. Even when these bodies and all that they carried within, . . .

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3.    an abnormal and overwhelming sense of apprehension and fear often marked by physiological signs (as sweating, tension, and increased pulse), by doubt concerning the reality and nature of the threat, and by self-doubt about one’s capacity to cope with it.

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. . . the rights minted as credit and wrongs compounded into debt, are forgotten, the breath once sucked in by one, was inhaled long before by another, and will be breathed again, repeatedly, elsewhere. All these agreements we make, the inevitable acceptances even in the course of a sentence let alone a life, they could all be undone with a sneeze.

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You & I grew up in families without ambition. Or was it just the neighborhood? Suburban households like ours built on the backs of men and women who worked hard, in their various means & ways, mostly for the sake of a new backyard deck or pop-up camper—rarely used, both—or a new child, loved more often than not, one hopes—or a new home—the manicured green of a landscaped nihilism. Oh, but how many exhausted tales begin with that bit of sanctioned, because it’s confessed, hubris: “I was different from everybody around me”? Are any of us, though, really so different? Are we ever equal the effects of these differences we imagine for ourselves—of our ambitions to once upon a time become a man after the heart of God, you; to chase after the arts as though they were something to catch like prey, me? Latter days tend to color those to come & long ago past, so I wonder now if laziness is at the root of our desire for its opposite—if there isn’t a kind of tragedy to our avoidance of these accumulations (of time, presented in slide-shows and re-told as stories at dinner, so much shit cluttered and wound into a knot). You’ve preached against vanity in your sermons, I’m sure, and I’ve sneered at bourgeois values in my writing, but what if the harshest truth still is not that they were right and we are wrong, but that the most difference any of us ever achieve is the desire to be different at all? That when this difference is effectively a defiant . . .

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I find myself dwelling tonight on those most minor details of memory. Instead of sleep, I recall the bench where, each morning, for a time, I’d come with the dog.

She likes to sit here on the bench, alerted & distracted by her many attentions, and indifferent to my company. Everything is wet, either by dew or the spray of sprinklers. We sit, for as long as we agree; & occasionally we watch the fog sneak above and below & sometimes between the highest and lowest points of the nearby bridge that connects one town to another.

If a cloud, in our popular imaginations, can occasionally appear as something lifelike, what distinguishes the fog is that its lifelike qualities are somehow more than mere appearance. It is not so subject to interpretation or even perspective. It feels organic in a way that we would probably not allow most other atmospheric phenomenon. Fog seems, rather, closer to being “real” — or, at the very least, hiding something real.

No, not hiding. This seems more the stuff of clouds — the promise of a horizon further than our own — of something to come, whether it be of a storm stirring or survived, etc. And while there may well be something awaiting us on the far side of the fog, it is its immediacy that we remember, its consuming closeness, when in the thick of it, that prompts a certain forgetting that there is anything else.

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. . . FUCK YOU refusal of every step laid out for us along the way, all we who prefer not, Bartlebys abound, are heroes only in the most incarcerated sense? That ambition, no matter the commonplace synonym-making of our Protestant work ethic, is not the same as the pursuits we pant after like dogs or trophied bones we triumphantly bury? No, and here I’m preaching to you: to see more in life than life itself is prepared or able to offer—a good definition of creativity? but also sadism?—is to set oneself up mostly for failure—also a good definition? for, yet again, both? —on the off chance that, occasionally, in glimpses, possibly after the moment has passed, even our moment of life, in the vicariousness of another’s remembrance, there is a value no longer so simple as a wage earned or a price paid.

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For it is in the fog that we discover sand littered with death — driftwood, vacated shells, dried seaweed, and the trunk of a tree — in such a way as to remind us of life. It is here, within the fog, we hear the sea from which we came, our origins peeking through the indistinguishable, the fog from the sea, until, as we might wander, we find ourselves, and everything, once again, wet.

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