by WILL HUBBARD
Life is mediation between the opposing viewpoints that the world is infinitely, irrascibly large and that the world is infinitely, pitifully small.
For example, I woke this morning to an email from a woman who shares my last name. It read Good morning husband! I love to have quiet time when its raining... Don't you? Outside, it is not raining. Yesterday, rain, but not today. She continues I'm just praying and hanging out with God!!! Have a fruitful day! There is, after all, much to be done today. Will her blessing, like the message, reach me in error?
It is finally hot in New York, and I make plans to meet someone. On the subway I see that in extreme weather it is chic to both overdress and underdress. One girl, who seems either to be stoned or overwhelmed by allergies, is doing both. She has what appears to be a turban made of a tattered sheepskin rug on her head, but her shirt, which is already made of sheer material, has so many holes that I can literally see both her nipples. She is sneezing uncontrollably.
I feel for her, but consider the possibility that I too have a cold. Hottness in the nostrils, soggy head, slow and subtly pained movements. If I do, the preemtive medicine I took this morning has gotten into it already, mixed with the feeling of illness, and become an inextricable part of the experience. It is the medicine I have taken all my life, making it impossible to know if my memories of being sick are memories of symptoms of illness or the effects of common medicines.
Maybe the epidemic has reached me. Or something worse. I think to make a mental list of every possible source for the anxiety and sense of dread I am now experiencing. Spell them out, rank in importance, make a plan. It might be a long list, but it would never be a complete list. Something entirely unknowable and vastly sinister will be left out no matter how concerted my effort. The biggest thing, the opaque origin of all fears.
Thinking of what must be done is, if done with efficiency, the essence of a productive life, and if done in extremis, the essence of neurosis. Ideally, one should limit thoughts of what must be done to the lowest frequecy that still maximizes the actual enaction of plans. Making lists allows us to cease thinking of future tasks and return to present unencumbered life. Yet how often one makes a list and then discards or never refers to it. The list is only an artificial method for quieting the violent and debilitating impulse to plan. The train stops.
I glance an advertisement for a museum show of textiles. Everything about the word textile is wrong, but at least it's easy to spell. The hardest words for me to spell have two consonant sounds flanked by vowels that could be doubled or singular in their spelling and sound the same. Corollary. Necessary. Also, can we just start writing "æffect" to avoid confusion?
In weather like this, being stood up is almost a blessing. Really, whenever someone fails to show up–even a loved one, even one anticipated with eagerness—a great sense of relief pervades me. Not only will I not have to offer up my privacy, I now have something to hold over them, the upper hand, an excuse for future wrongdoing. Rendezvous is also a hard word to spell.
I look around for something to do, and decide to remain motionless behind my sunglasses. The eyes move only by jerks, must always be settling upon something. There is nothing fluid in their activity. Like the mind, the eyes do not function—and indeed may not exist—between nodes of perception. Most often in early May those nodes are wearing skirts of some kind. In New York, the beauty of the women serves as irresistable entrée to the slow paralysis if the city's inhumanities.
No thought is autonomous from those directly before and after. An overlapping series of filaments, much like a thread of wool. Some filaments strong, some hardly there at all, with nonetheless the combined result of everyday strength. Textilic.
I buy an expensive hamburger with ginger and water-chestnuts mixed in with the meat. The waiter says, Good, huh? I ask if he's from North Carolina. No, he says, Mississippi. I tell him I'm from North Carolina, but have lost all traces of my accent. Oh, he says, I'm trying to lose mine.
I feel for him too. I mean, to what extent can someone transcend their regional accent? Is not the very first indicator of a free and versatile intelligence that it uses an idiom not beholden to one necessarily benighted locale? Because I am in Chelsea another male waiter also comes over to check on me. I say that I am enjoying the water-chestnuts. He asks what I do, but I don't know what to tell him. I attempt to follow blessed curiosities with ease and intuition? No good.
A five-year-old out on the street says to his father, Probably around 6 pm Eastern time. It's unsettling, but reminds me of a dream from last night in which a god was teaching me to paint clouds. It said, You paint them in black paint, and from the earth they appear white. That we're allowed memory of dreams, and dreams of memory, is the capital offense of the divine being.
In a gutter, the day’s first soggy headline. An actress, prominent a decade ago but somewhat forgotten now, has appeared mostly nude on the cover of a popular magazine. It is the oldest, stalest story imaginable—from out the void of creeping time, meaninglessness has erupted. The table is set with good china and our grandmother's silver, but it is we who are consumed.
Then a marvelous bookstore appears where there was none before. I open the first book I recognize to the page on which I know I'll find the sentence Faith is the aftermath of questioning—not the answers but the quitting of doubt. It's still there.
Will Hubbard is the executive editor of This Recording.
THINGS THAT MAKE YOU GO UNNHHH
"Ain't That Good News" - Sam Cooke (mp3)
"Young Hearts Spark Fire" - Japandroids (mp3)
"Save Me From What I Want" - St. Vincent (mp3)
"Your Funeral... My Trial" - Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds (mp3)