fiction

Recurrence

We’re moving to Paris, we said to each other in astonishment about where we were. Only where we were was London and it was bleak and gray and confusing and I was trying to make sense of the subterranean rail system as if I’d never been anywhere before, let alone there. The map on the small screen in my hand was moving around like the carpet in the hotel lobby in Fear and Loathing. The film. I don’t remember what the carpet did in the book, because whatever it did was in my imagination and that was years ago.

Ali Smith commented on the suicides that take place each year on the north line out of King’s Cross, I recalled, aloud, as if that’d help us navigate and we maneuvered like two lost fish, our foreignness silvery and glinting amidst the hurried throngs, side by side and single file, slant formation, a desperately rhyming dance of happenstance through crowds and corridors and around corners and finally up some stairs at the top of which we emerged into noncommittal daylight and stepped our way past a woman with such judgment in her eyes she stood out from the blur and we couldn’t help but notice her glaring harshness and contempt like we were about to walk some plank and she knew it and enjoyed not telling us with her mouth, only her look.

We left her behind us like so much else but carried her look along and felt heavier for it, stepping out onto a walkway under construction or re- at the edge of a wide bridge high up some few hundred feet over a green-black river I thought shouldn’t have a name but surely did and was speckled with all manner of vessels going this way and that and lined by tall mirror and gunmetal buildings rising from its foam and filth banks. I noticed that part of our path consisted of a vehicle-sized rectangle of steel of the sort they lay awkwardly over giant potholes or trenches cut temporarily through streets for the laying of pipe or power only this had nothing beneath it but a long drop into that terrible water. We took our first halting steps with my mind full of wondering why we couldn’t simply stop, sit, and think this over… And that’s where the story begins, always.

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prosetry

Soon

Why do I keep counting all the ways you might not count on me, says the mouse inside, all the ways this “I” might fail, stuck on gelastic fantasies drawn off sheer fear and memorial disquiet of the sort that blood breeds, cut through with equal parts darkness and light, one might say in a nod toward fairness, or something like it, something balanced and even, even

darkness and light, even understanding and uncertainty—whatever poles you choose so long as the central action is vacillation swinging swaying in a fine dialectical tangle to encircle the central impression that memories and dreams of any scope or variety add up to anything, let alone the present,

let alone the precise number of years and thoughts and mistakes and misperceptions and lessons and attempts and fuck ups and small fucking nothing victories it takes a mouse to grow into something other than the man he tried to make anyone believe he was all along, almost anyone, really, someone more than greater than, though just other than would’ve sufficed, just so long as he lost the tail they all stepped on as he tried to flee,

because it seems that’s how the best laid plans tend when you’ve been borrowing troubles from pasts and futures imagined as tales and real as genes, finally coming to understand how the present is made from knowing but not just any knowing, not just the KNOWING they all talk about as though it’s self-explanatory, but knowing which things to remember and which to forget, knowing that not all thoughts are feelings and the biggest feelings aren’t even thoughts at all

and yet there she is as she’s always been, thought and felt, the sweet antagonist in the fable the man will later write from the mouse’s point of view of the most beautiful girl in the village, just village, not city, not world, because those don’t matter and can’t, the same way before and after don’t matter compared to now, a lesson in scale and uniqueness, that’s what it’ll be,

this man’s tale of scale and uniqueness with an oblique moral fresh-squeezed from the notion of the universal’s small town locality, squeezed into a puddle pool reflecting all the ways the large evens out and trivializes, how it eschews our propensity to compare unknowns, how we see the world in what’s within reach, a moral of presence inverted with the mouse by the puddle pool’s edge looking in and wondering how deep and if he’ll be as upside down as the sky and horizon he sees if he wades in to catch the one and only girl he sees there standing on the other side—or falls,

but that’s all as yet unwritten, though it might’ve by now been said as many times as it takes this fablemouse to see singularity in his multitudes, here-ness in the midst of his preternatural orbits, dreaming expecting each nightmare to be different when it’s all the fucking same

till one day it’s ok, till one day he wakes up and learns to swim from watching the birds fly through a sky shone on the water’s surface and for the first time thinks if they can so can “I,” right here, and so will the story go, a simple tale with convenient anthropomorphism and elementary principle, ending but just beginning with the man the teller within his own tale dreaming

for the first time that night of the story’s completion of laughing all the way to the bank or the stratosphere or the grave—or wherever a man might go—at the thought of all this self-construction, at the mouse he had to create in order to destroy, trusting in a buoyancy he had only to acknowledge as simply and easily and presently as her beauty.

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