I choose you to tell because the patterns you established were so clear, so inarguable. You were right to argue that you simply unveiled the greater systems that manipulated us and perhaps that mysterious yet ubiquitous specters you felt haunted by deserve the gift of my pathology. Yet they remained hidden to me, filtered by you. If you remember any of the strictures at all, if it was you then, controlling, I need you to hear it now. You never did say what you were feeling, you never marked a point that you shared with your body in time, as if what you perceived around you, affecting you, was oddly irrelevant, as if sucking it in was all that could be done. It has taken a rather comprehensive destruction of the space between us for me to understand, but I do. I aged in silence, bottled and imprisoned. I believed that if I could express myself to you I would form into a whole, independent being. But you couldn’t realize why it isn’t so simple. I wasn’t able to speak. You crippled me. After the aneurysm you wouldn’t allow me to sing. I only could spool out high, whining whistled melodies and bury them in the pillows, subdued by a fear of melting. You claimed to be misunderstood, to have erroneously assigned motives, to be ignorantly grouped with others. It can always be asserted that indeed you were exactly contrary to these gossip darts, though I fantasized about the peace that we might have found in that illusory biography you disdained. “I am unaccustomed to seeing things with other humans about them. I can’t relate to them. I see a chair and I relate it to the contours of my body. Then, receiving the sight of a man in a chair is through a sort of blindness. I see that he will always be on that chair. They refuse to conform to my habits of apprehension. Then I cannot see the chair at all. But, about you a different character arises. The passage of the world flows over you. I see that I can move you from the chair. So, everything that surrounds you, indeed your very form, is the die through which I am extruded. You are inert and pliable. The notion of character is a mummy, of course. Be nothing. Those who continue to endeavor towards its richness and complexity enthrone it with gaudy pomp and majesty.” Yes, it was clever of you. But it couldn’t be sustained. Doesn’t a mind reared on this enlightened detachment, without the tonic of its novelty, the pride and individuality associated with its discovery, become inhuman? Indeed, that legacy made you quiver with satisfaction. It allowed you to see through me like a blur. You claimed your progenitors, those who raised you, were always about, that you lingered in their wake, I believe as a way to indenture me to you, to make me aspire to forever situate myself in yours, when I fully recognized that you were an unrepentant and incorrigible individual. You did, however, never cease to implicate them when burdening me with disruptions to my character, their distance provided my flat affect, their neglect disrupted the chronology of my memories, their methodical study of social groups predicated my inability to make friends. You exacerbate the disintegration of norms that give me bearing, force that recognition to expand into my fundamental actions, an existence of questioning food and slumber, of simply seeing objects exist in space around me. You talk of man, yet your conception of man is predicated on all of the objects that are not him, that seem to manifest him, to cast him in a series of molds, everywhere he is not, the boundaries of sight. I live as if what is behind me at this very moment is a ray into memories of those objects, that ostensibly arrears of me is an extension of my definition into the past, a sort of train streaking along, yet always in a sort of ephemeral pile-up against the visual sense before me, the swing of my arms against window frames, chair backs, glasses of coffee. “The people in this building are more unsure, they’ve renounced their omnipotence. Now they clamber for things to put beneath them, things they believe they understand. Each one of them is a cult, a mountainous, molting insect. But in this way, by sharing the formative materiel in the building, they become one large, staggering consciousness. Yet it gave me a crippling identification with objects, furniture, knick knacks, books, though as objects not as voices, discrete bits of the apartment building like louvers and grates, newel posts, short patch pieces of molding, curtains, sconces, knobs and fittings, and bits of waste paper, and leaflets, folded wrappers, circulars, jars steamed out, picture frames, candlesticks, ribbons, keys, mugs, clutter. It wasn’t that it represented me but that it physically defined my form, it caused me to exist. We wound and kinked through the door-lined corridors after the old woman’s death, but only after she had been trundled out into the plains, a cart bearing a junk catafalque visible falling beyond the first heathered rise from our upper room. Why didn’t you see her body made up into the bed, even if to file that asphyxiated waxwork into the fog of objects that clung to your empty form? The pile of clutter she was hauled away upon little depreciated the rococo encrustation of bric-a-brac and redundant strata of furniture in her rooms. Beyond the realization that nothing can be possessed, can limit its contribution to the lineage of just one person, it was clear that most of it was not originally hers; though more than its origins, I was enervated by the surplus of object suites. My eyes passed over them like a gloss or glimmer, no, like a finger tracing the dust though not hoping to expose the object beneath. Almost no empty space remained, though where wall or untrodden carpet were exposed a deep blankness cored through the horrific depth of the debris. I couldn’t avoid assigning them linkages, defining present human forms betwixt them. The manifested humans coagulated the cramped space. It all loomed. The far walls against the plains drew in. These people, your mother the most present, and from this unfortunate manner of relating, the most complex, were all corpses, she having only recently been an object herself here, diffusing into the catalog of her own definition. The hideously overlapping spectral monster pulsing in the empty space of the room threatened to assimilate me. As you must have foreseen, this charnel house began to suffocate me. Its orderly masonry of transduced bones and skulls closed in about me, and from the neglected depths of the gaps in construction discarded and tossed about femurs, ribs, clavicles, and the indistinguishable little puzzles of the hand terrified me in the disarray of their forgotten recombination. I choked on the wafting, disintegrated bits as you searched through papers in another room. In that onset of familiar paralysis I first recognized the rays extending from all surfaces to alight on my skin and clothes, the sound of hot dust grinding, of hot artificial wood shearing and calving into dust, the perpetual mummification of taking a form. And this smothering paralysis was only slightly greater than that I felt in any place that wasn’t an empty room. The dust in there was a cosmos. The hesitancy of my face crinkling was familiar to you. The dust coalesced odd lithic mucus in the teasing spots of my nostrils. You shrank away and grimaced when I sneezed. In fear that the fit might set off a chain reaction toward my body’s premature decay into pulpy, shattered filaments and a pool of me that you’d need to strigil from the linoleum in the dead woman’s kitchen you urged me with your chest into the hallway. You seemed fixated on the unadulterated surface of things yet burdened me with the unending, infallible solipsism of your narration, as if admitting me into its perspective were a gift, an art, though it only made me a prisoner to your reality and an unwilling subscriber to disgust in shared intrinsic meaning. I lost my secret meanings. Your irrefutable subjectivity eclipsed our rooms in indirect ghostliness. From the half cube bluff of an apartment building nothing left. People dead and sometimes living did. However, the past trappings of our neighbors were the desire of the present for their fellows. It is arguable that one changes as they age. But it is for sure that new contexts accrete, new frames hem. For as long as you were aware the junk circulated in a swirling chaos of intestacy. Everyone held onto too much. I knew what they did because we had done it. We all who lived there did drily long for the deaths of those around us to acquire what little we could from their menageries of rubbish. We waited outside in that way: blank, though with a warm tingle. That sensation, though weak, yet telegraphing deep, indecipherable pleasure, was longed for because it overtook all else. It applied an opaque narcotic poultice over the bright moments in which we became visible. Our throats clicked; our tongues abraded; we weighed under abyssal gravity, yet floated. A heap of lidless cardboard crates drifted against the wall across from the old woman’s door. Diminutively ponderous sweat glands shifted in stretched-smooth tennis shirts and paced in conversation with themselves beyond the heap. Oddly, their groins and asses receded some distance beneath exoskeletal denim. Below this they continued an overall taper, like a tornado. Because her rooms opened where a few hallways came together in a sort of misshapen field these androgynies kept their distance, though their body language seemed to portend what was expected upon our quitting of the apartment, you with your own crate, a layer of odd trinkets only across its bottom flaps. I recall insignificant items: an adhesive tape dispenser, empty, the torn corners of two envelopes with marked postage, three strings of beads, seagreen, beige, and gold, a few storage cell batteries, a menacing letter opener, two rolls of adhesive tape, a yellow tailor’s tape in a tidy coil, three pairs of scissors, and a stapler. Do you have all of these things still? From the shade of the distance those ragged creeps scuttled forward grabbing crates in hands and underarms and pushed their way through the door. Clatter within was muffled. Those emerging pushed half-full crates with their feet absently burdened by their inheritance. I recall the insignificant items you claimed because I took them to be your distillation of the old woman, hence mine as well, for as well she may have been known to me at some point. Though it wasn’t consciously for my benefit the kindest acts of yours were the walks into the vacant plains along the dusk. Only on my back looking out through the frayed bowl of heather at the brown clouds passing did the catalog of flotsam slough away. Ticks clung with their back legs to the rattling seed hulls wavering atop dry stalks awaiting the graze of our trousers or skin to sneak beneath our dark waistbands. Before putting me to bed you’d methodically go over me for ticks. The uncharacteristic care you took, the serenity of the process, swelled effervescence through my blood. Your mouth became a triangle. You lisped to me quietly, asking how I felt, what I’d seen on the walk, if the oedema burned my toes. You were occupied enough only during that process to be unaware of your lapse. A distant, warm timbre pooled beneath your voice. The distracted scrutiny smoothed the usual predestination of your movements. Their self-conscious flicker blended into a supple quilt dangerously resembling the human form. You clenched back into the static balance of your calculated pose when eventually a tick prowled into your scanning fingers. That frail handkerchief was hers. One evening , as with many others, you presented an argument to me. “What was her name?” You drifted away all during the oration, a bit further at the tipping points between topics, each lean and shift toward your room an assertion that you had less to say. I contributed little, mostly agitating you with questions that inflected your lecture. “Tell me about her.” “What does it matter what her name was? I didn’t tell you and perhaps I’ve forgotten. It wouldn’t help you conjure her; it wouldn’t give her a form. She’s dead; it’s not as if you need to address her. Do you remember the name of the man we helped back to the building when he was collapsed from nausea and exhaustion? Or the man who killed the stranger with a mop handle in the dunes who lived right beside us? Or even the man who ranted in the hallways so strangely that everyone began to talk like him? Were they even human types? Would it have not been absurd to see them as characters than can be isolated from their surroundings? I believe their names even changed, or new people switched over to take on their roles. But you see it gets you nowhere to fix upon a continuous person. Having a name was once something. It no longer is. Having a face is nothing. I see people in the hallway and they don’t seem to match up; they contradict. And those around them, the longing community, by way of ignoring these familiar strangers and moving on to more authentic denizens, themselves freshly minted, though as yet unfamiliar, suddenly wonder whether they must invest in them at all, or if they are being tricked. I talk to people for hours without ever bothering to get their name. It doesn’t affect who they are. It doesn’t affect how I perceive them.” It was your perennial rhetoric though exposed through in spots where footprints of missing accoutrements were clear of dust. In these dull apertures I saw for the first time the structure that your outlook was meant to buff away. It vaguely resembled me, though also you. These mute collages were adrift and powerless. It delighted you that I was simple. It fueled you to be also simple. With your logical construct complete you had disappeared completely into your room and began to threaten me. You threatened to abandon me, that I was a burden on you. But the anger in your disembodied voice had more clarity. I was the only living thing upon which your purchase on humanity was contingent. All others had become phantoms. You saw them just as curious manifestations, like a clock, or a tree in the wind. But I hung from you, I made you feel the guilt of dissociation. I counted on your tenuous election to continue allowing that feeling. I wasn’t myself that convincing of a human. I returned to my room and watched the night. A building was illuminated on the horizon far down the great slope. Its subtly lit windows tiled the horizon. Like a ship just beyond the harbor mouth slipped over the risen tide’s horizon I believed the other apartment building to be always run aground there, though, I did expect each evening then as night came on to discover that it had been loosed. In my more hopeful spirits I visualized it having drawn nearer into the great dale where our evening walks took us, rather than out beyond my view from any height. You’d scoff at the subsequent labors I’ve gone through to situate that night chronologically in my life. For all words reflect memory, all accountings are transcriptions of the past, our simple conversations and exchanges strung from words formed in the recent past of our black skulls; so diffused were you in this ephemerality that the moments we shared, then the moments I blessedly possessed in private, began to erratically orbit each other, not even about a central force but lost like blind fog in a jar. You called it human time. It seemed as though the only proof I could create of what you’d done to me was to leave my walked-to-death corpse for you to come across. You went missing one afternoon. Spun cirrus collected and coalesced out at the horizon of the great rise. I slipped out and began walking. My footsteps were a separate consciousness. I noted them from above, curious, but acquiescent to their force. Far out, where the vast grade bottomed out and imperceptibly pitched back up the earth was softer and more hesitant. The landscape would rend along that crease. The atmosphere was laced with cloud tendrils as I ascended. Points of color swelled. Indistinguishable projections of detail diffused as if carried upon divided rays fuzzed through a threadbare curtain. I wasn’t afraid. The decomposition of the landscape swaddled me. My orientation was clear enough from the severity of the slope. I felt a broad tabletop level out beneath my feet. To be certain I hadn’t begun walking level across the slope I diverted directly left, then back, finding only more level terrain. The plateau seemed to stretch on. Twisted nerves dragged my feet. I began to sense my leaning gait wrapping my progress around itself still choked up in the confused afternoon. I sat. The tall grass became distinct around me in a little shelter that tempered my panic. The sweet and balsam enclosure of so many sunken and collapsed evenings, tired of walking, slumped for you to find that sinkhole in the surface of the grass and scoop me out, but always your face breaching the sky disapprovingly. “Come along.” It folded around me like hospital sheets. The flat, bright ceiling dimmed after some time. I stood up into the night. In the distance home’s tight collection of luminous spasms wavered beneath the stars. From the central vantage in the clear and cold I scanned all around. Another cluster of indistinct lights gathered opposite. After so long crouched below the rind of the heather I had no sense of the direction from which I stumbled. Unlike setting out, the dark building at my back, there were diverging distinctions in my footsteps setting out again. It didn’t matter to me where I ended up as long as it wasn’t the even more pronounced purgatory of this plateau. I looked back once then fixed my eyes on the other, so it seemed, and I walked until its familiar light swallowed me. When I arrived at our rooms the lights were out. You sat sleeping in the dark in your shoes. I crept on swollen feet to my room and collapsed on my pallet. The low ceiling tapered away light thrown from neighboring rooms. You stood over me, spooked yet aloof, pupils gaped, and cinched me into the bedclothes. Your hands rasped against the carpet. “Don’t go alone. We go together,” your breath sweetly rotten, “You are nothing when you aren’t with me.” We went on a collecting trip, I to help you tote. My room was still empty. “You’re this empty room. Only I make you exist.” “That’s fine.” We all stood in the narrow hallways with our backs against one wall. Only enough space for a sidewinding man and tilted crate remained. Leaving the open room those who threaded by fixated on the contents of their crates. Their newness plastered over the moment. Rattling sounds, sliding sounds snuck out. The appetite for these transplants of character was shame. The queue in the hallway was silent, vibrating with it. An umber, sickly syrup glow, flowed down with veiled stains, reflected from the facing wall. Like most acts of shame, continued indulgence begat deeper, more insatiable reservoirs. It was better to fix straight on the opposite wall, filled with it, than tempt looking into the crates as the blissful pickers passed. It was better to blank out the queue of empty-crate-bearing pickers stretching out to either side. One intermittently speaking out was quickly subdued by the sound of his own voice in stale echo and a hallway of breathing noses. Late in the process we take our turn in the room. The picker’s frenzy was dissociative. Crossing the ambiguous threshold of endless carpet you entered into the state with almost immediate decay. The distraction must have been a soothing, narcotic peace. Great empty stretches of carpet were interrupted by the sparse disarray of hasty evacuation. The firmament of all experience expanded out from each object, did it not? Stains were faded. The objects remaining were so degraded, poorly-made, late-period objects to begin with, they appeared to have been passed around so frequently in such a short time that they must have quickly doomed their recipients. Lines of dust delineate vacated territories. You held objects aloft to me as you might have a mirror to say “Look at yourself!” I saw flimsy, yet potent death sentences in each. Each contained all; each subdued time and blinded diverging aspirations. Each was a full and consuming present. The senses contracted. Each object replaced the last in your scan. Returning to the previous was the eradication of the next through a level of focus only possible in a mind taken over by its surroundings. You hoop your fingers about your opposite wrist. Small paper-covered cardboard boxes dinged through on their corners in a variety of saccharine shapes, a heart, a hare’s head, cloud and rainbow, a barn, though a few were rectangles, littered a wall of bookshelves. You held up each. You held up tumbled and faded plastic figurines; you gestured to a pressboard hutch; you shuffled through postcards and pointed to several propped on folded paper easels. I read one. Its typewritten message sounded as much like a cry for help burdened with overtyped Xs as a hesitant field report from outside the building. Seeped forth from plastic and glue a diaphanous iris constricted. The rest of the room retained details, though they were unessential. A fly explored the tiny barn and crawled over a dead, hollow fly. You held up a comb with broken teeth. With this I fell apart. “Stop!” You continued to foist these poisonous ciphers on me. These were what you wanted for me, me as a stranger haunting and tormenting myself. “Don’t attach these to me!” My head throbbed. I felt the sensation of its hot solution pouring down my neck and back. The cascade liquefied all that it touched. “You aren’t human. You’re awaiting it but it won’t come. Those days are passed.” I coiled over the carpet, mewling cries needling about until I recognized them as my own and reined them to down to singing laments of breathing whirs. You left me stricken there, not looking back. I slipped the cloud and rainbow in my pocket. A stack of photographs and the hare’s head rattled about in your crate. Breaching faces from the queue leered impatiently around the door jamb. I wept for the resolute stranger lost to us. I wept for the birds who came to eat her. I don’t want to begin on signification and the utter hopelessness of form, nor the supposed liberation you stressed in that absence for me. Those are your hang-ups. It is oppression much greater than the real mass of all the dead objects swaddling me, heavier, and more fearsome. But I am not going to make a fool of myself validating how it occluded my actions. It would be tactless. In my room you dressed. I feigned sleep on my back bound in thick, abrasive blankets so that you’d not look back as you slipped out. A small lidless crate under the table appeared empty. You filled your pockets from it though. I recall its insignificant contents: an emptied can of my pomade, threads from the cuff of a shirt, hair from a comb, sweat-molded lint stones, a stiff rag. Do you have all of these things still? I want to ask you why those things. That collage is the spectral form I have taken into this long solitude of neglect. What returned late that afternoon was a powdery you, a shaven you. The you kept our schedule, kept your commitment, the afterlife of your habit, and I walked with you that dusk. It was you, lighter. You said it was not your duty to cultivate a resemblance to the forms of my expectations but to advance beyond them. And there you remain. I was slower than usual, or, this more airy, electric you couldn’t match the punctuation of my deliberate cadence. And you, not unusually, pulled ahead. Your lead increased until we walked separately, on different trajectories over the same surface. Where the near horizons of small rises and folds are consumed by the greater rising terrain you too diffused into the swaying, magic mauve. Terrifying situations become treasures with the distillation of their simple participants into abstract descriptions. The meandering strands of long twilight snuck through the pores of your well-worn denims. I wasn’t paralyzed by the terror of abandonment for there was no purchase left around the peace of my liberation, an expanding, swollen benevolence. I moved more quickly. There is a line stricken in an unexpected parallel on the map that doesn’t cross through the cartographic nodes of any city, town, or outpost, a ghost tropic that threatens to constrict the globe with its obscure blankness. It seemed to run between these buildings. The fog of vague gossamer crystallized into a layered and unfurling landscape of defervescent lucidity. Wind-loosed seeds arrayed all points of space diminishing to a thick, opaque scrim beyond the great rise. Warm, pleated light emanated from its hidden hem. The scratches and tumbled crumbs on the scalp of dry earth revealed no grid to coordinate my movements. I walked with purpose though, out of mechanized and magnetic habit, toward the other building. It was not possible to sense whether I walked on level ground or across a slope. In time I lay down in the sand blown beneath the tall grass.

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