In Memoriam

The setting of this anecdote is that it was fall. And, you know, it being fall, and dark out, the tail lights of cars glowed in a certain way. And it was an apartment, with those ubiquitous blinds on the windows. He had recently purchased a used motorcycle, swimming in its parking spot. He, too, was small, and, regardless of what he was wearing, I imagined him wearing jeans and a t-shirt, etc. I mean everything but the cauliflower ears. We were in his new apartment—we had just finished moving his stuff from a storage unit—and he was saying, “Part of me loves moving, though, because I can set everything just so.

Washing dishes just now, nine years later, I recall this conversation. Relish is a condiment, I think to myself.  Meaning, what were his standards? Meaning, what did he feel like when he was doing something the same way that he always did it, because that was how it had decided he ought to do it, because it advanced him towards his aim? Because who cares how he felt when he was paying some particular attention? What does that get you?

I imagined myself meeting him on the street after he had had such a session of putting things in their place. His moral license being high, he talks to me with his chin particularly tucked back, shoulders conspicuously squared. Etc.

But then does the standard we’ve set for ourselves simply move us forward through time, or does it move us closer? Is it like a stairway? Establish some standard, then escalate it. By the time you’re dead, you’re comfortably something you could have wanted to have become. Of course it should be this way. We aren’t getting better every day in every way. Stupid. We are getting better, on most days, by being less conspicuously incompetent at some carefully identified skill, if we’re extremely lucky.

Like for example I think less about my fingers than about the words I’m writing, less about the mechanics of my eyeballs than the person I’m looking at. I actually have some intention in mind when I am scouring the burner. I don’t randomly throw things on the floor or simply hate everything. I can write a paragraph longer than five sentences. I don’t emulate the writing style, as I imagine it, of someone whose work I’ve never even read.  

I watched a lecture by Simon Schama and now want to use etc. as a flourish, even though I don’t think he even did that. It’s Žižek who does that, and why does Schama remind me of Žižek? Something about the way he holds his shoulders, probably. It’s like they’re square, but there is a looseness. Their words come so readily. Their words come from their shoulders.

I would that the question how should I do this? were always on my lips.

Gregory Crewdson says that he is always trying to tell the same story over and over, and probably so is everyone. Maybe trying consciously tell that story is the only way we can avoid unconsciously trying to tell it. All I’m ever trying to do is describe the color of fall leaves caked, clotted, near my dad’s Red Wing boots. What it looks like when you peel up (let’s call it a) sheaf of clotted leaves with a metal rake, or a plastic rake. That inscrutable difference. They’re both too flexible when you’re working with leaves after the rain. You really need a rigid rake, not a leaf rake. 

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