At war with the blind

Turns out the election of 2016 was a declaration of war. America is at war with itself and it’s not clear who is winning. We Americans didn’t recognize it for war at the time, but it’s clear now and clearer every day—with each childish act, each transgression by the populist president and the blind allegiance to him by those who turn the cheek to his lies, indecency, and hypocrisy. They’d rather not see the truth. It doesn’t conform to the reality they’ve invented.

Instead, they make excuses. They claim that journalism is their enemy; and in a way, they are right. Journalism is a purveyor of news—news is the running narrative of the current state of the world. Most news organizations rely on facts and truth to inform the public, to check authority and keep it from running wild with abandon. But these people are not concerned with facts and truth. Perhaps they never were.

They converse in small circles of their own, unable to communicate beyond their self-imposed borders. Their ideas are small; their speech hateful. To them, the mind is not a tool or weapon, but a liability. Their weapons of warfare: guns and faith in a god that would not recognize their warped idea of that god’s intended purpose or morality. Somewhere along the way, they decided their god had a white face and carried an assault rifle.

The religious right got the president they think is a crusader for their religion. But he’s not—he’s lying about being a practicing Christian just as he lies about everything else. The Christians think they have god on their side. I am a reformed Christian, so I know their sad story well. It’s a story in which they have owned the last two thousand years. Yet history is not on their side.

God and guns are their hallmarks, despite their lord and savior’s abhorrence to violence. If their Jesus were alive today they would not recognize him. They would ridicule him, persecute him, expel him, torture him, imprison him, murder him. Those on the Christian Right have deluded themselves. They look out at the world through veiled eyes and do everything possible to avoid seeing what’s really, truly there. They have the vision of a bat—their eyes do not work, and noise guides their focus. But whereas bats were cursed by nature with lack of eyesight, the blindness of the Christian Right is self-imposed.

The two sides prepare for battle in opposite ways. I prepare by improving my eyesight—by reading the sages, by keeping myself informed through reliable, proven news sources (not commentary). Most importantly, I prepare by thinking. As a journalist, I feel the declaration of war more intimately or personally than most. This is a war on truth and decency. The president and his blind followers bring their guns, their anger, their certainty that they are right to the battlefield. Where I come from, only people who couldn’t fight carried guns.

I bring the lessons of history and the sages who have lived through such battles and emerged victorious. Wisdom and open mindedness will always prevail against lies, intolerance, false patriotism, hypocrisy, violence, and indecency. I study the lessons of the past and sharpen my sword by lamplight every night. I urge you to do the same, and above all to participate in the civic discussion by spreading the truth you see all around you.

—Your brother and rebel for truth.

Conversation with Voltaire c.2016

Voltaire

T: You ask what is tolerance? Tolerance is an objective.

V: It is the natural attribute of humanity. We are all formed of weakness and error: let us pardon reciprocally each other’s folly.[1]

T: Easy for you to say. Things are tense here. You’re dead. I have a daughter now. The world is more confusing each month. I pace indoors, my mind a temple of intensity. Sleep is a luxury I cannot afford. I’d rather study and write—do my part to help solve our problems. Thus I look to sages like you for guidance.

V: It is said the present gives birth to the future. Events are linked to each other by an invisible fate.[2]

T: If this is a renaissance, it’s a morbid portent. It is as if the world is sick. America itself is ill with pervasive discontent.

V: There is no other remedy for this epidemic illness than the spirit of free thought, which, spreading little by little, finally softens men’s customs, and prevents the renewal of the disease.[3]

T: I agree, and in light of current events, in which communities of peace officers roam American neighborhoods like armies, in which whites can’t even agree that or are afraid to exalt that BLACK LIVES MATTER, another remedy beyond free thought is respect for our fellow men and women and the infinite potential inside them, for as you once wrote, “We should say to every individual: Remember thy dignity as a man!”[4] For I wake each morning and read the newspaper and often I cannot sit. I am physically pained at what I read.

V: This feeling of pain is indispensible to stimulate us to self-preservation. If we never experienced pain, we should be every moment injuring ourselves without perceiving it.[5]

T: Fanaticism has kidnapped the minds of men and women. Since we invented religion we have murdered in the name of it, and we continue to do so. Such fanaticism has spread into the political realm. Anger and fear dominate. People are afraid that if they don’t assert their convictions, they will be victimized. Moderation has evaporated in the overabundant breath of rhetoric. The people’s politics are exclusive rather than inclusive, derisive rather than unifying. History has shown us that such moments are regrettable.

V: Show these fanatics a little geometry, and they learn it quite easily. But strangely enough their minds are not thereby rectified. They perceive the truths of geometry, but it does not teach them to weigh probabilities. Their minds have set hard. They will reason in a topsy-turvy way all their lives and I am sorry for it.[6]

T: I’m not sorry for them. They get what they deserve. In America they only have two choices, candidates who appear at first glance to be siblings: A woman who, according to federal investigators, has been “extremely careless with information” at her privileged disposal, and a man who has been openly and dangerously intolerant of people that do not look or think like him. They pander and feed the public narcotic doses of false promise. These are perhaps the most tepid of charges against them.

V: So tell me, you who have travelled, who have read and observed, in which state, under what kind of government would you have liked to be born?[7]

T: I wave no flag and never will. I would have liked to be born WITH a government rather than UNDER one. The older I become, the more oppressive the weight of that government, the more necessary to shrug it from atop me.

V: Laws have proceeded in almost every state, from the interest of the legislator, from the urgency of the moment, from ignorance, from superstition, and have been made at random, irregularly, just as cities have been built.[8] In general, the art of government consists in taking as much money as possible from one part of the citizens to give to the other.[9]

T: I’m afraid the stakes are much higher than money. Western culture’s priorities are grossly misaligned. Emphasis is erroneously placed on sports and entertainment and the people are utterly disengaged until a horror seizes their attention.

V: But where are they to be found who will dare speak out?[10]

T: They’re everywhere, unfortunately. What they have to say is often more harmful than helpful. I dare speak, but who will listen? For “it is far better to be silent than to increase the quantity of bad books.”[11]

V: It is impossible for society to subsist unless each member pays something toward the expenses of it, and everyone ought to pay.[12]

T: Yes, but “try to arouse activity in an indolent mass, to inspire a taste for music and poetry in one who lacks taste and an ear, and you will no more succeed than if you undertook to give sight to the blind.”[13] In people’s certainties of their beliefs, they stop searching and their ideas stagnate, become a cesspool. They are certain of their beliefs and that is enough; little else matters.

V: If you’d asked the entire world before Copernicus if the sun rose and set that day, everyone would have answered: We are absolutely certain of it. They were certain, and they were mistaken.[14]

T: All the more important that “[we] boldly and honestly say: How little it is that I truly know!”[15] Rather than shout their beliefs over another’s, why do they not close their mouths and listen? Why do they accuse rather than acknowledge?

V: This is the character of truth: it is of all time, for all men, it only has to show itself to be recognized, and one cannot argue against it: A long dispute means that both parties are wrong.[16]

T: So “who shall decide between these fanatics? The reasonable, impartial man who is learned in a knowledge not of words, the man free from prejudice and the lover of truth and justice—in short, a man who is not a foolish animal, and who does not think he is the angel.”[17] As I said, I look to you, but you were no angel. Harsh words against Muslims and Jews populate your texts.

V: It takes 20 years for a man to rise from the vegetative state in which he is in his mother’s womb to the state when the maturity of reason begins to appear. It has required 30 centuries to learn about his structure. It would need an eternity to learn something about his soul.[18] In the land of where the monster reigns, almost everyone is blind.[19]

T: I wonder what I do not see. Monsters abound in plain sight. Each week strikes a new terror worst than the last.

V: If there were only two men on Earth, how would they live together? They would assist each other, annoy each other, court each other, speak ill of each other, fight each other, be reconciled to each other, and neither be able to live with nor without each other.[20]

T: Some fighting is understandable, but why so freely kill each other? Across the world innocents are murdered as a means to an end, to espouse a statement or idea. Why not verbalize those statements and ideas? Why the fear of black men on behalf of the American police? And why the murderous retaliation upon the police when such actions force us retreating backward?

V: It is forbidden to kill.[21] To murder our brethren, can there be anything more horrible throughout nature?[22] We are told that human nature is perverse, that man is born a child of the devil, and wicked. Nothing could be more foolish. You are all born good. Witness how dreadful it is to corrupt the purity of your being. All mankind should be dealt with as all men individually.[23]

T: Still, there is too much. At times I am beaten down with it.

V: There is infinitely less wickedness on Earth than we are told or believe there is. There is still too much, no doubt. A melancholy mind which has suffered injustice sees the Earth covered with damned people.[24]

T: I don’t see them as damned. But “more than half the habitable world is still peopled with humans who live in a horrible state approaching pure nature, existing and clothing themselves with difficulty, scarcely enjoying the gift of speech, scarcely perceiving that they are unfortunate, and living and dying almost without knowing it.”[25] I’d like to help them find their voices. I’d like to level the playing field.

V: As men have received the gift of perfecting all that nature has granted them, they have perfected love.[26]

T: They have not perfected love. They have not perfected anything. Perfection does not exist. Perhaps it is all we can do to continue down this path of inquiry and reflection. Rest not, my dead friend. Your ideas are wide awake and eager for an audience. The fire burns inside me so it must burn elsewhere.

July 2016

 

Works

Besterman, Theodore, editor. Voltaire’s Philosophical Dictionary, Penguin Books, 1972.

DuMont, E.R, editor. Philosophical Dictionary, from The Complete Works of Voltaire in 43 Volumes, St. Hubert Guild, 1901.

Redman, Ben Ray, editor. The Portable Voltaire, Viking Penguin, 1949.

 

[1] Redman, 212.

[2] Besterman, 109.

[3] Besterman, 203.

[4] Redman, 228.

[5] DuMont, vol. IX, page 265.

[6] Besterman, 189.

[7] Besterman, 192.

[8] Redman, 224.

[9] Redman, 225.

[10] Redman, 224.

[11] Redman, 223.

[12] DuMont, vol. X, page 174.

[13] Besterman, 76.

[14] Besterman, 106.

[15] Redman, 225.

[16] Redman, 198.

[17] Redman, 198.

[18] Redman, 160.

[19] Redman, 162.

[20] DuMont, vol. XIII, page 104.

[21] DuMont, vol. XIII page 106.

[22] DuMont, vol. XIV page 198.

[23] DuMont, vol. XIV page 215.

[24] Dumont, vol. XIV page 219.

[25] Redman, 225.

[26] Besterman, 30.

In this room

kaleidoscope

In this room he sits facing the processor with papers and notebooks scattered about the desk and the rest of the room is bare save for a small window draped in pages of his various manuscripts to shroud the room in timelessness. A pastel glow from the desk lamp splashes his shadow on the bare wall at his back and outside this room explosions wrack the terrain and crowds move in subtle majesty of sheer mass and pestilence devours entire races of people like waves of viral famine and messages of hope and peace infiltrate the violent leanings of men but contained within the walls of this room are the most profound things, for this is where the spectacle of the outside world is extracted and concentrated and enumerated for posterity.

There is news in his village of a great earthquake across the globe and lovers stroll easily through the city square but in this room the streets of Mexico City burn with the energy of rebellion and New York’s midnight veins purge the police presence from the subways and the children of London dance upon the recycled ashes of autocracy just as Afghan warlords slink wormlike and intrepid through the dusty darkness down secret doors into caves sweet and warm with human vapors to plot their violent logical ends. Floods and windstorms reshape the surface of the earth and he sees himself in the crowds, the swaying hunger marches and chaotic zigzag sprints from terror. He sees his face looking back up at him in the words he creates, the meta-messages and diatribes against authority. He stares into his own eyes and smiles at the likeness, torturer of innocents, playing both victim and tyrant, ultimately a patriot for freedom of thought and individuality.

For he only recognizes himself when he’s creating. The world continues to revolve and shudder deeply and burn in places and he’s huddled in some dark corner of the planet somewhere, in this room, thinking, staring into the mirror of his thoughts. He sees himself and looks away, focusing deeper, because he knows he is only relevant as a medium of the message, and at the root of his ability lies the most fundamental purpose, a vehicle in the continuous search for truth.

In this room the walls are tremulous and time is heartless. He taps at the processor and scans the papers, jots some notes down in a pad. He can’t remember his name. He only knows that no one shares it.

group discussion

burninglight

The room began to burn around them and the oldest of them said, So what are the prevailing themes of the work. So far, I mean. If it’s not too early in the story.

The other three looked to the flames spreading quickly about them, orange and yellow and red pulsing light and heat. Billowing flames upon the wide raftered ceiling and floor and white walls. They sat in silence and studied the force of the flames and then they dropped their heads into the text, scanning mindlessly, listening to the fire snap and lick carnally at their world. They tried to remember what the oldest one had just said and couldn’t and then what.

I know it’s early, she said. But surely we can identify at least one thematic element.

The flames carried a truth of their own, a rogue life force born of circadian breath and sustained by thought, thrust outward to the realm of awareness, attacking each of their senses and spreading violence and destruction and misunderstanding. Regeneration. Someone cleared their throat and the flames grew larger and doubled in heat, smoke whirling mad cyclonic threats about their heads.

Violence, said the second one. Violence is a theme, I think. He had to shout to be heard over the growl and whine of the spreading fire.

Please explain.

Well, um, he said, trying not to focus on the dancing fire but the topic at hand, the discussion. Not just overtly, he said, With the brutal beating at the beginning of part one and the shooting there at the end of part two. But also the implicit violence. The interaction between characters. There’s violence in the language, the dialogue, even without being profane. Especially without being profane. The author has chosen to create a dialogue of what seems to be constant agitation between parties.

Hmm, yes. Interesting.

And darkness. Darkness also seems to be a prevailing theme, I think, though I’m not quite sure how yet.

I was thinking of that too, said the third one, flames lapping at her legs. Her face was wet with sweat, hair matted to her forehead in knotted clumps. There’s obviously something complicated going on here with the use of light and dark, she said, Illumination and shadow. It’s like a dichotomy, like the author is using light and darkness to set up some kind of dichotomy.

Between what. Give us an example.

And the entire room was burning now, flames affronting physical and metaphysical laws alike and consisting not of individual bodies of flames but of one churning mechanism roaring godlike and ferocious and the people of the room watched transfixed with the glittering vortex tattooed onto their dark pooling irises amid the sounds of crashing wood and stone and screaming steel.

Well, for instance, said the third one. The narrator’s not really explaining anything he sees on the highway other than what’s revealed in the Cadillac’s lights. It’s almost like nothing really exists on the Highway Six unless it’s bathed in light.

Okay, yes. I see. Hmm. Interesting, yes.

It’s about revelation. I think. And the highway itself is very intriguing, said the second one. The highway itself is a character. There’s something very strange and fabular going on here, I think. I hope we’ll encounter more as the story progresses.

Well the story is named after the highway, said the oldest one. So I imagine the narrator will get around to enlightening us before long.

The ceiling crashed down around them, sparks and flames shooting up into a black void, deep chaotic vibrato and a loud hiss of smoke and pressure being sucked upward into the hole.

I think it’s too early for theme, shouted the fourth one, the skin of his arms bubbling in the heat. His hair was on fire, his eyes glowing red and orange with swirling rings of white. But symbol, he shouted. There are symbols galore. The Cadillac is a symbol, I think. It’s a transporter, a protector. I mean, the only time we haven’t seen what’s happening are the times when our narrator is in the car, driving. We don’t get to know his thoughts, his doubts. This is when the world slows down enough for him to think, to assess his world and situation, and we’re not even there.

Excluded.

Yes, but if this is a coincidence or on purpose, we don’t know.

Everything in literature is on purpose.

This narrator, anger rules his world, said the fourth one, and then his body was swallowed in heat and glow, liquid flame of autonomy, his former body impossible to distinguish from the rest of the throbbing blaze.

We’re not even real, the oldest one said, and then nobody said anything, they all sat watching the blaze reach its howling culmination of size and depth and menace and they listened to its biblical crash and wail and they felt the heat abate as the walls fell away into black, total black surrounding them above and below and layers upon layers of dark nothing through to the very core of the universe and they all were able to breathe and all was so very silent as to hear one’s heart beating somewhere in the heaving cocoon of their chests, so very human and fragile.

Part two seemed to have a small meditation on police, or being a policeman, or the perception people have of policemen. Or something. This was the second one speaking again. She had her head in the text, a lone finger probing a page in repose, back and forth, back and forth, her eyes following the finger’s march through words and phrases and thoughts and messages both innocuous and incendiary. Trying to recapture a message or image burned forever into her mind with the power that only the written word possesses. Silence engulfed them. Playground of gods, landscape of the cosmos. Black on blackest. Infinite clarity.

What type of police officer is this narrator, the first one asked.

A complicated one, said the third one.

No, I mean a good cop or a bad cop.

He’s obviously a bad cop.

I think he’s a good cop, said the second one.

Maybe he’s a conflicted cop, said the Author.

You can’t do that, said the oldest one. It’s against the rules. Or something.

The interpreters interpret, said the Author. They do this because they cannot create. The creators just create. They do this because this is what they do.

Someone tell him we’re not discussing theory.

So you write for readers, then?

Who said that, said someone.

What are you trying to do, what are you trying to prove.

Who’s that speaking, who just spoke right then.

Why don’t you ask the creator, the Author said.

The silence

word-blur

She said that she had looked up to the sky in the dark wasteland to the shimmering lights of energies distant and ineffable and what she imagined was the very sum of all the things her mind could render. I spoke to her years later amid fragrant seaside discourse during an evening of food and wine and the amiable company of friends and intellectual neighbors and I asked her what had been the most cherished moment of her adult life and she tried to explain it to me vividly: that night long ago and her standing beneath the stars painted on blackness everlasting somewhere in the vast American desert, hands in her pockets and no sounds but those she conjured and felt in her toes through the vibration of the dusted earth. I asked her what was so seminal about the moment and she was silent for a long time staring off into some candle flame or inner reflection and then she broke from her reverie and regarded me with an expression of total indifference and said, I’ll always be incapable of explaining the significant moments in my life, however small and seemingly trivial they are to others, and that was one of those moments. Then she drained her glass of wine and leaned back against the wrought-iron chair and looked away from me to the dark cresting hills at the island’s elbow with the sound of night waves crashing upon the moon-paled beach behind her, dark eyes shadowed but glistening with tears. She refrained from looking at me or uttering any word in my direction for the rest of the evening, even when the oculoid moon crawled from one end of the sodden navy sky to the other and when the waves of the sea failed to rest upon the hour of their programmed repose and when our friends dispersed drunk and flaccid to their own nests and the dreams therein, and even when I walked her back to her room at the villa in our shared silence, my head oscillating from the flickering lights of town to the restless black water foaming at our feet. I wanted to tell her I understood but I knew that a woman enraptured by the sentiments of certain memories is an impenetrable emotive force. I stopped at her door and she passed through it without regard for me or my considerations or the steady rhythmic clock of the universe rolling its omniscient eyes at such petty human ruminations.

The next morning I awoke tremulous and sweating from some dream I couldn’t recall and there were sounds of rain and people scurrying about in the square. I stepped into some clean clothes and opened my door to see what was happening, the rain falling heavily like a translucent screen, boiling sore of the world opened up and electric gray throughout. There were three men carrying the woman out of her room supine and motionless with a white sheet draped over her while other women huddled about trying to keep the sheet dry. People bowed their heads in prayer and a lone dirge echoed throughout the square in the rain and I looked down to them transfixed as the men placed the woman in a van and drove her away, mud slinging from the tires like the bloody pigment of the earth, the deep wounds left by the tires quickly flooded again by the torrent. I closed the door and my room fell dark and cold and so I called the woman’s room and listened for hours to the empty line ring until the rain ceased its barrage in the square, and the people came out of their rooms at dusk with candles aloft and flickering in the gray mist, water dripping from the rooftops. I stood from my window and watched them and tried to remember what the woman looked like or even her name but I could remember nothing other than her long and bitter silence the night before. And standing there gazing down upon the darkening world and the people of the square hovering about somnolent and wraithlike I understood the woman’s last words with a clarity proportionate to the white moon hanging dry and sagacious behind thinning silvery wisps of rainclouds.

Testimony

ecrasezburn1

I parked the van in the alley behind the building and went in the back door. The bar smelled like hickory and smoke, rich autumn sunlight flooding the place. There was no one there, or at least that’s what I thought. I walked around the bar and poured myself a glass of orange juice and stood there drinking in the morning silence, languid dust particles shoaling in the sunbeams.

“Where’s the stuff?” I heard someone say. I looked toward the end of the room on the right and saw Sal leaning forward on the bar, smiling, his bald head gleaming and slick and tracked by veins.

“The place looks good, Sally,” I said, and drained the juice. “You ought to lock it.”

Sal came back behind the bar and we shook hands and hugged. We stood there for a while holding each other at the elbow, two old friends frozen in the aging light of morning and studying one another’s age spots, the wrinkles and other flaws fashioned by gravity and time. He was much older and he didn’t look well. I tried to put his appearance into context, weigh it against my memories of him as a young man, flamboyant and indestructible. To stare into his eyes long bereft of their luster and see the irrefutable residue of his strain, the effects of life’s bitter charm, his youthful gloss wiped clear away and replaced with irony, it made me wonder how bad I looked.

“How long you been here?”

“You’re the first person I come to see, Sally.”

“Followed?”

“They’re listening now, I guarantee.”

Sal grunted and picked up the bar phone and dialed a number. He muttered a few words into the receiver and hung up and said, “Let’s go.”

We walked out to the alley awash in fluid morning hues and I swung open the back doors of the van. Sal looked up and down the alley and shuffled his feet and neither of us said anything. I climbed in and pulled the two suitcases toward the rear of the van and got back out, stealing a cigarette from my jacket pocket and lighting it and then snapping open the suitcases one after the other, the objects inside coming to life as if illumined from within, deep reds and browns and stark blacks of exotic hides with the names of men and women stamped in glittering gold and silver upon the handcrafted spines. Sal inhaled audibly and climbed in the van, leaning over the suitcases.

“I can’t tell you how beautiful,” he said, one hand reaching and hovering over the titles. “They’ll torture us, they catch us with these.”

“First editions,” I said, and sucked on the cigarette. “Each and every one.”

“Reminds me of the old days,” he said, and climbed back out of the van, his eyes wet and large and rendered frozen upon the books. Another van peeled into the alley and I had a brief moment of panic, my hand at my hip and the steel waiting there. Sal waved for the driver to park behind my van and a young man of maybe twenty got out and walked quickly towards me, his hand stretched out before him.

“Mr. Guy, holy shit, it’s an honor,” he said, and I took his hand. “How long it’s been, I’ve followed your career.”

“What’s your name?”

“His name is Billy,” Sal said. “And he’d better get on.”

“Good to meet you Billy,” I said, and loaded the suitcases into his van. “But Sal’s right.”

“Yeah,” Billy said. “I’d better get on.” He reached out for my hand again and I shook it, feeling the coarse strength and energy in his skin, thinking back to when I was his age and wondering where the virtue had died between the people of my generation and our own shadow-leaders. None of us are safe, I thought. Not then, certainly not now.

I watched Billy drive out of the alley into the radiant unknown and I could have worried about our precious delivery but I pacified myself in knowing that some day in the future there will be large hallowed libraries again and there will be books lining their shelves protected from the destructive clutch of tyranny and those books will forever provide testimony to man’s most sacred ideas so long as courageous young minds like Billy and his peers continued our honored struggle of liberating them to the grueling end.

dialogue ad infinitum

She said: “I like your apartment much better than mine. This room. It’s comforting. It generates warmth, stimulates deep rhythmic sleep. There is an energy in this room, I’m telling you, it’s agreeable. I can see myself here, sitting on the edge of the bed right there, drinking hot tea and stretching my toes, watching you cook breakfast in the kitchen.”

“What else,” I said. “Make a list.”

“Winter morning, windows of crackling white light. Jazz soft and cerebral. You, shirtless, the wafting grease and butter. The cup in my hands like fire, brown liquid steaming, too hot to even drink. I’m sitting there on the corner of your bed wearing one of your tattered shirts, deep fabric of your scent. Tacit anticipation of Christmas in the coming days, a subtle tactile yearning, candles wavering in daylight, crystalline contentment.”

“I want fire. Can there be a fire?”

“Everything is white. Bright reflective glare. Things are cleaned and shined to a luminous sheen. The day’s newspaper has been read and disassembled and stacked neatly by your front door. We are both unshowered, smell of sleep still on our skin, in our hair. Remnants of jagged dreams congealed and stuck in our tear ducts. We don’t speak. We function minimally, with the ease of knowing we’ll eat and make scattered love and then soak together under hot water, exhausting the building’s supply, tea and honey on our shared breath, sunlight blinding white from the bathroom window. We watch our shadows coalesce and dance on the walls.”

“We go to work or it’s our day off or what’s happening here.”

“This is our life. We have no obligations. Nothing is required of us.”

“Utopian afterlife.”

“Only here and now. This is everything we need. We only go out at night when the world is sleeping. We have the city to ourselves, the whole buckling monster of energy and grit. Dark and segmented enchantment. We feed the night pigeons, they ask us questions. Everyone else is asleep, dreaming their icy dreams.”

“What do we talk about?”

“We don’t hold hands because it’s way too cold for that.”

“You’re not even real.”

“We walk different areas of the city each night. Shoulder to shoulder. Our breath leaping out before us in violent plumes, mirror images of the horrors inside. We walk all night and plot our return as light begins to breach the black and star-spotted winter sky.”

“But you’re not even real.”

“And the moon watches us, it keeps us warm through the night, we melt into each other on those frozen sidewalks and the moon watches us, the moon prays for us.”

“Standing there. In this room. You don’t exist.”

“And then we’re back here in our lair, timeless and casual and static in our comfort, our ego-universe.”

“Standing in front of me, you’re smiling, a transitory manifestation. So real. It’s so easy to imagine you. Your voice, I can hear it, the subtle inflections and pitched stresses. Your little coded patterns of behavior, body language, eye movements, positions and fluid gestures. All the things that make you a singular entity, who you are, your personal genetic mutiny against the world, my creation. All this I create.”

“We have each other. We’ll take all the clocks, all of your instruments of time measurement. We’ll crush them, hammer them to bits, burn them, submerge them in your bathtub.”

“Because I need to fashion something that moves me. And there you are, eyes green or blue or both, hair the color of mud. You smile, I can see it, it’s real. I could reach up and touch you, feel your fibrous truth. God, I ache for you. I can see you, every real part of you, connecting your pieces and breaking me down. Because you help me on nights like this, you keep me creating. You sustain me through the loneliness, the pacing, the knuckle biting. I pinch at my mouth when I’m deep in thought, I realize this.”

“And maybe I fall asleep and you’re still there working through the ideas, the pictures in your mind, images of words and whatever. Working by candlelight. Scribbling or tapping. The sound of imagination replicating. You stop and find me in the semi-darkness as your eyes adjust, outlines of a body warm and curled into itself beneath your blankets.”

“I have to remind myself what’s real.”

“The quiet stillness. You finish your lies or truths and fall into bed, warm and fragrant. A calm richness on your skin. Almost immediately you begin to dream, small running portraits in mystery.”

“In my dreams I’m always confused. Confusion is the prevailing theme in my dreams.”

“You need me.”

“Sometimes I feel like I’m thinking so clearly, like my mind is slicing giant gashes in the universe, anti-matter oozing out. I can see and feel the world and interpret the patterns, stepping out of myself to observe the terrific chaos, the mute precision and omni-conscience. The beauty and tragedy of it is enough to kill anything. Maybe Nietzsche was wrong and this is why god died, not a martyr of history but a victim of her own marvelous creation.”

“You need me to help you work through your muddled logic. To protect you. You’re being watched, observed from the dusty corners of other dimensions. The thinking creatures across the galaxy study the works of human writers and grow jealous. This is your power.”

“I’m inventing this entire dialogue.”

“You need me to balance your consciousness. You need our perfect little winter mornings together, our midnight strolls. Together we interpret the world through our misunderstanding of it.”

“Ninety percent of what I love exists only in my imagination.”

“This is not sad.”

“I need you to help keep me grounded. There is a potency, a drugging clarity in madness.”

“But I’m not even real.”

“Together we will shape cultures. We will fashion worlds, create the offspring of nuance. Beautiful, twisting ideas of perfection. Condensed thought. We will create a new moral paradigm. Trust me, I’ve had visions.”

“But I’m not a real woman, though.”

“This is the only way it can work. It has to be this way.”

“Our little secret.”

“You and me.”

“Us.”

“We’re gonna live forever.”