Friday, January 19, 2007

151. Play and Pay, continued

"Flow my tears," the policeman said, running along the blade, scanning darkly. And how heavy the feeling was, like taking something made of poison--but not at first, just a little less breath and a weight on my chest, so that I find it--well, not difficult to move, just incidental to being right where I am.

And where am I? It seems small but free, like the high stool on which a Nowhere Man could sit, making his plans for nobody--except I'm lying down, one leg dangling, the foot on the floor, the couch scratchy on my forearms, my t-shirt bunching up beneath me, and the house quiet, while the traffic shivers outside, like small waves breaking. And the TV kept on, excited voices turned down but insistent, whittling at something until it becomes something else. So I crack one then two eyes open and see the flat familiar shapes on the screen sliding a little, like plate tectonics sped up--each million years a half-second, the jitter from millennia to millennia no longer discernible--and it's faces and cars and trees--and more faces, some dull, some shifty, all bearing down on whatever's in front of them--except some slip and shift forever, scrambled disguises, masks and altered tones until no one knows who's who. An undercover world.

And not quite real, rotoscoped and morphed, cartoons. Finally! some truth there on the screen, a cartoon at last. And they're all on something, "D" for Death, hilarious on the way down, until it's all bugs and funny looks from bystanders. And everyone I see is on the hit-list: Keanu and Winona, Woody, Junior and Rory, and even Philip. They keep remembering to swallow, and down they go--until, alone in the field, the second harvest peeks up, down there where the cornstalks meet the loam. And I quote:

"What does a scanner see? Into the head? Down into the heart? Does it see into me? Into us? Clearly or darkly? I hope it sees clearly because I can't any longer see into myself. I see only murk. I hope for everyone's sake the scanners do better, because if the scanner sees only darkly the way I do, then I'm cursed and cursed again."

But now I'm no longer on that couch, I'm on my own, and I see him, bending down; it is a moment without murk, almost joy--certainly relief, certainly one little piece of what should be--and he plucks a present for his friends at Thanksgiving. Almost death, then, but taken up and tucked away. And this gave me the strength to look it up, and one Frank C. Bertrand reminded me of something M.H. Abrams mentions about the Romantics in Natural Supernaturalism:

"Whether a man shall live his old life or a new one, in a universe of death or of life, cut off and alien or affiliated and at home, in a state of servitude or of genuine freedom ... all depends on his mind as it engages with the world in the act of perceiving."

Arctor loses his old life to live the new, plays and almost loses--maybe; we leave him in servitude with a chance of freedom slipped in his sock. I can see him, a clear and cleanly drawn object, flat and right there against the glass wall of my TV, breaking my heart at the thought of the way all that high-strung fun gets torn out of their heads by the absolute roots of it all. I'd laughed plenty, then knew it was time to turn over, curl up a little, cry over that long list of lost boys and girls. But the movie makes a little quavery toodle, like a theremin approached, and I smile at the spooky half-gift and almost-promise.

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