The Breath of Meaninglessness

The breath of meaninglessness comes as easily, as unaccounted for, as graciously as the breath of meaning, both like a breeze across the damp swamp, a breeze that suddenly gives to the stagnant air life, direction, energy.

              What else do you want out of this, she asked.  When she said the words it was as if she was looking off into the distance, over my right shoulder–perhaps finally there crossed our way a man who returned her look, perhaps there was a fleeting communication between two strangers, one of those moments with another when everything is said, all at once, but then you forget it, nothing was said, you return to your daily routine–but when the last word fell from her she cast her eyes down to my feet, or hers, or the ground itself as though observing what life we could be stepping on down there, taking in carefully every ant, every beetle, every scurrying thing on the pavement so as no to crush it.

              To answer this seemed such an undemanding task: More than this, I proclaimed with the utmost precision and clarity.  More than this.  I thought at first that she wasn’t paying me any attention, she seemed so intent on gazing at our feet, but then she brushed a tear from her cheek and gave me her moist eyes, holding them steady in front of me, asking silently that I not turn away from her, that I keep hold of the look too, share this look with her.  Within, or between, that space our eyes made together there passed, again so fleetingly–like breaths, in and out it happens–some understanding, not a trivial being-on-the-same-page, but a coauthorship of a life together seemed to happen, as though we were visited by pristine visions of what would ensue, of what we had to look forward to and what other characters would enter our lives–but again briefly, so briefly like a blink.

              More?  More?  Now, no understanding in her voice, but perplexity running deep, forming a chasm deep.  She spat out the words as though her tongue could get burned or soiled if she kept them in her mouth too long.  After you’ve been given, what?  Everything!  You want more?  It seems a little greedy–

              –Yes, it’s greedy, and I know it!  Please, accept the greed as a part of life, a part of our–endowment!  As I spoke I shook in a dance to release myself from the grip of the doubts that had crossed me for a second.  I don’t have to say Yes to everything, now, do I?  You think whatever is given me, no matter how small and petty the world becomes, I should be content with it?

              Grateful, grateful, she said and said it so calmly, like a wise priestess.  You should be grateful for any little thing that comes to you, because you know–

              –Yes, I know, and we’ve spoken about this before: how it could NOT be, all of this, and I made a gesture with my hands as though holding a fabric stretched between them, a flowing, light fabric it didn’t make much sense to grip tightly.  Yes, you don’t have to remind me.  I remember, too, how I told you I couldn’t foresee anything like what happened to me before happening again–I couldn’t foresee coming to want to end it all, writing you a pathetic letter again and leaving for the bridge, looking over the edge, without vertigo, onto the glass of the water, the glass which always seemed to move, except for those rare breaths of times when it grew still, a smooth plate awaiting to be crashed through by my tumbling body, the weight of my body–I remember how confident I was that it had left me.

              But IT has left you, no?  You told me you want more, not that you want nothing.  She squeezed my left arm tenderly with her right hand, then gave my arm delicate brushings and strokes with the same hand; when she did this she cast her eyes down again, but let me know with her hand that she wasn’t leaving me, that there was still a connection between us.  You’re not considering suicide, you’re considering how to get the best of life.  Right?

              Yeah, sort of.  I felt a tremor go from my groin to the hairs on my neck, as though a light wind had caressed me but there was no wind, it was as still as the room of a cave.  The time between sunset and moonrise occurred without my noticing; now we stood in the cool spotlight of the moon until the clouds covered it so that it looked like a blanket over a flashlight, until another blanket was draped over the light and we were left, stars twinkling around the cloud covering the moon, under a dark purple dome on the street, still in front of my apartment.  It’s sort of like that, what you said.  Wanting more….  But sometimes it seems like they’re equivalent, wanting more and wanting nothing out of life.  That life is not enough, seems to be the ringing song behind both of them, that life doesn’t have what you want.  Sometimes sheer possibility is enough to see how equivalent they are, as there is the possibility of everything–and nothing.  It seems a prejudice of mine–of ours–to think that one wish–the wish for everything, for more, more more–is respecting life while the other–the wish to be done with it–is spitting in the face of life and demeaning it.  No, unless we’re like Taoist sages it seems that both movements are blasphemous–to what is.  Unless we do nothing–and that be our only doing–it is impossible not to give life the evil eye.

              Well, you’ll figure it out, I bet.  She took back her hand from my arm and its lightly shaking hairs, its tingling skin.  Because, I mean, how many times have we gone through this?  She said the last so slightly condescendingly that it could have been taken for plain tiredness, plain bodily tiredness, as it comes in unannounced spells.  When she reached out with her right hand to my arm again, she gave it only a light tap as though in reassurance.  For a moment I felt reassured.  I felt, especially when the moon threw its imitative light on the two of us again, complete, if not content then more than content–perfected, at an apex, the time of glory.  Just when I was going to shout this out so that my neighbors in the apartment building and others down the street and in the neighborhood would hear, complain or join in but then return to bed, I became aware once more of the feeling–it wasn’t exactly a lack, no.  This feeling came back to me that had me sigh, the sigh wasn’t merely disappointment or boredom.  I looked at my friend, not for a long while, just long enough to tell her I understand, thank you, thank you, just long enough to see her smile to me with a motherly smile, just long enough to say Goodnight.

              Goodnight, she replied, and sighed herself a heavy sigh.  Call me if you need anything.

              I will.  I will.  

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