8 pm. Lydia, staring out Thomas' window, frowns. She looks out into the accumulating blue of evening, wishing that Thomas lived somewhere else, anywhere else, even two streets over would have worked. She wishes that her roommate Paul hadn't needed the car tonight. She frowns, and inside her a tendril of rage twists: she wishes sullenly for the ability to destroy, destroy everything with just the intensity of her thought. The thing closest to Thomas' window is a muffler shop: she imagines its yellow and red cinderblock walls blown into wind and sand, erased by the vector of her anger.
She took the subway over here, a pain in the ass from where she is in Hyde Park: a bus to downtown and then the CTA Blue Line to Grand. And from there it's a ten-minute walk through drab industrialscape: brick buildings of indiscernible purpose, truck garages. Normally she is fine in this sort of landscape: she's familiar with it, having learned its dimensions during the years she spent with her dad out in Detroit. But tonight she was probably five minutes away from Thomas' place when a big rattling Buick pulled up next to her, slowing down to match the pace of her walking, and the driver rolled down his window and looked out at her. She could feel her eyes on him even though she did not turn to look. Hey, baby, he'd said, where you going?
My boyfriend's, she'd thought, but she hadn't answered. Just kept her eyes ahead. He'd continued, though. Hey, baby, he'd said, why don't you hop in here and I can give you a ride? Again, she only thought her answer no thanks and said nothing.
Replaying it, she doesn't think she would have done anything differently. That thought annoys rather than reassures: she did what you're supposed to do, and things still went rotten. God! she mutters. She can hear Thomas shift in his seat behind her, but he says nothing.
She told him the whole story as soon as he buzzed her in. Her vehemence had startled him: while waiting for her to arrive, he had lit a few candles and put on What??, an electronic drone made by Sweden's Folke Rabe in 1967. He'd been sitting on the sofa immersed deeper and deeper in the harmonic bath of the drone's slower second part; he had been doing breathing exercises for the better part of an hour and had been feeling completely relaxed. When the buzzer rang, he jumped, and he'd only just begun to reassemble his precious calm when suddenly Lydia was in the apartment, angry, telling the story almost too fast for him to turn it into sense. But this fucker doesn't stop. No. No. He starts to get into it. Come on baby, what's your name? Tell me your name. Thomas had felt tension move into him, inhabit his tissues like some thin demon.
Right before the driver had stomped the accelerator and squealed off, he'd started to get particularly nasty: she can't tell Thomas this. She is too embarrassed to repeat it to him. Instead she plays it again and again in her mind. You dumb bitch; you fuckin' need to learn some manners. You fuckin' need to get laid. You need to suck my fuckin' big dick; that'll teach you some fuckin' manners. The whole time he was saying these things she had visions of him stopping the car, grabbing her, pulling her in. No one was around to see. She could envision it easily. His dirty hand clapping over her mouth; a shove into the back seat; the feeling of having her legs pried open. She wanted more than anything else to turn and say fuck you. To fucking spit at him. But no: unpredictable dynamics. Maybe he had a knife. An image here of her body, cut once, raggedly, then dumped into an alleyway. Fuck. Fuck. Stop it. She is trembling.
She turns to look at Thomas. This is why I could never have a gun, she says, her voice shaking but strangely firm. If I had a gun that guy would fucking be dead. I would just, fucking, remove him from the world. Thomas' eyes go wide, and she presses her fingertips up to her eyes.
Thomas doesn't know what to do in this situation. He dreads the next couple of days. Lydia is staying with him tonight, and then tomorrow he is supposed to meet with this guy Jakob, Freya's friend, for lunch, before needing to go wait tables in the evening. What he wants mostly is just to rest. What?? still plays in the background, and he feels sad that he has been pulled out of its pure telepathic garden and thrust into this mess and turmoil, this situation with no possible solution. He has not been a boyfriend enough times to know what is expected of a boyfriend here. All the possibilities seem absurd. A revenge fantasy assembles itself, with him as the improbable hero: he recognizes the pure fancy of this confection, and feels stupid for having even begun to compose it.
He watches her standing there, hiding her face, and for a moment he feels like perhaps he understands. She is blocking out the world. He has been thinking lately about the traditions of suicide in other countries. He does not feel suicidal, but he always felt that he has understood suicide's appeal, its unique ability to lure. The cure for the nausea of the world's constant sensation is always nearby, present everywhere just beyond the threshold of the body. He can imagine it: a white drone of purest peace: you need only cut yourself open and spill out into it. We all indulge in minor suicides, he thinks, watching her, and he wants his tape recorder. In moments of grief and pain we indulge: we close our eyes, we turn our faces to the wall, we submerge in the warm water of a bathtub or blacken the world behind a veil. The best we can do for other human beings in pain is respect their need to reduce sensation: let them die for a few moments, and welcome them when they return. So Thomas sits, and watches.
But what she wants, most of all, is to be touched: to feel Thomas' elegant thin hand on her back, to feel the tangled rootsystem of stress dissipate beneath his fingers. He could eliminate it all so easily, easily enough that it might qualify as a kind of human magic, but she cannot bring herself to ask him to do it. It is important to her that he do it himself, that he understand how she works at least that much. It is a test.
She stands there, and waits, and the room hums coldly around her.
Further Reading ::
Information Prose : A Manifesto In 47 Points ::
A manifesto, outlining some of the aesthetic goals behind Imaginary Year, can now be read here.