And what of the preponderance of this word which, which is a very ponderous word which they teach requires a precomma to add to the gluttony of punctuation. Which is something from a term paper or inductive or deductive reasoning or at any rate writing that is trying to prove something or at least argue a premise, which is not good writing, at least in fiction, fiction being closer to the truth and therefore without premise. Which is a definitive statement of belief for Christ’s sake, which introduces a clause with as much subtlety as Santa Claus; whiches are from the time of Santa Clauses, when clauses were saints and witches straddled broomsticks, but that time is in the past. The saintliness of punctuation and grammar and meaning and words and anything written and therefore he who writes is passed. This writing is unsaintly, which is bad, whatever that means, good writing and bad writing, it means nothing, or it does, we all know good apples and good sunsets and good pees and good sex when we taste them or see them or hear them or smell them, and good books too then, though there is less encountering of them and less agreement on which is which. The good is what moves us. So definitive! Good writing does not use exclamation points. A good pee is a very still kind of movement, an outward movement. Good sex inspires and requires much movement physically and vocally, unless it is that slow quiet kind of sex, which is rarely as good but has the potential to be better. Good sex moves us to love, or else to hate. Good sex makes more babies than bad sex. That may not be true but if there were logic in the world it would be and it fits my sample size and suits my purposes so let’s say it is. Good apples are more likely to be eaten. But a good pee is no more productive than a bad pee, both kinds of peeing producing pee. And a good sunset provides nothing more useful than a moment of spiritual satisfaction which a bad sunset lacks, though both end the day equally, if one with less definition than the other. How do good books move us? Inwardly, to dig into ourselves. How is that movement? You cannot dig very far into your belly before you come out your back. We’re not digging to China. Good writing brings China to you, there, so you don’t have to go. Vicarious. I said, wrote that once. Though perhaps with a different word or words. I hate repeating myself, especially when I’m wrong and haven’t said it but intend to say it in the future and am therefore repeating something I’ve never said and no longer know if I ever will. Is that all good writing is, a travelogue of places we’ll never go?
Good writing is not writing about writing. I’ve written that more than once. I’m doing what I set out not to do and what I’ve already done. I write about writing, which disgusts me. Mostly because readers don’t want to read it, which means they become notreaders, which strips them of their identity and my livelihood. Readers don’t want to read about writing, they want to read writing, writing written by the author without too much of the author in it. That sounds like the author talking, which it is, it always is. And so the author, who is I, is to annihilate his presence. It is hard to write while annihilated, especially coherently, if coherence is what you’re into. Okay, annihilate is too much, a war term when this book is about love, not war, so a love term is what we need: withdraw. The author is to withdraw his presence, and the good writing will be what’s left. But the withdrawal method doesn’t work I tell you, I have experience, it ruins the experience, you never finish in the right place and it never feels right and you always leave something of yourself behind and fertilize new writers no one wants to fill the gap you left, and then there’s the mess, and what a mess. I prefer the rhythm method, it doesn’t work either, but it’s more enjoyable, come and go as you please according to the uterine calendar of buildup and flush, as the uterus pleases then, at least you always know where you are and where you end. Where do I end? All this writing about writing, all this writing about writing about sex, where are my words in all of it? Always worried about satisfying the reader. What the reader wants. What about me? Is there no me? Where am I?
Well, I can think of worse things to write about. Which means things could get worse. I can always think of worse things. There is that. Oh no, much worse than pudenda and scabies and hygiene and illicit acts and the proximity of the playground to the waste treatment facility not to mention the food processing plant and the spiritual congress industrial park. Much worse. Do readers want to read about writers writing about reading? To return to an earlier unanswered question, oh my god this would not be a bad time to die, one of these times when I return to where I have been and nothing has changed except perhaps a pronoun I will die, Is the reading unsaintly if the writing is unsaintly? If and only if? Is the unsaintliness of reading conditional? Conditioned on the unsaintliness of the writing, which was not established but merely raised as a possibility in the question, which was and is unanswered, though leaving a question unanswered is in and of itself an answer. All questions are unanswered, which is a statement of belief, which I do not believe in. When repeating a point I have previously repeated, I like to slap myself in the face, but no, this is about you, would the reader prefer I repeat it in the same terms to emphasize the repetition in hopes of continuing to probe the same nerve-rich spot and trigger a response, or should I do it in new terms, restate it in a reworked way and thereby alter the angle of attack? Attack, I lost it, I’m sorry, back to the terms of war. There are other positions to take too on any point, if there is a point, and other points of entry. I will return here to delve, I promise, there is nothing else to write about but me and you, yes I have other commitments, I am beholden to a story, to Palo, having set him in motion, having made him do something, but I am committed to you because you alone are here with me now and no other and I pledge to be faithful to our faithfulness through self-absorption and existential doubt, in good writing and poor, in love and not in love, it is still too early for you to tire of my limited tricks, in fidelity and infidelity, for you will read other books but you are not right now, and I will write other books if I can muster the mustard, but never now, in the here and now between you and I, you and me, me and you, we’ll exchange positions sometimes to mix it up, screw propriety, we do what we want, this is our world, there is nothing else, until the end is reached nothing else exists but this communication between us, wherein everything is possible, I can be anyone, you can be anyone, we can be who we want to be, together, in this space of our own making, which we make together, in our own time.
To your earlier question, or was it mine? That’s not the question. It doesn’t matter, there is so little difference between us. A non-answer: Readers want to read about writers writing about sex. No, readers want to read about writers having sex. Zeroing in now. Readers want to read about readers having sex. To specify, Readers want to read about themselves having sex. What happened to having sex? Readers want to read about sex so they don’t have to have it. My god, the repetition. My god is meant to convey both pleasure and pain. It’s a sloppy business. They want to experience without having to experience. Enough said. Less mess. Vicarious. There is that god damned word for it that I’ve said before, which I’ve said before, which says all I’ve said in one word and makes all the preceding a waste.
I, the author, in the bathroom, whoever I am, apologize to you, you know who you are, and if you don’t what are you doing here, I don’t speak for you, I do sometimes because I can’t hear you and I have selective hearing, but I don’t now because I’m spent from our exchange, which makes me more thoughtful than verbose. The problem is there is no distinction between me and writing, there is just me writing. I can’t talk about me without talking about writing and I can’t write without writing about me. I could just stop writing perhaps. But then what would I be? Oh goddamn hell, where is Palo? It is so easy to forget myself but I remember why I’m here: to put a man through his paces and see what shakes loose. To map his decline. To have him for once do something, something that assaults the senses, something that makes him feel alive if only for a moment, something that may or may not be wrong but for which he feels regret. And then, to make him do another thing. To send him to the wilderness to wander, to never make it home, it’s the journey not the destination and all that claptrap, to force him to learn who he is, face himself, watch his mind decompose, his love shred, his person fail, and experience him never making it home. To tell a story, even if you don’t believe in stories.
* * *
Palo exits the clearing and enters the larch ringing the protuberance of the mountain’s summit. He chews a stick. The stick is one of his sticks, one of the sticks that pelted him, welted him, stoned him. The last stick has been thrown. Antoinette and her oneroomcabinwithabathroom in the woods are out of range, out of earshot, out of sight, out of mind, except for what he sees in his mind, which is not much, he does not look, one foot in front of the other, except to pick up as many sticks as he can cradle in his arms, for no other reason than that is what he does, collect sticks, and to occasionally think, What to do now, or, I will never go to the bathroom again. He must mean I will never go to a bathroom again, indefinite versus definite article usage there, and the definite makes no sense, as it is bodily impossible no matter the efficiency attained. So what he thinks is, I will never use a toilet again, or, Who am I except a crusty naked infidel in boots in the woods with an armful of sticks as inadequate receptacles for my rent piety. He does not loiter in such inquiries. Which might be destructive. He abides in movement and time and his feet to move him to a destination even if he does not know where that is. Self-examination will only get him so far, which is not very far, there is not much space inside his skin, and discussing self-examination will get him less far, there being yet less space in his mouth. All this is hogwash, he just does not have anything to say. He left that part of him, the part of him that says, in the bathroom. He is not thinking but continuing. He is hungry. He chews a stick, which is something for his mouth to do. The sweetness is soon sucked out.
As he enters the larch ring, all his sticks turn to stone. No, not to stone. To stones. Why this happens he does not know. The change should make him think, What does it mean that the sticks are now stones, how is such a change possible, should I call it a metamorphosis or perhaps transubstantiation, what is change for change’s sake, what is progress, but it does not. He accepts blindly in stride, perhaps reasoning it is tomorrow, an alternate day, a day when he gathers stones, though time is clearly not passing quickly enough for it to be tomorrow because he feels the joy and pain, no, fulfillment and emptiness, not those words either, characteristic of time passing not at all. No, he reasons nothing. He accepts that the nature of his objects was stick and is stone. Stones are harder than sticks, both in weight and stickiness, harder to carry then, which means he drops them all. He is thankful again for the boots, which mitigate the pain. To his credit, the stick in his mouth metamorphoses into a stone of appropriate size to suck on, no more chewing because Palo must preserve his teeth. He has no money for dental work. The stone in his mouth is something more like a pebble. No, a pebble is too small; he might accidentally swallow it instead of his saliva and choke like an infant on a raisin, which is much softer and more forgiving than a stone, as an infant is to a man. A small stone then. Better than a rock. A rock is too rough. A rock can be from anywhere. If they were rocks one could say, He dropped his rocks. Or better, His rocks were dropped. Better still, His rocks dropped. The passive voice has its purpose, no matter what anyone says, which is often a purpler purposefulness than the active. But unlike a stone, a rock cannot be used for building, though there is no implication besides the wordchoice of stone that these stones are to be used for building. Or anything. What exactly Palo does is a mystery. Feel free to feel frustrated with not knowing. Excuse me, I am where I am not. Permit me a moment to leave. To Palo’s credit, the stick metamorphoses to a small stone of appropriate size for sucking and not into a large stone that would shatter his teeth, sever his tongue, and rip his mandible from his face. Which would, in the woods far from home, cause his death. Which is not an end he is actively pursuing or trying to avoid. The bit with the stone can be viewed as either fortunate or unfortunate then, depending on where you stand, in Palo or outside of him, as no one wants to contend with that quantity of another’s blood, whereas we rarely deal with that quantity of our own blood except to spill it on purpose, though our heart pumps it about, though our heart is hardly us. Whether it is classified as fortunate or unfortunate is your choice, not Palo’s, because Palo does not care at this moment if his face is ripped from his face and run through the paper shredder. On the other hand, if there is another hand, the stone bit could be classified as neither fortunate nor unfortunate, but as something that happens. He picks up the stones he can pick up and continues, leaving the remains to lie.
At the edge of the larch ring, under a bed of khaki gold needles, he encounters a knit stocking hat. The stocking hat is the color of baby poop, not unlike the gold needles, though needles are two-dimensional. The consistency of neither the needles nor the hat is that of baby poop. His stones drop. He drops his stones. He looks up, so much movement. The larch are naked, bare, needle-free. Hence the needles on the hat. Everything is naked, or everything that matters, he, Antoinette, or she was when he left her and therefore forever will be, the larch, the sky. He rationalizes that he has skipped tomorrow and moved onto full-blown winter, which would allow for the snow he remembers he is standing in and the hat and needles are under. He feels fortunate he caught sight of the hat before he remembered the snow. And again, blessed by his boots. Unfortunately, this rationalizing is again an example of what he could be and probably should be rationalizing as he gazes up at the naked larch, but the business in the cabin seem to have made a dumb brute of him, or else he is busy missing the part of himself he left in the bathroom, if he is capable of missing anything, or else the blue sky is ironically making him vaguely melancholy with its unironic beauty, really the possible reasons he stares up are innumerable and will not be enumerated here, except to say he does so. It seems highly probable that at some point he must decide if he will dig the hat out from under the snow or leave it. Also, there is the everpresent choice of stay or go. Four possibilities: Stay with hat. Stay without hat. Go with hat. Go without hat. Also, if he digs the hat out from under the snow and needles, will he put his stones in it or his head in it or nothing in it? But if nothing, why dig it out? Nevertheless, possibilities, not justifications: eight. Stay with head in hat. Stay with stones in hat. Stay with nothing in hat. Stay without hat. Go with head in hat. Go with stones in hat. Go with nothing in hat. Go without hat. He is not sure whether to begin making his choice by separating it into its constituents and narrowing the possibilities, such as by first choosing whether to stay or go, then whether or not to keep the hat, then what to put in it, or by taking a leap of faith and choosing one of the numerous and fully explicated choices straight away. The problem with the former is he very well understands, if such a state is possible, that by making a step-by-step process of choosing, new choices will always be tagged to the end or popping up in the middle before he reaches the end, such as He is hungry, should he eat the hat? If so, he is thirsty, should he use it as a vessel to drink snow from before eating it? If not, what should he eat? If so, one dies more quickly from dehydration than starvation, so even though he has chosen to eat the hat, should he go back on his word and choose now to not eat the hat to keep it for a non-glass drinking glass, or does he want to stay true to his word and stand by his choice and maintain a steady grasp on his dignity and eat the hat and have nothing to drink from and thereby die? But there are needles, should he drink from needles? Should he get down on all fours, naked but for boots, and scoop snow into his mouth with his bare hands? Would that satiate the need to both eat and drink? Would that be more economic? Is economy the end goal? In the process of elucidating and perhaps even making these evermore minute and specific and unspatiated choices, the greater choice of what to do is never made. The problem with the other kind of choosing is it demands an almost impossible act of self-denial to break from the state of infinite resignation and reason, which is what makes us human, and trust to no rationale but the gut, he is hungry, really hungry, and leap to such a monumental choice. This method of choosing implies there is some inherent value in what the gut wants, and that one can determine what the gut wants, no no, no determining, just following, that is the point. What is of questionable location in the pro-con matrix is the value of the gut’s desires. Metaphorical gut here, though it is seated in and has an intimate relationship with the literal gut. Which is perhaps the reason for the metaphor. He is in short having difficulty choosing how to choose. He is not short. The greater the problem, if a problem is even possible, since understanding seems to not be possible, which is a problem, at least socioeconomically, is that Palo suffers indefinite existential suffering when choosing, and if you are the type of person who does not value existential suffering and interprets such a characteristic as a character flaw, unlike the Author who interprets the absence of such a characteristic as a character flaw and tangentially asserts that existential suffering is spiritual suffering, please insert the suffering of your choice, physical, emotional, material, marital, spiritual, it doesn’t matter, starvation, irritable bowel syndrome, a spear in the side, social anxiety disorder, a kidney stone, pancreatic cancer, pregnancy, a palpitating soul, societal oppression, lost love, debilitating poverty, faithlessness, there is surely some variety of suffering you value and that is what Palo is suffering, Palo is yours too, all of ours, and he suffers when he chooses, and therefore he does not believe in choosing, and yet he believes you are nothing but the integral of all your infinitesimal choices made over time.
Where is Palo?
He is not here. Are none of these words his?