Sunday, June 24, 2007

a slow dark march

The shadows pain me just a little. Their slow dark march across the floor, an unrelenting slide, kicking up equal parts regret and misery. Something there but not. Something altogether—

This is only a fragment. Only a creation of my hungover brain.

Phone rings, too shrill, and my hand lazes its way to the receiver. Through the still of the dark, through that delicate sliver of light nosing past the thick drapes. I answer the call to find that it’s PT.

“I think I’ve done something stupid,” he tells me.

“Um, hello?”

“John, I think I’ve done something stupid,” he repeats, a little more earnest.

“All right,” I say. “It’s probably nothing that can’t be undone.”

“John, I’ve burned my manuscript.”

I lay there for a moment on the sofa, staring through the dim light at the shadows playing on the ceiling. His manuscript. Three years work at least. A slow dark march of words across page after page, an unrelenting—

“John, come on. Are you still there?”

“Yeah, PT – I’m still here. Listen,” I say, “it’s just a bunch of paper, a mere hard copy. You’ve got the files on your system, and you’ve got a back-up of those.”


“Right, PT? You’ve got digital copies.”

“Um, no,” he said. “I formatted everything – thought I’d wipe the slate clean.”


“Going on four years now,” he said. “I just couldn’t bear it any longer, seeing those same sixty thousand words, those same fifteen hundred paragraphs. It was all just too much.”

Piercing pain right behind my eyes. Mouth parched and a mad desire for water. Free hand reaches up to the drapes to shut out the invading light, and the many murky shadows close up into one.

“Two hundred seventy thousand letters,” PT continues. “Fifteen hundred lines. Oh god. I just could not bear to read it, to look at it, one more time. I couldn’t look at the title even once more. Couldn’t stomach the opening line.”

“Guess you should have come out last night,” I say. “Might have averted this tragedy.”

“Oh god,” PT groans. “What am I going to do?”

I was in no shape to carry this on any longer, though on any other day I would have gladly strung him along. “PT,” I say, “you emailed me a copy of your third draft a few months ago, remember? I’ll fire it back to you as soon as I’m mobile.”


“Bye, PT,” I say, and hang up the phone.

I close my eyes, and soon after fall into something of a slumber. I’m off to that place where headaches cease to exist, and shadow and light get all confused in their meanderings. That place where language is not so much spoken or written as it is seen, where signified and signifier trade places. That place where PT and his troubles can not reach me. That place where all—

This is only a fragment. This idea stops right here.

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