Set 18, 2004

Dr. Bartlett handed me a paper to-day, desiring me to subscribe for a statue of Horace Mann. I declined, and said that I thought a man ought not any more take up room in the world after he was dead. We shall lose one advantage of a man's dying if we areto have a statue of him forthwith. This is probably meant to be an opposition statue to that of Webster. At this rate they will crowd the streets with them. A man will have to add a clause to his will, 'No statue to be made of me.' It is very offensive to my imagination to see the dying stiffen into statues at this rate. We should wait till their bones begin to crumble - and then avoid too near a likeness to the living.

Henry David Thoreau
September 18, 1859
Diary entry


A Lost Umbrella

'A febrile morning', I write in my journal to inform myself about this point. 'This point', spatially means being among other unpainted people, feeling like just another grey face. Still in this locus, albeit more internally, seethes this peculiar pleasure that I have on a deeply ailing head beneath the coldly sweating flesh. Terrible, terrible in its throb, the pain's more honest than the pleasure. I rebel against the pleasure then and imagine that some of these anonymous others carry a like ache. Equally well, we hide the sick pounding with comely, au naturelle smiles we long ago learned to finger-tease up against our collective, fell cheeks.

There, success in getting lost in the folds of secret sharers, a palpitating sensus communis. Pain's something that tells us we're alive. Sometimes it says we're alone. Time and again, whenever we find ourselves at 'this point', we manage to forget the first message and tend to subvert the second. "It's killing me!" we say, but always to someone else who may look at you with her hazel eyes and sympathetic brows, who may hold your hands as if to say she feels it too. Thus, we must admit to a temporal dimension too. One though that must be curved for the purpose of this exposition on aching, while aching. I must enter another 'point'. For now, the job remains to go into a hidden time I call 'last night', in a place I name 'dream'.

Yellow I saw you and winged I felt you, your butterly wings fluttering in an enveloping speed of crimsons and violets. You are looking for an umbrella you lost in a yesterday among yesterdays. I do not hold it, but it was clear to me how you missed it. Far from you, the umbrella was lodged in a rainless corner of some nameless home or garbage dump. Yellow and clueless I saw you, walking sometimes, winged sometimes. Badly, I wanted to tell you about your precious umbrella, but the effort to speak gagged me; this made me aware of being gagged, of needing to speak, of needing to find the speech I left somewhere else. In turn, this made me conscious of an inevitable somewhere else. The world became less solid, more grey.

It became a dream; we realize that a dream happened after we wake from it.

I woke up to a headache and promptly lost you. All I can remember, I can only recall as a paragraph and only call a dream. And that paragraph I had to edit several times, trying to purify it from the contamination of the language I recovered. For example, in one of the sketches, I wrote:

Yellow I see her, walking my dream. Winged sometimes, like the butterfly of a forgotten Chinese philosopher.

I scrapped that because I don't remember cogitating in that place, I didn't know footnotes. Your wings were wings, not something chalked from the presence or absence of a dead philosopher; it was not the word 'wings'. Yet too I couldn't bring myself to call it 'dream' then; now though, I realize I can't help but do so. So I quitted my editing not because I've found the proper paragraph but because I understood: I lost the world of you. I sacrificed you to the word 'dream'. I left you between the scylla and charybdis of spheres suffocating within my indifferent skull. They try to push out, my grey matter, out into the world where they can breathe. The bony dome holds them; they thus push against themselves, crushing you in between.

I only possess the space of a paragraph to save you. Rogelio Sikat once said that thoughts flutter like butterflies. One must catch them and mount them on paper lest they escape utterly. Quite hard to imagine him ignorant of the logical, illuminating extension of his analogy: when I write it down, I kill it. Michel de Certeau pinned down a parallel operation in the human writing of history. He found in the antinomial terms in the compound etymology of 'historiography' the plain fact that before you preserve, that is, mummify something that happened you must kill it first. You must call it 'before', 'previous', 'past'; you must call it 'history'. Thus, in this desperate pain, I call you 'dream' and 'last night'. Franz Arcellana said that our curse is that we can only love with words.

We can only say that a dream happened after we wake from it, and only because we wake from it. We rise from sleep as if this world of gravel grey fegument has already proven itself more exalted. Strangeness is something common in the 'dream'. Everything makes sense there. When we wake up, what was familiar before we slept becomes strange momentarily as we wipe the saliva off our now-living lips. Then the mundane takes its revenge, and the song hits against 'the four gray walls that surround me'. The familiarity within 'dream' proves exotic only post hoc, the feeling that what once felt so real increasingly feels foreign, much too foreign that we have to forget and get on with our lives. To live again, we have to say we've awakened, that is, we 'rose'.

Sometimes, the night's too good. Sometimes, we're cursed with sleeping too tight and dreaming too sweetly. Then when we wake up, we can't accept it because what was a commonplace, airy magic in the place we call 'dream' throbs now as a true-blue, autochthonous headache.

Only a 'dream'! Only 'last night'! Yet today I press futile fingers against my temples, hoping, willing a night where we can redeem your umbrella. I take up the pen and cross out several lines from the early journal entry to put in new words. Today, I begin by writing about 'Our febrile morning'.