I saw my friend Gord last night. He died some two years ago and looked almost happy in spite of the pain, knowing he wasn’t really there. I told him that I respected him for that, being so honest about being dead and then realized I shouldn’t have said that. I changed the topic to how I was still afraid of the dark and that I didn’t know how to work through my hate. I just wasn’t big enough for that.
And then Gord was gone or was in the hallway getting his coat, and I had to get to Abbotsford for a job interview and was waiting for a bus and then watching a school play, hiding in someone else’s bed, waiting for the food to be delivered, still mad about everything but glad I wasn’t dead.
The sounds of being there. That is when I remember. Remember when. That was when. I was there. It is not some other thing. I was there. It was where I thought of everything, where I dreamed of a wheel of space and time just above me. I was there. That is the thing. I was there. I remember it exactly as it was. Remarkable is the word.
Anyway, I was there. I wanted to stay exactly like that except I was cold and tired. I was thinking I wanted to go home and just be there. And everything would be all right. And so I did that and now it is just how I remember that best.
It’s the eyes in Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment:
“And do you know what?” Raskolnikov cried out, raising himself on his pillow and looking point blank at him with piercing, glittering eyes. “Do you know what?”
“But to torment me and laugh in my face, that I will not allow!” His lips trembled all at once, his eyes lit up in a fury, and his hitherto restrained voice rang out. “I will not allow it, sir!”
“You’re lying!” Rage shone in Dunya’s eyes. “You’re lying, slanderer!” She raised the revolver and, deathly pale, her white lower lip trembling, her black eyes flashing like fire, looked at him, having made up her mind.
It was as if fire flashed in his extinguished eyes, as if he were pleased to think there was still pride in him. The silence lasted for two minutes.
Excerpted from Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment. (Pevear/Volokhonsky translation)
In Raskolnikov’s illness he had dreamed that the whole world was doomed to fall victim to some terrible yet unknown and unseen pestilence, spreading to Europe from the depths of Asia. Everyone was to perish, except for certain, very few chosen ones. Some new trichinae had appeared, microscopic creatures that lodged themselves in men’s bodies.
Entire settlements, entire cities and nations would be infected and go mad. Everyone became anxious and no one understood anyone else. Each thought the truth was contained in himself alone and suffered looking at others.*
This pestilence cited at the end of Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment is a spiritual one, that of nihilism sweeping the world.
I live in a large complex, three towers in all, connected by a sprawling underground mall, and so I wasn’t as concerned as I should have been when they shut it all down. I explained to the security team that I lived in the left tower and there was no need to impede the flow because this was where we all lived. They said that they found the idea ironic and used force when I tried to cross again.
My students thought this was all very funny and sent the dumbest one up to my room who decided to lick my face as a joke. The fact that he was infected made it funnier for everyone. They had already planned a tour of the neighborhood with the sole purpose of spreading their germs. They thought that was ironic. They insisted on saying that even after I showed them what the word actually meant.
I remember the passage out back. It was a secret thing. And that it is what made it marvelous. I remember being there with you. And that makes me sad. That is why I can’t sleep like I remember I did. I wish it were not like that, but I rip everything up, and I think I can answer for that.
That’s easily one of the dumbest things I’ve ever written. Or maybe this is it. Probably. A close second anyway.
The exploding virus came to my town and I didn’t know what to do. People were scared. It was something that they didn’t know. And that was it. There was nothing else but that.
It was a dance called the virus. We were on the sidelinelines and than we were in it. It was a terrible thing but it was us. We weren’t okay. And then it was something else. And, later, we talked about how we would remember all of this.