Who Killed Providentia?

10 Jan


Who Killed Providentia?


            He’s been here so many times before.

            A long time ago, after doing some research, Lucy pushed her legs defiantly into her chest, as she tended to, and told him that Eleanor Roosevelt once had the stoic opportunity to quip that “no one can make you inferior without your consent”. He told her that he had to tenderly agree.

            Ah, sweet inferiority!

            He felt as though he’s submitted to being lovelorn and ubiquitously sad (no collegiate adjectives necessary but they come up frothing when he tried to get his brain to slow and it didn’t comply. It was as though as he was endlessly hunting snipes.) all the time, maybe from time to time, but now surely.

            He hated when Microsoft Word made indentation decisions on its own. Like: “I know you want to start your next line a quarter-inch to the right”. Fuck that, it was easier to grab one of the TD Bank’ pens that he lifted last time he went there to count his pennies with an 8% aggregation going to the teller ensuring that his hand greedy in the pen jar was just a fair bit of quid pro quo.


            You have to understand that when you don’t return my calls, I either think that I fucked up again or you’re in some sort of trouble that’s preventing you from calling me when you said you would. It never dawns on me that you’re just casually ambivalent about your obligation to get in touch with me, looking at the missed calls on your phone with an air of apathy, dismissing that you promised to see me and already made plans to do so. You have to understand that for more than a third of my life I was shooting dope, living in a sort of insulated society where if your friend or lover didn’t call, it meant that they either got jammed up by the cops and are now waiting to get processed, or they OD’d, or they got fucked up by a dealer or a competitor walking away from a spot and are now unconscious in a hospital. We’d keep calling and then we’d check with the ERs and then look through the next day’s death notices in the paper. And I understand that when I was there, nodding off in the safety of like-minded downtrodden cognates spread out wherever we could get high and numbed, comfortable in our stubborn anomie, pushed down – you were living in cold aristocracy, with black nannies and fancy dinner parties where everyone ate little and drank more and watched as the high-priced art dried dead and unappreciated on the wall and you learned that that shit was akin to life or at least living it. It isn’t. I think. But even if it is, it doesn’t seem to be worthwhile, so why continue to balance that checkbook? If you can’t appreciate and reciprocate my love right now, then at least fake it until you learn it – I know that you’re a natural born thespian…


            James was trying to write a handwritten letter to Lucy (lost art and all; archaic and pretentious just as the man holding the pen): it was all a melancholic, melodramatic transmogrification. He was shapeshifting from a cool, stalwart literary antihero (oh the archetypal coating that he’s woven for himself!) – contemptuous of the world, unwavered by the hurt that the scumbags in it might facilitate unto him (something like a young Jerry Salinger without D-Day or a New Hampshire basement to work in or a Joyce Maynard to resent) – he was changing into the vulnerable artist now; full of anxiety, pained by some love assumed cruel.

            He didn’t know how to finish it – how to give it that sting, how to sound both compassionate and vitriolic at the same time. He had to pretend that he was angry because he was, or at least he should have been – it wasn’t as though he wasn’t expecting it, but he did care, and it hurt him just as much to be in front of language again.


            …We were supposed to go to the cinema on Christmas day, like the other Jewish families, stuffed up and floating by way of cheap Chinese food – that snowy movie that made you laugh was playing at Cinema Village over on 12th and I had already bought us tickets and hoarded some laundry money for the popcorn…


            Where could he go from here? A drink, maybe? But he had given up drinking and the bottle of scotch on the work table, half empty, was a reminder. Besides, drinking on a bitter heart only drowns out the conscious, but exacerbates the unconscious turmoil. He didn’t want to go darker, and it was unseasonably light outside. He knew he’d have to revise the letter later, but for now he had to find the next direction. 


            You are the reason that I don’t trust women anymore: either I worry that they’re trying to manipulate me or I think that they’re not clever enough to be capable of manipulating me. An immediate disappointment either way.

            So, let’s pretend for a moment that you were a rational individual capable of empathy and I wasn’t such a hardheaded prick – would you then recommend that I continue pursuing you?

            Man, that’s fucked up. James scribbles the words out, but can still see the outline of “manipulate” on the page.

            Fuck it, he thinks, he might as well have a drink. After all, we wouldn’t want the twelve year old to go bad.       

            And after a glass it feels a little better. Not much. But it was only one. The trick is not to overindulge. He’s learned this fact after many qualifying attempts to define what overindulgence really meant. But when he woke up one morning with bruises on his body he was scared, mostly because he woke up in his own bed. He was alone and couldn’t figure out who he could blame for the assault, so he blamed himself and stopped drinking. Until tonight. But tonight there was a reason for it and he had to finish this letter.


            This is such a fucking comedy. And a lot of times it’s truly funny, but it’s just taking too long. It doesn’t go along the regular story structure. We’ve been ending this beginning for way too long. It’s like that fucking thing Churchill said.


            He though that maybe this mordant approach to letter writing was a better way to go. He had another glass. The brown tasted red and James thought: we are all animals desperately trying to be human beings or at least trying to realize what that entails. It was a banal thought, he probably stole it from someone sometime, a better writer, he didn’t remember, and it wasn’t worth writing down. I’m sure there’s something in the canonical proverbs about such things and something a couple of pages later that contradicts it. Gods always like telling both sides of the story, or conditioning you to believe that those two sides exist.

            It was supposed to be a celebration of Christ’s birth, even though the Catholics and the Orthodox Christians never agreed on the correct date, and recently they even found some evidence somewhere in sandy Egypt that if big J was born at all, that he was probably born two years earlier than we think because we haven’t counted the days on the Hebrew calendar correctly.

            James always liked the Jesus story, but he liked the musical better. Neither would have helped tonight. He sat back in his chair and though awhile. Something that seemed like an important memory came up. He took a sip and kept writing his unfinished correspondence.


            And last time I saw you, you were reading Murakami and listening to the second scene of La Vendetta from Verdi’s I Lomardi all prima crociata. What were you thinking?! But then again, at least it wasn’t some of Vonnegut’s early fiction over Berlioz or something.

            Goddamn, I’m so tired of these highfaluting jokes that no one understands. I just wanted to spend some time with you. Wanted to make sure you were alright. Wanted to be a little more inspired for the day than I’ve been this month. It’s chilly outside, but wasting a day away with you is so much easier than working on all the little unpublishable pieces that ooze out of me like that white pus that festers from the scab when you wash it with peroxide.

            And I reread that story recently, by the way – the one you told me to reread if I had trouble sleeping. The sixth story. “For Esmé – With Love and Squalor”. And I slept that night. I didn’t have to be clever all night that night at all, like a noose around my cock… and I slept. And you made me sleep. It was you. And I haven’t slept so well in such a long time.

            What’s wrong, Lucy? Where did you go. Where did you hide in. And in such bad form. As though you were crowned a queen and walked to the nunnery barefoot the same night. No honeymoon, baby – not for us.

            Speaking of which, do you know why they call it a honeymoon? It was because people tended to think getting married in June towards the end of the Vernal Equinox was a romantic thing to do because for about a week during that month, the moon turned a honeyed, mead color. Must have been beautiful when it was.  

            If we saw it, I’d take it down and give it to you as an amulet to wear throughout the rest of our purulent enmity, battlelines drawn and then forgiven and then bored with, by the lines and the meaning of those lines and then we’d be back together in bed again and I wouldn’t be so cold and you would be pleased and you’d smile like a child again and there would be uninhibited, unselfconscious innocence in my active dream again. Repeating.


            James reread what he’d just written and could barely understand his own handwriting anymore. He’d been on the fourth glass and hadn’t realized that he’d been pouring in between paragraphs.

            He could hear his neighbor through the wall.

            Not recognizing his own words he began to worry about his own face, wondering if it changed with the shape of his ink. He grew anxious.

            James shared his mother’s madness. And she was dead. It revealed itself to her at an earlier age and right now James was worried that it was finally coming on. He shook involuntarily, but then recited a couple of lines from the prajnaparamita sutra (his mother taught him this supposed perfection of wisdom in her own adjusted, broken Sanskrit, having herself learned it from Allen Ginsberg while tripping on mescaline in the East Bay in the mid-60’s).


“Emptiness is the form. Sensation, thought, active substance, consciousness, also like this.

“Sariputra, this everything original character; not born, not annihilated, not tainted, not pure, not increased, not decreased.

“Therefore in emptiness no form, no sensation, thought, active substance, consciousness.

“No eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, mind; no color, sound, smell taste, touch, object;

“no eye, world of eyes until we come to also no world of consciousness; no ignorance, also no ignorance.”


James took another drink. Exhaled. He put the glass away into the kitchen sink. Then he turned the water on and washed the glass thoroughly. He put the glass into a kitchen drawer above him. He looked at it in there for a moment, uniform, part of many. He looked down for another moment. Then he went back to the writing table.


            Remember when we went to your uncle’s cabin upstate, and it was cold, and we slept under your grandmother’s shawl, and we made love, and fell asleep. And when we woke up you had a rash all over your body from the material, and I rubbed aloe all over you, and somehow convinced you not to scratch by kissing your face or lightly biting your nose every time you tried.

            I remember that. I always fucking remember everything. But that’s my fault. I’m tired of blaming you.

            I love you, Lucy. Call me when you decide that it’s return.


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