What Do You Say to a Shadow?

I do realize that you will be closing the shop shortly, but may I trouble you to allow me to see the Hermann Ungar book in the vitrine display? I believe from the cover that it is a Dedalus-published book, probably a Mike Mitchell translation. Ah, yes, thank you. I do love this kind of novel, imagining gaunt, melancholy, fey, wracked characters in trembling buildings, as if the elongated figures in El Greco’s Burial of the Count of Orgaz were placed in the mostly-early-20th-century-German/Czech/Austrian novel. Meyrink, Paul Leppin, Georges Rodenbach, Sophie Benjamin, Paul Busson, Jiri Karasek. I am sure many in the present day and age consider this writing style to be ponderous, but it still quickens my Mitteleuropean blood. So what if it is out of vogue, with lightness being the name of the game in décor, entertainment, and culture. Give me some weight, some angst, an ungentle response to those who follow the design formula of a flimsy white particle board bookshelf filled with a third books, a third knick-knacks, and a third space, in actuality and as a metaphorically desperate stab at resisting the pull. It will not work. There is no way to avoid the eventual gravity, and it will not be several ironic steps removed.

Burial of the Count of Orgaz, 1586-88
(Oil on canvas, 460 x 360 cm )
BY El Greco
Santo Tomé, Toledo, Spain

I am not accustomed to nor do I accept being interrupted, as you can probably tell. Were you to reply, it is safe to say that you would likely ask where all of this is going, as you must be entertaining all kinds of ideas of intention. Although I made ninety-one earlier this year, an exercise in reminiscence is not that to which you are bearing witness. You probably did not notice the two men, out-of-towners, of course, both with rapid pale murderous eyes, who passed by your store heading the same upriver direction toward Canal Street, about a minute or so after I entered. They have been discreetly tailing me with great diligence, ever since I closed up my modest gift shop of antiques and decorative fare on Royal Street in the lower Quarter, took St. Peter Street over to Jackson Square, and then continued on Chartres Street until entering your establishment. This is not undue speculation. Their intention is an open attempt to dispose of me quickly and quietly as I am retrieving my car from the fourth floor of the Canal Place parking garage. I suspect they intend to use a drug to induce a heart attack. This is an eventuality I do not plan to physically fight, since there would be little benefit beyond my two keen thumbs finding one eye apiece to cause permanent damage, nor am I considering using your phone now to call for immediate reinforcements, in which my preferred outcome would be burial by birds for the two sons of bitches. Crossing the street takes more exertion than making that kind of decision. No, my time has come, the little nagging resistances and provocations at authority have been noticeable lately. Some whispering has made its way back to me. I have been in a position to be feared for almost forty years. That is not a boastful or empty statement. I welcome this bold miserable peril with choice pleasurable thoughts, not with a death mouth of old wasted lamentations. These fuckers will not have the satisfaction of thinking me weak. A little bravery and strength in plight is easy when grace’s durable tenure ends.

My mind has become either a dense demanding straggle of riverbriar or a blank head of protected memories and desires, so I will attempt to talk my way into the truth…

This may seem to you like a heat-induced hallucination. My ruminating appears to be true and alive, yet possibly proving to be dubious and fleeting. Even I must admit that some of the details seem a step out of reach. My mind has become either a dense demanding straggle of riverbriar or a blank head of protected memories and desires, so I will attempt to talk my way into the truth and correct it. Of course, there may be some false notes along the way, but I am trying to speak toward solvency. I may find it necessary to pause or reference guide words I have jotted down to help establish basis and keep clarity, not being sure if the act of speech brings about remembrance, creation, or both. Fragments and figments should all be expected, for that is the way we ought to speak, is it not? To reiterate, if one unrelentingly does not deviate from a single subject, that person is thought to be obsessed and monomaniacal. A seasoned diversity is thought to be the epitome of refined breeding, which makes it ironic that I am playing the role, despite offering no more than a ridiculous peasant incantation. If one provides discourse without imagination, speculation, and occasional flights of disruption, rather than appreciating the open play of talk, then that person should be suspected of being a dullard who may as well recite life and experience as a report-like day, time, and terse listing of activity. As well, do you not think there is often benefit to saying that which all others are thinking? Do realize that though I am not the sentimental sort, the idea that this will be the last time I utter anything sets me back. You might find me to be a bit garrulous, but I consider it only being unabashedly verbal.

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