It happened for the most part during a twelve hour time span, and for that he was very fortunate. The things he had learned realtively early, getting out of bed, showering, and dressing, were still intact at eight in the morning, although during the night he'd lost all handles on his new job and most of the things that had happened to him in graduate school. So he left the apartment, "for the office", not really knowing quite where he was headed. To the subway station, obviously, and into the city.
He stayed on the train when it passed his normal stop, but feeling that something was wrong, he got off a few stops later. Above ground, in an unfamiliar neighborhood, confusion became fear, and he began to form the thought that he was in deep trouble. Standing at a cross-walk, waiting for the light to change, he let his briefcase slip out of his hand, as he watched the flashing words "Don't Walk" dissolve from an imperative into first-grade words and then into letters which instantly became mysterious symbols, the meaning of which he could not even guess. Trouble, yes, he was in trouble, wasn't that what he was thinking back... Back where, back when? Where was he, where had he been? The meaning of place and then the meaning of meaning dropped away from him, sand through his fingers, as he struggled to think about thought. Now he could only gasp with horror as reality rushed passed at breakneck speed, ever accelerating, and for a fraction of an instant knew that he was walking down a street maybe he'd seen before, and he stopped to sit against a building to gather his unthoughts.
The period of bewilderment lasted almost an hour, during which time every memory in his head, every parameter of his world model, every manner and method of thinking that he had ever learned was destroyed -- not quite, but terrifically scrambled, infinitely dissociated. After this came a time of even greater confusion, as the new information structure began to reveal itself. The new structure had no structure -- as he stared into faces of people on the street he began remembering the different places his parents had taken him on vaction, and when a policeman came to hassle him, to get him to move along, he thought of the word "steamboat," how he used to lick the egg beaters when his older sister made a cake, and what the color green must taste like. Speaking, responing to the images and sounds confronting him from either side of his senses -- from within himself and without -- was out of the question, more impossible than anything. The cop grew angry and threatened to have him hauled away, which he eventually did.
As he rode in the back of the police car, weaving in and out of traffic and down once familiar streets, he remembered quite clearly how, when he had first come to Boston, he deliberately got himself lost, to test his sense of direction. As he had tried to find his way through the strange city then, he had caught his midbrain trying to recognize certain streets and corners and buildings as places in other cities, and was continually tempted to make this turn or that simply because of this false familiarity.
He watched this thought unfold like a movie, and when it was finished his mind paused for a beat, after which he could almost grasp the situation. But that foothold evaded him, and instantly he was drowning again in a sea of confusion.
His wallet, the cops figured out later, had been lifted sometime during that morning. As he heard them speaking of this, he saw clearly, for about two and a half seconds, a punk reaching into his jacket, muttering some feeble excuse for his theft. When this movie ended he was granted another few seconds of lucidity, during which he wondered what the kid must have thought of him, sitting on the sidewalk open-mouthed, not raising a finger against an assailant. This passive mode of thought worked for him, that much was becoming clear. But any effort on his part, any attempt to restore an internal monolog, resulted in a torrent of confusion with twice the magnitude of each previous one.
The cops had him sitting in an interrogation room -- harsh white walls and flourescent lights, a bare table and chair, and opposite him, hanging on the wall, a mirror, which he perceived (that is to say, passively-thought-of-as) a two-way mirror, behind which other cops would stand and laugh, perhaps giving blow-by-blow commentary, as a suspect was harrassed. He let these associations and trivial deductions progress, careful not to alter their course, with the same non-effort with which one manipulates a woman while on the verge of coming, waiting for her to give signs of coming first. This analogy, this metaphor, this understanding, rose from the backbrain, a Deep Thought, and so did not disrupt his awareness.
He stared into the mirror then, feeding his own image back into his mind, observing his eyes observing his eyes..., and became an antenna of existence, a closed system which, by feeding back upon itself, made available the parameters of all being, the parameters of all-being.

No comments: