NOTE—CROSS OUT ENTIRE LINE WHEN RECEIVED AND REUSE UNTIL ALL LINES ARE FULL
DATE / DELIVER TO / OFFICE / SENT BY / OFFICE
25-8-90 / Rick Vigorous / F+V Pub, 6th Floor / Rick Vigorous / Switchboard 11-9-90 / Rick Vigorous / F+V / Rick Vigorous / F+V 11-9-91 / Rick Vigorous / F+V Pub / Rick Vigorous / F+V Pub [Illegible] 4-2-98 / R. Vigorous / F+V Pub, 6th Floor / R. Vigorous / F+V Pub, 6 Floor 12-9-08 / Walter C. Fediodoslav / F+V Pub, 5th Floor / Rick Vigorous / F+V Pub, 6th Floor Sep. 15, 2008 / R. Vigorous / Frequent and Vigorous / W.C.F. / Ibid. [Illegible] 11-7-09 / Lenore Beadsman / Switchboard / Rick Vigorous / Frequent + Vigorous Pub, 6th Floor 12-9-09 / Rex Young / F+V Pub, 5th Floor / Lenore / Switchboard 5-4-10 / Alex Loving / Mailroom / Rex Young / [Blank]
15-7-10 / Mr. Vigorous / Freq. & Vig. Pub., 6th Fl. / Alex Loving / Mailroom
To: Mr. Rick Vigorous, Editor, Reader, etc.
From: Alex Loving, Mailroom Clerk
Date: July 15th, 2010
Re: Postcards (67) rec’d from Rex Young
The attached postcards from Mr. Young were brought to the mailroom today by Doug from the Goodyear Service office. Apparently they were misdelivered to Goodyear a couple of months ago and sat unnoticed in a mechanic’s inbox until this morning.
From what I could gather, the postcards (each of which features the same photograph on the front side) contain the serial contents of one long letter. Sally took the liberty of reading through them and putting them into sequence. There is at least one postcard missing, she says. I’ll ask Doug to check around his office for it.
Also, you still have that package from Alejandro Amoretti sitting down here. Please pick it up at your earliest convenience.
Here it is: I came down here to fuck around—to chase some sun and catch some tail. Y nada hay nuevo debajo del sol.
But then I found Writing this down doesn’t feel right. I can’t let this fire, this alpestrine ether inspired by [illegible] simply expire back into words. But maybe it will feel right so long as I’m not writing about words. A bit of Hamlet (rearranged and abridged) and then no more: no more words, words, words. Now here it is:
I was at a bar in Bal Harbour last night. No, I wasn’t working. I haven’t read a word of a manuscript (in an editorial capacity; q.v. sub) or spoken to a single aspiring author since I got down here. So I was in a bar scoping out the talent when—well, let me tell you the second part first; I think it’ll make better sense going from back to front:
I arrived back at my hotel around 7:30a.m. The concierge said he had some mail for me. After fishing around in his desk for a minute (I was hoping that he had lost whatever had been sent to me) he produced a stack of postcards, bundled together with a pair of perpendicular rubberbands. I brought them back to my room and fell asleep.
While asleep, I had the following dream (or so I remembered it (<-- I’ll elaborate on this later)):
My eyes were suspended in the air, looking
perspicaciously perspicuously perspiciently out into the nave of an infinite cathedral, unwalled and ceilinged with a 2nd-ed.-OED-binding blue sky. Assembled in the cathedral was a vast congregation of sculptors and poets, partitioned into groups of ten to twelve. Each group of artists was focused upon some labour: an epic poem in Alexandrines, a Boccioniesque tower of runic metal-rod twistings, a fugue of labial mantras. I was aware that all of the artworks being created were endless—there was no time (the verity of which was evinced by the distant, purple sun, simultaneously setting and rising) and so art was without a form of completion. [“Sale el sol, y se pone el sol” scribbled sideways in the margin.] Eventually I came to notice my self sitting cross-legged in a clearing at the center of my perspective, facing away from my watching self toward the sun. I appeared to be meditating.
After several hours (which were impossible in this timeless universe, but passed nonetheless) a figure shrouded in light appeared in the foreground of my vision, approaching my meditating self from behind. I focused intently upon her and recognized (immediately, in womb-joy and relief) that she was Her. She wore a weightless white garment whose sylvan cut and trim must have been conceived by Pan’s preeminent court tailor. As She slowly drifted forward, deeper into my perspective, closer to my meditating body, the congregation of disinterested artists began to recede—they did not themselves move but rather the ground on which they stood drew back before the expanding circumference of my meditation circle. She brought time back into the universe; the sun began to set. The artists had all disappeared into the horizon by the time that She arrived in my vicinity, behind me, eclipsing me. A bit of consciousness struck me at that point: I became annoyed at myself for considering that I was creating Her too perfectly, fearful that any acknowledgment of the fact that I was dreaming would shatter the dream. Fortuitously, She distracted me from my consciousness by beginning to circle around me. The first ninety degrees of Her orbit seemed to repeat through eternity—something like a sentence you become stuck rereading over and over while dozing off. Then She broke the circle and approached me from my right side. With the grace of all the gods She inclined Her nymphic body toward me until Her head, wreathed in laurels, was beside mine. I wondered whether She had kissed me. My perspective began to narrow as my eyes drifted down from their suspended perch in the sky and zoomed-in, as it were, on my body and Hers. I noticed Her scent, Her most distinctive feature. I felt myself hoping that She was kissing me which faintly annoyed me, seemed to tarnish my sense of omniscience. Just as my field of vision was closing in upon us (the sun was now under the horizon but the scene was still well-lit with sunset hues) the camera of my dream turned sharply down toward the ground and focused in on one of her footprints in the dust. I zoomed-in closer and closer until there was nothing discernible but dust and the dust became the reddish-black blur of the back of my eyelids. [“All expired save thee” written in print a centimeter beneath the bottom line of the recipient address.]
I rubbed my eyes and wondered whether or not it was a reasonable time to wake up. The lingering memory of a beautiful woman kissing me compelled me to try and remember what I had just dreamed and, if it proved interesting, write it down. I knew that I would forget what really happened if I let too much time pass. This thought brought me to consider whether remembering possessed a substantial component of creation—which in turn caused me to wonder whether “remember” was derived from “membrum” (limb) as in “dismember” in which case the word at its very root would contain a sense of re-creation. I cursed myself for not packing my Compact OED and then further cursed myself as I realized that I had forgotten my dream. And then I remembered the bundle of postcards. For a brief moment I fancied that they were from the angel who I had met on the previous night—but that would have been impossible: (a) the post office could not have possibly collected, sorted and delivered so many postcards in less time than it took for me to cab home from the beach, which is beside the point that (b) she could not have written so many postcards in an even shorter interval (divine being though she may be) and (c) I didn’t tell her at what hotel I was staying. Impossibility aside, I let the fantasy exist just long enough for me to unbundle the postcards and begin examining them. [“Time moves ahead of our fancies!” scribbled sideways in the margin.]
I am now drawn back to the feeling that I should tell you the first part of the story before the second part. You will have to have faith in my assurance that this compositional circumgurgitation is everyway induced by pragmatic scrupulousness, nothing a product of rhetoric.
So I was at a bar in Bal Harbour last night scoping out the talent when a finger tapped me on the shoulder. The finger belonged to what I initially adjudged to be a decently attractive woman in her late-twenties and later discovered to be an excessively beautiful twenty-four year-old angel/film-student of Danish descent named Keren. (I should describe her beauty more thoroughly but currently I can only evoke her on the dark innerside of my eyelids—that ghostly image would be impossible to recreate without damaging it.) She asked me if I had a cigarette. Of course, I did. After leading her to the barside pool and lighting up our smokes (I only ever smoke under the mandate of decorum) I asked her if she knew the etymology of her name. This is a move that I have historically pulled in order to relieve women of their largely bodily confidence while imposing my own implied intelligence—a move that generally succeeds with ‘Kate’s, ‘Anne’s, ‘Rita’s and other oligosyllabics. Unveiling her sweetly shushing Danish accent, Keren explained to me that her name is biblical, derived from the Hebrew “Qeren-Happuwk,” or “horn of antimony.” As I am writing this, I recall (from an OED definition that I was lead to by, I believe, Nabokov) that antimony is a metallic substance used by the Persians in ancient times as an (incidentally poisonous) medico-cosmetic eye-shadow; standing by the pool unexpectedly suddenly falling in love with Keren, however, I confused “antimony” with “antinomy” and proceeded to ask Keren if she was by any hap a philosophophiliac (my own specious coinage for “lover of philosophy” (or, more precisely, “lover of love of wisdom”). Of course the segue was unwarranted even if antimony had been antinomy; and yet Keren smiled and said “yes.”
What happened next was existentially explosive. My intellectual confidence devastated by this woman’s etymological clairvoyance (I have a serious neurosis concerning women and their command of etymology), I momentarily forgot my fingers and dropped my cigarette into my gin and tonic. Endeavouring to maintain my outward composure (that of a man worthy of being slept with) I masked my embarrassment with nonchalance, tossing my soiled drink into the pool. Keren laughed Danishly, angelically and then, staring up at the stars, omnisciently recited the following line: “Nobly will he hide his grief though he could wish he were the lowly man who dares to weep and not the king who must bear himself as befits a king.” An apt witticism charged with a reference to the etymology of my name. Charge set. “A bit of Nietzsche?” I asked, as though a bit of Nietzsche were a Bal Harbour barside-pool conversation commonplace. “Kierkegaard,” she corrected. Fuse lit. Keren then proceeded to talk Kierkegaard (pseudonymity, irony, the aesthetic purity of Don Giovanni, arguments against the Hegelian dialectic structure of becoming, paradoxes etc.) for the better part of an hour. And then the fuse hit the charge: Keren, I realized, was seducing me with Kierkegaard.
I excused myself to procure another round of drinks. If my head were to explode (which seemed a categorical certainty at that point) I wouldn’t want any bits of me getting on Keren’s lovely white dress.
The etiology of the bomb: Only ten days
prior to before last night I wrote an entry in my electronic diary proposing an idea for a story about a writer who uses Kierkegaard to seduce women. Of course, the “proposing an idea for a story” was a diarial praetensa pretense designed to conceal the reality that I myself was considering using Kierkegaard to seduce women. And now here was a beautiful woman, a sprightly seraph, a cherubic verbomancer dressed in a peerless white dress breathing the name of action into my words. My words and women—my two favourite things in this world—were colliding.
Had she somehow read my diary? Impossible. Had I written that entry under the influence of some kind of premonitory communion with the future? Possible, but not likely. Or did my soberly, innocently written words somehow
influence provoke the universe into coincidence? [“Coincidence often turns awry the current of enterprise…” scribbled sideways, upside-down in the margin.] What is a man to do with Coincidence? Contemplate it thoroughly and hypothesize about the will of the Universe, the will of God? Write it down? But what if I write it down and those words beget further coincidence? Jesus. Or am I to simply gaze in wonder as it passes by like a beautiful woman walking past me on a busy street too swiftly, too determinedly to be stopped and told that she is beautiful in some kind of way that would not put her off and interrupt her obligate-ram-ventilatory selachian beauty? I sought refuge from this insoluble problema by indulging in an intellectual digression: a contemplation of the aptness of zoological epithets being applied to the word “beauty.” Keren’s beauty, I thought, could be described as being particularly pantherine. Pantherine beauty. That is it. That is all that matters: the pantherinely beautiful woman standing beside the pool twenty paces behind me, waiting for me to bring her a dry martini. I prayed to Zeus, god of cranial expectoration, to not let my head explode and then returned to Keren with our drinks.
The night went on perfectly. I composed myself as a man worthy of being slept with while Keren patiently looked past my practiced composure and saw that deep down, far beneath my procacious words, I was a man worthy of being slept with. After the bar closed down at 4 a.m., we snuck through the back fence onto the beach and found a secluded nook beneath a dune where we lay down and gazed at the stars. I forced myself not to dwell on the impossibility of it all. The whole night had been far too fictional, too Dickensianly contrived for me to believe. Ultimately, I entertained its possibility not simply because it was reality but because I had a feeling that getting laid in a dream that felt like reality would feel much better than bitterly masturbating in a state of existential security. Whatever it was, I assure you that I am describing it exactly as I remember it happening. Again, you’ll have to trust me; I’m a man of my
[“y cualquier otra cosa que pueda suceder esta noche, confiadla al entendimiento, pero no á la lengua” scrawled across the top of the postcard]
as the sun rose slowly over the edge of the ocean.
I invited Keren to breakfast but she had studies and other engagements to attend to. We exchanged numbers, kissed, said goodbye, realized that we were walking in the same direction, walked together for a bit, kissed again and said goodbye again. I hailed a cab and fell into a deep, dreamless sleep on the way back to my hotel.
And now we’re back at the end where we began. After unbundling the postcards I casually flipped through them, picture-side up. I decided that I would just look at the pictures; reading anything that isn’t written by a canonized writer has the potential to be a total waste of time. And with Keren’s ambrosial lip-taste still on my tongue, the last thing I wanted to be bothered with was bad writing. Having flipped halfway through the stack of postcards I noticed that the images comprised a flip-book of some sort. There was a gentleman and a lady reclining on the terraced ledge of a seaside plaza. A tumbledown castle or a prison hovered conspicuously in the offing. I flipped through the postcards several times to try and determine what subtlety of the scene was changing. I fancied that the lady’s right foot was arching and then unarching while the gentleman’s smile slowly faded; closer scrutiny, however, revealed that nothing was changing—i.e. the postcards were all facsimiles of the same. This observation, to my chagrin, led me to the necessary conclusion that if the image were constant then some other facet of the postcards (viz. the written matter) must be variable—or else their author must be a madman for engaging in such frivolous duplication. Reluctantly, I pulled the first postcard off the stack and began reading the writing on its back.
“under which he could hide from reality,” read its first (albeit incomplete) sentence. It seemed a bit finnegany to me. However, having just woken from a dream, I was little nonplussed by this inconsequence. Rather than describe exhaustively the ten minutes in which I wandered anachronically through the disjointed contents of the postcards (like some dysosmic philologic basset-hound hot on the trail of his own scent), I’ll skip ahead to my realization that the postcards contained the serial contents of one long letter. Ah!, but I must step back for a moment to my discovery of one critical (perhaps the critical) detail: The return address on each card read:
Casa de Rene Pérez
Malecón #51 e/ Tenios y Carcel
Ciudad de la Habana 10400, Cuba
Back in December when I first encountered Alejandro Amoretti (via his attractive, Argentine barista proxy), I sensed that he had some decisive role to play in contemporary Fiction (a literature verging on expatriation from its native womb of words and pages into the outer space of reality). His existential obscurity over the course of the proceeding months reinforced my supposition. Now (that is, several hours ago when I discovered his name on the backs of the postcards) he had stepped into the greatest literary coincidence of my lifetime. What I am about to write is going to be [illegible]; bear with me.
The myriad coincidences of the past twenty-four hours telescope into one supersaturated meta-coincidence. There is something star-like about the meta-coincidence: from a distance, it appears unitary, inert, immaterial. But as my intellect approaches it, the illusion of simplicity recedes; the enormity, the radiancy, the astronomical intricacy of the meta-coincidence begins to blind my speculation. How can such a thing come into existence? “But for the stars, I own my telescope is dim.” Recalling Galileo (via Byron), I thought to unveil the phenomenon of its mystery through scientific rigor. The hierarchical proposition model of Wittgenstein’s Tractatus seemed apposite to the task. In the blank back-matter pages of a copy of Borges’ Obras Completas, I began drafting a delineation of the meta-coincidence:
1.1 Keren coincidence
1.101 Mutual appreciation for Kierkegaard
1.102 Having nearly attended the same college
1.103 Similarly crooked lower-right central incisors
1.11 Recapitulation of journal entry
1.2 Amoretti coincidence
1.201 Receipt of postcards three days before scheduled meeting in NYC
1.2011 which meeting had been forgotten until such receipt
1.22 Back to the Future
1.23 Keren coincidence
1.2301 Mutual appreciation for…
My Tractatus Logico-Concursatus trailed off into recursive absurdism and assumed the semblance of a literary cocktail recipe or a concordance to the collected post-it notes of an obscure smut novelist. The meta-coincidence was still a nebulous mess of confusion.
Despite the warning of Wittgenstein’s “whereof one cannot speak thereof one must be silent,” I felt compelled by the gravity of the matter to perform one final interrogation of its substance. Ecce epistolium. In this letter I have endeavoured to explore my experience in a form that no stream of conscious consideration or laconic treatise could accomplish. To complete this discursive inquest into the meaning of the meta-coincidence, I must perform one final, dreadful, potentially ontologically paradoxical task: Transcribe Amoretti’s letter. I can’t quite articulate why this task seems so abominable to me; somehow it reminds me of the catastrophic prospect of burning Borges’ Book of Sand…
But I will delay no further—no further than a quick prefatory note to say that I will provide hereunder a verbatim transcription of Amoretti’s letter in its proper sequence; at least one postcard is missing. Now here it is:
I look forward to our meeting on the 19th. It occurred to me that our discussion of my novel (to which I have given the working title, “On the Couch”) would profit from your having read some part of it beforehand. If time permits—and I extend my apologies for not considering this sooner—please glance through the following excerpt from the latest draft of Chapter 42.
P.S. Further apologies for this infelicitous format; I’ll explain later.
Chapter 42 – Flann O’Brien and Arcangela Virtuoso
She watched the sunrise while I smoked a cigarette. Another one that wasn’t the one.
On the train back from Rockaway I read a bit of Borges and fell asleep. In my dream, Sally was lying next to me in bed. I was sleeping. Sally was mostly a blur of beauty; only her arms stood out to me in detail: The upper half of her right arm was pillared beneath her vague torso, buried at the elbow in a syncline of Egyptian cotton. Her camel-tan forearm ran across the comforter like some silty stretch of the Nile and distributed into [need adjective] fingers that cradled a hardcover copy of my award-winning, critically-acclaimed, uncreated-conscience-forging collection of short stories, entitled “Sally.” Her left arm reclined odalisque-like along her side, down to the wrist which rested on the precipice of her blurry thigh. Her left hand extended over the edge, its fingers dangling sleepily like willow tree branches. My Nobel Prize in Literature was draped like one of Dali’s clocks precariously over her ring finger.
I don’t recall anything particular happening in the dream. Providently, a hobo stepped on my toe just as the train was approaching the Lorimer stop and I avoided dreaming my way into Manhattan.
As usual, no one else was awake yet when I got back to the apartment. I pulled my sheet and pillow out from behind the radiator, strew them on the couch, flopped down on top of them and fell fast into a dreamless sleep.
* * *
I woke up at 4, stumbled out onto the front stoop and spent half a cigarette torpidly figuring out what day it was: Monday. That made it two weeks since I sent Sally the postcard. Still no word from Sally. I thought about writing a story about a writer who plans to write a series of stories to try to win the heart of the [need adjective] woman he loves—but instead of writing the stories he gets drunk at his local bar every night and seduces [need adjective] women by telling them the story of his plan. As usual, my writing idea was oversaturated with autobiography. I flicked my cigarette butt into the street and stumbled back inside to complete my early-evening routine: Quaker Oats, a key-bump of cocaine, and one of the Back to the Futures until my patrons got home from work.
* * *
“Arcangela Virtuoso. Beautifully paradoxical.” I kept my eyes locked into hers as I successively smiled, dragged on my cigarette, pivoted my head slightly to the side, exhaled a smooth, thin stream of smoke, sipped my beer and smiled again.
“What?” she half-yelled. “I couldn’t hear you. The music’s too loud.” I leaned in past her face and brought my lips within an inch of her left ear. I let two or three seconds pass.
“I said: You have a beautiful name. Let’s go into the back room. We’ll be able to hear each other better there.” She shrugged and fixed her hair.
[Here or elsewhere insert description of Arcangela. Perhaps w/ allusion to Nabokov’s two kinds of visual memory. Black hair, green eyes.]
In the back room we found a quiet table and sat down. It was around 3 in the morning and Arcangela was the third girl who I had taken into the back room since the bar had opened at 10. The first two got stories about articles that I had supposedly written for Harper’s and Esquire, respectively. The bar was only open till 4 so I had to make an extra effort on this one. Something a bit more subtle, more mysterious.
“What are you writing?” she asked with genuine interest. I had pulled out my moleskin and started scribbling the word “words” repeatedly across several lines. I feigned a grimace of devout focus while I wrote three to four more “words” and then closed up my notebook and smiled apologetically.
“Sorry, just a quick note about an idea I had for a writing piece.”
“Oh, are you a writer?”
“Officially I’m a fireman. But writing is my passion.”
“A fireman?” Her eyes caught fire. I should have picked a more subtle profession.
“Yes, but I just do it because it gives me a lot of free time to write.” I gestured with my moleskin, hoping that she would take the bait.
“What do you write?” Hook. Now line and sinker.
“This and that.” I affected a patronizing smile as though I had prejudged her to be incapable of understanding what I wrote. After holding the smile for two seconds I pretended to look deeply into her eyes and change my mind. I redirected my gaze toward the ground as though I were embarrassed about being about to reveal something intimate about myself. Her face brightened in apparent appreciation of my emotional candor.
“Well, I mostly write poetry but lately I’ve been working on a short fiction project with one of my writing partners. Do you know Pirandello?”
“No. Is he your writing partner?” I maintained a straight face, not wanting to let her become distracted by self-consciousness.
“No. My writing partner is—” who should my writing partner be? “—John Furriskey, a friend from college. But Pirandello was an Italian playwright who played a lot with the boundaries between fiction and real life. In one of his plays—” Arcangela was thoroughly engaged; now I just had to come up with a plot “—there are six characters who are in search of someone to write their story.” Her eyes told me that she was fantasizing about introducing me—like some exotic simian she had plucked out of the Congolese jungle—to ‘Margot’s and ‘Parker’s at Park Avenue cocktail parties rather than following the somewhat complex idea that I had just introduced.
“So,” I slowly continued, “the idea is that characters exist independent of their authors. Sancho Panzo—” she had probably not read Don Quixote, I realized “—or, better, Harry Potter existed before …—” I had not read Harry Potter “—that British woman-author ever put him into a book. Harry Potter has always existed and always will exist. So anyway, John’s and my idea was to take characters from one of our favourite books and breathe new life into them—let them live through another story.” The Pirandello/Harry-Potter bit was probably more confusing than explanatory but it gave me time to figure out what John and I were going to write about. The mixture of enthusiasm, radiant affection and concealed confusion in Arcangela’s face reminded me of my mother’s when I used to assail her with the play-by-play details of my latest football game.
“What book did you borrow your characters from?” asked Arcangela against my expectations. For the briefest of moments, I smiled authentically, unaffectedly and imagined that I really was working on a Pirandellian literary project. Luckily I caught myself before my game of fiction, and, with it, my chances of getting laid, fell apart.
“You probably haven’t heard of it; it’s just an early work by a somewhat obscure temporary novelist—” I caught but didn’t correct my parapraxis “—but the project itself is much less interesting than what happened while we were working on it.” Despite Vonnegut’s advice, I almost always tried to create suspense when telling stories; without elaborating on “what happened” (indeed, I didn’t yet know what had happened…), I excused myself to go to the bathroom and grab another round of drinks. I spent half a piss figuring out how my story would end.
* * *
“So what happened!?” burst out of Arcangela when I returned with a PBR and a cosmopolitan. Somehow she had gotten noticeably drunker while I was away. I placed her drink down on the table and told her to be careful not to get too drunk lest some lascivious, PBR-drinking poet take advantage of her. Her practiced little-girl giggle was incongruous with the trite vulgarity of my joke. All jesting aside, I did want her to remain slightly sober; the seduction of a drunken mind is hardly ever fulfilling.
“Well, for the past few months John and I have been writing short bits of fiction with our borrowed characters and posting them on a website. One night a few weeks ago, John goes out to a bar and meets an Irish actress named Sheila. Lamont, I think her last name was. So John and Sheila hit it off. Over the course of the night, their conversation wanders through politics, the weather, motorcycles, cinema, and finally literature. John mentions that he is particularly fond of the writing of one of Sheila’s fellow Dubliners, Brian O’Nolan. ‘Flann O’Brien!’ Sheila exclaims, correcting John’s usage of the writer’s real name instead of his more commonly used pseudonym. She then goes on to express her own love for O’Brien’s writing. They talk for a bit about their favourite pieces by O’Brien and eventually arrive at the topic of John’s own writing. Sheila is interested to read some of what John has written so he gives her the address of the website where we post our stories.” Arcangela’s perplexion over the “Brian O’Nolan/Flann O’Brien” bit seemed to have sobered her out slightly. In addition to her confusion she appeared to be growing less and less interested in what was becoming quite a convoluted story. I would have to really deliver with the ending in order to avoid bungling the seduction, I thought to myself. And then a mild horror crept under my skin: I hadn’t realized when superurinally concocting the story’s conclusion that its similarity to what was happening in real life might compromise what was happening in real life—that is, by telling a story about a writer seducing a woman at a bar as an effort to seduce a woman at a bar, the woman (the real woman) might grow suspicious and, if only for the sake of displaying her womanly ability to avoid being seduced, avoid being seduced. I nervously sipped my beer and affected an air of suspense. On the other hand, changing the ending might compromise the overall aesthetic quality of my story (somewhere, deep beneath the film of booze, apathy and lechery enshrouding my soul, I truly am a caring writer). Was I willing to forsake my darling fiction for the sake of getting non-fictionally laid? And why hadn’t Sally responded to my postcard? If I could just write something impressive enough to—
“So what happened with them?” Accuse me of speculating the stars, but I believe that Arcangela saw something happen in my eyes when Sally came over my mind and immediately knew everything about who I was. I believe that she asked me to continue my story not because she was interested in finding out what happened but because she had, in an instant, developed a motherly sense of protection toward me and wanted to shield me, at least in thought, from this Calypso, this anglerfish, this anti-mother that was Sally. Admittedly, these ideas may well have been fabricated by D. H. Lawrence whose “Sons and Lovers” I had just finished reading.
“So John and Sheila exchanged numbers and agreed to meet up again in the near future. They went their separate ways and everything was wonderful.”
Sheila Arcangela smiled [need adverb] as though to say that she was satisfied with the story even if nothing exciting had happened in the end. Her eyes told me that she wanted me to tell her that she had pretty eyes or pretty hair or pretty anything. But my story wasn’t over.
“The next day, John receives a call from Sheila. She immediately explodes into a fury, asking John what the hell is the story with this story about seducing women with Brian O’Nolan. Befuddled, John tries to calm her down and figure out what she’s so worked up about. Sheila explains that she woke up this morning and read through John’s website. She waits for him to defend himself as though her case had been completely and clearly made. John earnestly tells her that he doesn’t understand. Sheila threatens to hang up. So John asks her what story she is talking about and at the same time pulls up the website to see for himself.”
“Oh, it was you!” Arcangela interjected, again surprising me with her ability to understand what I was saying. I playfully widened my eyes and made a “shhh” gesture with my finger. Yes, it was me.
“A few days before John and Sheila met, I had posted a pair of entries on the website. The first one revolved around my character’s desire to seduce women with his knowledge of Brian O’Nolan. John, realizing what has happened, begins to explain that Alex must have recently written the Brian O’Nolan seduction piece. Sheila asks, ‘who the hell is Alex?’ John explains that I’m his writing partner and that we work on the project together. Sheila rhetorically asks John whether Alex is a real person or just a pseudonym that he writes under and then proceeds to reference the second entry that I wrote in which my character wonders whether, like Brian O’Nolan’s Flann O’Brien, he ought to create a pseudonym for himself under which he can hide from reality. John is incapable of responding; his mind is completely blown. As was mine when he told me about all of this.”
“Jesus,” half-whispers Arcangela, now staring down into her still-full drink. “So that crazy coincidence ruined John’s relationship with Sheila?”
“Far from it,” I replied, letting instinct kick in as my story settled into its natural end: “John had me call Sheila and convince her that I was not just a pseudonym but a real person. She ultimately came around. And the funny thing is, the whole ordeal brought them closer in the end—closer than a simple conversation about literature ever could have brought them.” At “closer” I began sliding around the table closer to Arcangela and at “brought them” I ran my hand around her lower back and gently brought her body into mine. And then she
on the couch beside her, I suddenly felt repelled by her closeness to me. Perhaps she wanted to save me but perhaps I didn’t want to be saved. Or perhaps it was all drunken nonsense like it always was. She would never mistreat me in that perfect way that Sally mistreated me—the mistreatment that got my ass up off that goddamned couch and made me actually write something. I would never write anything about Arcangela Virtuoso.
She put on her clothes while I smoked a cigarette. Another one that wasn’t the one.
[“de todos los medios imposibles para llevarla a término…” written in print between paragraphs; it is unclear whether this is the last line of Amoretti’s letter or the first of Young’s resumption.]
The postmarks on the postcards (uniformly 4.6.2010, ten days ago) prohibit the possibility that Amoretti observed my interactions with Keren last night. Yet I cannot escape the sense that Amoretti’s fiction has somehow been dictated by my life.
Incidentally, he did mention “Back to the Future” in his manuscript which—impossible. Impossible. [Illegible]
All that matters now is for me to determine what to do. To this end, the meta-coincidence (i.e. the essential facsimile of the Keren coincidence (i.e. Keren’s actualization of the Kierkegaardian seduction idea contained in my diary) contained in Amoretti’s manuscript) must either be discarded or—Aha! There it is: “essential facsimile.” Amoretti’s story is similar in form but not congruent in content to my experience! Parallel but not coincident! This might be it: The parallelism between Alejandro’s story and my experience provides me with two instances of human beings dealing with a similar coincidence; perhaps John’s response is meant to guide my own. So how did John respond? Initially his mind was “completely blown” but then—yes! this is it: Instead of letting coincidence ruin the relationship, John moves past it and simply focuses on the matter that lies behind it: Sheila. So perhaps I am meant to interpret the meta-coincidence as an omen advising me to follow the example of John: ignore coincidence and focus on Keren.
But no. As usual, my mind has dug itself into a paradox: If I am meant to ignore coincidence then I must ignore the coincidence that has revealed to me that I am meant to ignore coincidence. The tower crumbles. And yet another grand fucking coincidence: I’ve always marveled at the beauty of paradox and now it threatens to—Aha! There it is: “the beauty of paradox.” There was paradox in Amoretti’s story as well: “Arcangela Virtuoso. Beautifully paradoxical.” How did John respond to paradox? He saw it, acknowledged it and then—Jesus—he obliterated it: “You have a beautiful name.” The name is no longer beautifully paradoxical, but just beautiful. As though “paradoxical” were no more than a word. Am I to do the same? Obliterate “coincidence” as though it were just a word? Let me try: There is no Keren-coincidence. There is only Keren. And I must find her.
That would have been a good place to end. But my [need noun] isn’t finished. Try as I might, I cannot ignore a certain existential canker growing in my stomach: What if it is not my life that is dictating Amoretti’s fiction but Amoretti’s fiction that is dictating my life? The entire edifice of deduction that lies above rests upon the assumption that Amoretti’s letter is a fountainhead of significancy—that the meta-coincidence was immaculately molded from the fabric of divine providence. But what if the letter is merely artifice, something manmade, no more than a game being played by an author attempting to make his fiction transcend “its native womb of words and pages” and meddle with the reality of a human being? I must find Amoretti.
I stand now at a crossroads. I can either board a plane in two days and fly to New York City to meet with Amoretti and proceed to figure out what the fuck is going on between my life and his fiction—or I can go find Keren and proceed with falling in love with her. Tell me, is it better to forge forward into love unfettered by a past pregnant with incidental simulacra? or to dive down into the utmost depths of existence, to the core of the universe and there pluck out a grain of pure understanding?
Logos or Love. Logos or Love. That is the question.
* * *
The other question: Why am I writing all of this to you? Because somewhere, deep beneath the film of egoism, altiloquence and philological fastidiousness enshrouding my prose, I truly am a human being: I found something beautiful, Rick. I wanted to share it with you. That’s what humans do, right? Even so and despite my best-laid plans, I fear that, like some over-witted wraith of Lenny Small, I’ve lovingly wrung the life out of it with my over-vigorous words.
I will only say that I will say no more.
When I get back from my travels please send these down to my office in one of those inter-office manila envelope things. And make sure that Lenore doesn’t read any of it. Thanks, Rick.