Hannah – Things to Come: a Dreamscape

Summary

As a girl she attended Dresden, and experienced her first of many things.  Looking back, it was a happy time, maybe her happiest, although who can be sure after so many years?  In Dresden, before she turned 18, she had had her first tentative love affair.  Not with a student, but with a local man.   

She did not remember him as integral to the happy years; to be honest, she did not remember him at all.  She did not remember that in fact he had been a student; though he’d graduated some time before she attended.  Of all her memories at Dresden, the only remnant of her first lover was the dream.

It was a recurrent dream, and it followed her through the first great war, and then the second.  It came to her on unexpected nights, after her wedding night and her children’s first Christmas Eves’.  It came to her in her last nights of old age, after all her memories of the happy Dresden years had faded, it, the dream, remained.   Which is really too bad, because it was a terrible dream and whatsmore stemmed from a conversation in 1915, which had not lasted five minutes and was totally unremarkable.  

But all the same, she dreamt it at eighty as she had at twenty, just as the excerpt which follows shall show (Accompanied by TRG Banks’ ‘Lake in the woods’ from the album Dreamland – no copyright):

Theodore watched her strangely.  

She thought Theodore watched her so strangely; his eyes held secrets and icy fear which is the fear of certain unknowing oscillated and then swamped her, tumbling and tossing between silence and loudness.  She sought him out, her raft, swam across the tavern floor away from Theodore.  There is something I must know her eyes said I have been found out his replied and he propelled her upward.  She floated as he lay on the narrow bed and his young eyes said I trust that nothing bad will come of this and then they said nothing for his head was bowed.  Then (I cannot look away!) he dismantled.  

His hair slid back and beneath a withered orb spider-silk white tufts and browned age spots.  Black brows drifted past for they were only charcoaled on his handsome face which was becoming something else.  His strong legs, both but artificial appendages attached with metal joints which he unhinged and dragged aside.  An arm followed, then the lower jawbone and ears and part of the nose, so at last on the bed a shapeless ancient thing, and its young eyes trusting and hopeful, so hopeful, innocent young eyes in a face that was not a face at all.  

Theodore backstroked past them and laughed relieved, for NOW there were no secrets I see you have told her at last, you old dog! and to her Be not hasty in your actions my dear for what is age but a number?

Virginia Woolf -To the Lighthouse: Part 1, The Window (1927)

Summary

They had not been to the house since the great war.  But before the war there was the last time, the last good time.

The last summer that the family–I mean, the entire family–stayed at the house on the Isle of Skye, their mother arranged everything.  Then, there were eight children, and the parents even still loved one another.  Which is not to say that the marriage was happy, but as far as these things go one might call it successful.  It was a success bought by the father’s professorship, and maintained by the mother’s exhaustive support to his ego.  This, she felt strongly, was the proper order of things.  The mother conducted all of her socializing and dinner parties and matchmaking with uncompromising adherence to the proper order of things.  Despite this, she was really a most beautiful and kindhearted lady.  It is a small mercy she would die so unexpectedly at summers’ end, before she could see the divorce her matchmaking had wrought.  Before she could see the great war, and which of her children’s lives it would claim.

Yes, before all of that, there was the last summer, and the evening at the end of the last summer, when she sat in the parlor while her husband read.  It was at such moments of uninterrupted thought she was most happy.  She drifted into soft dreamscapes of thought and non-thought.

And it is within this moment of her dreaming on the cusp of wakefulness and eternal dreams that I take my excerpt (accompanied by Monplaisir’s ‘Se recourber’ from the Free Music Archive):

And dismissing all this, as one passes in diving now a weed, now a straw, now a bubble, she felt again, sinking deeper, as she had felt in the hall when the others were talking. There is something I want–something I have come to get, and she fell deeper and deeper without knowing quite what it was, with her eyes closed.  And she waited a little, knitting, wondering, and slowly those words they had said at dinner, “the China rose is all abloom and buzzing with the honey bee,” began washing from side to side of her mind rhythmically, and as they washed, words, like little shaded lights, one red, one blue, one yellow, lit up in the dark of her mind, and seemed leaving their perches up there to fly across and across, or to cry out and to be echoed; so she turned and felt on the table beside her for a book.

And all the lives we ever lived

And all the lives to be,

Are full of trees and changing leaves,

she murmured, sticking her needles into the stocking. And she opened the book and began reading here and there at random, and as she did so she felt that she was climbing backwards, upwards, shoving her way up under petals that curved over her, so that she only knew this is white, or this is red. She did not know at first what the words meant at all.

Steer, hither steer your winged pines, all beaten Mariners

she read and turned the page, swinging herself, zigzagging this way and that, from one line to another as from one branch to another, from one red and white flower to another, until a little sound roused her–

Casey – “The Oxford English Dictionary: Thomas Bernhard in Philadelphia”

Setting

When I was ten, it fell to my mother to care for my dying grandfather. Not knowing how long she would be away, and afraid that I would miss too much school if I accompanied her, she sent me to stay with a cousin of my father’s, whom I had never met, who was not on good terms with anyone in the family, but who happened to also live in Center City Philadelphia, conveniently close to my school.

The woman’s last name was Adams. I have no idea what her first name was, and I would still guess her age as anywhere between 25 and 50. I remember that she asked me during our first meeting what I thought about the institution of the family (I said family is the most important thing), if I knew what kind of trees grew in front of my house ( I said tall ones), who was my favorite English poet from the Early Modern period (I said nothing), and then had me write a description of what I had done that day. She then informed me that I was a functional illiterate, but that that was probably an advantage in this country: it made me a more desirable employee.

Over the next few months, we would have long conversations after school. Adams talked to me about literature and philosophy and music (she was a professional violinist), and warned me against the perils of the church, the state, the public education system, the private education system, weddings, the theater, and all art museums, without exception.

Excerpt 

You are short, said Adams, go fetch the Oxford English Dictionary and place it on your chair and then sit on top of it, in that way we can see eye to eye across the table, but before you sit down, turn up the volume of the music, it will help muffle the sound of the perpetual construction on the street, it is always noisy in downtown Philadelphia because it is always under construction, it is never good enough, the center of our discontent, that’s a line from Shakespeare, said Adams, you don’t recognize it do you, all the better really, no author has been more thoroughly besmirched and defiled than Shakespeare. Not long ago, while I was listening to the news I heard an advertisement for the so-called American dream car, “we are the stuff dreams are made on”, that is also a line from Shakespeare, quite a good one, the news is the only production in which the commercials are preferable to the so-called content, there is nothing worse than the news, it is like an eternal train wreck, ghastly and revolting and yet we cannot keep ourselves from slowing down to stare at it, gape at it, every morning, day after day and year after year, we stare at this train wreck, this base and mendacious litany of human depravity that is the news, interspersed with Shakespearean car commercials.

Though really, continued Adams, there could be no more fitting destiny for Shakespeare than car commercials, that is of course what would happen to the greatest writer in the English language, because English is the worst language, the lowest point in the history of the evolution of languages, no other western language has so many words of a single syllable, and that is why English is the perfect language for advertising, it may have a vast vocabulary, at this very moment you’re perched atop its vast vocabulary, but that is not why English is the lengua franca; it is the lengua franca despite its vocabulary, the rich English vocabulary was an obstacle that had to be overcome so that it could become the language of car commercials, said Adams, and this cannot fail to astonish us when we reflect that the purpose of any advertisement is to captivate people’s fantasies and play on their desire for luxuries, and nevertheless it is impossible to imagine a less sensual or luxurious language than English, in the great family of languages English is the spinster aunt whose only hobby is attending church and undertaking perversely unnecessary knitting projects.

English is a dry, spinsterly language, a fact which is amply demonstrated anytime any one of the so-called great writers of the English language is translated into another, superior language. Edgar Allan Poe is more terrifying in French (his prose I mean–of his unbearably infantile singsong poetry the less said the better), Milton’s pandemonium only attains truly epic proportions in Italian, Faulkner’s decaying southern gentry is more southern and more decadent in Spanish, and every other English writer is better, much better, in German, where at least they sound as if their words might possibly have some sort of substance and consequence, admittedly a grim consequence, but even that is better than the English language’s unflagging iambic pentameter imperative to buy or pay or eat or grope or play or kill or fuck or brunch or, worse, do brunch, now that is a truly terrifying proposition, to do brunch, never consort with anyone who does his meals instead of eating them, especially when those meals that he does are not proper meals at all, it is extraordinary how English has, in a few brief centuries, managed to reduce the whole range of human action to this grey leaden menacing do, said Adams, and just as the English-speaking peoples of the world sally forth to do Paris or do Rome or do the islands of the South Pacific, so too do they do brunch and those other absurdly-named meals in which they pause from their tedious monosyllabic activities to take some nourishment so that they might continue to do other, equally tedious monosyllabic activities, because to act in English is always tedious and monosyllabic, like so many raps on the knuckles or barks of a foreman or beats on the galley-slave drum.

Horacio Castellanos Moya – Disgust: Thomas Bernhard in San Salvador (1997)

Setting

I met Vega in a bar one afternoon. It was the first time I had seen him in nearly 20 years. We were friends in high school, or we knew each other any way, but he had left the coutnry as soon as he graduated and I hadn’t seen or heard from him since. It appeared, however, that though I had barely remembered his name, I was the closest thing he had to a friend in his native country.

I had stayed in the city. I am a journalist, but shortly before Vega’s return I had decided that I wanted to write fiction. Vega, meanwhile, had spent the last eighteen years in voluntary exile in Canada: he made a comfortable living as an art history professor at a prestigious university, and he had a Canadian passport, his prize possession.  He had come back to attend his mother’s funeral–it was the only thing that could have brought him back. During the nightmarish two weeks in his native country, he passed the hot afternoons hiding from his brother, whom he hated, and his brother’s family, whom he abhorred, in a small bar on the fringes of the city. The country made him nervous, anxious, he had to talk to someone about it, and I was at hand, so he talked to me.

Excerpt (my translation)

I love coming here at the end of the afternoon, sitting here in the patio, drinking a couple of whiskies in peace, listening to the music that I ask the bartender to turn on for me, Vega told me, not sitting at the bar, there inside, it’s very hot at the bar, it’s very hot inside, it’s better here, in the patio, with a drink and the jazz that the bartender plays. This is the only place in this country where I feel okay, the only decent place, all the other bars are vile and abominable, full of men who drink to the point of obliteration, I can’t understand it, Moya, I can’t understand how these people drink this disgusting bear so eagerly, Vega told me, it’s a filthy beer, a beer for animals that only gives you diarrhea, that is what people drink here, and the worst thing is that they are proud of drinking it, they are capable of killing you if you tell them that what they are drinking is filth, dirty water, and not beer at all, no other country in the world would consider this beer, Moya, you know it as well as I do, it’s a disgusting liquid, and it can only be drunk with such passion out of ignorance, Vega told me, they are so ignorant that they drink this filth with pride, and not with just any pride, but with national pride, with the pride that they are drinking the best beer in the world, because this is the first and foremost characteristic of ignorant societies, they consider that their shit is the best in the world, they are capable of killing you if you deny that their shit, their poisonous nauseating beer, is the best beer in the world….

I haven’t been back for eighteen years, and during those eighteen years I didn’t miss any of this, not for a moment, because I left precisely to flee from this country, it always seemed to me the most cruel and inhumane joke that, with all the countries there are in the planet, it was my lot to be born here, I could never accept that of the hundreds of countries there are in the world, I was fated to be born in the worst of them all, in the most stupid, in the most criminal, I could never accept it, Moya, that’s why I went to Montreal, and long before the war, I didn’t leave this country as an exile, or to seek better economic conditions, I left because I could never accept my macabre fate of having been born in this country, Vega told me.

I don’t understand how it could have occurred to you to stay here, in this country, it is truly absurd if what you’re interested in is writing literature. It shows that in fact you have no interest in writing literature, no one interested in writing literature could choose a country as degenerate as this one, a country where no one reads literature, a country in which the few people who are able to read would never read a literary book, they even shut down the language departments in the universities, that gives you some idea, Moya, here no is is interested in literature, that’s why they shut down the departments, because there are no students of literature, all the young people want to study business administration, that’s what interests them, not literature, everyone wants to study business administration in this country, in reality in a few a years there will be no one but business administrators, you live in a country that will soon be populated entirely by business administrators, that is the truth, Vega told me, the horrible truth.

Shawn Christensen – “Before I Disappear” (2014)

Summary

In the first draft of the last letter Richie would ever write, the New Yorker thought only of Vista. Since her disappearance, he’d been accused of being an observer, a user, a loner, a cleaner, a failure and a fool but never a participant. The drugs no longer worked; it was time to call it quits. Richie concluded his first draft with a set mind. Last night, cleaning bathroom stalls at The Devoe, he’d found the corpse of an overdosed woman; she’d reminded him of Vista. Richie had alerted the club owner, who’d dumped the body and given Richie several packets of heroin for his trouble.  Richie understood the intent behind the generosity, but had trouble caring.  Now, drugs flushed down the toilet, he settled into the bathtub’s red, lapping water.

In addition to participant, since Vista’s disappearance no one had accused Richie of being many things which he nevertheless was. For instance; amateaur bowler, doodler, album collector, and estranged brother.  As the reddening water cooled, the phone rang; his estranged sister was on the line. They had not spoken in years.  She was in jail, won’t say why, and demands that her silently bleeding brother pick her daughter up from school.

In the second draft of the last letter Richie would ever write, he informs Vista that he now feels worse, if that is possible. His 12-year-old niece, Sophia, is a gymnast that reads Emily Dickinson in Mandarin, was skipping 6th grade, and had significantly less interest in Richie than studying for tomorrow’s exam.  Richie downs a bottle of pills and hallucinates that drug dealers are calling him for money.  Richie threatens to shoot them, but the caller is Sophia, informing him that her mother is not yet home. Groggily, Richie agrees to come over. He calls his dealer to ask why the pills don’t put him to sleep, and is told he has taken a bottle of menopause medication.

Richie soon realizes that his sister’s apartment is being stalked by a strange blonde woman.  However, unwilling to take Sophia to the future crime scene of his apartment, the two wait in subways,  24-hour bowling alleys and nightclub lounges until his sister’s 4am arraignment. Over these hours, Richie discovers that the dead woman from last night was dating a powerful man, who is frantic to find her.  Reminded of Vista, Richie sneaks Sophia back to her apartment, finds the man to tell him his lover is dead, and is summarily beaten unconscious.  Richie wakens in a car with the man, who has paid for his sisters’ lawyer and never wants to see him again.  He drops Richie off at the courthouse, where the blond woman is waiting; she tells him his sister is having an affair with her husband.  Richie returns to his apartment and throws himself back into the red water. The phone rings incessantly; it is his sister. She invites him to dinner on Friday, but warns she will kill him if he disappoints Sophia and hangs up. Richie gets out of the tub.

In the final draft of the last letter Richie ever meant to write, he tells Vista that he has discovered a part of himself buried for many years that wants to see the sun rise tomorrow.

Excerpt  (Accompanied by David Bowie performing Five Years)    

Dear Vista, you’re not gonna believe this but I now feel worse than I did before. I’m not even kidding. Still, my plan remains the same but I cannot bear to return to the red water. I’m gonna try a softer approach this time. Something that won’t leave quite as much mess. Normally, as you know, I try to stay away from the pills because of the adverse side effects, especially the paranoid delusions. They’re usually the first to surface. I really hope it doesn’t happen now. Particularly the one delusion where I owe people money.

The ringing phone interrupted his scribblings.

“Richie!”

“Yeah?”

“You got our money?”

“Who is this?”

“You know who this is. And you know the number. It’s 800 dollars.”

“800 dollars? Yeah, I thought it was 600.”

“No, that was yesterday. Today it’s 800.”

“Yeah, well, what if I give it to you tomorrow? What’s it gonna be then?”

“You won’t have it tomorrow, Richie. That’s the point. You’ll never have it.”

Richie lit a cigarette. “I’ll have it tomorrow. I’m gonna have it for you tomorrow at dinnertime.”

“Dinnertime. So 5 o’clock?”

“Dinnertime is 7 o’clock.”

“Dinnertime is 5 o’clock where I come from.”

“Yeah? Well, I guess you come from America. I come from New York where it’s 7 o’clock.”

“You full of shit, Richie, you ain’t gonna have our money by tomorrow.”

“I ain’t full of shit!”

“You’re so full of shit.”

“You’re so full of shit…You know what I’m full of?” Richie started to yell. “I’m full of 20 sleeping pills, you pile of dung shit. Okay? So I’m gonna be long gone by tomorrow comes around.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Yeah, that’s right. I’ll be facedown in a puddle of my own puke by the time you show up here, okay? So meet me up whenever. 5 o’clock, 7 o’clock, I don’t care. I’m gonna be long gone, you understand?”

“You fuckin’ psycho.”

“600 dollars, 800 dollars, why don’t we just make it a thousand? Go fuck yourself!” Sloppily, he crashed the phone to it’s cradle. A party was going in the hall outside the apartment, music started playing. The phone rang again.

“I’m coming to see you now, Richie.”

“No, that doesn’t work for me.”

“We’ll just see about those sleeping pills.”

“You come tomorrow night, dinnertime.”

“You just stay right there.”

“I’m gonna be long gone by the time you come around.”

“I’m already in the building.”

“What?”

“I said I’m already in the building, Richie.”

“Bullshit!”

“There’s a party going on up there, right? Yeah, Richie. Party celebrating the longest day of the year.”

Richie’s looked at the door. “Nah, there ain’t no party going on up here.”

“Oh, yes there is. They’re playing music up there. I can hear it.”

“Yeah? What song are they playing?”

“It’s a good song, Richie. It’s David Bowie, I think…yeah, it is. It’s ‘Five Years’ by David Bowie.” The line went dead.

Richie floated to the hallway as if a dream. All around were people in costume.  He lifted a mask from an unconscious boy, a cardboard bow from a cupid, and faced the elevator. It opened. Inside was Vista, she reached for him. In his hand, the phone rang.  He was broken. He was hollow. He spoke without inflection, “I’m gonna shoot you in the face with a bow and arrow.”

Sophia answered, “She hasn’t come home.”  

Hannah – The Alfred Hitchcock ‘B’

Summary

On headphones in the quiet basement cubicle, Barry listens to himself get berated by a strangers.  This is part of his job; every Friday he listens to the Most Challenging Call from the week before.  The automated voice that says Some calls are recorded for training purposes does not lie.  Though Barry was not listening for training purposes. That was why management required him to listen.  That was why Barry was supposed to listen.  But Barry listened for other reasons. He listens intently to the stranger scream “just transfer me to the manager, you fat fuck!”  Barry has been noticing that inference more often, and hearing his own placating response, he understands why.  It is how he pronounces words starting with the letter ‘b’.  For instance, how he might better assist, that he doesn’t believe that is Company policy.  And, of course, the introduction: Hello, my name is Barry, how may I help you…? The Alfred Hitchcock “B”. The recording ended. Barry rewinds again and hits play.

Barry works odd shifts so there is hardly any traffic out of Atlanta when he leaves work.  Barry makes two stops on the way home. One for fish food, the other for a newspaper and .22 caliber ammunition.  It is Friday, and his roommate, Steve, will be gone for the weekend. Barry met Steve four years ago at a Weight Watchers meeting. Steve had since become an Aerobics Instructor and lost 280 lbs.  Barry was waiting for Steve to break the news that had been hiding in his voice for months; he was moving out. Barry understood why.  His presence–albeit a distant one, as the two had very different schedules–reminded Steve of a life he’d worked desperately to escape.  A life that no one would choose for himself, where you placate strangers who called you a fat fuck over the phone.  Sure enough, the answering machine is blinking when Barry gets home; this was how the roommates communicated now, in awkward answering machine messages.  Listening to the recording, Barry feeds his fish.  It is a pink beta fish Barry named Pinker, after Virginia Wolf’s family cocker spaniel.  And, like Virginia, Barry pronounces it ‘Pinka.’ Pinker fed, Barry loads his gun, and he decides his last meal will be Checkers.

Barry struggles to place his order at the drive-thru. He thinks how embarrassing to ask for a burger or buffalo wings and his voice cracks.  Barry realizes the cashier can hear him sobbing; he spits out a combo number and parks his car.  A young girl brings his food.  She nonchalantly hands him extra napkins and asks, not unkindly, if she can get him anything else.  She has braces that seem new, and lisps badly. Barry realizes it’s the first real voice he’s heard in years.  

Excerpt (Accompanied by Happy Hollows performing Endless)

The voice above the brightly lit drive-thru menu was hardly a voice at all. More static puffs than words, ageless and sexless.  Did humans still work here?  Were they all machines now?

Did it matter?  Barry shook his head.  He was tired of noticing these things. He looked at the menu.  The combinations were familiar of course; he’d been coming here for years.  But tonight their names blurred.  Just ask for a number 4 or number 5.  Better that than a burger no mayo or buffalo wings.  He thought again of last week’s call, and shuddered in disgust at his own voice.

“Just a minute,” he told the menu.

“Take your time,” it grated back.

It was hard to breathe.  Probably the AVSD.  In its early stages, atherosclerosis were also called “fatty streaks.”  Presumably because they made your arteries look like marbled steak.  Chris Farley’d had them.  Newspapers all across the country had cited them as a contributing factor in his overdose.  Barry was self-diagnosed.  Since Chris had died, he’d stopped watching SNL.

Screw it, he’d just get both. He tried to order and his voice cracked.

“Could you say that again?” asked the menu.

“A number 4 and 5,” Barry gasped.

There was a long silence.  Maybe the mechanical voice belonged to a real person, and that real person could hear that Barry was losing it.  Losing it right here, right now, in the Checkers drive-thru.

Casey – Provisional title “The Duel: Its Advantages”

Summary

Pablo was a man of small fortune but possessed an excellent figure, lively conversation, and great ambitions. Thanks to these latter three qualities, he managed to marry well, to a woman whose teeth were as prominent as her social position. But the marriage proved intolerable, his jealous wife spying upon his every movie. In a panic, Pablo left Madrid one night and fled to Toledo, a city of impregnable tradition still locked in the Middle Ages. Within this fortress on a hill lived Pablo’s estranged brother Miguel. The brothers had not spoken for a decade, but given the circumstances, Pablo was certain that Miguel would offer him asylum, at least until he could secure a post somewhere in the American colonies.

Upon arriving in his brother’s house in Toledo, Pablo was greeted by Miguel’s wife Julia. She called him Miguel. From the servants Pablo learned that Miguel had died quite suddenly two months ago, leaving his adoring young wife Julia crazed with grief. In her insanity, poor Julia believed Pablo to be Miguel, returned not from death, but rather a long journey.

At first Pablo found Julia’s delusion both awkward and grotesque. But having nowhere else to go, he remained. He soon discovered that, for a modern man like himself, free of old-fashioned scruples, there are certain advantages to living with a beautiful albeit demented woman who believes one to be her husband. Especially when that women also commands a modest fortune. Best of all, Julia only required his attentions at night; during the day, she was completely indifferent to him, occupying herself instead with maintaining the household and attending mass, leaving him free to do as he pleased.

Pablo was a sociable man, and eventually his fear of being discovered by his wife was eclipsed by his need to enter into society, or what passed for society in Toledo. One hot evening, after having imbibed one too many glasses or bottles, he made some remarks about Julia that suggested that he knew her more intimately than it is customary for brother in laws to know their sisters’ in-law. The bar fell silent. A man at the table next to him stood up, paid his bill, and asked Pablo to choose the time, place and weapon. I am Julia’s brother, he said; Pablo had insulted his sister’s honor, and he demanded satisfaction. When it dawned on Pablo that Marcos had challenged him to a duel, he initially declined; there hadn’t been any duels in Spain for ages, he said. But under the silent stare of the men at the bar, all of them sneering at him in their heads, he found he was more terrified of being thought a coward than of facing a pistol. To cover his lapse of courage, he feigned effrontery, loudly insisting that he was the offended one, that Marcos had slandered his sister-in-law, and he demanded satisfaction. Both men would now fight for their sister’s honor.

An hour was agreed upon; Neutral and level ground was named, and the finest pair of duelling pistols in Toledo were borrowed, cleaned, and loaded. As dawn broke, Pablo found himself, still drunk, standing on the riverbank, a two-hundred-year-old pistol in his hand.

From her window, Julia watched Pablo and Marcos count their paces. She smiled, gave thanks to God for his mercy, for deciding himself which man he would take, and which one he would leave for her. It had been so difficult to choose between them! The handsome brother of her husband, her lover by night; and Marcos, her adopted brother and, for some time now, the secret lover with whom she shared the long siestas of the afternoon.

When she saw the men turn and take aim, she too turned her back to the window. When the shots rang out and one man fell and the other felt relieved to be alive, Julia collapsed onto her bed, overcome by her own tremendous relief: the matter had been resolved honorably. Now there was no need to let her fate be decided by that word that everyone is obsessed with but can never explain or define, that most enigmatic of concepts, love.

Excerpt (accompanied by “Compás de tangos (lentos)”)

People who come from the capital often find the men in our town gruff and taciturn, they complain of our dismal conversation, equating slow speech with slow minds. But we are thinking all the time, always measuring carefully each word and its myriad interpretive possibilities before uttering it, and tending, when we drink, to be more melancholic than loquacious.

In our town, words have weight. If we say we will pay a man, we will pay him. We are not divine, we cannot, as our Lord can, see into the soul of a man; we must judge by appearances, we must judge a man by his words and his deeds, and is to every man and woman’s benefit, and to the benefit of society, that those two things be the same thing, and not contradict one another. Men are a fallen and degraded race. What, then, is to keep us from deceiving one another? What is to keep us from uttering malicious calumnies, insulting and saying disgraceful, vulgar, or idiotic things against our sisters and brothers? Only the knowledge that if you insult or slander one of your fellows, a person who is no less one of God’s creatures than you are, if you levy accusations against a man or a woman, then you must must be prepared to back your words with your life. A society of men without honor is a society of lies, and it will be ruled not by the wisest men, or the the just men, or even the strongest men, but rather by the men who are the greatest liars.