A Disappearance

You regain consciousness only to discover that the great sea barge bearing your body and earthly effects is burning. There is no smoke, just a milky vapor that in your heart you know will interfere with any rescue. You are in a strange ocean, under stars in new orders—the Urn, the Wounded Lioness—and it pains you time will be too short to learn all the names. A spark lights the sea on fire. Flames fan out in big, blue sheets. Times like these call for a kind of knowledge that is confident and kind, without regard for fact. You draw yourself up to your full height and remember an old explanation for the northern lights: the phosphorescence of herrings, reflected in the night sky. Then you dive, grasping after the shoal, that soft word that means both the shallows and the fish who glean the deep.

from Stations of the Cross

I was living in a city where I knew no one. My apartment had a terrace of the sort common to high-rise housing units, from which I would watch the sun set behind two elevated highways that overlapped to form an X. I felt not unlike the Pope giving the Easter blessing. What a megalomaniac assertion of my ego, I said to the Space next to me. The Space tacitly agreed. It was a deflating assessment. Slowly it dawned on me that I could throw myself over the railing. I did not want to, but no longer could I tell disaster from its shadow. I locked the French doors and ran to the Central Station. There was a train leaving in moments for the town of F——. I have never wanted to go to F——. I bought a ticket. The stationmaster was waiting for me in third class with his big gold watch. Evil, he said, paraphrasing Hannah Arendt, is when everything is possible. So I went back to the terrace, where I sit now in endless evening, wishing for a bottle of wine. Ite, missa est…

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