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Across the Veil

October 15, 2012

Dear Self,


The world without you is cold. Cold, but not gray. All the colors, all the seasons, all those wonderful things you always talked about and loved – they’re still around. The sun still shines, as you said, over nothing new. The carnival doesn’t migrate anymore, but the birds do. You should have seen Times Square this time last year. It’s just like you imagined it when you read stories about the apocalypse – nature reclaiming her own, families of deer wandering down the road, wolves watching from department stores. Autumn leaves from all those trees you can’t uproot.

If you didn’t guess already, I’ve been doing some traveling. Going all those places I always tried to get you to take me. It’s not quite like I imagined. Everything’s distant. I went a while ago to see that big statue of Jesus in Rio. His face has been draped in green fungi, along with his arms, but I like to imagine he rests comfortably in that lime’d light. But perhaps his sight is not so availed. Below, the slums, or what remains, lie as they did when you left – on the back burner, out of sight; hidden behind great walls. There are many ghosts in Rio. But as you know, the Redeemer sees more than even the Sun.


I’m writing to you now from the top of Mount Huashan in China. Believe it or not, I actually feel rather lucky, for at least there are no tourists to spoil the atmosphere with gossip or the snap-click of digitals. But neither are there any old wise men to speak in riddles. Still… I can almost feel the wind from the movement of the trees, and I can watch the clouds flowing down below, over the ridges. The mountains all around appear to me like frozen waves, caught forever in some unknown storm. It gives this pervasive silence a strange sense of rightness. I think I’ll stay here for awhile.


I had another visitation some time ago. This time, she was waiting for me in our old home. Can you imagine the shame? To think her eyes had to take in all that. I don’t even know why I went back in the first place, but I did, just as she in her wisdom knew I would. I tried to hide, at first, praying that perhaps she would simply pass me by. But that was to ask the impossible, and she heard me, besides.

“You have been here a long time now,” she said to me.

“Have I?” I admit I could not resist the snappiness, born, as it was, out of fear.

“Yes.” That was all she said.

She waited. I grew self-conscious.

“What do you want?”

“I want you to get out of here. As I always have.”

“You say that, but here I am.”

She smiled. I caved.

“I’m sorry. I’m trying.”

“I know.” She paused. “You’ve come so far. You’re almost there.”

Another smile. I was arrested. Then resentful.

“Thanks,” I said.

I now regret my resentment, and perhaps that is the progress she spoke of.

“I’ll see you again soon.” And just like that, she was gone.


That reminds me: I met someone famous the other day. If I were you, I’d certainly be jealous. Can you guess who?

It was Borges. Borges! Can you imagine that?! Well, actually, I’m sure you can. And as you might imagine, he was generally unconcerned with our mutual states of being (non-being?), drifting here and there, rolling the boulder and alone on Earth. Much like his self might have been, he was quite fascinated by how similar to the old world this is, and how different. Of course, his world was his own, as it was when he died, but I feel we all inhabit similar planes.

Oh, you should have seen him! Waving his arms around, blindness forgotten, talking of dimensions and labyrinths and alephs. All the things he loved. I told him how much you and I loved “The Library of Babel”, how ‘Three Versions of Judas” delivered to us religion (is that what I have?) in ways Mass never did.

You’ll no doubt be pleased to know he was faint – so faint that I wondered if he might just ascend as soon as he finished speaking. It was such that, were I none the wiser, I might have taken him for a mirage, an illusion painted by an odd assortment of leaves and shadow. I told him as much, and do you know what he said?

“Why, I daresay you might be correct. Or, perhaps, I am the canvas and these leaves and shadows are painted on me. And I, being such a canvas, have been slowly giving way to them, more and more – ” It was as if his eyes could suddenly see. He stopped moving, looked around, and then at me, “It seems I am my self.”

And just like that, he was gone.

So, do not worry about me, my dear friend, for though I do not yet fully understand what he meant, and though sometimes in my despair I fear I shall never transliterate his epiphanies, I do have faith.

I’ll see you again soon.





From → Short Stories

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