sitting within this greeneried campus I sit speaking ideas into my phone when this girl starts screaming. clutching her phone and spinning herself around
-there's this three-pronged or tri-fold reaction I have - surprise, understanding, surprise. what's going on? followed by must have heard some very good news. followed by no, something more. she's screaming too hard, actions too exaggerated, I can't feel any elation in her voice, she's falling to the grass, this figure far away just a collection of dark-clothed limbs and a golden-haired oval composed in a gesture I haven't seen before really, really.
I can't remember the last time I've heard so much anguish and horror in these shrieks; I can tell (or I feel like I can tell) that her world's rending itself apart, turning itself over. there's a lump in my throat (for her) and like most everybody else nearby I'm looking over, us all frozen in action and gazing towards this girl. uncomfortably she's lower than us in terms of altitude, I'm on a bench, others on elevated steps, and the amplitheater-ish setting could almost feel like an event with the skeletal trappings of a play, but it's not. uncertain whether to go nearer or to look away with respect my decisionless ears take in this shriek less than my eyes do the image of this turning head-clutching to-the-ground collapsing girl for whom the world seems to have fallen apart and asunder, heart literally wrenched.
or so I conjecture and I also continuously remind myself that I'm not sure what's going on but intertwined with this is the desire to figure out. what could be the case, the impetus for someone to sound like this? phrases like 'cry of anguish' don't cut it, don't dial it far up enough. what? death in the family. more than just a death in the family - death of the family? end of the world? and yes, now that I think about it it sounds apocalyptic, eschatalogical, and so I check the new york times on a whim, less with literal hopes but more because a) I sometimes (irrationally) feel that the intersections of personal lives and broadcast news which really so often tells us what's going on are so disparate, so disjunct when really everything is so construed out of these personal lives, and b) there's this semi literary or poetic gesture that I realize I'm doing that I'm not altogether proud of that's just sort of checking, understanding in advance that the world doesn't align like these, my conjecture of this girl's world-shattering event all the more perceivable as more important and more dire and more heartwrenching precisely because these events are these things not on a global scale but on a micro scale, this absolute upending so emphasized because of its microscopic scale next to the monstrous workings of things. smaller but in no way less significant.
and then part of me now, a few minutes afterwards this all, after ambulances have come and the benevolent passersby lending their help lead this girl away, after I can't see or hear this confusion anymore but it just lingers around in my ears like it's stuck in tiny hairs on my cochlea, aural residue here and there -- part of me now realizes that it was literary, not as some ill-defined poetic beautiful romantic event but in that my understanding of this was structured the way that my understanding of literature is structured; the logic of events borrowing from the logic of fictions. I wonder briefly if this demeans or belittles or renders this girl into too flat and powerless of a subject ("I'll go write about this at home -- it'll make a good tale!") but discard that for later not because I've come to terms with anything but because I'm just feeling things out.
as always, as always I'm reminded of the way that perceptions and experiences of things are always more present than depictions of experiences, things plunge into you, you ask for spears to be thrown and to break your skin, interminglings of blood and atmosphere. not ruptures ex nihilo but conceptual departures from the way you think, from the way your world is structured. I have this image of atlas, or rather an endless number of smaller atlases. carrying their own worlds on their backs. vesicles of thought self-contained until they collide at which the exact moment of this collision is where things start, nuclear fission, mousetraps in an enclosed room-