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Authors: Sergio De La Pava

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Personae (5 page)

BOOK: Personae
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He wants to be that reader so the feet go up and forward, up and forward, and he gets closer he thinks but maybe not, in fact
definitely
not
he realizes so he abandons walking and begins to swim in the exaggerated head nodding negatively manner of the merely competent swimmer. When he stops he has not covered a distance aptly commensurate with his effort and he is not big on physical effort so he decides to instead stay and stare until later doing what’s required to reach shore.

The water is no longer cold although its temperature is unchanged. What has changed is the body in it, lowering to harmonize with nature. The sculptures he now feels he can do without but the writing is another matter. He longs to read it. He cannot from where he is stuck. He cannot ask anyone for help because there is no one who can help. He also sees now that the letters are enormous and numerous. What this means is that even when he later stands on the sand he may not, even then, be able to read the message from sandlevel. What he would need then is an aerial view.

How he sees it is that if there were a God and, further, you were He, you would look down and see emptiness interrupted but minimally. The competing sculptures, the clothes, and the writing you would doubtlessly read. The only movement is water spilling over sand then hastily retreating, again and again. And this water is not travelogue aqua it is practically black and the sand white meaning what you would see in constant repetition is Black encroaching on White, Dark on Light, Night on Day; Death, ultimately, on Life.

Maybe someone has the vantage point of God but none of his purported power. This someone looks down to see all and within this all is Tenrod immersed in kinetic water, his feet gripping unsteadily the sandy bottom. But the prospect of a flawed someone observing him unsettles the professor and makes him want principally to exit that water and clothe his body.

There is no such person he decides and as if in response the water moves him more palpably than before; pushes then pulls him, impels him forward before sucking him back in, closer to land then farther from it. Whether there is someone above, he supposes, is a form of speculation. That there is no other person in his visible vicinity is not, it is verifiable fact. He turns to look out at the water and sees the truth of what he already felt, there is no one out there either. Truth is nothing is out there. There is no boat or craft of any kind, no buoys or other flotsam, no objects. Instead the water just flattens out as you move away from land until it forms, at a final distance, that paradigmatically sharp yet somehow still blurry line.

The line fills him with dread, always has. The seeming finality of the line undercut by its almost imperceptible curvature is maybe what does it. The enduring silence of infinite space is the phrase his mind quotes or misquotes when he sees that. It was a mistake. Everything that began with two hands moving the rounded apex of a wheel ever slightly to the right was mistaken and how terrible it then seemed to him that he was not Brunelleschi; that he did not build those structures, concrete structures that will endure as every living thing around them is erased.

It is no longer a question of desire he simply
must
decipher what is written on the sand. And it is not his imagination that he is farther from the writing than before. He tries to walk forward and finds he cannot.
Riptide
he says aloud and the sound of a human voice, even his own, piercing the silence troubles him. He is suddenly conscious of his breathing and unable to make it autonomic again. He must resume swimming only now he’s tired. Fortunately a wave rises up behind him just as he begins. It lifts and propels him and there is a moment where he feels weightless, supported and borne up by the very universe, ascendant in his safe return to solid footing.

But the moment passes, the wave that first lifted him now sluices under his body and continues on without him. He watches it reach sand as his feet touch down only to immediately slide back in rejection. He is still sensing his every breath and they are more plentiful than before. He is not a strong swimmer.
Riptide
he says again and tries to remember everything he knows about them. He’s certain the solution involves the word perpendicular, or is it parallel? He often gets the two confused. Also horizontal and vertical. And when he needs to put something in alphabetical order he kind of still sings the song. He is naked in the ocean being taken deeper and thinking things like that.

He must rest. Gather his strength. If no one comes he will have to swim with great urgency to overcome the tensile water. It is water that has arrived here at long last from the remotest reaches of the globe and it now intends to flow back whence it came and begin anew the relentless cycle. The professor is no obstacle. He says all that aloud. He is floating on his back, drifting out and talking to empty air. He says the word riptide a few more times until it no longer seems to make sense; it can’t be the right word, can’t even be a word
period
its sounds are so funny.

Soon he will swim but is there a point if nobody comes? He calls for someone to come. If someone comes the whole thing becomes laughably easy but he knows no one will. He calls for someone to come. He is not yelling because he cannot. The sun is almost fully interred now. It will rise and fall, rise and fall, like a bouncing yellow ball and it will never stop. His shriveled skin looks simultaneously aged and fetal with a hint of subcutaneous water. The dying hair on his head is sporadic and matted down to its skull. The lips are blue. The water is not as flat out there as it looked from the sand and his body undulates up and down so it takes strength to keep his face above water and it takes another kind of strength to keep thinking when thoughts no longer endure to completion.

The ocean is vast. What we call the world is just limitless ocean occasionally slowed by land and the people on it. The word
distinguished
is senseless too it seems. He is made in large part of water so water can’t hurt him. If it happens what happens is you swallow and swallow until finally it laughs at your impotence and swallows you. The ocean is rocking him like an infant, bringing him closer then taking him farther. The closer water feels warmer. Each star in the sky contains the remains of a person once swallowed and their dolorous light would illume the earth even in our absence. There are more of yesterday’s people in the water than today walk on land. The Halstaff, yes, Academy is no better than the second best academy. Someone will come if only he’ll keep asking. He is closer and hears someone. He is farther and there is no one. He has not built anything, concrete or otherwise. There is something in the water. It floats. There is no moon. Anything holding it will float. Stars but no moon. He will reach it he sees. The watch will be back on his wrist, phone in his hand. He will call Skye, appeal to Skye. He moves purposely now, acting not acted upon. He is moving so he must be alive. The sky is never empty but below it often is. When he reaches it it is a shirt. It was always a shirt. It was always his shirt, swallowed by the water when the tide rose in reaction to the moon that wasn’t there. The invisible moon was there all along, raising up the unceasing waters to cover the sand in forgetfulness and envelop his defenseless possessions. The writing, never read by a soul, has been obliterated; the sculptures have collapsed in on themselves. The shirt is there but it is nothing, it cannot help. It has a high thread count and Egypt is somehow involved. He lies back. He has to conserve energy until he swims. He will swim to shore. On his back he still moves, the water moves him. He is moving so he must be alive. His movement takes him closer then farther. Always the same. Closer then farther, closer then farther. Always. Closer. Farther. Again. The same. Closer then farther then less closer and farther still, less close then more far, less close than far, farther than closer, far farther. Then farther and farther and farther.

 V

 
2n
d
o
f
3
Excerpt
s
o
f
Dr
.
Hele
n
Tame’
s
Introductio
n
 t
o
He
r
Articl
e: BACH, GOULD, AND
 ACONSPIRATORIAL SILENCE

 

Of this giant, orphaned at ten, ultimately blinded by life itself, who felt he was merely working but in truth made a gift to the world of immeasurable beauty little need be said beyond a brief account of events he authored around 1741.

Around then humans were still organizing themselves into things like Counts and one of them had trouble sleeping so had his Goldberg, fourteen but supremely gifted, play harpsichord (no pianos yet) for him in the antechamber in those instances, which playing must have set into stark relief the relative dearth of cosmos-rattling pieces existent at the time so that this Count Kaiserling sought out Bach to request a creation.

Bach’s response was the following. A timeless aria followed by thirty variations thereof then a heartwounding repetition of the aria as if the whole of life hadn’t just changed in the interim. The aria’s melody is simple if highly ornamented but that’s like saying something like water is simple and so falls well short of the full story. Anyway the variations do not spring from this melody but rather from its harmonic progression and they span the entirety of what can best be termed merely human experience.

Most importantly it would take more than two centuries for the full significance of the above events to emerge. In those centuries Bach would die leaving his masterful
The
Art
of
the
Fugue
incomplete while other men would don uniforms that they might better enslave or liberate others with great improvement in the tools they used to do same and while there’s been a seeming decrease in man’s ability to invent music like the variations the closer we get to today there’s also been an indisputable sea-change in our ability to preserve that music or more accurately performances of that music.

And somewhere in those centuries, on September 25, 1932 in fact—in a house in Toronto, Canada—to another family armed with Music, Glenn Herbert Gould was born.

 VI

 Player
s
A
t
Pla
y
O
n
Th
e
Stag
e
Tha
t
I
s
Th
e
World

PERSONAE

LIST OF DRAMATIC PEOPLE

 

Clarissa: a person

Nestor: another person

Charles: yet another person

Ludwig: a fourth person

Linda: the same person

Adam: the first person plural

Not Adam: the last person singular

ACT ONE

A
clinical
but
ambiguous
room
with
five
beds
in
the
shape
of
an
X.
A
terrible
moaning
by
the
four
inhabitants
growing
in
intensity
and
heartfelt
pain
until
reaching
a
clamorous
din.
A
gun
is
prominently
displayed
in
a
glass
case
in
the
corner
below
a
sign
indicating
it
is
for
emergency
use
only.

 

NESTOR: Wait a minute I just realized I’m all moaning but not in any actual pain.

 

(
all
stop,
seemingly
coming
to
same
realization
)

 

CLARISSA: Your point?

 

NESTOR: That this is bad enough without us having to create unnecessary noise, that point.

 

CLARISSA: So without physical pain no reason to moan, that what you’re saying?

 

LUDWIG: (
moans
loudly
)

 

NESTOR: What? (
at
Ludwig
)

 

LUDWIG: You two aren’t going to start up again are you?

 

CHARLES: Moans in agreement.

 

(
Responsorial
moans
begin
until
eclipsing
former
intensity
then
suddenly
they
stop
as
the
front
of
a
wheelchair
appears
in
the
doorway.
The
occupant
looks
up
at
his
pusher
as
to
why
they’ve
stopped
then
gets
suddenly
and
violently
rolled
forward
until
coming
to
rest
at
foot
of
Nestor’s
bed.
Nestor
looks
down
.)

 

NESTOR: (
pointing
)

Dear God look, his legs, they’re hideously mangled, oh the horror!

 

WHEELBOUND

STRANGER: They’re fine actually. (
rising
)

 

LUDWIG: What’s that you say? Call you Adam?

 

ADAM: I didn’t say that.

 

LUDWIG: I know you didn’t say
that
, you said call me Adam.

 

NESTOR: Yeah and why say
call
me
all ambiguous-like. Your name Adam or not?

 

ADAM: It isn’t and I never said it was!

 

CLARISSA: Relax Adam.

 

LUDWIG: Yeah relax, if you want us to call you Adam we will. We’re easy that way.

 

ADAM: I don’t so please don’t.

 

NESTOR: Easy, we all have names, I’m Nestor. Well that is to say my name is Nestor.

 

CLARISSA: Electra or Clarissa for short.

 

LUDWIG: Menelaus

 

ADAM: Huh?

 

LUDWIG: Menelaus. M-E-N-E

 

ADAM: I know but isn’t anyone named Tom around here.

 

LUDWIG: Oh Menelaus is just a nickname of sorts, it’s not my real name, don’t be ridiculous.

 

ADAM: What’s your real name?

 

LUDWIG: Ludwig

 

ADAM: (
blank
stare
at
Ludwig
then
looking
at
now
sleeping
and
loudly
snoring
old
man
hooked
up
to
multitude
of
machines
)

And him? His name?

 

NESTOR: It’s actually funny you said that thing about any of us being named Tom. Funny in a coincidental way I mean. An amazing coincidence really if you think about it.

 

(
Others
agree
nonverbally.
)

 

ADAM: So his name’s Tom?

 

NESTOR: Chuck but you can call him Charles.

 

ADAM: So why (
thinking
better
of
it
) I’m just going to sit over here if that’s okay.

 

CLARISSA: Suit yourself Tom we were just moaning when you came in.

 

ADAM: I’m not Tom.

 

NESTOR: Of course not but your name
is
Tom and we
were
undoubtedly moaning when you came in.

 

ADAM: My name is most definitely not Tom, it’s Adam. No (
angry
at
himself
) it’s not Adam!

 

LUDWIG: Fine but one thing you can’t deny, Not-Adam, is that we were moaning when you came in and furthermore that moaning is undoubtedly contagious.

 

NOT-ADAM: My name is not Adam.

 

CLARISSA: Yeah, we heard you the first time.

 

NOT-ADAM: No I’m making a negative statement here. I’m saying that when I tell you my name, which I will do shortly, that name will not be Adam.

 

NESTOR: (
slowly
) So why’d you say we should call you Adam with the aforementioned ambiguity?

 

NOT-ADAM: I didn’t. (
frustrated
)

 

LUDWIG: There’s a very simple way to end all this Not-Adam, one that I’m sure has occurred to you.

 

NOT-ADAM: Yes, of course.

 

LUDWIG: Simply tell us why you insist on being called Adam when that is not your duly-given, Christian name.

 

NOT-ADAM: No. (
more
frustrated
)

 

CLARISSA: You refuse to tell us why the insistence?

 

NOT-ADAM: No I’m saying that the way to end this is to tell you all my actual name. My name is—

 

NESTOR: And to admit that we were moaning when you came in.

 

NOT-ADAM: Right. No! Moaning? What? (
no
one
responds
) Anyway, my name is… what moaning?

 

NESTOR: Which moaning.

 

NOT-ADAM: That’s what I’m asking.

 

NESTOR: Which or what though?

 

NOT-ADAM: What?

 

NESTOR: Really? Because I lean to which.

 

NOT-ADAM: Huh?

 

NESTOR: No, huh-moaning makes no sense, I simply must draw the line there.

 

NOT-ADAM: What?

 

NESTOR: Fine, I concede and it’s settled.

 

LUDWIG: How?

 

CLARISSA: When?

 

NESTOR: Where?

 

(
Not-Adam
is
rapidly
moving
his
gaze
to
each
speaker.
)

BOOK: Personae
8.82Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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