A Letter, unaddressed, on a dresser

by dschapman

The light was stolen from me early. It crept up on me cruelly, trickled down off the back of my neck, chilling me like cool sweat dripping – a life is awake and death waits within me – they took it, they did not ask – what can I say? Paradise is a pair of dice. And yes, my gun is loaded – what use would it be to me without bullets? By God, if you underestimate me one more time – you are right to be terrified! You are right to quiver in intimidation; I am intimidating. My eyes – you’ve seen it, too. Dull, in idle peace, but mean and sapphiric in practice. You see… I am an intelligent creature. I am something like a menace; I am capable of great machinations, wicked inclinations; I can dream up, and then I can act – and I can succeed. Fortunately for the world, I was raised a loving Christian; fortunately for you, I love, and I devote, and I gift. As I am very gifted. But my gifts, ennobling, have taught me many wicked truths – they have taught me philosophy, they have taught me the complexes and uncertainties of dead and disease-ridden psychoanalysis – they have taught me the tenets of skepticism. They taught me Miller and Rimbaud, they learned in me a spot of Melville – truths, half-truths, irrelevance, madness, impartiality – they gave me objectivism and they gave me the cogito; I dismissed objectivism and I dismissed the cogito. They taught me capitalism, they taught me survival, and they taught me to care. They taught me into a dense and inescapable ignorance; a spiraling sense of misgiving and fear. Fortunately for me, I was raised a red-blooded American; I own a basic sympathy in mankind, I know a perfect golden leisure, I am proud of the earth and her virtues, I cultivate apples and pears – take me to America, place my gun in my hand, join me in my Bentley – we will take to the countryside, blazing! The highways, through the cotton fields – snowy! Yellow blissful heat – I know it! I know it – few do. Forgive me bliss; I’ve earned it. It has taken me all of my faculties to achieve it; from my basic Christian tenderness to the raving lunacy of literature – in the grimy pulse of the streets – real and clean and beautiful – short pockets and airy lead – a hand through the hair – waxy fingers – better to cover up the cowlick. For in America… there is little time for uncertainties. There is little time for anything but the living, breathing, red-blooded absurd; warm and sweetly ready.

When I was fifteen years old I built from pristine oak and mahogany wood two beautiful chairs. I kept them on my front porch, under a ceiling lamp, beside a beautiful flower garden, where I fancied to sit in them, often, and to think. Both chairs have been stolen. When I woke up yesterday and stepped outside to check the mail, they were gone. I immediately went back inside. I drank a glass and I put on my coat and I checked my pockets for cigarettes. I grabbed my handgun and slipped it over my breast; I went into my friend’s closet and loaded his shotgun. I took a stool from his cobbling bench and went back to my front porch – my desolate, dramatically empty front porch. I sat down in the middle of it on my stool, with my shotgun folded across my lap, and waited, silently. I sat there until sunrise, resolute. Townspeople drove by and they stared; black folk walking by on the sidewalks averted their eyes, terrified. I didn’t know what I was hoping to happen, but I had gone too far to give up. They were very beautiful chairs… I was going to grow old and die in them, and then gift them to my children, who would maybe do the same – the chair their father built, when he was a little boy, back when the world was still golden – back when the sun was still shining, back when the seasons were welcomed with open arms and the people drank nothing but sugar water. I sat on my stool like a character and hardly moved an eyelid all day. At night, it began to snow, and I decided to go inside. I unloaded my weapons and put them away. I took off my shoes and I laid down in bed and I began reading Wittgenstein. My thoughts were feeling softer than usual as the wind drifted past in crescendos; all of the wardrobes in the world couldn’t dress a man like me. I thought about people who love me; people who I have loved; I thought about the end of the world, a fantasy. I fantasize; I do not change the names or places. If only I had been awake, had heard the bandits coming – one shot, one movement of my finger – what decision, with intimacy, pulsing through my finger – all I do these days is daydream, all I like to do is think. I realize the value of my thoughts; I realize they are in limited supply, and so I must be selective, I must take them seriously. I only have time for so many before I – before something happens to end them entirely. Someone left me flowers on my bedside table and that was very kind; they have long since wilted, the water muddied, the petals gone. Still they instill in me a tenderness, so still they have their beauty.

Paradise is the fact without the meaning. A meaning – what of it? – what does it mean? If paradise is the case, so be it; there can be no deliberation. There is nothing transcendental in those transcended – there is nothing to notice at all. There is nothing but mere existence; implicit.

Beauty exists; it is wonderful. Bare implicit cruelty exists; it must be fended off, or else you will go under. Else, what? Do not expect a tender world, as you can expect tenderness in me; do not expect a wonderful world, as you can expect it to be beautiful. Myself, I am a grateful exception. If goodness is good, then I am good; believe it. I would never lay on hand you… if I did, it would be by your behest. But the rest of them – of us – forgive us! And keep your handgun ready.

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