Thursday, November 20, 2003


There is a vault of words, you see. I know where it is but I can't, for the life of me, tell you how to get there.

The path is not perilous, but long; not impossible to negotiate, but time-consuming. When I go there, I carry several candles, a pack of cigarettes, a sheaf of paper, a brush, dry ink, an inkstone and some water. The candles let me see my way through the tedious passages, the cigarettes allow me to measure time and distance and at the same time indulge my smallest vice, and everything else is for when I get there.

I use the long hours to think about what I will look for. When I was younger, I would be beside myself with excitement - the sheer vastness of what I could choose from was enough to make me giddy. When you're young, you never think about catachresis, you go for volume, you go for flash, you go for fury.

Now that I'm older, I'm learned to temper my expectations. It is not that I've become jaded, only that I've learned about economy, taste and never using more than I need.

As I walk, I think about the story in my head. I look at the swirls and eddies, its lambent formlessness, its almost-shape. I imagine strands of conversation, bits of description. I know that there is a plot there somewhere, but the words I currently possess lack the affinity for the new idea.

I've done what others before me have done. After each of my past visits, I stretched the capacity of my memory to retain the new words I touched and contextualized. After many years, I have my own little syllabary, a working vocabulary that is sufficient enough to impress those with more lackadaisical leanings. But after a while, I need more. More combinations, more arrays, more juxtapostions.

I realize that in the end I'm writing for myself, and that the words are like a potent drug.

The question of whether that perspective is right or wrong has become irrelevant. What matters is what the reader thinks, and ultimately that reader is myself.

Therefore I determine what is right.

I determine what I write.

I think about things like that along the way, engaging myself in a degree of dialogue - after all, a chance to practice is always good, and the ear listens to anything especially when there is nothing else to be heard.

I used to want company when I travelled. Someone to talk to besides my snide self. But the very nature of the path is that it can only be walked in solitude.

When I get to the vault, I always stop and take a breath. I didn't use to. But now, with age, I must. Besides, I know that all the words I want are within, waiting for me, so there's no rush.

When I am ready, I enter, my mind emblazoned with the symbols of my agenda - which is important because it is too easy to get lost, to get sidetracked.

I never stay longer than I have to.

It is as if as soon as I get there I long for home.


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