Ms. Apuzzo had asked us to address spatial language. But what I experienced in this room was the absence of spaces. What kind of places had these animals guarded? Maybe the place had been desertlike but surely it did not look like the deserts on the news. The temples these guards had protected were long fallen, the landscape these two knew long changed. It might happen all at once or over decades, but landscapes changed all the time. Parts of cities were destroyed, then rebuilt, then changed utterly. Eventually even the guards were destroyed, lost, or forgotten. Eventually new people showed up and stood around and took notes on the remains. I thought of my father’s parents. Perhaps my father’s parents, when they first met after the war, had been forced by tragedy to let their guards down with one another, had catalogued their losses together, and fallen in love that way. Their how-we-met story seemed newly beautiful to me, standing here. I stepped closer to one of the lion-bull creatures, looked up at its human face again. Its eyes were blank, pupilless, yet not altogether empty. 1
His interest in cards began as a boy, when his father’s friend removed a pack from his pocket and set it on the table before Anselmus. The deck itself, which the man proceeded to shuffle, was perfectly ordinary. What was remarkable was what he did with it: following the shuffle and a final cut, he began turning the cards over, one after the other, as if turning over the pages of a book where a story was unfolding, an improvised tale of two princes on a quest for the three-jeweled crown of an ancient king; and of the queen and jester they met at a seven-towered castle after a five-day journey through a dark forest… a wondrous story built from randomness, the deck a book with 52 illustrations that would never tell the same tale again. It was only years later that, while speaking with his father, Anselmus learned the truth: the shuffle had been false, the order of the cards and the resulting story memorized, the entire thing a kind of parlor trick the friend had performed every chance he got. Anselmus’s father exposed his friend with relish, as if eager to awaken his son, already a budding collector, to the deceit that had given birth to his foolish pursuit, but by this time, however much Anselmus might have been disillusioned, the cards had already begun to take on meaning for him that couldn’t be destroyed by any such revelation. 2
The Other Side
“On the other side. Over there when I sit for a meal it is in a
grand hall, on soft velvet chairs. I eat from fine china and silver.
There are proper beds in the chambers, there.” Her eyes close as
she recalls the blueprint of the house she says she comes from. 3
Mid-morning, we’re crisp and forgotten, my severed hand draped across her missing back—beautiful, American. 4
I was thinking of asking her to teach me but I’ve already asked her plenty and truth be told was never any good at remembering rules. It used to drive her mother nuts. Every time we played cards, I’d screw up the game by playing by the wrong rule. If we played poker, I’d yell gin and throw down my cards. If we played old maid, I’d keep telling everyone to “go fish.” Driving her nuts, for me, was the best part of the games. Fucking with her was my royal flush. 5
The Other Side
So soon. So soon. There was no time to ready myself. Who would have thought this crossing would come so soon?
The dentist remarks on what a good patient I am being. His hands are in my mouth. My fear keeps me compliant. My limbic system divided. I could not be here. I could not be elsewhere. 7