Trolley Problem, Variant 218

[Another Difalco fanfic, this one a riff on his story “Relapse”]

A drunk driver careens through a busy intersection. You, a fiction writer, are standing some distance off, next to a lever. You have two options: (1) Pull the lever to the left, and the runaway car crashes into a second car, killing both drivers. (2) Pull the lever to the right, and the runaway car crashes into a pedestrian: the pedestrian dies, but the driver of the runaway car survives.

The driver of the second car is:
(a) a middle-aged man;
(b) a recovering opioid addict, on the wagon for six months;
(c) a heavy drinker when under stress, though sober as he drives through the intersection;
(d) a drug mule, transporting a sizeable quantity of hashish in his car for delivery to his connection.

The pedestrian is:
(a) a young woman;
(b) a recent immigrant from Guatemala;
(c) the mother of three small children;
(d) accompanied by one of her children as she walks through the intersection — the child will witness her death if she is struck by the careening car.

Which lever will you pull?

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Relapsing into DifalcoWorld

In my cahier entry for this morning I was revisiting ways of engaging short fictional texts and their authors:

Evaluating their ficticities seems reasonable, but is it? Highlight textual features that disrupt reality-as-actualized, then email authors.

Can I do it? Would I want to do it? Let’s give it a try. I click onto the Poets and Writers online listing of literary journals, randomly select a letter of the alphabet, pick off the first litmag listed under that letter, click the most recent issue, look at the Fictions listed for that issue, and — what are the odds? — it’s another story by Salvatore Difalco!

Of the 57 stories I excerpted on this site during my Flâneries phase, Salvatore Difalco is the only author to have commented here. Two posts ago I wrote a kind of fan fiction mediated by that Difalco story. The synchronicity of stumbling on another of his stories proved inescapable.

*  *  *

“Relapse,” by Salvatore Difalco

I was already running late, the first sentence reads. Already means you’re ahead of time, and besides that you’re running, putting even more distance between yourself and the now. But then late. Time out of joint. Early on the story is punctuated with time stamps: at noon, ten minutes, just as in just a few minutes ago. There are verbs of movement — running, sped — juxtaposed with verbs of stasis — stood, waiting. And also wanted, twice: the engine of desire stroking between speed and stasis, between running and late.

The narrator is a drug courier, a recovering addict — oxycontin: an opiate, a slow-down substance. Now when he’s stressed, instead of popping pills he guzzles the booze.

…And so on. But it’s not a deep reading or thematic interpretation I’m after here. I’m looking for ways in which this fiction throws a wrench into the actually existing world in which the story unfolds, revealing in the process how the fictional overlays the material in constructing generally accepted realities.

The event: a red-faced driver caroms his BMW off a truck; our narrator accelerates through the intersection quickly enough to avoid getting hit; the BMW, its path unimpeded, slams into a young mother of three, killing her. So, survivor guilt: it could just as easily have been him instead of the woman but for his right foot twitch reflex. At the same time, he could just as easily have been the red-faced drunk behind the wheel of the deathmobile. He revisits the scene of the accident, notices a stain on the pavement. Motor oil? Blood?

A few uneasy days passed. Your problems really begin only when you start thinking about them.

Relapsed, the narrator can’t make himself go through with his next courier assignment. He drives back to the fatal intersection again, gets out of the car for a closer look. That night he can’t sleep, the red-faced drunk driver staring at him. He gets back in his car, goes back to the intersection, parks.

When I saw the coast was clear I kneeled down, lowered my face to the stain and sniffed it. I shut my eyes and sniffed it, hoping to discern or dispel I don’t know what.

The accident happened: it’s in the past, no longer part of the world. The accident may for our narrator portend two alternative futures: stay off the drugs, keep drinking, wind up shit-faced behind the wheel of a death car; pop the pills, quit the drug-running business, enrage the mob boss, wind up as road kill. Neither of those futures is here yet; they may never arrive. But the accident isn’t just past, isn’t just future: it’s here and now, keeps coming back, keeps drawing the witness back to itself, the eternal return of a bivalent portal — you are the Killer, you are the Killed. An irruption into the actual of the timeless Real.

*  *  *

then email author, says my cahier entry. Maybe tomorrow.

Splitting Actuals from Counteractuals

Yesterday’s post identified the counteractuals in each fictional excerpt from the Flâneurie 8 post. Today, a little experiment: what if the counteractuals are left out, leaving only the observable events transpiring in the narrative’s here and now? Inversely, what if the actuals are removed, leaving only observations that invoke alternate realities — past, future, inferred, desired, feared, unexpected, imagined?

First, in italics, the original excerpt;  second, indented, that same excerpt stripped of everything but the actuals, third, also indented, the excerpt with only the counteractuals remaining

*   *   *

He passes the carousel, the inflatables, the Fun House. When the base of the Ferris wheel comes into view, he’s surprised at the sight of unfamiliar men by one of the tower supports, starting to break it down with their own equipment. He jolts into an unsteady run. Ferris wheel thieves are something he’s never considered. (from Tom Gresham, “The Heir”)

He passes the carousel, the inflatables, the Fun House. When the base of the Ferris wheel comes into view, he sees men by one of the tower supports, starting to break it down with their own equipment. He jolts into an unsteady run.

He’s surprised at the sight of unfamiliar men. Ferris wheel thieves are something he’s never considered.

*   *   *

They summit the clear plastic cup that holds the remnants of my milk tea, steadily growing in numbers and alarm. More and more keep coming — I cannot possibly guess from where — they seem to be produced by the very grass. Several willful ants stray from the cup and try to obtain me for the colony. They are crawling on my bare feet, up my pant legs, through the wild reeds of my hair, some even cross the path of my pen on these pages — they are trying to keep me from writing this. (from Megan Jacobs, “The Ants”)

They summit the clear plastic cup that holds the remnants of my milk tea, steadily growing in numbers. More and more keep coming. Several ants stray from the cup. They are crawling on my bare feet, up my pant legs, through my hair, some even cross the path of my pen on these pages.

They are steadily growing in alarm. I cannot possibly guess from where — they seem to be produced by the very grass. Several willful ants try to obtain me for the colony. They are trying to keep me from writing this.

*   *   *

Close-ups were replaced by Closer-ups: single feature shots. Photographers trained cameras on feet, knees, noses, shoulders, and hands. They dismantled babies frame by frame and then gave the pieces back to mothers who studied the remarkable detail. “Look! Her third toe is the longest of the bunch!” a mother pointed out. Upon hearing such exclamations, photographers wondered if mothers looked at their children at all except in photographs.
Then came the Even Closer-ups: eyelashes, a dimple, a mole, nostril shadows. Again, mothers and photographers lost babies in the pictures. This time they were right in front of the lens but completely absent in the final JPEG files of veins and hair follicles. (from Lindsey Harding, “A Brief History of Baby Pictures)

Close-ups were replaced by Closer-ups: single feature shots. Photographers trained cameras on feet, knees, noses, shoulders, and hands. Mothers who studied the remarkable detail. “Look! Her third toe is the longest of the bunch!” a mother pointed out.
Then came the Even Closer-ups: eyelashes, a dimple, a mole, nostril shadows. This time the babies were right in front of the lens but completely absent in the final JPEG files of veins and hair follicles.

Photographers dismantled babies frame by frame and then gave the pieces back to mothers. Upon hearing their exclamations, photographers wondered if mothers looked at their children at all except in photographs.
Again, mothers and photographers lost babies in the pictures.

*   *   *

The priest lifted the silver cross from my forehead and touched it to his lips. He said the demon was gone but a monster remained. I spat blood in his face, accusing him of fake news, of failure to move on. He said if I loved my family, I’d get as far away from them as possible.
Afterwards, I tried to act normal but my wife refused to leave me alone with our daughters. A fortnight passed before I was allowed back in our bedroom and even then she wouldn’t let me see her naked, saying the way I looked at her made her uncomfortable. While she slept, I kissed the back of her neck where it curves into her shoulder and remembered the promises we made to each other on our wedding day. Then I licked my lips to savour the salty-sweet taste of her skin.
The night I bit her she said I had to go. (from Christopher Stanley, “Oymyakon”)

The priest lifted the silver cross from my forehead and touched it to his lips. He said the demon was gone but a monster remained. I spat blood in his face.
Afterwards, my wife refused to leave me alone with our daughters. A fortnight passed before I was allowed back in our bedroom and even then she wouldn’t let me see her naked. While she slept, I kissed the back of her neck where it curves into her shoulder. Then I licked my lips to savour the salty-sweet taste of her skin.
The night I bit her she said I had to go.

I accused the priest of fake news, of failure to move on. He said if I loved my family, I’d get as far away from them as possible.
Afterwards, I tried to act normal. My wife said the way I looked at her made her uncomfortable. I remembered the promises we made to each other on our wedding day.

*   *   *

But the stage down in theatre’s heart was a sea-pool and the failing light made distances fluid so that Zoe thought she only had to reach out a hand, for her fingers to dip beneath mysteries, to decant shadows and show her … what? Faces? The curve of a cheek or an unbending arm? Stones and bones and sorrow, or perhaps an imprint left by old joy?
Her fingers wrapped themselves into mazes in her lap and Zoe breathed in time with the wind. It was not so much fear holding her in its grip, as a sense of falling.
‘You came back.’ (from Lorraine Wilson, “We Have Always Been Here”)

But the stage down in theatre’s heart was a sea-pool and the failing light made distances fluid. Zoe breathed in time with the wind.
‘You came back.’

Zoe thought she only had to reach out a hand, for her fingers to dip beneath mysteries, to decant shadows and show her … what? Faces? The curve of a cheek or an unbending arm? Stones and bones and sorrow, or perhaps an imprint left by old joy?
Her fingers wrapped themselves into mazes in her lap. It was not so much fear holding her in its grip, as a sense of falling.

*   *   *

Townie boys with bamboo rakes scraped Hawthorne’s grassy common clean. Working for someone’s Uncle Ricco, saving up for a used Mustang to drag race till Uncle Sam dragged them off to fight in bamboo jungles. They’d whistle as you crossed their path, precisely because you were unattainable in the way that girls at a private boarding school were unattainable, like fur coats, soft and desirable but costing too much. (Judith Kessler, “Falling Season”)

Townie boys with bamboo rakes scraped Hawthorne’s grassy common clean. Working for someone’s Uncle Ricco. They’d whistle as you crossed their path.

Townie boys saving up for a used Mustang to drag race till Uncle Sam dragged them off to fight in bamboo jungles. You were unattainable in the way that girls at a private boarding school were unattainable, like fur coats, soft and desirable but costing too much.

*   *   *

Though I’d never been more than passable as a clarinetist, I did have one skill: I can take in an entire score at once, visually, and hear the piece in my head. During undergrad, my friends would come to me the night before projects were due because I could tell with one glance whether a note was off in their counterpoint or whether there was too much going on in the brass. (Kelly Luce, “Two of Swords Counterpoint”)

I’d never been more than passable as a clarinetist.

I did have one skill: I can take in an entire score at once, visually, and hear the piece in my head. During undergrad, my friends would come to me the night before projects were due because I could tell with one glance whether a note was off in their counterpoint or whether there was too much going on in the brass.

 

Cataloguing Counteractuals

Revisiting the Flânerie 8 excerpts, I’m trying to identify specific indicators in the texts where the narrative veers away from the actual material present in which the story takes place into nonactual alternate realities: the past, the future, the possible, the conditional, the interpretations of meaning, expectations and deviations therefrom, memories, intentions, fantasies, transpositions into parallel realities. In other words, I’m trying to document where fictions become fictional. I don’t mean fictional in the way a story describes imaginary characters participating in imaginary events unfolding in imaginary worlds: together those characters, events, and worlds comprise the actual reality in which the story takes place. I’m referring to situations when the story departs from its own actuality into the realms of the counteractual.

*   *   *

He passes the carousel, the inflatables, the Fun House. When the base of the Ferris wheel comes into view, he’s surprised at the sight of unfamiliar men by one of the tower supports, starting to break it down with their own equipment. He jolts into an unsteady run. Ferris wheel thieves are something he’s never considered. (from Tom Gresham, “The Heir”)

…he’s surprised at… The character harbors a mental framework of expectation, from which some aspect of the actual present deviates.

…unfamiliar men… This is an elaboration of the character’s surprise: the men and their actions deviate from the familiar, built up from repeated past experiences.

…Ferris wheel thieves… The subject has constructed an interpretation, imposing it as an explanatory framework as to the reasons and motivations for the unexpected actions of unfamiliar.men.

…something he’s never considered… Not only are the men and their actions unfamiliar; his explanation too is unfamiliar, unprecedented by past considerations.

*   *   *

They summit the clear plastic cup that holds the remnants of my milk tea, steadily growing in numbers and alarm. More and more keep coming — I cannot possibly guess from where — they seem to be produced by the very grass. Several willful ants stray from the cup and try to obtain me for the colony. They are crawling on my bare feet, up my pant legs, through the wild reeds of my hair, some even cross the path of my pen on these pages — they are trying to keep me from writing this. (from Megan Jacobs, “The Ants”)

…and alarm… This seems like an interpretation as to the cause of or motivation for the ants’ actions — they’re alarmed — though it’s presented as an observation of fact.

…I cannot possibly guess… Another interpretation of cause or source is attempted, though this time it fails.

…they seem to be produced… Another interpretation of cause, though the “seem” is an acknowledgment that the interpretation is impossible, relying on circumstances that don’t occur in the actual world.

…Several willful ants… Presumption of intentionality.

…try to obtain me… Interpretation of motive.

…the wild reeds of my hair… Metaphorical transposition of an actual substance into an alternative reality.

…they are trying to keep me from…. Interpretation of motive.

*   *   *

Close-ups were replaced by Closer-ups: single feature shots. Photographers trained cameras on feet, knees, noses, shoulders, and hands. They dismantled babies frame by frame and then gave the pieces back to mothers who studied the remarkable detail. “Look! Her third toe is the longest of the bunch!” a mother pointed out. Upon hearing such exclamations, photographers wondered if mothers looked at their children at all except in photographs.
Then came the Even Closer-ups: eyelashes, a dimple, a mole, nostril shadows. Again, mothers and photographers lost babies in the pictures. This time they were right in front of the lens but completely absent in the final JPEG files of veins and hair follicles. (from Lindsey Harding, “A Brief History of Baby Pictures)

…They dismantled babies… This is metaphor, serving to transport the actual situation of photographs dismantling whole images into a parallel imaginary situation of dismantling whole physical beings.

…photographers wondered… The photographers construct an interpretation of behavior, an interpretation that’s tentative, speculative.

…lost babies in the pictures… It’s the same metaphorical transport as the “dismantled babies” phrase.

*   *   *

The priest lifted the silver cross from my forehead and touched it to his lips. He said the demon was gone but a monster remained. I spat blood in his face, accusing him of fake news, of failure to move on. He said if I loved my family, I’d get as far away from them as possible.
Afterwards, I tried to act normal but my wife refused to leave me alone with our daughters. A fortnight passed before I was allowed back in our bedroom and even then she wouldn’t let me see her naked, saying the way I looked at her made her uncomfortable. While she slept, I kissed the back of her neck where it curves into her shoulder and remembered the promises we made to each other on our wedding day. Then I licked my lips to savour the salty-sweet taste of her skin.
The night I bit her she said I had to go. (from Christopher Stanley, “Oymyakon”)

…accusing him of fake news… Interpretation the news as a counterfactual representation of the actual situation.

…if I loved my family… Conditional: in actuality he might not love his family.

…I tried to act normal… Intentional behavior, attempting to conform to an internalized image of societal expectations.

…made her uncomfortable… Interpretation of the cause of an affect.

…remembered the promises… Promises were made in the no-longer-existent past, expressing intent toward the not-yet-existent future.

*   *   *

But the stage down in theatre’s heart was a sea-pool and the failing light made distances fluid so that Zoe thought she only had to reach out a hand, for her fingers to dip beneath mysteries, to decant shadows and show her … what? Faces? The curve of a cheek or an unbending arm? Stones and bones and sorrow, or perhaps an imprint left by old joy?
Her fingers wrapped themselves into mazes in her lap and Zoe breathed in time with the wind. It was not so much fear holding her in its grip, as a sense of falling.
‘You came back.’ (from Lorraine Wilson, “We Have Always Been Here”)

…for her fingers to dip beneath mysteries… to obtain access to a realm where the meanings of actual things are made manifest.

…to decant shadows… Metaphorically, to precipitate out the substance from the appearances of actual existence.

…an imprint left by old joy… A trace made in the present by a no-longer-extant past emotion.

...Her fingers wrapped themselves into mazes…Metaphorical transformation of an actuality into an imagined alternate reality.

…a sense of falling…The falling isn’t actual; it’s a sensation, an illusion, perhaps a decanting, a precipitating downward from actuality.

*   *   *

Townie boys with bamboo rakes scraped Hawthorne’s grassy common clean. Working for someone’s Uncle Ricco, saving up for a used Mustang to drag race till Uncle Sam dragged them off to fight in bamboo jungles. They’d whistle as you crossed their path, precisely because you were unattainable in the way that girls at a private boarding school were unattainable, like fur coats, soft and desirable but costing too much. (Judith Kessler, “Falling Season”)

…saving up for a used Mustang… Expression of intent: actions taken in the present so as to achieve a desired but not-yet-existent future.

…dragged them off to fight… Intent: action in the present in order to achieve a desired future.

…precisely because you were unattainable… Interpretation of the cause or motivation for present actions.

…like fur coats… Transposition of the actual situation with an imagined parallel reality.

*   *   *

Though I’d never been more than passable as a clarinetist, I did have one skill: I can take in an entire score at once, visually, and hear the piece in my head. During undergrad, my friends would come to me the night before projects were due because I could tell with one glance whether a note was off in their counterpoint or whether there was too much going on in the brass. (Kelly Luce, “Two of Swords Counterpoint”)

…and hear the piece in my head… Transpose from the actual reality into an imagined one.

…During undergrad… Remembrance of a no-longer-extant past time.

…because I could tell… Interpreting the friends’ motivation for actual behaviors.

 

Counteractual as Motive in “We’re Good People”

Ordinarily I wouldn’t excerpt from this story. It’s resolutely rural, but that doesn’t rule it out: I’ve incorporated portions of other rural stories into my virtual flânerie through the fictional City. What would exclude it from consideration is that the litmag in which the story appears charges an admission fee. But this particular story is labeled “Feature Content,” which means that I get to read it for free online. It’s the only story I read yesterday, which is maybe why it has continued to resonate with me: in reading it I regarded it as the last online published story I would read for the foreseeable future, its cadences sounding the death knell for this particular incarnation of Ficticities.

The story appears in The Arkansas Quarterly: A Journal of Delta Studies. Although it’s called a quarterly, this journal comes out three times a year. It deals exclusively in content that “focuses on the seven states of the Mississippi River Delta, from St. Louis to the Gulf of Mexico… that evokes or responds to the Delta cultural and natural experience.” The current issue is Volume 48, Number 3 of the “quarterly,” so clearly it’s got some staying power. The Table of Contents notes parenthetically that the journal was formerly called the Kansas Quarterly: I’m guessing that back then it didn’t focus on Delta studies. The issue’s feature article, “We’re Good People,” is authored by one Shawn Faulkner, which would seem to give the story prima facie cred as a Delta story. I googled Shawn but couldn’t uncover his provenance. The story, though, takes place in… well, all right, let’s get to it: the counteractuals.

The events recounted in the story take place in a landscape that’s been cold so long it’s frozen solid. If I didn’t know it was a “Delta study” I’d hazard a guess that the story unfolds somewhere farther upstream in the Mississippi basin: Iowa, say, or Minnesota.

I stood and leaned my shotgun against a tree then squatted down on my heels the way old farmers did in the Bootheel when I was a kid.

The Bootheel is the lower right corner of Missouri, bordering Arkansas on the south and edging the River on the east. I suppose it’s possible that winters can get that cold down there in the Ozarks, but the author is showing us some strange times in a strange region of the Delta. It’s going to be a cold story.

There were several holes in the girl’s chest and stomach. The holes were rimmed with red. I figured they were bullet holes. I had never seen one in a human body, but they were fairly self-explanatory.

Self-explanatory? The narrator never expresses the slightest curiosity about this murder, other than to note that the girl has been stripped of pants and panties. The corpse is a given, a raw fact, like the quail he’s just shot while out hunting by the creek.

Her eyelids were open and her eyes, both of them, were blue, and for a moment they made me think of the ocean, and for a moment I thought of God, then I stopped thinking of him.

Here the narrator slips out of the actual present, not into imagined pasts of motives and suspects, but into alternative counteractual presents: the ocean, the presence of God. First he thinks about the ocean, then about God; he stops thinking of God, but not of the ocean.

The narrator, Billy, is married to Kate; they have a young daughter named Mary. Leaving the dead birds with Kate, Billy stops by Mary’s bedroom.

I could hear her breathing plenty loud, and it wasn’t a good sound. But there was nothing I could do about it. She had cancer, the kind that gets down in the bones and grows out from there. She’d always had it. She’d lived longer than the doctors said she would. She was a fighter, they said, but now she was going to die. She wanted to see the ocean before she did.

Mary is going to die, with certainty and soon. Mary wants to see the ocean — a last wish directed toward an imagined future that’s rapidly shrinking down to an actual nothing.

“She’s tough,” Katy said then burst out so hard that she started coughing all over the frying pan. “And she ain’t never going to see that ocean.”

Katy’s got a temporary job lined up, helping a friend clean out a mansion.

“Said she would give me fifty bucks.”
“Ain’t peanuts.”
“Will buy milk.”
“I guess we won’t have to worry about not having enough money for medicine. She ain’t going to need it anymore.”
“My God, Billy.”
Kate leaned into my chest.
“We never imagined it like this, did we?” I asked.
“Never in a million years. You’ve had such bad luck.”

Mary calls out, says she’s cold; Billy goes to her.

I picked her up. She was nothing more than a bag of bones and a soul. I carried her into the living room and sat with her on my lap. We listened to the radio. She had no hair. Her eyes were blue.
“I hurt, daddy. I hurt from down deep.”
“I know you do, baby.”
“Guess what, daddy?”
“What?”
“I don’t want to see the ocean no more.”
You don’t?”
“No, Daddy, I think seeing it in pictures is enough.”
She fell asleep in my arms. That was her way of letting me off because she knew I wasn’t good for it, and like any kid worth their weight, she didn’t want her old man to feel bad about it.
Goddamn.

Only now does Billy tell Katy about finding the dead girl. Katy asks why he didn’t say anything before; Billy says he’s been thinking about it.

“You get up and go right now and tell Mr. Ludwick where she is. He needs to know, as bad as it will be. And the cops and everyone else.”
I didn’t move. Katy piled the clothes on the bed.
“Katy,” I said.
“Well, get going.”
“Listen to me. I had this thought.”
And that was when I told her.
“Oh, no, Billy. Oh, no,” she said when I was done.
“She’s already dead, Katy. Ain’t nothing we can do to bring her back.”
“Billy. It ain’t right. You know it ain’t right. And even if it was, how would we do it?”

We’ve got a situation, and now we’ve got a motive, predicated neither on revenge for some past injury nor on some irresistible present urge but on an imagined future, a seeming impossibility that suddenly, improbably, has become possible.

Counteractual Futures

Fictional people, not unlike real people, occupy here-and-now worlds striated with spatiotemporal counteractuals.

The future. It isn’t here yet; it’s not actual. The future you want, or the one you fear, might never materialize. What you do now, or what you fail to do, might alter the future. Or it might not. Is the not-yet-now a predetermined certainty, as real as are the present and the past, or are its contours susceptible to intentional intervention? If you see the future coming on, can you be somewhere else when it arrives? Can you prepare yourself now for an inescapable future, so that when it finally does arrive it’s as if you’ve already lived through it?

Some illustrations of future counteractuals from Flânerie 1:

You will work on a single manuscript in near silence for years, during the course of which you will realize your best work, brilliant and exhilarating. 1

Second person future tense, the whole story: is this an aspiration or a prophecy, a promise or a warning?

Hypnotically summoning Muslims to come, congregate and beseech in a physical and emotional orchestration of prayer.  2

Is it an invitation or a command, this summons, triggering not the conscious assent of the congregants  but their hypnotic pull into a future that cannot be resisted?

When [the sculptor] stopped for a break she would tell him about Catalino’s warning. But, for a little while, being there was all and everything she wanted. It was still too soon to see what he would make of the stone. It was still a block of potential. She understood there was a possibility he would fail in conception, or in execution; maybe both.  3

Will she warn him about the warning, expecting him to take appropriate action to counteract an undesired future, or will she merely report it? The future is unformed potential, its fulfillment uncertain, dependent on one’s making it happen or making it not happen, succeeding in both conception and execution.

Arsen would tell her, wiping the blood from his mouth, disoriented and exhilarated: It is like something swelling in me, and I think I am close to discovering something, something very, very important, and at the precise moment when I think I have it, I have my hands finally around it, I fall into a darkness and then I open my eyes to see you.  4

On the temporal threshold of an enlightenment that escapes you: has it failed to happen, receding into past or future, or do you now fail to grasp it, your open eyes perceiving only darkness?

If Mama went to the store for a minute but you are pretty sure she’s never coming back, please mash all of the keys but mostly 1.  5

Help! This present minute will extend, with a high degree of certainty, into an eternal future.

You’re my friend, Eric! My friend. If I am gay, do you think I’m going to sneak into your bed at night when you’re asleep? Do you think that’s what I want to do?  6

A furtive nocturnal future: whose fear, whose desire?

Do you want to be cool, but accessible? Or do you want to be greedy, right under the surface, mixed with an insouciance that’s irresistible?”  7

What do you want to be? If in the future you become what you want, will you still want what you’ve become?

 

Skip Fox, “Sortilege”

Haitham Alsarraf, “Friday Prayers”

Mark Jacobs, “Old School”

Naira Kuzmich, “Cadenza”

Sara Given, “Toddler Feelings Helpline”

Juan Alvarado Valdivia, “A Pedestrian Question”

Robin Wyatt Dunn, “The Plastic Woman”