to do list

envision : nap : whisper : laugh : caress : sing : love : consider : hug : create : wonder
but above all

Traveling Hopefully

"Not only is another world possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing."

-Arundhati Roy

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

My Subjunctive Mood

In my dream the worst finally happened.

I was a man in my dream. That wasn’t the worst thing though. It wasn’t even a very bad thing. The worst thing was quite a different thing.

I sat in my ward cell. The straitjacket made movement difficult. I had been arrested and taken to a psychiatric center headed by a Freudian psychoanalyst who, on my arrival, had recited to me his literary analysis of Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. His voice sounded very much like one of my college literature professors. (“Your analysis is shallow. Your analysis is shallow, shallow, shallow...”) It had never occurred to me, before being corrected, that this tale was so chock full of sexual allegory. I had never considered what the headless horseman’s throwing of the pumpkin really represented.

In the end, I made up an analysis that was as fanciful as it was ludicrous and managed to finish with a “B” in the class. Did it make any sense to me? Of course not! But (am I allowed to use “but” here?…why not, it is my dream after all. As if in answer, I heard a voice say, “It's your conjunction too.” The voice sounded a lot like Lawrence Block.) what did literary analysis have to do with making sense to me anyway?

“You’re still hearing voices aren’t you?” It was the psychoanalyst.

We were seated in a claustrophobic interview room with gas-station green walls. The window was open and I could hear the wind whimpering like a whipped whippet. (A specter that looked a bit like Harlan Ellison flashed before me. He seemed to nod in approval.)

“We’re not going to be able to release you if you insist on being alliterate,” the psychoanalyst said.

“But that doesn’t even make sense,” I said. “I thought the rules…”

“You don’t make the rules and they don‘t have to make sense.” The psychoanalyst flicked a bit of lint from his sleeve. “Are you questioning the rules again? Where have all these questions gotten you? Do you remember when you were a child and you wanted to know who wrote the dictionary?”

I had wanted to know that. How did words come to be words? Who made all these rules? And why was everyone following them? Why did I have to follow them? That‘s when the voices started. (“People made the rules,” came a whisper.)

“Am I not a person?” I said.

“You can’t do that,” the psychoanalyst said.

“Do what?” I said.

“You can’t use ‘said’ with an interrogative sentence.”

“But I read that some writers do that all the time. I read that some writers use ‘said’ rather than ‘asked’ because they seem to think it allows the dialogue to flow without calling attention to itself.”

“But you’re not a writer, you’re a student,” the psychoanalyst said.

“You started that sentence with ‘but’,” I observed.

“Of course I did, “ the psychoanalyst said. “It’s perfectly acceptable to speak that way. It’s only natural.”

“If it’s perfectly natural to speak that way, then why can’t I write that way?” I said. “If writers, real writers, write that way…”

“Look, we need to address the issue of why you are here,” the psychoanalyst said. “Do you know why you’re here?”

“The voices?” I said.

“That certainly. But also the essays,” the psychoanalyst said. “And do you need to use ‘said’ so many times? It’s very unattractive,” the psychoanalyst said.

(A voice that sounded like Robert B. Parker said, “Don’t let it worry you. I do it all the time.”) I was about to say as much to the psychoanalyst when he interrupted my thoughts.

“Anyway,” the psychoanalyst said, “I have copies of some of the essays here.” What inspired you to write such titles as: Pardon My Infinitive But I think You’re Splitting Hairs, The Most Superlative Story Ever Told or In Support of Verbal Abuse, where you state: “If teaching is pared down to emphasizing insignificant and unmemorable facts the desire to learn will be similarly diminished.” Or this title: Dangling My Participles in Public Makes Me Feel So Free.

“Yes, well...I would think you would find a lot of meaning in that one,” I said.

No comments:

Post a Comment