He called in inquiry. Three positions filled in the morning. Two positions filled in the afternoon. Nobody calls in the evening. Time was moving fast now and money even quicker – out of his hands. He thought of his hands and what they’ve touched, played, written, been inside of; counted. He dialed, the next day. His hands that had done so many things were less than steady and dialed wrongly.
The broad question:
What did he know? He knew three languages. Say it in English. Say it in French. Say it in German, he would practice.
He could recite Zarathustra’s roundelay:
Was spricht die tiefe Mitternacht?
“Ich schlief, ich schlief”
Aus tiefem Traum bin ich erwacht….
But the poem was his defiance and was not for this interview.
The strong question:
“What are your strengths?””Well, I do know Zarathustra’s roundelay…”
The weak question:
“What are your weaknesses?”
He hoped he did not have a weak heart. His knees felt weak in the morning sometimes. He is thirty. He had had enough.
“Strengths and weaknesses? I’m a fucking animal who can pick up boxes and put them down again. I can also speak and listen to others speak and write too. You need more? I can last a good long time in bed. I can play some Leonard Cohen tunes on the guitar. I can draw you a map of the Louvre from memory. I can hold my booze, which can be good for drinking on the job.
You need more?”
He hung up the phone and his hands regained steadiness.
Steady hands light a cigarette. Foul mouth says: “You can take this job and shove it!” Craving mind thinks: Someone should see me light a cigarette while saying “You can take this job and shove it!”
But there is little money in solitary coolness. The cigarette was smoked hard and deep and till the end. A few minutes later he attacked another cigarette and dizzily made his way across the street. He had been outside thinking. There is a large tree across the street with bulging outsides that go into the sky and into the earth with equal measure. Its bulky limbs look fleshy and its lack of leaves seem indecent. He had once seen an elderly neighbor walk by the tree and shout at it: “Put some clothes on!” The tree remained naked and sunbathed in defiance. He called the tree a She. She was an aged woman who knew the sky and the earth with equal measure. But She loved the earth much more than the sky. She loved flesh much more than clouds. He imagined her roots thicker than her limbs. Thighs that once danced and wiggled under lovers now sat still, deep within the ground and waited. He had decided she was waiting for him. He made his way across the street. Steady hands and rooted feet climb up, up, up to the top.
Craving mind of rockets, fired from bulky stacks of memory formed in lead containers. Craving mind of numbers, thrown into deep pools of acid that corrode and dissolve symbol. Craving mind of faces, projected onto intricate canvases and left there for someone else to look at.
Craving mind thinks: I have four cigarettes. My full stomach will last a day. Bodies don’t freeze in the summer. A few things happened to Him when he reached the top of the tree. First a low rumbling began – Mmmmmmmmmmm brrrrrrrrrrr mmmmmmmmm. From the roots it worked its way upwards until his new high-ground was steadily pulsing. Trunk and limb calmly pulsed. Then his own body took on the message from underneath and began to pulse with the tree. The steady vibration lasted until sunset. It lulled him to an early sleep. This was his first day in the tree. His eyes opened in the morning in a calm unraveling of the view across the street. He thought this could be one of the rare times a man has woken up to the sight of his own house. His eyes made his house external on the second day in the tree. His other senses amused themselves differently. Recreation of the ears. Recreation of the nose and mouth, of swaying ground. His other senses were amused by all things internal, physical and tree-pertaining: the persistent hiss of hunger that later growled at him; a stickiness of mouth that longed to be caressed fully by smoke; a spinal soreness from top to tail; morning sexual release; dead feet. All these accompanied the stuck image of yesterday’s home across the street. The image was fixed until midday, when slender female legs made their way into its frame. He knew these legs capped in prickly heels, and prick-by-prick, the slender legs coated in a Northern white moved from room to room in his old house. She stayed inside the house until the fire truck showed up across the street.
On his third day in the tree, He decided to keep his eyes closed for its duration. He envisioned a thick, beige sheet of elastic. Behind this sheet thin, grey, metal file cabinets that were stacked higher than tall men. Behind them, more file cabinets and onward for what seemed like black-spanning miles. In the slots where the file cabinets are labeled, he saw pale yellow cards with hieroglyph-like symbols written on each one. If He had been able to look closely at the cards, He would have seen that they were not hieroglyphs but English words. Each cabinet had the word of an animal on it. Frog, lion, bear, raccoon, eagle, snake, human, fish. Other rows in the distance had longer names like hoverfly, mud dragon, jaw worm, European lobster. If he had been able to look inside a drawer, he would have seen their animal dossiers. One read:
Lived: Aug 2, 1893, 12:31:22 – Aug 2, 1893, 12:31:47
No distinguishing characteristics.
Some drawers opened individually. Some drawers opened in sections. This display was done in symphonic precision and He smiled beholding the visual. He placed Herbert von Karajan as conductor of the metallic orchestra, placing him in front of the elastic and pushing his face into it. The material became transparent as he sunk his head and eyes deeper through the beige skin. Karajan’s baton, hand, and finally whole arm poked through the material with ease as he began to keep time with the opening of animal filing cabinets.
“Hey what are you doin’ up there?”
The cabinets all lost their firm ground in the darkness and broke apart, soaring every which way. Karajan merged with the elastic.
He opened his eyes and allowed a few moments to pass. His elderly neighbor had been pacing back and forth under the tree, looking up at him and shaking his head. He had been lost in visions and was unable to see him. His ears had been listening to the inside now. The soft noise of ascending paper and burrowing paper had drowned out the muffled noises of a downward disapproval.
“What are you doin’ up there?”
“I’m not sure yet.”
“Well what did you climb up that tree for in the first place?”
“Just to rest a little I guess.” Then his indulgent skin kicked in. “What’s it to you?”
“Because, you’ve got no business up there.”
“I think that’s the point.”
He was now in the business of eclipsing yesterday’s home with visions that his swaying home had offered him. Craving mind thinks: Desire and anxiety are my two foods. Metaphor is my water. Visions are too simple for me to comprehend.
He touched her limbs and returned to his trance. This trance he decided would be one of complete negation. He would revoke his body’s right to ask for its constant satisfactions.
The questioning neighbor walked across the street, not knowing that the tree was not in need of water and not in need of sun. The tree needed Him more than physical nourishment, and Him Her. She would provide him with visions and she enjoyed the feel of indents on her rough skin from his limbs, indents that seemed harsher the day before, now settling. Her limbs receive new indents as they settle, smooth and faintly concave on his third day in the tree.
Had he been looking at yesterday’s home, He would have seen the faces of his neighbor and his girlfriend pressed up against the bay window. They were two children in sunlight, which would have reminded him of two children covered in white television light, transfixed by their rectangle entertainment. Their program lacked movement and it lacked narrative and it lacked action, and the two children were mesmerized by it.
Now the youngest of all the children, He had been watching his own program: A tall, thin man in a grayish robe taking long leaps in a dark sand. His robe opened freely at the chest and made a V out of olive skin and rough white hair. The V’s two lines flanked a long, long neck and crept behind his frame. The robe would have touched the sand, had it not been for the wooden stilts that came down and became his new pointy feet. The stilts pushed in and out of the sand, making a trail as he moved towards a distance of the abandoned beach they were both on.
He followed the deep dots point for point and filled them in as he traced the path. The tall figure eventually appeared over a sand hill and this sight made him move even faster, to catch up. Steady hands tug at a loose robe and pull the stilted man down into the ground.
“I’ve felled you”, he would have said, but he couldn’t speak watching the man sink deep into the sand. He had realized that the man was unable to walk freely on this sand, and this was the reason for his stilts. The moment his skin had touched the sand, it swallowed him whole. Left pointing upwards at Him were the man’s wooden feet, through flashing red sand. And then the fire truck pulled up.
Four blue-uniformed young men scrambled out of the truck and spoke with each other beneath the tree, feeling uncomfortable about this man who was not a cat.
“I don’t know what to do here,” one said.
“I’m coming down, don’t worry.” He was a reassuring father and below him were four boys, worried about something new. He had been up in the tree for two full days, and there was nothing strange about that. Stranger were the firemen below him, trying not to look up.
“What were you doing up there by the way?” The young man was nervous to be talking to the Man who wasn’t a cat and had just come down from a tree. “Were you protesting something? I’ve heard about that, people going up in trees and sitting for days. What are you protesting against? Where is your sign? How do people know what you’re for or against without a sign?”
His body felt nothing new down on flat ground. He felt and thought the same as he did before he began sitting in the tree. Craving mind thinks: I can rely on others as I did before. I was getting worried up there, not thinking and not doing. I started to listen to the earth, and my body and the tree too. But now I’m back on pavement and I can talk and listen and negotiate and work around the system as I did before. I was getting worried up there, but I was almost unable to speak it.
“I’m not protesting anything. Honestly, I had a rough day and thought I would go sit up there and think, but nobody is going to let me do that, so it’s O.K., I’m down now. Lets all go home.”
Then his girlfriend popped up, wearing one of his sweatshirts and thanking each of the firemen for coming to help. The neighbor who had called the police walked away.
The noise of growing and striving:
Now it was him and his girlfriend in the bathroom. She was showering and he was shaving in a hot steam that reddened his face up. He could see through the mirror, and then through the fogged glass, the outline of her body, with its swoops and slopes and dips and hips. There would be no big discussion of today. The value of his tree experience did not extend into this scene, which was a normal one. He would not leave his girlfriend. He would have sex with her that night and finish quickly. He would take two cigarettes after the sex. He would sleep hard into the next day, which was Sunday. On Monday he would call for a job as an assistant editor of a photography magazine. The next Monday he went to the interview and on that Tuesday he began working in an office high above ground. He went out for drinks with the entire staff on Friday and they tried to discuss politics. He became drunk and made a pass at one of the interns, who responded. He would have an affair with the twenty-one year old. To be safe, He would call his girlfriend fifteen minutes before each time they met. He would stop seeing the girl after two months and focus on his relationship with his girlfriend. He advanced quickly in the magazine. After two years, he published a book. He forgot about going up into the tree. When he remembered going up into the tree, memory had formed it hard, into three days of crooked judgment. He married his girlfriend. When they talked about his few days in a tree they would laugh. His girlfriend would tell the story forty seven times.
The noise of Growing and natural striving:
Burrrrr. Baaaaaa. grrrrrr. Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm haaaaaaaa hmmmmmmmm ohhhhhh. Bummmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm mmmmmmm urrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh mmmmmmmm ommmm brrrrrrrrrrrr ahhhhhhhhhh grrrrrr bummmmmm mmmmmmm.