In Seattle there are lakes, and the sun shines golden-green and you and the pit bull are swimming, side by side, in the water. Swimming with small waves and a cone of frozen yogurt, while the sun shines down, apologetic and warm, like an abusive lover. Really, we decided, while walking in the rain, the sun is at the mercy of the moon’s violent temper. The moon beats the sun, and fills the sky with blue-black clouds, her bruises, and the water that falls is her tears.
You are east, where the sun rises, bruised or not, and you are riding the enthusiastic beast of possibility. This afternoon, you are in Vermont. All I remember of Vermont is snowfall, and the tidy white buildings with their odd, narrow proportions. There would be no snow now, there would be a garden and all the plants would be flowering, and there would be green water and marinara sauce. You are out of cell phone range but I imagine you, growing more tan, growing and growing more into yourself, out of range of the electromagnetic field of my heard. Here in Portland June-uary I am a zebra in the forest of my insides, my uterus swollen with the suffering of all living things. I lay my internal light down on the alter of the new moon, and pay homage to the darkness. I whinny in anguish beneath the bruised sky, and pray for blood. In the freezer I have double-chocolate muffins and red meat. There is Anne Carson’s Autobiography of Red, and a chihuahua which, when placed on the abdomen, helps to draw out darkness.
Chihuahuas are nature’s abdominal poultices. They rest neatly on one’s belly, while one is reading Anne Carson on the couch. Their bulging, wet-black eyes leak rainbow waves of love-energy from between their sleepy, half-shut lids. Their small, good-smelling breath cleans the air. Their tiny beating hearts untangle doubtful thoughts and nagging fears, plaiting them smoothly together into a shining French braid of calm. Their persistent warmth relaxes the small, angry muscles of the guts.
In the science fiction novel of my imagination, there are Bleeders and Non-Bleeders, and the Bleeders must, each month, feel the suffering of all living creatures, while the Non-Bleeders feel nothing at all, ever, but the pull of their own addictions. It is the future, dystopia, and this division is the only thing that enables life to continue on its apocalyptically destructive path. I most likely will not write this science fiction novel, but someone should.
I need to cleanse, you text me, from the desert.
Tell me your sins, I say.
I met a lion, you say, in the painted hills, and it demanded that I transform.
How did you know it was a lion, I say.
I guessed, you say.
Why did you have to guess.
Its face was so bright, I couldn’t look directly at it. I looked to the west, at its shadow. It had the shadow of a mountain, and that’s how I knew that it was a lion.
And are you a mountain? I ask.
No, although I wish I was.
And did you tell the lion this?
Yes. I told the lion- Can you make me into a mountain? And the lion said- You are not a mountain. You are the ocean, and you carry everything inside of you. You are trying to be like a mountain, but you are the ocean, and the ocean must constantly transform. A mountain does not transform but starts whole and then slowly wears away. The mountain is singular and so straddles only a small chunk of space-time, but the ocean is infinite, and straddles infinity, and nothing, and everything, all at once, and has everything inside of it, and is always changing. You are the ocean but you are trying to be like a mountain. You must transform but you want to transform into a mountain, which is impossible.
Were you alone, talking to the lion?
I was alone, and I had nothing with me, except for a basket of fear and regret that I’d found in the trunk of my car, earlier, and brought along with me, in hopes that the lion would eat it.
Did you offer it to the lion?
Yes, and the lion wouldn’t take it. The lion said that since I was the ocean, I would always have the basket of fear and regret with me, in some dark cavern, even if the lion were to take the basket, and eat its contents, because I am infinite, and contain everything.
So if you contain everything, you contain the lion as well.
And you contain me.
And you contain the mountains.
Yes. For a little while.
And what did you say to the lion then?
I said that I was still afraid to transform, and the lion said that I must transform, because if the ocean does not transform it is the end of all life. The ocean transforming is the original source of movement, and movement is what makes the passage of time, or the illusion of the passage of time. Without this illusion there can be no life, only an infinite stillness, and were I to refuse to transform I would choose, instead, this infinite stillness, and the pressurized vessel of green life would crack open and the darkness of infinite space would rush in.
Don’t be afraid to transform.
I cannot not be afraid to transform. But I can be unafraid to be afraid to transform.
I cannot say that I will do it. But I can say that I am not afraid of not doing it.
What else happened to you, in the desert?
I ate great quantities of meat and cheese. I saw seven magpies and a few thousand blackbirds. I absorbed the unbruised sky. I slept. I worried.
What is it that you are worried about.
I am worried about being worried. I am worried about being worried to be worried. I am a great hoop of worry, like Saturn’s rings, asteroids going round and round.
You have been knocked into orbit around the worrisome planet. You are a bleeder. You are a sponge, a vessel for dark magic. The sediment of time rests in you, all the suffering of living creatures.
Yes, and what are the non-bleeders?
They are satellites, dandelion parasols, shooting stars. They blink and go out. They are weightless, they carry nothing.
What are they looking for?
New lands, new planets, unguarded patches of grass.
And what if they find these things?
Bleeders will grow there, and bleeders will bleed, and bleeders will suffer. Such is life.
– e n d s c i e n c e f i c t i o n n o v e l –