If I lost the ability to see, that etching of the nighttime burning house I bought from the beautiful girl with the pursed-lipped smile and dusky, aestival eyes won’t be there on my wall anymore, as far as my daily passing days would say, and I’m afraid I’d have to tell her—no matter stranger status—maybe ask if she’d describe it to me over the phone from time to time, not too often, just once or twice a year or so, so I could still have it hung in my head even if I forgot what she looked like. Too much to ask, though, still too much I’m sure and far too strange but I might, blind, wondering what I’d hear and how she’d tell it, and surely upset I couldn’t see her as she did.
But what if I could, what if my eyes worked fine but my ears no longer did? Then I’d look at that etching and remember the sound of fire and fear and in my head it might be louder than ever, all that crackling and breathing and the night filling with a begrimed and fumy darkness so complete it consumes and devours desires and hours replete with minor condemnations and conflagrate spumey plumes, rhythmic sound-sights maintained in some bizarre sort of visual stereo with mind-stuck rhymes to marry all reason and dimension, all reason and dimension, all reason and all demention, the words rattling skull-bound till the clamor forms a phantom limb in my memory and I’m sure I was there and sure I wouldn’t want to see her tell it. And I’d step over to the image’s hanging spot, right over on the wall there, so close I can almost smell it, and get those chills I get when I’m certain nothing matters and nothing makes sense because there’s no sense for making in first places or second or third, absolutely sure, those chills I get when I’m afraid I’ve found the truth because what else but truth glints through your nervous system like that and tells you in no uncertain terms you’re so sadly alive, overwhelmed by the clichéd strangeness of familiarity and there by the wall I’d be, staring hard, peering in, afraid of letting go, straining and prying, anything to be able to hear the words again, must hear the words or they won’t come what if they never come back and if I couldn’t hear the world in words and pictures I’m afraid I’d be more afraid than ever that I’d heard that chilly truth and it sounded like ______.
If I lost the ability to speak, though—that might be ok, perfectly ok, might be ok to be left to be and dream and burn all but alone in sights and sounds and words etched and scrawled on the walls around that picture and everywhere between beyond this nowhere, free of having to talk my way through it and to it, free of having to talk at all and be some certain kind of talking being. And in a dream, perhaps, full-remembered and on fire in the morning, I could watch that nighttime burning house crackle and spark and consume and I’d know without speaking, know with only hearing and sight that it was me, that house, and as long as I burned like that I’d still have my ways of telling you everything I think, never truly muted, never fully subdued, never tired of spelling it out, afraid only of being unable to. I’d wake from this and, dream in mind, write her to say hello stranger my voice has died but words have not and I’d like to have that little felt patch you made of a black coffin with “lucky you” embroidered on the lid—because then I’d have a real reason for writing and something more to ask than something dumb and ordinary like how’d you get to be so beautiful and what do you see when you make things. I wonder if she’d get it.
Burned down to its last smoldering shapeless embers with swirling, drifting plumes of black rising against a careless, polished-black sky poked by needlepoint star holes of empyrean light; only color and motion, no sound but not soundless, ashes scattered around and carried on eternal wind wings with their own designs on time and reason—I wonder if she’d make a sketch of that, an etched sketch of after to go with the during already hanging on my wall, and I wonder if she’d know what I meant when I called it The Ability to Lose, Lost, hoping if I asked her face to face that I wouldn’t go so far as to mistake a beguiling, maybe pensive gaze for an open invitation to tell her, eyes and mouth speaking to eyes and ears hearing, how the wondering, hopelessly hoping and tired me goes to sleep some nights hoping hopelessly to dissolve into perfect darkness like the embers in her as yet unmade after sketch, anything so long as there won’t be another burned out day to face, dead-wishing for a dream blaze conveniently free of any opportunity for a last, terrified, waking thought that I was having my last, terrified, waking thought, no second guesses, no trauma, no bleed-outs, no sky-falls, no gradual deterioration, just standing alone in the night and watching an empty house burn down to smoldering embers beneath an impassive, moonless sky, mouth-door open and window-eyes alight and me looking on with the same expression, fully consumed and departing.
I wouldn’t want to say that, and I’m tired of thinking it, hearing it, seeing it, and I’m glad I woke up today to see and hear and know I’m still on fire in a world of words and pictures and colors and sounds and beautiful girls with voices I’ve no real need to hear but every single last imaginable real need to imagine, and to imagine I’ll find the words to capture and always have them, something, to lose.
If you’re curious to see what I’m talking about, or some of it, check the artist out on IG @eradura. And I was also reminded of a brilliant short story of Murakami’s called “Barn Burning.”