untitled fragment — “incunabulum”

I doubt this is going to go anywhere for some time. I wrote it to make the day’s quota when my notebook was inaccessible and midnight was approaching. It’s excessively meta and rambly the way my first drafts often are — when I’m writing something and I don’t know where it’s going, I sometimes take strange measures to justify its existence.

I don’t keep diaries. I tried once, when I broke up with my first girlfriend — we’d been very serious, she’d fucked up but so had I, and I wrote a few journal entries about what I’d gone through in the name of “lessons for the future.” That didn’t take. I hated writing a private document. It seemed pointless or self-defeating or narcissistic, depending on which of the contradictions embedded in private writing you took seriously; writing is necessarily performance, but how could I countenance performing for myself alone? When blogging got popular a few years later, I tried that, thinking it was less disingenuous to write for an actual, if hypothetical audience; but no one read it, and so it devolved, in effect, to the same problem.

Case in point, here. I will not have forgotten these facts when next I read this, if I ever do again. But — another stumbling block in my relationship toward the documentary impulse — I always felt a narrative should have a point of entry and a justification. The justification is coming, but it would be meaningless without some shred of context… and all these concerns of narrative seem to sharpen as they redouble, like steel folded at the forge, in light of the nature of my son’s disease.

It is a blackening, almost like a bruising, first afflicting the transitional zones of the body as many illnesses do — the edges of the lips and eyelids, the gumline, the delicate skin around the cuticles. He looks less sick than faintly goth, if six-year-old goths ever made mischief by spiking each other’s makeup with permanent ink. He’s been under the weather for a couple of days now; J is taking him to the doctor tomorrow. It was only an hour ago, while I was holding him as he slept (badly and before his bedtime), that I thought to look more closely at the marks.

I don’t know quite how to explain why I took such close interest. In retrospect, I want to say I felt an impression of space within the bruises, as though they were drawn in crosshatch, infinitely crisp but so fine that the eye couldn’t distinguish it from grey. And it couldn’t — or mine couldn’t — but the impression was unshakable; and so I put T’s head down on the couch and quietly stole into J’s study, where T plays with his junior scientist toys, and I picked up his microscope and examined the base of his fingernail.

I am afraid to write what I saw. I am afraid that I am now inhabiting some labile state of the universe, in which two simultaneously existing possibilities will collapse into one baneful reality as soon as an observation is taken.

I am, it is easily observed, the kind of person who overthinks things. I am not confident in my own judgments; I do not wish to stamp them on the universe. And yet —

— T’s bruises are radiating strings of text, drawn so precisely that it is as if the individual skin cells have been tattooed. The characters are of no language I have ever seen.

I am a tenured lecturer in comparative lexicography at the Imperial College of Philology on Charon. There is no language I have never seen.

One thought on “untitled fragment — “incunabulum”

  1. Pingback: productivity update « the pulchrifex papers

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