examples of catastrophe (after Lydia Davis)


It was more like a flash of white light than a sudden pain. My head whipped back into place and my eyes adjusted to the fluorescents again. What did I…? Was it that guy? The vagrant was cursing to himself. His dirty stare trailed off from me onto someone else. All that remained was urine vapor. Leech. As I turned to look for the next uptown train my irises opened on a trio of young mothers glaring at me over their obscene prams. It seemed a look somewhere between horror and disgust. Horr-gust. Look at me like that. I spit a thick glob of mucus onto the tracks and wiped the remainder with the hollow between my right thumb and forefinger; a streak of blood was glowing under the strip lighting. If I’m fucking late today I will find those prams and tear them apart bolt by fucking bolt.


Each time I read the article different words stood out. There were combinations of letters that I swear I had never seen before. b-u-t…b-yut…b-yoo-t. Ash-es…ayshh-hes…ah-shess. The whole of the article was a thing of slapstick; firemen struggled with hoses, while septuagenarians clutching cats bounced from outstretched blankets. U-n-i-d-e-n-t-i-f-i……r-e-m-a-i-… My thoughts bounced around and lifted to a fleck of dust just above the computer screen that was swirling downward, escaping the heat of the chandelier in the middle of the room. This speck wasn’t recklessly bursting into flames. It wasn’t sparking senseless ruin. Our home was safe. I was sure of it. I turned the page. 13 down. Filmmaker/Clarinetist Allen. W-O-O-D-Y.


We walked silently for about five minutes. She shuddered under her overcoat so I pulled her into me as we approached the precinct. Her sister was dead. Or so we were told. The detective had called her cell phone and asked her to come in to identify the body. The body alone. Without the identifiable essence. Without the Julie. We had to put our cat down once. It’s eyes just got blacker and blacker. Like its soul was being pulled out from its innards by an unseen force until it became something else. I wonder if she wonders if this is how Julie went. If there were witnesses of it next to her under the taxi. I am afraid of how she will change when she sees the corpse. What she will become. Deathly afraid.


I guess I never should have thought it was forever. It is always suspension of disbelief. You do everything in your power to forget that you fuck everything up in the end anyway. And then you forget. And when it’s done you feel the pain of remembering. And you begin the cycle all over again.


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