Friday, September 9, 2016

The Mischief of Illusion vs the Threat of the Real

You were eighteen, the ideal age for the venture, when you first read Thomas Wolff's novel, You Can't Go Home Again, your youthful level of appreciation enhanced by the fact of  having familiarity with the philosopher Heraclitus, and his observation that one could not bathe in the same river twice, as well as your awareness of Ezra Pound's poem, "Hugh Selwyn Mauberly," in which Pound observed "All things are flowing, sage Heraclitus says..." which meant that change was indeed inevitable because not only rivers flowed, so too does Reality.

By then, you'd actually had the experience of leaving home and testing the Wolfian and Heraclitan dicta, both to your satisfaction but also to your dismay. You'd learned some of what a writer must learn about the concepts of home, of turf, territory, and attitude; you'd also learned a bit about time travel, irony, and displacement. You returned home not only different from the person you were when you left, but unsettled in the same way travelers crossing the International Date Line are unsettled in the sense of having returned not only different but ahead of yourself.

The individuals and city you were so eager to return to were not the individuals or city you left. You might not have realized this at the time had you not been from and of Los Angeles, which changed--and still changes itself--on a whim, and thanks to things that happened to you while you were away, you were two years ahead of the classmates you'd left behind.

These observations become prologue for the observation of how, like it or not, prepared for it or not, the home you cannot return to is more than houses or apartments, neighborhoods and schoolyard confrontations with bullies, encounters with bright, airy teachers and those weighted down with the inner gloom of dreams gone stale, you cannot even go home again to flux.

Some few years ago, when you undertook cataract surgery, the performing surgeon told you you might be one of those who experienced a post-op condition called floaters, whereby you would appear to see spots or other visual mirages that were idiosyncratic with you and had no basis in Reality. These floaters might come at surprising times, then vanish without further incident. You were given a list of floaters which were potential harbingers of some need for repair. Should any of these appear, call this number, day or night. Otherwise, chill.

One day, perhaps a year after both eyes had received new and improved lenses, while you were shaving in preparation for the day, you saw what appeared to be a persistent line of fleas--for they were too small to be ants--marching across the sink board, seeking some form of refuge in the stand housing your electric toothbrush. These "fleas" turned out to be your only experience with floaters, but once having been alerted to the potential of floaters, you can't go home again to yet another place, and from time to time, when you see what appears to be anomaly or in some way or other out of the ordinary, you are mindful of the potential for the mischief of illusion.


About thirteen years ago, at your first out-of-hospital visit to the oncologist who in effect rerouted portions of your viscera, you were alerted to the possibility of yet another kind of floater, the rogue cancer cell that might be touring your blood stream in the manner of a blase tourist seeking a comfortable landing spot. You needed nearly five years of various scans and magnetic imagery to determine whether there were indeed cancer cell floaters or not. There were indeed not any, nevertheless the impossibility of returning to the home of what you were before you were diagnosed with a malignant tumor the approximate shape and color of a carnation bud. This is not to say you have become an hypochondriac; you've in fact been in remarkable health for the hundred fifty-six months since the malignant tumor was excised. Nevertheless, on those rare moments of feeling punk, there is the anomalous thought that the flea floaters were real, that there is some internal rough beast, its hour yet to come, slouching toward oblivion.

The upside of this is the wonder and joy of the mornings after such feelings of punk, the awareness that there are blank screens to be filled, notebook pages in which to scrawl observations, invented homes to be departed from in order to record the mischief of trying to find your way back.

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