Hitotoki: Fahuazhen Lu/Huahai Xi Lu, June 13, 2010, 5:30am

by ferret

I’d stayed up all night, and I was surrounded by the morning hush. For this brief hour, the city had crashed, fallen into a deep slumber. The revelers and party demons had retreated, and the drivers, the busybodies and the makers of the day had yet to arise and meet the morning. All that shuffled about were the soy milk servers and newspaper couriers, working in silence, as if the city were a temple.

A man brushed by me on my way down a wide avenue, babbling to himself, using the silence as a sounding board. I regarded him with some interest, but I found nothing strange in his behavior. I was talking with the silence as well.

How could I not? In these moments, the world was spread out before me, unified in that silence, bereft of differentiation, blurred from right and wrong, existing as itself and nothing more.

Yet I saw the distinctions, the hang-ups, the desires of my past clearly, the way one sees the true height of a mountain only by standing far away from it. And because it was far away, I could say what I wanted about it. I could add what I wanted. What was on that mountain? What was shuffling about on the slopes? What crags, what crannies had been left undiscovered? Before I knew it, I was practicing poetry. I had my mountain, and it was myself.

I saw myself. I saw myself as a financier of fortune lounging on a bed of silk sheets 25 stories in the air with a skinny, waifish woman lying on the crook of my arm, whispering to me in the morning light, her insecurities feeding on me, and my sense of worth feeding on her weakness.

I was the drunk, lying on the ground, my head resting on a park bench, my nose twitching with cocaine, and my veins dry from alcohol, half asleep and half awake, croaking at the daylight, as if it were the cause of my troubles.

I was the street sweeper. My mind was full of half-formed ideas, snatching at the world, but unable to articulate them except through the swish of a long-handled brush.

I was the stalking murderer, lading apathy into my heart readily so as to dull my sympathies, enumerating justifications for my bloody hands, laughing at the suffering of others.

I was a king and I passed proclamations. I took bribes and I kept a wide stable of concubines, fucking them by the dozen, forgetting their names, if I even learned them at all. I passed judgment over disputes, declaring myself beyond good and evil, having spent far too long in the solitude of my chambers away from the sight of men and the world.

I was a drag queen, lounging in stockings and high-heels, twirling my long hair suggestively, altering my voice, my speech, painting my face in gaudy colors, shaving my legs, indulging in all of me that ever wanted to be woman, finding my sudden frailty awkward as I studied a new kind of power.

I was a simpleton, and a genius – isolated in both. I was executioner and the executed – penitent in both.

I was a working man, an auto mechanic, my fingernails blackened with grit. I trained myself to hold my breath continually so I was constantly prepared to slide under a car. In the morning, I found myself clutching the large, full breast of my wife, the softest thing my hands would touch all day.

I was a scholar, my head plowed deep into pages and computer screens. My neck and head were hunched. My brow furrowed deep with wrinkles. My teeth yellowed from coffee. My eyes puddled in the circles of long nights. My demeanor was measured and proud knowing that even as my body grew deformed, my mind had grown finer and more stately – a sharpened tool to cleave the world as I wished.

I was a god holding the world in my hand, breathing atomic bombs upon it, watching it glow and burn. I was a lowly, thoughtless worm, churning the soil, bringing life to the grasses, trampled so easily underfoot.

I walked upon a corner, babbling to myself in the morning light, still thinking on myself in a world where I was all things. There were three women standing there – flight attendants waiting for a bus. They regarded this googly-eyed foreigner with some distain, but then peered deeply at me, as if regarding my fortune.

I imagined they were witches, and though I could not understand what they were saying, I imagined that they were there with me in the quiet of the morning, mocking me and this world where anything could be saying: “Foul is fair, fair is foul.”