If You Said You Would Come With Me
(I tell this story from within a dimension of my present life, which is, though the days are not endless, the angels not boring, and a tragic sense decorates every apartment my selves inhabit, eternal.)
The man ahead of me in the line, the laid-off software developer, had a particular kind of old-fashioned shuffle, scuffing the floor in the most mournful and yet manly of ways.
And he was dressed as a potato farmer. As I was.
One hundred and fifty-five years ago, a potato farmer had turned to me in the furrows and asked: Should we recite The Angelus.
And one hundred and fifty-five years ago I had said to him: Yes.
The laid-off software developer in the line was now turning to face me and asking: The Angelus, by Millet, that picture was of us, wasn’t it.
And he relieved me of my paperwork and my basket of potatoes as the surface agitation of the bells dinging the next available agent ding agent 12 is open ding agent 2 ding agent 31 grazed something profound.
I, an out-of-work school administrator dressed like the wife of a French potato farmer.
The man’s wheelbarrow full of his forms.
And the others in the line all wearing the muted pinks and greens from Millet’s background.
date you were last: type of work you: work shifts you are willing: transportation you plan
1857: leaning over a basket of potatoes that had been placed over the grave of a baby though who had buried a baby so close to the fields and why: and why is it now not the memory of the baby but of the fields, the expanse of fields that—
Such a film being played over the surface of space and I so easily step in.
I walked across the surface of this film to the office of unemployment.
Fragments kept flying off the screen into the audience
Yes, yes, yes, the film is about loving this world. Though who can stay long enough in it. The bells that call you to heaven call you to the next available agent.
I remembered having to eat and defecate and sleep and having to wake up on the farm in such darkness. I remembered how hard it was after a while to keep being the person I was, a person at all. How when the bells rang he always held his hat in his hands.
Then it was the man’s turn. He and his wheelbarrow were proceeding to agent 4. And there was his face, turning, smiling an apology.
It would be my turn next. I would say what I needed to say to get money. And then the turn would be over and would that not be a great relief.
Six months later, I was back on line again, alone.
(date you were last: type of work you: work shifts you are willing: transportation you plan)
You and I, Mr. Quistgaard, are not in the same universe of discourse.
(And here I know not what else to say. What is the meaning that will not die, who is this, the poor I that I am, and which souls should it seek out this time, and what jobs should it be doing. What jobs, Mr. Quistgaard? I know that this at least is a question you will understand.)
Darcie Dennigan’s second book, Madame X, was published by Canarium this year.