Monday, April 5, 2021

Perjury of Apparent Light


The latest spam comes promising “augmented reality.” When they exchanged rings, they were giving them back; he was in love with a friend’s avatar and she adjourned to the bar to find another man. Real spouses are so dull he needs the Fight Club alternative, where fighting leads to sex near a temple or on a pier or in the street. My dog looks guilty when she eats her treats beside the bed. Does avatar feel shame for taking spouse away into the world whose only consequence is the loss of an off-screen marriage? 


Then there’s augmented authenticity, which guarantees some forms of capital. General Honore misspelled the word, so his hashtag went nowhere. We’ve reached the porous boundary between sickness and terrorism, politics and unattached rage. If you’re really good, you can feel compassion in the absence of an other, but most of us stay on this plane, feeling for each other, not for space or time or whatever holds us in our shavasana pose.

If I’m an authenticity operator, I know how to make PR real. Twitter is one compartment, and the other is my latest book, which feigns sincerity. Recent department meetings testify to an absence of wit. It might be the grenade to explode at the center of our remembered circle, now composed of rows of heads, some on and some off. If irony died after 9/11, what has perished since? Even slapstick resembles death by intentional pratfall. Otherwise known as terrorism.

I cannot watch the trial. But I see “highlights” of a man in a beautiful cream jacket and tie weeping on the stand. “May I approach?” someone inquires. A bottle of water appears at the edge of the screen and he takes it, drinks. Plastic chalice. If we watch to witness, what does it mean that we do so through screens and masks? The murderer’s mask is no different from anyone else’s; blue with white ear straps.

In the absence of mouth, give your eyes more work to do. Or notice the absence of puddle and shadows in his. Water requires depth to make the mirror of trees and ferns. His eyes’ have nothing to do with reflection. Not the testimony of a Noh actor, but the perjury of apparent light.

One man leaped onto the train tracks to save another, mid-seizure. Another found a baby on the subway platform. Who are you to take a life. The pet food purveyor sells trachea for dogs to chew on. A trachea, once blocked, can no longer testify to a body’s pain. So witnesses come, one after another, to cry in a state building, confess, report on what sticks to their eyelids each night. The trachea is transparent, like a hollow spine. Laid down alone on the table, it has nothing to add. Given a puzzle, you’d have no idea where to put it. Put it to your ear, like a straw.