..First Glyph

March 8
5 p.m.

A morose mood. The pretty waitress at that sidewalk cafe, I think. And the Hawaiian flower skirt she wore, and the loose white t-shirt tied up in a knot on one hip. The t- shirt, tied like that, exposed her flat brown midriff. The pretty waitress half-danced to a samba playing in the cafe as she balanced on a step between the cafe's dining area and the plaza. The pretty waitress noticed my watching her. She returned my look. She smiled at me. Too invitingly she smiled at me. I leave Guadalajara tomorrow. Morose, I felt. Morose, I feel.

I left the sidewalk cafe. I left the pretty waitress behind. Drained, I was, leaving. Weary. I shuffled to Plaza Tapatia. I found the bohemians there under their stone arcade. I purchased a bead anklet from one of the bohemians. I purchased three leather chokers from another. I begrudged the bohemians their loose garments then, shuffling away, their long loose hair. I've grown tired of my conservative dress here. I've grown tired of making myself unobtrusive. I've grown tired of my not being myself.

I strode to this Sanborns.

I ordered a coffee.

It is too late for me to drink this coffee.

A sharp severance just moments ago, walking to this Sanborns. Piercing, it was. A clean sudden break--of myself--from my surroundings. Cloven, I became. Detached. Apart. I've felt it before. Discomfiting, it is. Potent. Enlightening. You stand where you are, but you are not where you are. You stand there, but you are apart from there. You are separate.

In Mexico City I experienced this once, on the eve of my first departure from that metropolis, ten years ago. That was my first encounter with this feeling. I was defenseless against it then. Overwhelmed by it. I did not comprehend it. I remember wandering the Mexico City night. I remember marveling at the light of the lampposts, at how the light of the lampposts was reflected from the rain-dampened stones of the walks. I recall the keenness of my perceptions that night. The orange color of the light. The orange lambence of the reflections. I now understand that keenness of perception. Then I did not. It was a torrential flood to me then, a flood of detail, a flood above which I could not keep my head. The shapes of trees. The eyes of passersby. Exhaust whiff. I craved to flee. Brutally severed I felt from everything. But I could not stop seeing everything, or mentally noting everything. The affect was wrenching, jarring. It drove me to confused melancholy. There were tears.

My second experience with this feeling was much more concrete. And the sequence of events leading to it were much more distinguishable. I learned from the second experience, consequently, to comprehend the feeling. I sat in a downtown San Diego skyscraper. I sat in a telemarketing room. I had been contemplating for a few weeks my departure from that city. The date of my departure came to hinge upon a young woman. Her flirtation with me had encouraged my recent approach. Would her flirtation become something more? If it might, I would remain some months longer. If not, I would leave in six weeks. In the cubicle before me rested a note of response from her. I picked up the note. I unfolded the note. I read the note. And there, in that moment, in that moment that I read her words, this feeling of severance came over me. For in that moment, with her words, my trajectory out of that city began. And so, in that moment, I no longer belonged to San Diego. Disconnected I felt suddenly from the city; from everything, in fact, around me. I stood up in my cubicle. I surveyed the people about me with a pained and struck wonder. Distinct, I stood from them, wholly, and separate. A clarity of perception overwhelmed me. Everything gained a razor fine edge. Everything came into crystal clear resolution. My senses resolved to keenest performance. A rolling mumble of voices, I heard. A golden light through the high-rise window, I saw. My breathing. I did not belong any longer to that scene, you know, though I was a part of that scene. I stood among those people in that moment, yes, but I was no longer of those people in that moment. I could have been ten miles from them, or dreaming, or in a movie theater. I was wholly detached. I did not belong. I was there but not there. Perceiving, but apart. The potency of this was extreme. Unforgettable. The immediacy. A shock it gave me. A sweat across my brow.

This feeling of severance--as I experienced it in San Diego, and in Mexico City, and tonight in Guadalajara--joins two distinct elements. There is the feeling of apartness from the place where you are. And there is the heightened perception of the place where you are. These two elements, apartness and perception, do not appear on the surface to relate so intimately. But when considered in terms of objectivity they do. And objectivity, a kind of super- objectivity even, is exactly what the feeling of severance creates in you. By being apart from all the stimuli around you, you are better able to perceive all the stimuli around you. And when your senses are better able to perceive all this stimuli, your senses seize upon this stimuli. With urgency the senses seize upon everything perceptible. With rabid eagerness, even lust, they do. I cannot overstate how powerful the sense of separateness is in this feeling of severance. Nor can I overstate how fine and sharp is its clarity. The two aspects marry. They overrun your consciousness. You break into a higher objectivity.

I do not understand why I felt this severance tonight. I have only been in Guadalajara a week. That is not really enough time to establish a bond with a city. Maybe tonight's feeling had more to do with the journey in general. But the journey's end is still some time off. Or maybe the feeling was stimulated as much by my morose mood as by my imminent departure. This could be. Melancholy played a role in all three of the feeling's most poignant assertions. For I had just left the sidewalk cafe with the flirty waitress, as you know. And I was feeling morose. And I had just walked through the centro and passed by several more pretty shop girls. And my moroseness had deepened. And it was then, alone, as I strode, in my deepened moroseness, that I stepped off the curbstone into that picturesque colonial crossroads; then, beneath a crucifix above a clockface, that the feeling of severance smote me. The separateness. The distinctness. The acute perception. Consome de pollo, I smelled, from some restaurant window. And the stone-flavored air. A cloth awning, I saw. A wrought iron balcony with a chair. The circular stones beneath me shone charcoal and ash gray and rose. And I was apart from those circular stones even as I trod those circular stones. Then four magnolia trees. Then I breathed the wood from the floors of a hotel entrance. Then leather through a window. Botas y botines, said the sign in the window. Bolsas de piel. Then the street that brought me here to this Sanborns, I saw. I began following it. I noticed the lines of the rooftops and the window- casements and the doorways along the street. I noticed the perspective of all of those lines along the street. I felt those lines plunging toward their vanishing points. And tiger lilies. And jigsaws of stone. And indirect light, phantomish, inconstant. And plaster. And a leaf blows. And a blooming potted flower. And I am leaving here, I thought to myself. I no longer belong to this place, I thought to myself. I leave here tomorrow. A lump in my throat. A swallow.

9:31 p.m.

Hanging on the back of my hotel room door is a laminated sheet of paper. A cartoon fireman poses on one side of this sheet. The words above him read, in English, "Guide of escape in case of fire." The fireman points out two silhouettes beside him. One silhouette is a person crawling on all fours. The other silhouette is a person holding his palm to a door. The words beneath the fireman begin, in English, "Although fire is not frequent, it is convenient that you may be informed about what to do to stay alive in such a situation."


John Dishwasher

The Gods of Our Fathers