When he finally feels better, having eaten the processed cheese sandwich
that has lately become a staple, he gets down on all fours and begins
doing push-ups again. He needs to keep in shape, needs to keep moving
while staying in place.
He is aware that there are things happening in the world. Big things.
Another war is brewing. Because it must: this is foregone, preordained,
destined, kismet. Fate is not a matter of randomness labeled in hindsight, nor is it a pantomime of baser urges transmuted into a purer
choreography: Fate is older than we are. Older than life. It precedes us,
originating in another dimension. Sometimes people become its vessels.
Perhaps—no, certainly—he is one. He has carved a space inside himself
where great crowds, entire worlds, throb and crawl. Galaxies inhabit his
body as if it is an Embassy Suite with infinite rooms, cotton bath towels,
whirlpools, king-sized beds, and, of course, room service.
Because he hopes to be released one day, he needs to show himself repentant and rehabilitated. To demonstrate this, he will have to leave the
luxury of solitary. This saddens him, but he is pragmatic. He knows he
still has a ways to go before he can move on, as it were. And to get there
he will need to befriend the guard—the one who brings him his food,
who may or may not be the one who also brought the pliers.
His cell is an eggshell from which he will one day hatch. As what will
The problem is, he hasn’t spoken to anyone in a long time. Wide time.
Not a word. Every time he was tempted to respond to something with
words, he restrained himself. He swallowed the syllables knocking
against his teeth like hostages.
Once, bartending a faculty party, he asked the semiotician Umberto Eco
why, in his final Eliot Norton Lecture, he’d chosen to decry the adolescent nature of conspiracy theories. Because, the great man replied,
his generation had failed to rise to the challenges of its age. It remained
politically immature by choice, preferring theory to action. He didn’t say
this ironically. In effect—these were not his words—they had blown their
chance to lead, and now the Andreottis and Bushes of the world were in
charge. Eco, with his salt-and-pepper beard and Pavarotti physique, was
a nimble and relaxed dinner guest. Imagining conspiracy theories, he
said while sipping his red wine, was a way of deflecting responsibility.