Saturday, August 12, 2017

Notes on Estrangement 3: Still

What is the awareness of the other person -- the other person, whom you have not seen and will later studiously cast your eyes in a wide berth around so as not to glimpse -- although a person whom you will, later still, slipping back to your locker to retrieve your laptop with half these words already spilling in your head, with slight frustration, accidentally glimpse -- what is this awareness of this other person, whom you have not seen, but who seems to be as light and as restless a sleeper, and perhaps as desperate a sleeper as you are, this other person with whom you share at least these pointless qualities, this other person with whom you share also not exactly a bed, but exactly two beds, squeakily interwoven into one rickety structure, a set of bunks that creaks you into wakefulness again and again, that steadily disciplines your own tossing and turning into the most fastidious stealth, that once more and once more again rocks you asleep and stirs you awake like a cup of black coffee immiscible with its own milk?

This awareness must be the estrangement of intimacy. It must be the very familiar thing, of lying sound asleep but always a little awake, here beside the other other person whom you lie beside almost every night -- in, it has to be said, a very big bed -- only made strange.

Or (flip quietly onto your other side, forests of fidgets, and spoonings sprouting into sporkings) it must be the strange made familiar.

It must be the strangeness of those nights when you and she can't get to sleep, those fidgeting nights of prickles and frets and crabs, where the world of bed becomes a thicket of thorns. It must be one of those nights, only made safe and inhabitable, technicized and mechanized, and made as comfortable and hospitable as possible, while preserving the essential texture of snarls and crotchets, made hospitable and comfortable and in a sense therefore familiar both by this little metal infrastructure that keeps your distance for you ...
... and by whatever invisible infrastructure distinguishes your lives, whatever invisible infrastructures keeps distances that are not even "your" distances between you, keeps the stranger below a stranger. Beds within beds, wheels of milk within wheels of black coffee, dawn within midnight, trying to show kindness while you are asleep within waking from the dream that you are awake. It must be the strange within the familiar.

And there is a small but non-zero chance that the person in the bunk below you has written books you have read and perhaps been intimate with. And then what would shift or stir?

It is only because this is what has sprung to mind, this is what you have to compare it with, and cut a path toward it with, that it becomes this particular estrangement of a familiar intimacy, and the de-estrangement of this intimate disquiet. It could have been something else estranged last night. Paddling in a canoe, steering it together, trying to keep it level and its course true.

Or -- I think this is right, although I haven't had much sleep, for reasons I won't get into -- it could be an estrangement of some new something else which you retrospectively create in order to be that-which-is-estranged, and I think that is why estrangement can be political still.

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