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Phillip Lopate describes the shape of Manhattan Island as‘a luxury liner, permanently docked, going nowhere’. This feeling of being tethered to the land, unable to get to sea, was a feature of New York life for much of the twentieth century. New York was an island without a coast. The West Side piers that once welcomed the Lusitania spent most of the twentieth century crumbling or behind barbed wire, while the East Side’s coves and points were cut off from pedestrians by six lanes of the Robert Moses-designed Franklin Delano Roosevelt Drive. It wasn’t much easier to reach the shores of Brooklyn, Queens or the Bronx, either: with a few exceptions, they were largely reserved for municipal or industrial use, and easiest to see from the Staten Island Ferry (en route to the borough with the most beaches). Now, slowly, the city is reclaiming its shoreline, with some spectacular results.

Dreamland by Lawrence Kim and His Boss


Listen to the original song by Lawrence Kim and His Boss: Dreamland. 

You can also watch the live performance of this song at the Underwater New York launch party aboard the Lightship Frying Pan here.


 Lawrence Kim and His Boss are Lawrence Kim and Jen Black. 

At Me Too Someone is Looking by Alanna Schubach


When the greenish lights hit the smoke rising from the DJ booth, it formed a noxious cloud. If you dance inside it, you die, Alice decided. They were there at the behest of someone called Darien, a stick figure given life and stringy black hair. Elyse had sent him for drinks.

“He’s a millionaire,” she said. “We should pay for nothing.”

“How did that happen?”

“I don’t know, some Internet thing. He’s retired now.”

He returned with twin cylinders filled with neon.

“You know, Darien’s a town in Connecticut,” Alice told him.

“And also, my name.”

“How are you enjoying your retirement?”

“I don’t feel retired. I want to open a commune on City Island. I want to learn how to make my own compost—supposedly you need at least two years for everything to really ferment the way it should. I want to bring back the zine. Who can bear to read shit online? I’m concerned with the rise in intangibles. I really need to finish my screenplay. It’s a reimagining of Crime and Punishment, set in a Long Island high school.”

“I grew up on Long Island.”

“Qué fantástico.”

He spoke to her as though she could parse a thing he was saying. As if she wasn’t the sort of person for whom going to a club still held an odor of the forbidden. Everyone seemed older. There was the sense that they all owned the same kind of makeup, something you could only buy on the black market, something that filled in the crevices and caverns on your face, that smothered years rather than peeled them away.

Elyse asked, “Will you put your own shit in the compost?”

“Will you dance with me?”

Alice sipped her neon and tried to move her hips without thinking about it. She knew these first moments would be unbearable, to the point that she’d be wildly angry at her companions for plucking her out of the night and dropping her here. It was the challenge she knew she could not meet, to seem as though she were simply one of many of Elyse’s intimates, to bump hips and laugh with during an unexpected but welcome nighttime encounter, rather than a classmate invited out on a whim, probably with the sole purpose of self-amusement, someone who’d never be here if it weren’t for the accident of fate that the registrar placed their fraternal twin names side by side on a roster. She’d imagine smashing her drink in their faces, and that would calm her a little. Then finally the neon would reach her head and shift the crowded dance floor into focus, and all the silhouettes would be ringed with joy.

Elyse felt frantic. She sank her face into Darien’s damp neck to muffle it. She’d thought Alice might blossom into ebullience, but now she saw she was the sort to stand in the corner, fold her arms, send her sour expression forward, floating overhead like poisoned pollen. Darien’s erection poked at her thigh and she felt nauseated. “Alice,” she said. “You look like you’re watching a puppy being tortured.”

“I’m fine.”

Darien gave her a look that was too familiar: don’t get like that, Elyse, as though he really knew what she could get like. Fucking isn’t osmosis, she wanted to tell him. There was an aching bracelet around the meat of her upper right arm where he’d been squeezing. “Nick,” her mother used to say, when they rolled around on the floor, Elyse refusing to tap out even when her windpipe felt ready to fold in on itself, tissue paper in her father’s headlock, “you don’t know your own strength.” That was bullshit. Men knew their own strength exactly.

What was the consolation? To pretend she didn’t know, to agree in earnest to an arm wrestling match, poise her elbow on the table with great seriousness that belied a faith that it was possible, at least, to win, seated across from the guy with mirth stretched across his face like a second skin, him thinking he’d go easy but not so easy that she wouldn’t be slammed back to reality like her humerus hitting the table, her chest full of the bittersweet throb of secretly knowing more.

“Let’s go get another drink,” she said. As they walked to the bar Elyse could feel Alice’s edges soften and blur. Tenderness suddenly filled her chest, warming away the anxiety: she remembered a time when she craved female attention. Before she found all the things that would happen were she the one to give it. Leaning over, her tits resting on the edge of the bar, Elyse tried to think of who the bartender reminded her of, until she realized it was a character from her novel. The warmth fell away.

Last time she’d seen her dad they sat on the creaking back porch drinking beers out of a silver bucket of melted icewater as the day sizzled out around them. From inside the house his girlfriend, Beth, would occasionally peek out the kitchen window and smile, to the point that Elyse began to suspect it was some sort of Pavlovian response to the glassy clink of their bottles. Clink, smile. Beth had long straight gray hair and Elyse privately nicknamed her the Iron Curtain. Beth’s arm was in a cast, which went unexplained.

“I was worried this would be awkward,” Elyse told her father.

“Hey, I know you.”

“I’ve slept with like fifty guys. That I know of,” she thought of saying, but it would just upset him. Not the number: his failure to feel a snap of protectiveness at its announcement. So instead: “My workshop professor this semester is a complete douchebag.”

“When you were little you’d read your mom’s catalogs. You loved the names of the colors for the shoes and stuff. Salmon, burnt sienna, cerulean. Always loved words.”

Clink, smile.

“Right now I’d call the sky three-day-old bruise.”

“I wish Beth would stop buying this shit. She knows I prefer swill. She knows it, but she doesn’t like it.”

“Did you break her arm?”

“Elyse, I’m sixty years old.”

She even cherished foreign words with a similar sense of ownership: when she took high school Spanish she admired how there were words not only for this and that, but also for that over there, in the distance: aquella. She said it aloud into the deaf ear of the club.

“Huh?” Alice said. “Yeah, I’m okay,” though her face was worryingly flushed. Arthur Kill, she was thinking drunkenly, Arthur Kill as she adjusted the heavy bag (it contained a Moleskine, several pens, a short story collection entitled You Gotta Read This!) hanging from her aching right shoulder. Professor O’Neill had assigned her creative non-fiction workshop an article from New York (cue the quiet after-class hallway smirking that O’Neill read that: it explained her perfectly, the heavy Hoosier with dreams of spike-heeled Manhattan bitchiness) about the objects swallowed by city waterways over the centuries: the dinette set, the rebar, the cache of silver, the bountiful shipwreck sunk down in thick harbor sludge, water skinned by tar, disturbingly soft sand filling the cracks on the bow. They were to each pick an item and crack it open. A predictable contrivance from the woman who handed them lemons on the first day and asked them to practice sensory description. It was unbelievable that this was costing thirty thousand dollars a year. Arthur Kill was the narrow between Staten Island and Jersey where they’d lost all the silver, but it sounded to her more like the name of a Victorian child murderer. She thought briefly of writing a story about Arthur Kill but decided she would ultimately derive more pleasure from secretly turning the name over and over in her mind like a pearl. Alice had always had an excellent memory. She was sure Arthur Kill had stuck with no one else. The problem with her crystal recall, though, was that she was forever yanked by its monstrous grip backward—that is, whenever she wasn’t already drifting forward, sending her astral self floating ahead like a smoke signal, this vapor-Alice telling the story of now in a flickering far-flung apartment or hotel room. Tonight wasn’t even happening; it had already happened, crusted over into something for her to spit up for others, for whatever reason—probably to make herself seem exotic, appealing, a person who had lived.

“I’m a time traveler,” she told Elyse. “For real.” They were all sitting at the bar. She was sweaty, muscles popping satisfyingly inside her legs.

“That guy is checking you out. That one over there, the poor man’s Ethan Hawke.”

“Really poor. Like homeless man’s. But I only travel within my own timeline, so it’s not that interesting. I’m not that interesting.”

“Go over there,” Darien said, as though he had spent adequate time studying Alice and concluded she was the sort of person who needed some platonic male encouragement: he could really turn things around for her. You are pissing me off. It was a scream in Elyse’s head. Surely he could hear.

“I looked into the future and saw that it wouldn’t happen. I can’t do anything to change that.”

“Are you saying you want to leave?” Elyse said.

“Are you?” It was a trick Alice had learned from a college friend, to smoothly hoist the responsibility onto someone else’s shoulders without them even feeling it. Most people were just talking about themselves, anyway.

Elyse sighed harshly. “Fuck, yes.”

Alice had learned a lot in college. Then there had been the times when she would come home for visits, the weird backsliding of creeping late into her parents’ dark house after nights out with friends and their increasingly tenuous shared histories, gossip about post-high school activities of now deliciously remote people, her own sludgy feelings of disgust at engaging in these conversations at bars that now just seemed depressingly provincial, now that she was of age, her delight at the sinking stars of those for whom high school had been the zenith: because it hadn’t been for Alice and her friends, so clearly their time was now, with their impressive colleges, and beyond them smooth wide carpets extending into a future that knew nothing of Long Island.

Finally one night her mother told her: it wasn’t that she minded Alice’s going out, but wouldn’t she come up and let them know when she got home? She couldn’t sleep well until she knew Alice was safe and sound.

So she obliged, at two a.m. padding into the cave of their bedroom like her childhood self fallen out of time. She heard their paired steady breathing.

“It’s me,” she said softly.

Her mother snapped straight up and shrieked.

“Jesus Christ Carol,” her father mumbled through fog.

“You told me—” Alice began. Her mother’s white hand fluttered in the dark to her chest.

“She’ll give me a heart attack,” her father said. “One of these days I’ll wake up dead.”

Alice retreated, the room smelling of foreign sleep. It had been beginning to dawn on her for a while then that her mother was faintly ridiculous: she preferred the idea of herself as the mother who waited up to being the one who actually did. Alice had been supposed to know better than to follow her rules.

On their way out of the club, Alice was groped. A man reached over, took a breast in each hand, and squeezed as though that was what they were there for.

“What?” Alice said, as though it was a question she’d misheard. He was already turning away. “What the fuck is wrong with you?” It poured out of her, a liquid yell, consuming the bass thrum in her chest. It became its own energy source. People were looking at her with mild annoyance, sleepy cats roused by a slammed door.

“I’m sorry, but he should be shamed,” she told them. Elyse and Darien were pulling her away. They leaked out onto the street. A cold gust of wind unblurred the streetlights, righted the loose clusters of kids headed to wherever. She used to want to black out, honestly, in those headlocks squirming there at the end of a long tunnel of years. Not to chasten her father: to show him she could. How far she was willing—wanted—to travel. As a baby, her parents said, Elyse would hold her breath until she turned blue to get what she wanted, sitting in her high chair furious and violet, bulging eyes swimming with wordless extremism. She hadn’t asked to be here, to come out from death’s velvet enclosure, but since she had she would laugh at it. Her father was this way, so said the box of Purple Hearts tossed unthinkingly into the corner of his wardrobe, and she was the same, but there was no proof then, no way to reveal their communion other than to go gladly limp in his arms. To enter the black nothing of unconsciousness. Of course, it had happened plenty since then, but always out of his view.

“Holy shit,” Darien said, “Alice is fierce.”

“Alice is a second-wave feminist,” Elyse said.

“Alice once spit in John Updike’s face at a party.”

“Alice came up with Obama’s campaign slogan.”

“Alice is the Poet Laureate in perpetuity.”

“Alice is the leading cause of death in twentysomething men.”

They were all doubled over in the street, holding on to each other, and Alice was suffused with generosity for both of them, she could see now their essential humanness, and she saw the earlier tensed Alice of that night as pitiable, a petty fool. But there was the knowledge lurking beneath like a sea snake that of course she only felt generous when it was convenient for her: like riding the subway home from school at the end of a long day, the sun still up, surrounded by crumpled dusky people who unlike her had to work for a living: then, too, she would feel this way. And she recognized their laughter as the dangerous social laughter that when heard from outside feels like an assault. That is, certainly, a double laughter, not only at the actual funny event or thing but also at everything beyond the edge of the silvery bubble the laughter constructs. And then she thought, well fuck it.

“I’m not like this,” she admitted, gasping, gathering herself. “Usually I just ask, Will this suck?And if it’s a yes I don’t say anything.”

Elyse struggled past the initial shards of judgment that formed at this pronouncement, so certain and unaware, so—she tried not to think—repressed. Her ex-boyfriend used to ask her why she’d get so angry at people who did things differently, but of course he wasn’t really asking, he was telling her she was deeply insecure, she didn’t know what she was doing. Will this suck? Was the sucking worth it, worth some inner assurance? She had never known until the end. The night after the visit with her father, standing in front of the mirror in her underwear, Elyse had pinched at the pale flesh pooching over its elastic band.

“Sometimes I feel like a beast,” she told her ex-boyfriend, half-asleep on the couch. She felt all the beers with her father from that afternoon, the window of Beth and her broken arm, sloshing in her gut, an off-color sea. She lurched over to him in a way she might have designed, somewhat, to confirm her statement. “Do you still find me attractive?”

“Not at the moment, no,” he said.

“I would never say that to you.” It was true: he would have crumpled.

“I would never ask you a question like that. It’s wildly unfair.”

She filed it away, did not fight: she let the frustration mount silently in her chest like mucus and went to bed feeling restless, noble.

And months later, as they cleaned up the kitchen after a quiet dinner, he’d asked softly, barely audible over the running water in the sink, “Are you sure you’re not getting bored of me? Like—you still find me sexy?” The softness bothered her, like he wasn’t really sure he wanted her to hear, or he wanted her to have to lean into his orbit, a comforting satellite. And the unspoken nod to “her past,” which he thought of as still out there, a semi-separate entity living it up on night streets, outshining him.

It would have been easy to reassure him, it would have been easy to think instead of the way he’d gently push her hair back from her forehead as he kissed her so he could reach every part of her face, which he’d gaze at like it was something more than it was. But there was the fact that once, she had been punished by him, for a twinned moment of fear. And he thought he shouldn’t be.

So she’d had to bring it up and they’d had to fight. That was what it was like then, for them. She never told him what she had once seen: a small college town in the mountains somewhere, the two of them on a balcony, their lean faces, lined with character, turned toward peaked roofs, chimney smoke rising remotely away. She’d teach a couple classes a week, maybe; students would visit their drafty living room with its high ceiling, its wooden slats, the lofted bedroom overhead, and they’d admire the nest she’d made with him, to be seen but never quite felt, deliciously out of reach. A life that was hushed but thrummed with mystery, the echoes of a drunken stagger through city alleyways no longer needed. Things accomplished, consummated, to make way for this peace that was for them, the fresh hungry faces, decades away. But she saw this was to be Alice’s future, not hers. In some other pulsing cell of the city now he was pushing back another girl’s hair, learning the texture of another bedroom’s dimness. And if he imagined Elyse at all, she was doing exactly what he imagined, having merged again with that once-dancing once-distant past. There would be book parties in the spring, flirtatious young men with their own dreams to be beamed off her luminous flesh (already her classmates were hovering over the success-to-come, sharks pulled to bloody water), herself bounding through one portal after another, none of which emptied finally into the quiet country home.

Darien stopped short in front of them. They were standing in front of a narrow tall building, a muscular leg in black tights. The blinking sign said eep Show.

“A ghost of old New York,” he said. “From the age of smut.”

Elyse said, “I don’t remember any eep shows.”

“Come on, Lisey. We have to.”

“We don’t have to do anything,” Alice said.

Darien looked at her sadly. “That’s not true.”

It was all the clichés, sticky floors and old tobacco and the bleachy smell of come. Was this authenticity, then—depressing odors and the remnants of Type A influenza? As they climbed the stairs Alice’s buzz dissipated proportionately. You paid in a coin machine that looked like an antique. It was the sort of thing someone like Darien would have in a corner of his apartment. He’d stack the DSM-V on top of it for a high-low affect. Alice couldn’t have grasped after the diaphanous tails of her previous generosity had she wanted to.

They climbed into a booth and pulled the black curtain closed around them. There was just enough room for the three of them. Alice felt Elyse’s downy upper arm on one side and Darien’s pointy elbow on the other. Darien reached over and pressed a stamp into each of their hands. “It’ll make her look like the Loch Ness Monster,” he said. The complete blackness assured Alice it was all right. It seemed to hum with approval. The air inside was stale but hushed, reverent.

And then there was light on the other side of the glass. The girl, who was just a girl, started twisting around behind it.

“Oh God,” Elyse said. “I thought I could do this.”

“Don’t think about it,” Darien said. “Don’t think about how after work she has to suck off her boss and the dead look in her eyes makes it even better for him. It’s just a story you’ve heard a million times.”

Elyse tried to resist, because what Darien said was so often trite and clearly planned ahead of time—she imagined nothing but journals stacked against the walls of his apartment with “Conversations for Every Situation” scrawled inside—and because she wasn’t sure she only meant the booth, the blank sea creature inches away. But sometimes his words nevertheless resounded inside her till she began to vibrate. After the break-up he’d said, “But it’s also kind of beautiful, isn’t it?” so that she wanted to scream but also saw, captured in his voice, a reflection of the broken glass feeling, the way the light shone off it. She let him come toward her, let him think it was all his strength.

They were making out in earnest now. Alice fit herself into a corner of the booth and tried to enjoy it objectively: the writhing couple, their soft open-mouthed moans beside her, the sad bouncing titties on the other side of the glass, co-monologues of stale carnality. But their lips smacked together hungrily and she felt annoyance and something else flare deep within: she saw orange flame streaking through thick darkness. This was the sort of story (here again she traveled through time) book reviews and author profiles would one day yearn for, the wunderkind unmasked. And she would have, at least, the defense that she’d known Elyse before she became the first ever graduate student in the program to have a manuscript accepted before earning her degree: that it hadn’t been about being able to say she was the sort of person who knew intimately this sort of person. She could say she felt then no impatience, only detached happiness for Elyse and silent assurance that her time, too, would come, perhaps minus the fireworks but no less (in fact, probably more) worthy of them. Elyse turned her head toward Alice, lipstick smeared, ghastly, waiting, and Alice fell forward at her with her own mouth, as though she could communicate to Elyse that way how she saw her: how she saw through her. She tasted like secondhand whisky (Darien) and the waxy lipstick and under the lipstick—cherry. Elyse was a secret wearer of cherry gloss. Alice saw her as a little girl in front of a mirror, before consciousness. She pulled away.

Elyse turned back toward Darien, her eyes leaving an aura of mild disappointment, nothing more, hanging in the air. She was slapping at him, scratching, tugging his pants. He threw his head back and it rang loudly against the glass. Even the dancing girl’s expression registered surprise. Alice realized this would go on forever. They would devour each other, pick the strands of muscle from between their teeth, swallow the cartilage whole, watch it ripple down each other’s throats.

“Bathroom,” she muttered, the word utterly Dada inside the booth. She grasped the railing on her way down the stairs, which were squirming with amoeba, thinking vaguely about Purell. Before she opened the door she saw her face reflected in its cracked plastic from every angle, Picassoesque, jutting cheekbone and vertical eyebrow and slashed lips and thought, Good. Now they’ll know.

Outside the sun was coming up. The subway now would be insurmountable. She walked instead, amazed to feel her bag still swinging from her shoulder. I’m Old Faithful, she thought, and then, what was that other phrase I liked? Arthur Kill. Arthur Kill.

Alice reached the river. Beyond it, New Jersey: putting on the coffee, getting dressed for church, newsprint smudges on fingertips and faithfully chugging car motors. Sitting on a riverfront bench, disheveled and drugged as if that was who she really was, Alice longed for the imagined life.

That median strip of rippling gray began to churn. There was a noise like a monstrous burp and the seagulls stopped dead in the air at the sound of it. They hovered, watching, as the river began to vomit its contents, all of them: the dining room table and chairs, bobbing and waiting for their owners to take them home; the abandoned appliances, the building materials, the unfulfilled potential of a hundred objects buoyed by their own wordless yearning for use, the crest of a ship fallen into majestic ruin and then finally, the bars of silver, gorgeous gleaming rectangles floating in the water before Alice like so many false teeth.


  Alanna Schubach is a writer living in New York. She edits the website Such Sweet Thunder.

And Never Can a Man Be More Disastrously in Death Than When Death Itself is Deathless by Jonathan Callahan

OBJECT: Bars of Silver

BODY OF WATERArthur Kill


—The only men I admire are suicides, I repeated, as the Turk looked away, or not away but rather past me, the Turk was frequently looking past me, his thoughts seeming to drift like the wisps rising from his meerschaum pipe’s slow burn—only to wheel back when I least expected and fix me with a gaze of redoubled intensity. In the morning on rising I immediately drank the cup of black coffee and smoked both of the cigarettes allotted me by the Turk, then lay back in my berth and stared through the porthole at the sun’s perplexing diffractions for several hours before the Turk requested I join him above.

The Turk was not satisfied with this answer. As a rule the Turk was not satisfied. This constituted the principal distinction between us: the Turk was in no way satisfied, nor would he be satisfied, even under the most satisfying circumstances, even if after untold adventure and hardship, for example, he were to secure the object of a lifelong obsession, he would certainly find himself still more dissatisfied, his new dissatisfaction proportionate to the degree by which the consummation of a private ambition nourished over decades of unflagging if fruitless one-minded dedication toward this end ought to have left him absolutely sated—and yet even then, when the truth would have necessarily been most clear, he would have immediately convinced himself that he was satisfied, even while simultaneously and also immediately initiating plans for the pursuit of some other objective toward which he might bend his considerable energies and, assuming eventual success, since in the end the Turk always succeeds, fail to concede to himself then that he was still unsatisfied; whereas I both knew that I was not satisfied and knew that I never could be satisfied and in this knowledge I took my sole, perverse satisfaction.

Obviously the silver would make me unhappy. I would be miserable with the silver, as I was miserable without it; nevertheless I could think of nothing but the silver— or rather the silverand the Turk. The silver in a Turkish context. The success of the Turk. In the silver cache’s untold scintillations I saw the terrible success of  the Turk. For the Turk was a terrible success, as of course even a fool could see. It is only the terrible successes, the truly monstrous masters of their affairs, that dare present themselves as the saviors of vagabonds they find crawling naked and filthy through the streets of sub-tropical trading posts just before dawn, doglike (though this was an island with no dogs), emitting obscure growls and honks. I don’t remember the weeks preceding my rescue at the hands of the Turk. However I remember our first encounter with perfect clarity, I see even now the outsized Turkish face looming all too clearly, as he knelt and clasped a dusky hand to my shoulder and in accented but flawless English inquired after my well-being, so that I had no choice but to challenge him to a duel.

The Turk refused that duel, as of course I knew he would do, only the favored, the victors, the gifted, the masters, the Turks, only those touched with infallible knowledge of their irrefutable will are permitted to refuse such a challenge, only a man dares refuse a duel, we sub-men are inclined, are even impelled, to try our luck, which will naturally be bad, in fact, it’s even the case that the less likely I am to succeed in a contest, the more likely I am to enter into it. For this reason I challenged the Turk to the duel, a single glance of his beard alone—that prosperous beard—was enough to confirm beyond any doubt that I’d be slaughtered the instant we withdrew our swords (I would of course need to be lent my weapon, from a squire or confrere), he would slaughter me with ease, without relish, it would be an absolute chore, a great inconvenience not to say a gross imposition on the efficient orchestration of his daily affairs for him to have to submit to the tedious etiquette governing such concerns and await formal sanction to run me through. Without question I’d be slaughtered, and therefore Ineeded to propose the duel, it was impossible for me not to propose the duel, it would have been easier for me to resist the motion of blood through my veins than to fail to demand that the Turk accept my challenge to a duel, I would be nothing without the duel, I knew this from the second I saw the black curls of the Turk’s copious beard encroach on my field of vision and I abruptly put an end to my gratuitous noise. Without the duel I would be even less than what I’d been when the Turk found me slobbering and insensate, wailing, clad only in smears of red dirt crawling among cockroaches of unusual size and brash disposition, in front of the Outpost of Progress, a saloon or tavern or watering hole I had frequented in the months preceding the onset of my debilitation, an establishment patronized primarily by a certain elevated cast of entrepreneurial men, among whose ranks I immediately took the Turk to be, though on this and not only this count I was of course to discover I’d been somewhat in error, as the Turk was many things but surely not a mere entrepreneur. I could only have refrained from proposing the duel if I possessed a shred of hope for victory; if I hadn’t witnessed the athletic lope with which he altered course from across the quayside thoroughfare and approached me in my gutter, the casual grace with which his saber curved from his side, if I’d believed even in the possibility of a fluke or unexpected triumph, if I had the smallest hope of victory through some error or mistake I would have ignored the Turk, rolled back into the muck where the native insect rank and file was concentrated in even greater numbers, but one’s impression of the Turk, one’s absolute first impression, is that here is a man who does not make mistakes—so that I had no choice but to grope immediately to my feet, brush off the several large bugs still clinging to my torso, and challenge him, tell the Turk that on my honor—here I paused to consult the small timepiece I had lifted from a passing trader’s unattended pack that very afternoon, the gears of which had frozen some time ago—he would not live to see another dawn, and to ignore the spreading concern on his face, and to insist that the cock would not crow before he stood face to face with Our Lord, Heaven or Hell hanging in the balance, kneel and repent now, beg my forgiveness, I demanded; however the Turkrefused.

Only a man like the Turk could have refused. Only a Turk is so authorized. In the end, if I desire a duel, even if I insist upon a duel, especially if I insist—one might almost arguebecause of my insistence—I lack the authority to enforce the duel, my desire is my guarantee against its ever transpiring, which is precisely why I am compelled to insist upon it, and I insisted even as the Turk took hold of me and hauled me bodily to the cleansing springs, at the foot of Oyama (“Mount”) Oom, repeatedly dunked me under the waters that in dubious native lore are reputed to heal, with force but not untenderly bathed me with rich Turkish soap, and insisted on draping me in cloaks selected from his own private wardrobe, in which garments I still dressed each day when summoned against my will to join the Turk on deck, I was resplendent under a burning sun, as we discoursed and paced, as we crossed wits, as we tested for weakness each other’s defenses of ideological ground, while I inwardly addedwrinkles to my plan, which already included the drowning of the Turk’s wardrobe, in full, before absconding with the silver-cache, which former task I have presently all but assured my successful completion of as of the draughting of these notes.

On the island, to which I came nursing private hopes of accruing a small personal fortune I would then use to achieve entirely selfish ends—which ends I will presumably accomplish this evening, in spite of my initial and protracted failure—it was not uncommon to come across a certain specimen of conscientious objector to the rapacious policies of the vast commercial enterprises engaged in the systematic ransack and plunder of that plenteous island, the brutalizing of the native population, the naked scorn for civilized opinion, let alone law, there were voices to be heard on occasion amid the general acquisitive tumult, crying out for justice, for the cessation of outrage, indignant objectors to the forces of oppression, who of course nine times in ten, ninety-nine times in a hundred, happened to be failed tradesmenthemselves, in general the scale or intensity of an objector’s indignation was commensurate to the size of the hopes for personal gain he’d had to abandon as a concession to his ineptitude or faltering will. Expelled via failure from the colonial business caste these envoys of justice gathered in the corners of nigh-empty salons to discuss the native plight, to shed tears over the fate of a population already decimated by foreign-introduced disease, crushed by the merciless logic of the very market on which they aspired to sell their anthologies of protest—assembled essays, screeds, pamphlets, tracts, composed in a general tone of artless indignation—clustered in cafes around noon to orate with eloquence and grace, loudly, but not too loudly, refraining from all but the most absolutely necessary of pounded fists, furiously praising the inborn virtues of the exploited native population they had as a rule been too weak or inept to exploit.

—Never trust a crusader, I advised the Turk, who, leaving aside the theatrical compassion of his rescuing me, was himself no crusader, was in fact a brutal man, a maniacal force, pure embodied Will, I knew the Turk well, I’d known the Turk a hundred times before I met the Turk, perhaps in less Turkish incarnations, but Turks nonetheless, the Turk was no crusader, he was brutal, though not necessarily cruel.

The Turk declined to respond, only rarely did the Turk find it necessary to respond to my declamations, and I suspected he had little to say, although it was not always possible to tell what he thought or might say because the Turk’s eye was frequently agleam. I had briefly considered providing him with one last opportunity, not even sure precisely of what this opportunity would consist, but the sagacity implied in that gleam squashed any last considerations of mercy, which at any rate had never been serious. An old song came to mind.

—If I fall into the drink, I sang, —I will say your name, before I sink. . . .

—What’s that, asked the Turk, looking up.

—A ballad, I said, —of dypsomania.

—It’s very pretty. Did you write it?

—No, I said.

—Well, not the melody, which I suppose I recognize, said the Turk, —but surely the lyrics—

—Neither the melody nor words are mine.

—I suppose you nevertheless make it your own, mused the Turk, peering out into the foggy iridescence that trailed the ship to port, —after all, who is this You whose name you propose to despairingly whisper, as you sink, finally, into the drink, he asked.

—I’d never thought about it, I admitted, taking another pull from the flask the Turk permitted me to keep filled with water, —myself I suppose.

During our nightly tête-à-têtes, the Turk often asked me to clarify for him certain facets of my psyche, but he has never enquired after a direct explanation of or accounting for the state of personal dissipation, the loss of bodily-functional control evident in the scent I exuded as I wormed through the tropical dust, never pressed me for the details I would at any rate have been utterly unable to provide pertaining to or accounting for the dramatically reduced state of my personal affairs, the personal corrosion I’d either endured or inflicted on myself prior to his coming across me, there in the sub-equatorial muck.

In lieu of ever requesting some factual accounting for the period anticipating my decline, the Turk had continually resorted to obliquity, cant, a pipe-smoking disinterest, one was inclined to feel, as he stood by the wheel (paying no heed to the pilot, a burly illiterate fellow) and wondered aloud what I thought about, for instance, the teachings of Sir Thomas Browne, whose works I had never read, or even heard of, an imputation against my own scholarship that I elected not to disclose, casually pursing my lips at the mention of the name I had until that moment never heard, suggesting with that single dismissive mien an acquaintance with and utter disdain for the author whose birthdate I would have been unable to pinpoint within five hundred years, whose British—I suspected—lineage, I could only adduce by the titular Sir, the Turk seemed content not to challenge my critical stance, meanwhile the Turk never once asked me my name, never, which is in fact in part why I refer to him here exclusively asthe Turk, even though this was not his name, or even a sobriquet bandied about by seafaring familiars, and despite his having immediately informed of his Christian name, as he put it, as well as his abundance of titles, and in spite of his never once having provided me with so much as the slightest suggestion, not even a hint, of actual extraction, or even the vaguest reason for me to imagine that he or his people had once hailed from the nation of Turks, or even anywhere nearby, even a distant country nevertheless lumped in with what we Occidentalists condescendingly term the Near East, for all I knew he was from Peking, or New Amsterdam, or my own hometown of –––––––, though this last seems unlikely, given the niggardly tumbledown inconsequence of that supposed city; the one thing I could be nearly certain of, however, indeed the one certainty regarding the heredity of the Turk was that he without question could not have been an actual Turk by blood, I have known far too many Turks to be misled on that front, never in my life have I mistaken a non-Turk for a Turk; however I steadfastly clung to my appellation, privately, and here, in these notes, he will always be the Turk, though in fact when we conversed I never once addressed him as the Turk, never let slip the slightest intimation that I’d privately christened him the Turk, and in point of fact, called him by his as he had it Christian name every time I addressed him, even going so far as to include several or all of the honorifics and professional titles he had accrued over the several decades of his considerable success in an assortment of ventures, enterprises, varieties of mastery over diverse industries, though he’d explicitly asked that I refrain from deploying the formal titles when speaking to him, had in fact urged me to call him only by his Christian name, though he’d never asked for mine, yet I was perversely impelled as time passed to rehearse the entire line of formal or honorary titles, so that in these notes a reader interested in strict adherence to the facts would need to substitute a nearly paragraph-long preface of titles which I decline to include for every recounted instance of Turk-directed speech, not limited to the times I claim to have directly addressed the Turk as the Turk, since these times naturally never happened, but also any time I addressed myself to his attention, even in casual discourse, unless he expressly forbade me from repeating verbatim the paragraph-long sequence of honorific titles for the third or fourth time in so many minutes, in which case I would temporarily acquiesce, subsequently lapsing inadvertently, as I protested, into further reiterations, but precisely to the extent that I have refused to refer to the Turk as anything other than the Turk in these notes, in person I declined to address him as anything other than the extravagant sequence of formalities that I have herein replaced with the Turk, and this may not be the only liberty I have taken with the facts.

However it is indisputable, the only necessary fact, that as I paced the quarterdeck with the Turk and we superficially transacted in relative banalities, I was simultaneously afflicted with the most strenuous suppressed compunction to lay myself bare before the Turk, to expose thegenuine reasons for the failure of my manifesto, the work that was to have thrown the whole horrid enterprise into sickly light and my protracted failure with which anticipated and no doubt ultimately contributed, indirectly, to my collapse, to my eventual drunken writhing amongst the island vermin.

Of course it was not only the cockroaches I had come to loathe, though I did loathe the cockroaches. I had been apprised of the inborn loathsomeness of the native population, the cunning, the relentless untruthfulness, the senseless, petty machinations, the brutish dishonesty and heathen stupidity; however, before I arrived I believed these observed phenomena—if indeed they’d been observed and not concocted by sinister agents of the assorted commercial interests who stood to gain justification or credence for their rapine enterprises with every degree by which popular conception of the natives was reduced, which I doubted—believed these loathsome attributes or traits could be written off as consequences or symptoms of the subjugated people’s very subjugation—before I arrived I was entirely prepared to embrace in toto the culture even to the point of the idiosyncratic or exotic, perhaps even going so far as to embrace or even take part in customs I might otherwise have found inconceivably repugnant, as for example, the symphonic slurpings and smacks to be heard at every repast; the disgusting food itself , which is as a rule slimy and cold, they like it that way; I was even ready, I freely confess, to participate in certain nocturnal rituals I’d heard rumor of but never been able to confirm in the flesh: I was ready to accept the whole panoply of oddities in a primitive people about whom, let us be clear on this point, I actuallyknew nothing. Because I was on their side when I came to the island. I disdained to frequent the cafes and ragtag colloquia popping up in support of the supposed revolution’s foment, the pasty and unlikable assemblage of artificial anarchists who claimed a similar allegiance but were actually motivated or driven by precisely the same voracity that they vociferously decried, were outraged and appalled by, I eschewed their easy company and struck out on my own, on a solitary crusade against the forces of oppression, the venomous, wraithlike lurking commercial interests, but the natives, whose cause I’d come to the island to take up,never liked me.

Never, not on a single occasion did I once look up into a native’s eye and see anything other than the loathing he or she would have ordinarily reserved for a cockroach, which creatures, parenthetically, on the island, were the size of small birds, and, like birds, able to fly, never was a young native able to resist the urge to snicker or look away with sheer gleeful disgust, absolutely unable to resist even for the sake of decorum the comedy inherent in my very presence, so that it was only natural that eventually I would come to enjoy the spectacle of their systematic devastation, their continued exploitation at the hands of the forces I had initially come to island to oppose, only natural that where I had come to the island intending to expose the odious practices of the ruling elite lording it mercilessly over the (languageless, half-naked, crude barter-economied) barbarian swarm, lay bare the full machinery of their insidious schemes to an otherwise tolerant, even favorably disposed general population at home, the public having largely been duped into believing these men to be not only heroes but generous, compassionate, soft-hearted benefactors, philanthropists, the very souls of ruddy-cheeked fatherly goodness, I soon found myself quite actively rooting for these monsters, the colonial kings, the very men I’d initially believed would be the antagonists or arch villains of the sordid tale I intended to tell of exploitation and incomprehensible greed before debarking from the mediocre vessel on which I’d come in all innocence.

What did I care when I saw a native girl of no more than sixteen dressed in the ceremonialoothta, a kind of full body–length sleeve, the ritual hopstick aslant through her finely bound hair, a single piece of bleached goat’s fur bound with a bloodred sash so tightly about the waist that movement was restricted to a kind of acquiescent shuffle, ushered into a room to which I was barred access by the inconsequence of my station but from the gloomy inner dimensions of which I heard the familiar baritones and clinking decanters of genteel carouse, just as I was prevented access to any of the inner circles of the island’s governing elite, how could I care for the girl destined for untold humiliations and sexual adventure of the most deviant, despicable kind, when the very same girl, or a girl who at any rate looked just like her, had not half-an-hour past ignored my repeated entreaties for service at the corner table I’d been ushered over to and ignored at for almost an hour, when all I’d wanted  was to order a drink for which I intended to tip her handsomely and wholly unnecessarily, since tipping in this backwards culture is not merely unrequired but in fact can even be taken as a kind of grave offense to a service-employee’s honor, even whole ancestry and in some fairly exceptional cases to her entire race, depending on the conventionality of the individual server, but I was willing to take my chances with this shy, graceful generously-legged barmaid in the hopes that she would appreciate the gesture of unpremeditated generosity, even if the cultural significance might be wholly lost on her or even at first something like a slap in the face, only she ignored me and in fact when I finally, having cleared my throat and even gone so far as to whistle, softly, raised my voice and asked in the faltering phrases that constituted the sum of what I had been able after six months to acquire of the native tongue and she was forced to approach in order to avoid undue commotion, she spat in the sawdust before not so much acknowledging me or my patronage as occupying my table’s immediate vicinity and indifferently loitering.

Of course it was with a certain trepidation that I’d joined the Turk in the first place. And on joining him in his private berth I was persistently vexed by his personal assistants: the Turk’s assistants were perpetually appearing at odd hours, I’d occasionally awaken to find one or the other of his assistants shuffling around at the foot of my bed,  once even smiling up at me from beneath the blanket I lay under for the first several unspeakable days of my purge . . . or perhaps this was merely an anecdote from a novel I’d been reading before the onset of my sickness. However, at some point during the composition of these notes—which I decline to revise—I may have given the impression that I’d forgotten the weeks leading up to the moment at which the Turk encountered me at the height of my dissipation; I believe the exact phrase, or at any rate the phrase was similar, was that the days or weeks or months or even years (possible but unlikely) stretching from the moment of my first encounter with the Turk back to the precise moment of my collapse, the exact details of which I have also forgotten, were a blur. However, this was not strictly the case. It is true that I can recall very little in the way of particular actions or activities, conversations, or articulate patches of thought; however I can remember all too clearly the general character of that awful epoch, which was that I was continuously drunk.

Many years ago I was taken on as a young scion’s secondary English tutor and I found that among the more taxing pedagogical tasks I was charged with performing for the urchin was communicating the subtle distinction between those sibling modifiers “continuous” and “continual,” so let me be clear: I was not habitually, that is continually, at regular and predictable intervals during this period, drunk; I was continuously drunk, which is to say that there was never sobriety during the period in question—about which I have perhaps somewhat misleadingly suggested I remember nothing when in fact I remember all too well, and in revealing now the full extent of my succumbing and despair, such as, for example, that I ransacked native orchards at the foot of the island’s noble central mountains, illegally absconded with armloads—multiple armloads, because I went back—of the sacredwakawakyu melon, the native fruit prized the world over, of course, which I made off with to the makeshift distillery I’d established in the small natural alcove carved out of the face of a promontory facing the island’s northern coast before I was driven out by bats, intending despite my absolute ignorance as regards the distiller’s trade to let the stolen fruit ferment in vats I had also acquired outside of the law and guzzle the resulting nectar, which spirit I dideventually quaff but was unable to hold down, so that the bats were more of an afterthought, really, I didn’t mind being driven out by the bats, those hostile local residents were in fact almost a relief since they made my presence in the cave and makeshift fruit distillery I’d established therein with nothing but my need and gross ineptitude to guide me inconceivable, so that I now had no alternative but to return to my life of petty larceny, which in the end wasn’t quite so petty, considering that the colonial news organ (a comedy) reported an alarming rise in bulk theft of high-proof liquor during the time (unless they reported no such thing and I am merely elaborating on a fantasy or dream I was overwhelmed by during the full force of my debauch), and it was speculated that a sophisticated syndicate or ring of pirates had made bold now to assert itself, declared to the colonial authorities that an upstart force would need to be reckoned with in the neutral waters just offshore, but there was no syndicate, no interpenetration of corruption and well-connected greed: only my insatiable thirst, I was a bandit, heedless, wanton, running amok, berserk, and it is no exaggeration to reiterate the distinction that I was emphatically not continually three sheets to the wind, the intoxication was continuous, the intoxication was absolute, even during my short apprenticeship as a private fruit distiller I kept my cave’s makeshift bar well-stocked with stolen rum, there was never an instant during which the alcohol was not coursing through my veins, the term “continual” requires intervals of inactivity, which there never were.

On the other hand, what I remember most clearly about the period anticipating my collapse was that it was marked by continual drink. Toward the end of my dying struggle with the discarded manifesto, before I’d abandoned even the semblance of compositional effort, when I was still concerned with providing all observing parties (of which there were naturally none) with a plausible facsimile of scholarly diligence, but after I’d realized that the muse or spark of genius or mere competence was not with me, my manifesto would never shake the earth, in fact my manifesto would be insufficiently competent to qualify as a manifesto, not even a manifesto of inferior, or even of absolutely shoddy quality, when I still bore in the ostentatious calfskin attaché I would soon thereafter pawn for rum the sheaf of uncoordinated pages I pretended together constituted the early stages of my masterpiece but which in fact I frequently padded the number of with slipped-in pages pencil-darkened with nautili or spirals, my favorite sign, etched in to maniacal depths, and I would spread some of this refuse before me in my corner of the café and peer quizzically at the chaos I’d forged, a pen poised theatrically quill-over-pot, as if I intended to waylay or ambush the first stray thought or wandering clause to reveal even a hint of a gap in its rhetorical mail, the first error to come bungling along at the fringes of my manifesto when in fact the entire work was an error.

The attention implicit in that authorial pose was moreover an inaccurate representation of my interior life, since I was no longer concerned with my own manifesto, by this time my principal preoccupations were with, first, the possibility that at another table in this café, or elsewhere, somewhere someone else was working at a rival manifesto, working harder than I, uninhibited by some of the factors that had doomed my endeavor from the outset, and that this man was even now arranging the torrent of insight and truth that came teeming resistlessly from him before forming into regimental lines, sentences marching into paragraphs dense with indisputable logic, an onslaught against the ramparts of received wisdom behind which the complacent or successful or stupid are wont to huddle and cling, and that this man in his fervor was utterly undistracted by the thought I could never chase from my head during my working hours after rising at noon, viz., that soon—but not soon enough—the sun would have passed the position beyond which I’d be permitted to have a drink, since this was as I have noted a period of continual drink, and there were still several wretched hours stretched from late morning to early afternoon during which I’d sworn I would only work, a problem I eventually realized I could solve by simply drinking while I worked.

Of course, aboard the Turk’s bloated vessel I was no longer a continuous drunk, nor even a continual drunk. This had been the single precondition of my passage, that I leave the rot ashore to use the Turk’s own phrase, and the Turk’s initial vigilance was such that continuous intoxication was absolutely out of the question, but in fact even continual drink of the sort I had enjoyed not only during the final few days of my sanity on the island but in point of fact for most of my adult life, I cannot remember a time, amongst “friends,” hard at work, during the war, or in the subsequent deprivations of peace, as a young man with a future of some promise, if there had been such a time, never, I cannot remember a single occasion I was not either drinking deeply or in desperate need of a drink, obsessing ferociously on the looked-forward-to savor of that first cool and permeating draught, inwardly coordinating a sequence of drinks to consume, a roster I would adhere to until such fastidiousness was no longer necessary, I would resist a yearning to grimace when an interlocutor’s wit urged collegial response, I would frantically work to provide the impression I was thinking, dreaming, meditating, paying attention to something—anything—other than the taste of that impossibly distant first gulp, and if there was a time in my life when this wasn’t so, it has faded far beyond recall.

Because of the vastness of his generosity and his faith in the decency of men it required the Turk several days, actually nearly a full two weeks, to discover that someone had been pilfering liberally from the storeroom’s casks of rum, which were only onboard as a precaution—that is, as emergency bartering blocks against mutiny, or to be sold off in the event that our supplies ran short on the long voyage to New York City. However he did not hesitate to act, a brutal man, in all things swift minded, and every ounce of alcohol aboard the ship, including but not limited to the remaining nine casks of rum, and even the seamen’s grog, the fo’c’sle was ransacked, at this the men nearly did revolt, which insubordination the Turk naturally could have crushed without resorting to the promised exchange of double shares for all men who willingly parted with their flasks, in the end every ounce went over the bulwarks, inviting Dionysius to some fortunate gathering of fish, (there is a man in black with a white-painted face peering in at me through the porthole, his eyes are red flames, oh god)  and perhaps the Turk expected my gratitude, perhaps I was to be thankful that he’d disposed of the casks and not me, since in taking so much as a single sip of the rot, to say nothing of several full casks I’d worked through in a manner of weeks, as was actually the case, I had indisputably reneged on our agreement, but I was not grateful, I wished it were me, I begged the Turk to hurl me overboard before those round little oases of rum floated forever out of sight, but the Turk refused, he had me brought to his personal cabin as a kind of ship arrest, he saw deep into my heart, he said, saw the kind of man I could be, refused to throw me over, no matter how hard I pounded the shipboards and wept.

The Turk proposed to finish what he’d started, he would provide for my reform, as we made our way north, toward the sole motive for our journey. I was held captive in a hold of bleak sobriety. I was driven to absolute temperance by circumstances where the Law alone had not sufficed, and now I may as well confess: sobriety has driven me mad,  surely I would not have needed to compose these notes nor would I have, in a fit of insufferable clarity, found it necessary to devise a scheme for the theft of the plunder the Turk had spent the last twenty years of his life sailing the world’s seven seas vainly pursuing, sometimes all but losing the trail, relentless, the silver would be the consummation of a lifelong quest, the key to which he’d had to barter with in blood, men have died for the tattered scroll, the map I secretly perused and memorized in a fit of panic and despair the morning of the day before last, when a sudden swell required the Turk’s steady hand on deck, and I haven’t had a drink in nearly seven days.

The Turk, I knew, proposed to be like a father to me, however I rejected outright the notion of his paternity. I declined to become his adopted or substitute son, knowing well enough that the man already had any number of sons scattered round the globe, unacknowledged sons, perhaps hungry for the fatherhood they’d been denied by the obscurity of their conception, perhaps not, but surely among the formidable evidence of the Turk’s virility and brawn, there must be one more worthy of the lost father’s regard, his weathered, steady hand, his love.

I was furthermore averse to the sole condition of the Turk’s affection, as I have already discussed, his mandate being essentially that I live in hell. Should I point out that only the ruthlessness of the Turk, the extremity of his patriarchal impulse—or rather his nature, since one needed only to watch the Turk’s brisk potent strides to perceive that his Turkness was not cultivated but inborn—the Turk’s remorseless surveillance, his refusal to leave me unobserved, the first time I was ever out from his gaze I’d been locked in the cabin while he attended to the squall, evidently he did not believe it necessary to secure the map from my eyes, only the Turk prevented me from flinging myself overboard, at least this is what I have long preferred to believe.

—The only men I admire are suicides, I repeated. To port there were clouds.

—Yes, this is not a significant development in your thought, my friend, said the Turk. —Me: I have always admired the true pessimists who know the void, yet resist until the end.

—Those aren’t pessimists, I said, and a rumbling came from below, where the men, as a concession for the discarded rum, had been permitted to wrestle and box (needless to say I was advised to avoid interaction with the crew) —they’re fools, or cowards. Either they haven’t apprehended the void, in which case they are fools, or they are afraid of it, and they are cowards.

—And what is it I ask of you every evening, he asked me, frowning, —the one thing, especially what have I asked you to refrain from doing above board, in plain sight, because it is bad for morale?

—Of the two ‘I’s it’s certainly the former I for whom I bear the greater loathing. Cowardice I can accept. Only a fool doesn’t fear the abyss. On the other hand, it requires an even greaterfool to suppose he resists when in fact he simply hasn’t yet understood what he faces. You can’t resist Nothing, can you?

—Please, hand me the flask.

I refused to hand him the flask, the flask, stayed with me, I flourished the flask, which was of course filled only with water, and I reminded the Turk as the flask glinted in the low sunlight shot across the endless continent to the west that he had promised me I would retain my flask, this had been his one, his only concession.

—And yet people do, I said. —People lift their chins like so, I said, lifting my chin —andresist under their assorted banners don’t they? They congratulate themselves for the very evidence of the extent of their ignorance. What could be more repugnant than the twinkling-eyed fool with his head held high, striding around with fateful stomping footsteps, who has declined to look into the abyss, whose enlistedman’s strides are in fact taking him away from the abyss, temporarily of course, because he is too much of a coward to face what is coming? What could be more disgusting?

—You are on occasion an unpleasant man.

—In this light we can begin to examine my hatred for women. When I say “women,” I mean women generally, as a sub-species, but also individually: I’ve never once met an actual woman I didn’t absolutely detest within seconds. Fat, buxom, jolly, sly, flirtatious, wealthy, wholesome, supple, sumptuous, crass, well-cultured, pretentious, pulchritudinous: I’ve hated them all, Turk. All but one: I once knew a young girl who’d known the void, a girl standing perpetually on the brink of misery, madness, horror—but she was the exception, an absolutely rare case, we shared the most horrific nights together, nights of sheer madness and dismay,nights you couldn’t begin to imagine, I shouted, staring past the Turk at the reddening sun. —matching each other shot for shot, vodka, gin, whiskey, tequila only rarely, a dirty spirit, absolutely filthy, I’ve always felt, we were essentially engaged in a standoff, a duel matching escalating howls—

—This one you will return to, bring home to her your share, to establish a shared life?

—She’s dead. Fallen from a high rooftop. Under questionable circumstances. If she was a suicide, however, she perished repulsed by my weakness. There can be no question there.

The Turk’s eyes wandered the poop, flashing in the match flare as he lit up his pipe.

—Listen, here is a phrase I’ve always particularly loathed: resistance is futile—this phrase, doesn’t it betray a certain allegiance to resistance, to acts of resistance, isn’t there a latent wish for the non-futility of resistance, for struggle to actually mean something, as opposed to the actual case, which, granted, is that resistance is of course futile? Isn’t there a pitiful resignation to the fact but nevertheless a kind of call to arms in the phrase’s supposed pessimism? We’ll resist because we have no other choice? . . . But we do have the other choice of course: to not resist!

The Turk fixed me with his pensive gaze, he was always fixing with this very gaze, I hated the gaze, I would have murdered the gaze, not necessarily the Turk, perhaps the Turk too, but above all the gaze, the gaze alone, with its vaunted sagacity, I would have hammered that gaze to pieces, I would have drowned that gaze, but in men of the Turk’s tribe, the gaze is undrownable, indomitable, an untouchable serenity, serenity earned, you’d have to murder the Turk himself before you could get at the gaze.

—Listen, said the Turk, and I craned back to take what was left in the flask, tried to imagine a deep acrimonious draught, even spluttered as if feeling that lost heat, and the Turk fixed me with one of his gazes, this was a twinkling gaze, behind which briefly danced I imagined the fleeting image of some pair of slender legs, disrobed, wrapped around him in some smoky den of indulgence that my raw inexperience would have prevented me from knowing (though I was actually older than the Turk) (although it was true that he had perhaps frequented more dens than I) and without which I would of course be given to the kind of juvenile bleakness he dismissed my nightly fulminations as, especially as he believed I was not quite free of the grip of the rot, since to appreciate life one needed to know it, so that it followed that to denouncelife one likewise needed to know it, and I was too consumed with a passion for denunciation, enjoyed assaults on life, in a philosophical sense, crowed too readily over my rhetorical broadsides to ever know life or appreciate it, I perceived this in the Turk’s gaze as he blew smoke rings out over the lapping water and I leaned an elbow on the bulwark and watched the sun bleed into the sea:

—But what else can a man do, he asked, except resist?

Not resist! I roared, —Resist the command to resist!

—Well but the silver.

—What about the silver?

—The silver exists. And a man must live.

—And you admire the suicides.

—Yes, I said. The suicides are our only heroes, the more ignominious, the more shameful, the more abjectly they spit on their lives, the more they shame their families, abandon their responsibilities, leave chaos in their wake, demolish the lives of those from whom they’ve been set free, I said, leaping onto a nearby spar, and swinging an imaginary cutlass through the wind.

—Who but a coward would surrender? the Turk spat.

—Who but a coward would surrender his right to surrender?

If we do find the silver tomorrow I intend to abscond with the entire cache, I’ve identified an island off the coast of Nova Scotia, uninhabited, remote, pinpointed it on the Turk’s weathered map, I will retire to my island, in the north, to a cold rocky barren land, pure desolation, a wasteland, a humanless rock, desolate, an unpeopled waste, an island, en route I will purchase provisions and make for my island where, because I am a coward, I will not kill myself, I will live out my days, I will resist the elements and survive for as long as I can: because I am a coward I will live.


Callahan’s works have appeared in The Collagist, Kill Author, The Lifted Brow, Pank, Unsaid, and Washington Square Review. His first book, The Consummation of Dirk, won the Stacherone Prize for Innovative Fiction and was published by Stacherone Books in 2013. Callahan has also written non-fiction, including a lengthy essay on Kafka, Thomas Bernhard, and David Foster Wallace for The Collagist and essays on Rick Moody and Adam Novy in The Fiction Writers Review. He grew up in Honolulu and studied fiction at Sarah Lawrence.