Chapter 1: Becoming the Illiterate
A little after 7 a.m. Jones heard his alarm clock go off. He hit the snooze button half a dozen times before opening his eyes. It was early March, but the weather was just starting to turn for the better. The appeal of a spring day pulled Jones out of bed and into the shower. He listened to the news on the radio as he dressed and ate a quick breakfast of toast and coffee. Out on the street the wind was crisp, but the sun felt warm, and Jones walked happily to the train, stopping at a bodega to pick up the paper on his way.
On the subway platform Jones unfolded his paper. But something was wrong with it. Though he could make out the photographs, none of the words on the front page made sense. Where they should have been, he found strange marks on the newsprint that didn’t resemble anything he’d ever seen before. He leafed through the paper and found a similar collection of ink blobs and broken lines on each page. Is this a joke? Jones thought. Or maybe a simple fluke in the printing press? These possibilities struck him as funny and even absurd, but now he had a 45-minute commute ahead of him with nothing to read! More than anything Jones was annoyed that he hadn’t noticed the paper’s defect in the store. He’d have to hold on to it and stop by the bodega on his way home from work for a refund.
When the train arrived it was already crowded. Jones pushed his way on to it. He tried to forget about the paper; a serious man like him didn’t have time for things like a paper with only pictures. That’s what he told himself. Once the train was in motion, Jones tried to concentrate on the day before him. Emerging from the tunnel and approaching the cityscape, it hit him that he was not only a serious man, but a successful one too. Just seven years earlier he had come to the city to be a writer, and this was what he had become. He had recently finished his first novel and held an editorial position at a reputable culturally centered news magazine that inspired envy in his artistic-minded peers. Jones was proud of what he had achieved and on this fine morning he felt his pride swell with confidence.
Then the train slammed on its brakes. It was just a few feet away from the entrance of the tunnel into Manhattan. What now? Jones thought.
According to the announcement that followed, due to a situation with a sick passenger at the station ahead, the train would bypass that station and then make local stops. Jones looked up to the subway map to calculate how many additional stops there would be, but something was wrong. He could see a number of small lights indicating the various stops the train would make, but the names of the stations were the same strange shapes from the newspaper. Vandalism? Jones thought. He pushed his way through the crowded train car to take a look at another map. He recognized the lines and the colors on the map but still couldn’t read the words. He rubbed his eyes and thought maybe he’d put in a defective pair of contact lenses. He leaned closer to the map to get a better look at it, but then he felt a hand push against his chest. He looked down and saw an old man wearing thick glasses staring up at him.
Excuse me, son, said the old man. You mind giving me some room? I’m sorry, said Jones. I’m just trying to figure out where to get off. Where are you going? asked the old man. Times Square, said Jones. Then he watched as the old man pivoted toward the map and pointed to it. Well, right now we’re here and you’re going there, said the old man, pointing at a location on the map where all the colored lines intersected. Jones recognized this as his destination, but he still couldn’t decipher the station name or any of the words on the map. But how do you know that? asked Jones. Because it says so right here, said the old man. But it doesn’t say a goddamned thing, said Jones. Excuse me? said the old man. The words on the map, said Jones. Son, I think you better take a step back, said the old man. I can’t read any of the words, said Jones. What’s the matter with you? asked the old man. I just told you, said Jones. For some reason I can’t read the words. Are you on the drugs, son? asked the old man. Jones looked down at the old man and noticed how thick his glasses were. You wouldn’t mind if I borrow those for a second? said Jones. He reached for the man’s glasses without waiting for his answer. He put them on and looked at the map but still couldn’t make out a single letter. Jones would have liked to examine it more closely but before he had a chance he felt a blow to the right side of his face that sent his head into the pole. The old man took back his glasses and pushed Jones back into the other passengers. What the hell’s wrong with you? he yelled. Someone grab him! Call the police!
Jones spun away from the man. A crowd had gathered and looked at him with disgust. Jones had never been in a situation like this before and he didn’t know what to do. His train was pulling into a station. Across the platform Jones spotted another train, so he decided to make a break for it. Once his train stopped, Jones pushed his way through the other passengers and sprinted across the platform onto the other train. Just my lucky day, he thought, as the doors closed behind him.
The other train was nearly empty. Jones slumped down into a seat as it left the station and tried to pull himself together. He couldn’t believe he had nearly assaulted an old man. Over the intercom the conductor announced the next stop and Jones realized that he only had two more to go. He looked up at the map, but once again he saw only lights and lines and found it impossible to decipher any of the words. He felt his heartbeat increase and he slammed his fist into the bench where he sat. But Jones needed to remain calm. He tried to breathe slower and more deeply. He would arrive at his stop soon and when he did he would go into work and figure something out.
At the next stop a few people entered into his car. At first he didn’t notice them, but then he heard a voice. Someone was reading. He looked up and saw a young woman sitting a across from him with her toddler in a stroller. She was reading from a book that sounded like Dr. Seuss. The child enjoyed this immensely and Jones enjoyed hearing the woman read as well. She assumed a different voice for each character and as she read Jones couldn’t help watching them, though he didn’t mean to stare. Jones especially couldn’t resist stealing glances at the child. She was a little girl no older than two or three with curly blonde hair. She looked like an angel. Jones found a certain peace sitting there watching the toddler enjoy the book. But then the woman stopped reading.
Jones looked up to her. Can I help you with something? she said. Excuse me? said Jones. Sir I’m sorry if reading to my daughter disturbed you, she continued. I actually enjoyed it, said Jones. Excuse me? said the woman. Then Jones looked into the woman’s eyes and saw that she was afraid. Seeing her like this made him nervous. I’m sorry, said Jones. I guess I recognized what you read. Perhaps from my own childhood? What’s the title? She held the book up to him, but he couldn’t make out any of the words. Maybe you could just tell me what it is? said Jones. He looked back to the little girl and saw that she was starting to fuss. What’s wrong with you? said the woman. Can’t you read?
The woman turned away from him and comforted her child. Jones looked away from them in shame. He anxiously waited for the subway doors to open as the train pulled into the next station.
Chapter 2 At Work
Once Jones finally reached his office he took out the spare pair of contact lenses he kept in his desk and headed to the bathroom. Replacing the lenses seemed to make no difference, so he took out the new pair and looked at the newspaper with his naked eyes. It was still blurry, so he held it up close to his eyes. The shapes came into focus, but he still couldn’t read a single word. Jones stuck his head into the sink and flushed both of his eyes with water. He’d been nearsighted his entire life and often took out his contacts when he read. The sharpening of the text seemed to confirm his disability but said nothing of this new inability he seemed to have developed. How strange, Jones thought as he held his eyelids open under the running water. After about a minute of this, Jones put his contact lenses back into his eyes and looked down at the newspaper. Nothing had changed. He was still illiterate.
Jones went back to his office and sat at his desk. He pulled out a pad of paper and wrote “I have become an illiterate” across the top of it and watched his hand make a series of disjointed lines and strange circles that his eyes couldn’t recognize. Then he wrote “I have become an illiterate” again, and he saw the exact same shapes. Well, well, Jones thought, at least there seems to be a semblance of order to all this madness. Then just to be certain he wasn’t mistaken, Jones wrote “I have become an illiterate” one last time and saw a series of shapes identical to the first two lines.
He decided he needed to see a doctor at once.
This seemed like something an ophthalmologist would handle so Jones turned on his computer and started looking for one. Fortunately, Google was his homepage, so he relied on his memory to type “ophthalmologist” and “10018” into the search engine and clicked “Search.” Seconds later the search results came up, but Jones should have known better. Though clearly the screen was full, he couldn’t make out a single word. He tried clicking on a few of the search results in hopes that he might hit a link that would cause him to automatically send an e-mail, but nothing he clicked on took him where he wanted to go. In the end he just grew frustrated and figured he’d be better off asking his assistant for help, so he picked up the phone and asked her to come to his desk at once.
Jones hung up the receiver and looked at the phone. Though he remembered the position of the numbers on the phone, he couldn’t make out any of the individual digits. They looked the same to him as letters did; where each number should have been he saw only broken lines and blobs of ink. Jones glanced at his cell phone and found a similar collection of marks.
Good morning, sir, said the assistant, as she approached his desk. Good morning, said Jones. Why don’t you pull up a chair?
The assistant wheeled over a chair from the meeting table by the window in the corner of Jones’s office. As she walked toward him with the chair, Jones noticed that she was wearing a leather skirt and found that he suddenly felt incredibly turned on. For a few seconds Jones fantasized about taking her right there on his desk. No, no, that’ll have to happen another time, Jones thought as she sat down next to him. And then: What the hell is wrong with me? To even think about such a thing at a time like this? Listen, said Jones, this morning has been one of the strangest I’ve ever had, so I’m going to need your help with something. OK, said the assistant. More or less it’s just a small project, said Jones, and the thing is, I want to apologize for asking you what I’m about to ask you in advance, because I’m sure this is going to sound ridiculous. You see, it’s just that…, Jones started to say. Yes? said the assistant. Well, I’m afraid I can’t read anymore, said Jones. What? said the assistant. It’s true, said Jones. Somehow it seems I’ve become illiterate. I’m not sure I understand what you mean, said the assistant. Words don’t mean anything to me anymore, said Jones. For instance, take this newspaper. Jones picked up his paper and showed it to her. All I see are pictures and blobs of ink, said Jones. Well, I have to agree with you there, said the assistant, smiling. You agree? said Jones. Today’s papers really are in a sordid state of affairs, she said. That’s why I work for you and this wonderful magazine. But that’s not what I mean at all, said Jones. Frustrated, he picked up the piece of paper he had been writing on before the assistant came to his desk and passed it over to her. What does this paper say? asked Jones. The assistant looked down at the paper and then back at him and then back down at the paper. She seemed confused. Well, it says “I have become an illiterate.” It says “I have become an illiterate” three times. Yes, said Jones, grinning. But you see, when I look at it, I don’t see anything but broken links and blobs of ink, said Jones. How can that be? said the assistant. Clearly it’s your handwriting. It certainly is, said Jones. I just wrote it a few minutes ago. Are you kidding? said the assistant. Not at all, said Jones. Something strange has happened. At first I thought there was something wrong with my contacts, so I took them out and cleaned them. As far as I can tell, they seem to be functioning fine, so now I’m thinking it might be my optic nerve or maybe my brain? Like maybe I had a stroke or something? How did you write this, then? asked the assistant. How is that possible, if it’s true you’ve become an illiterate? I remember how to write, said Jones. I guess I’ve been writing so long that even if I can’t see the words I’m writing, I still remember how to move my hand. After I got in today the first thing I did was search for a nearby ophthalmologist on the Internet, but I can’t make out any of the results on the screen. Really? said the assistant. I need you to find me a good doctor, said Jones, and make me an appointment for as soon as possible. Right away, said the assistant. And if anyone comes around looking for me, tell them I’m out sick, said Jones. Of course, said the assistant. But what should I tell the editor? He’s already been by asking about that feature you owe him today.
At the mention of his boss, Jones sank deeper in his chair. He’d been up late working on a review of a recently released novel by one of the country’s most respected writers the night before. It had been his aim to write it in an extremely idiosyncratic style that would distinguish his piece from the other reviews and possibly even signal to the writer in question that he was the sort of up-and-coming writer the renowned author should keep his eye on. He’d tried a number of different approaches, but nothing seemed to read as he wanted it to, so he saved each version on his flash drive and planned to review them in the morning and write a new version for his editor first thing.
If you haven’t written it yet, you could dictate it to me, said the assistant. Jones considered the idea for a moment, but decided against it because he wasn’t sure he could trust her to type what he told her and his new condition prevented him from reviewing her work. He thanked her for her offer, but told her to go back to her desk to start calling doctors. As for his review, he would have to figure something out.
What a strange joke life seems to be playing on me, Jones thought. He didn’t understand why this illiteracy had happened on that particular day. A week before, he’d been given the chance to write something that could potentially distinguish him and advance his career. Now his copy was due and he had nothing. But what do I still have? Jones wondered. He thought about the dozens of approaches he’d tried the night before. Maybe it was just a matter of recalling these ideas and pasting them together the best he could on the page before him? And then, before he really knew what he wanted to write, Jones started working. He clicked on the icon for Microsoft Word and opened a new document. Then he placed his fingers on his keyboard, closed his eyes, and started typing. He tried to keep journalistic structure in mind, but there was no turning back, and at times he was positive that his prose was really just a series of disjointed digressions. But he didn’t let himself get hung up on these thoughts; Jones just kept typing because that was the only thing he could do. After an hour or two, he felt certain he had exhausted everything he had intended on saying, so he saved his work and printed it. He tried to e-mail a copy to his editor, but he wasn’t sure if it went through and he didn’t really care.
Jones stood up and collected his things. He grabbed the printout of his review and took it to the assistant’s desk. He asked her to give the review to his editor, and she told him the address of an ophthalmologist with whom she’d arranged his appointment, set to start in half an hour. Is there anything else I can do for you? asked the assistant. No, said Jones. Well, good luck, said the assistant. Thanks, said Jones. Then he turned away from her and headed out of the office.
The first artist was arrested in the spring of 2003. He was a poet named Silva who no one had heard of outside a few literary circles in Seattle and New York. I didn’t know him personally but I was more or less associated with these circles and once the rumors started going around Silva’s arrest was all anyone talked about. Most people figured it was for drugs, as Silva was never all that secretive about his penchant for cocaine. Some thought he had been dealing all along, though others figured he’d just been unlucky. But as we would soon find out, none of the gossip spoken in the coffee shops and bars following his arrest ended up being true.
A few days later the papers published a horrid account of what was believed to have occurred in the hours before Silva was apprehended. Apparently he had strangled his girlfriend, drained the blood from her body and then used this blood to write a strange apocalyptic poem on the interior walls of the apartment he’d shared with her for the previous two years. Understandably the incident shook up the community, both the small circles where he was known and the city at large. But as Silva’s mental health was called into question and his insanity confirmed, the media coverage and mention of him in conversations died out after a few weeks. When the case went to trial the following summer Silva was declared insane and institutionalized somewhere far upstate. Though his name continued to come up occasionally, as far as I know no one ever heard from him again.
The second artist was arrested late in the summer around the time Silva was formally committed. This time it was an installation artist well known for his avant garde performance pieces. He went by the name of Smeed, though I am uncertain if this was his actual name or a pseudonym. The arrest occurred the night before the opening of his show where he had planned to visually interpret a recording of a poem on the walls of a gallery, creating a gigantic collage that among other items would contain newspaper clippings, broken glass and blood. Throughout the days that followed Smeed contended that this blood was animal blood he had ordered from a butcher and not that of a human, a claim that a delivery to the gallery, albeit a few days late, would eventually confirm and force the D.A.’s office to drop all charges. Smeed disappeared the day they let him go, allegedly to Mexico. I’m not sure if he ever came back.
Rumors of a darker and colder side of Smeed began to surface after he disappeared. Testaments of crazy, diabolical things he was alleged to have said filled bars and coffee shops that fall, and a lot of people started to believe that he really had intended to kill someone and use human blood in his collage. The associations with Silva’s case surfaced a few weeks later when a journalist managed to get a copy of the police report and confirm that the poem Smeed intended on interpreting had been the poem Silva had left behind on his walls. Editorials confused and fearful about what was being created in the arts were written and terms such as nihilism were liberally employed. One reporter got arrested trying to sneak into Silva’s institution for an interview. Other writers took up Smeed’s defense and filled the columns of the alternative weeklies with activist pieces concerning the unfair persecution of this young man for what they believed was nothing more than creating art.
The occurrence of these arrests seemed to bring about a chaotic time for the artistic communities of the city that fall, a period that coincided with Bishop’s arrival to the city, which is why I have chosen these events to frame this portrait of my friend that another sleepless night has compelled me to begin. When I met him, Bishop didn’t know about the arrests or this sense of chaos. He would eventually come to be known as an arrested artist himself, but this came much later. In order to begin I need to sketch out his features because drawing pictures of people has always helped me to understand them. And that’s all this is. This is just another picture, one among the millions of pictures I have drawn. This is just an homage of sorts composed in his medium, writing that is, which will be nothing more than a series of simple sketches that if I am lucky will allow me to sleep once again and move on. Silva and Smeed were my first two sketches and now the time has come to attempt my sketch of Bishop, through which I will sketch myself and the world where we lived. Perhaps I should just start with our names.
My name is Eleanor Christina Amores. I am 25 years old now, but was 24 when everything that I am writing about happened. I had been living in New York City for five years at the time, not doing much other than drawing pictures of people and working whatever jobs necessary to get by and sustain my need to draw. The only reason I moved to the city in the first place is because there were more people there than anywhere else I knew of, and I knew all these people were people who I could draw.
His name was Joseph Bishop and he came to New York to be a writer. He was 22 years old and had only been in the city for a month when I met him. At times he alluded to various past lives as a drifter and a junkie and a guitarist for a punk band that disbanded on the road, but the most believable story was that he’d recently dropped out of college. He used to have this story about how one morning he realized that he was sick of reading books and wanted to see if he could write one himself, so instead of going to class he hopped on the first bus he could find to New York. His tales of whatever had and hadn’t happened appeared equally true as they were untrue, as if he were testing out these stories in order to vet which might, in the end, create the best mythology surrounding his arrival to the city that would serve his ambitions to be a writer. This aim of his to write and to live a life that would provide him with material were the only consistencies apparent in any of the stories he told, though he never explained why it was he wanted to write so badly or what in his past had made him run away.
At the crowded Williamsburg apartment where I met him he wore the story of his exodus, whatever it really had been, like a badge of entitlement, standing under his mop of long, dirty hair, stick skinny, in the back corner of the room beside an open window chain smoking cigarettes and talking down to a crowd of six or seven people gathered around him. I am uncertain if I came across him myself or an acquaintance pointed him out to me and I don’t remember what he was saying when I first saw him but I do remember that the people standing around him were hanging on his every word. Maybe it was the awkward way he had of enunciating each point he made with his hands? Each gesture he made was just as aggressive as it was subdued and I remember thinking it was almost as if he was attacking the crowd while acting like he was being attacked. Backed into the corner, he spun his head from side to side, making eye contact with each person standing there, looking so lost at times, his eyes just pleading, searching for something I guess. I remember seeing him like that made me want to know him. Seeing him like that made me want to understand. So I moved closer. And then I thought: He’s happy where he is but he hates it. And then: But through his hatred he is free. I wanted to know him in order to understand his freedom; I wanted to know him because I longed to be free.
Just the day before a third artist had been arrested who most of the people at the party knew. This time it was Erik Jacobs, a young short story writer, who had been widely published in literary journals and was rumored to have a book deal in the works. Apparently Jacobs had torched the library of his benefactor, Professor Warren L. Hughes, who, while Jacobs never spoke of it, everyone knew was his lover. The incident occurred around three in the morning a few nights before. Though most wrote it off as nothing more than a lover’s quarrel, one witness noted Jacobs rambling something about divine poetry, the pen’s inability and his preference for flames as the firemen were examining him on the scene. The old professor refused to speak to reporters or press charges, but in the end this didn’t make a difference because the fire spread from the library to the apartment and then to the rest of the building along with the two adjoining buildings before it was under control. Fifty people lost their homes that night and Jacobs lost his freedom. He was declared insane, but that came later after the case went through the courts. On the night of the party he was probably still on Rikers Island, which made this case seem more personal than the others because otherwise he would have been there with us. Some people still hadn’t heard and were shocked. Others joked about how with Jacobs it had only been a matter of time. Needless to say his arrest was all anyone talked about, that is until Bishop, the outsider that he was, caused an idiotic scene.
A trivial argument set Bishop off that night. Something about the aesthetic nature of art. One or maybe all of his adversaries were idealists or maybe humanists and Bishop thought otherwise. The argument grew louder and the circle around him thickened as more people joined in. I remember trying to get closer, trying my best to get a glimpse of his face. But then he shouted: Art always has to be a desperate act because art is shit. Art is needing to shit but not knowing how to shit. Art is being unable to shit when you really need to shit. After this statement the nihilistic and hedonistic accusations followed. But Bishop just lashed out at his critics ever harder. He went on some tangent about how he wasn’t an artist at all but rather a weather prophet, as if he thought no one in the room would be familiar with Miller’s opening lines. When someone called him out he was undaunted in a way that only a young man who has experienced more life through books can be, reciting the end of that famous passage, well really screaming it into the faces of those gathered around him. Just in case no one had heard him he slammed the beer bottle he had been drinking from into the floor, shattering it. Most people jumped back, but one guy pushed Bishop hard into the wall behind him. Bishop’s head smashed into the drywall and he dropped to the ground. I rushed toward him. I don’t know what came over me, but suddenly more than anything I just wanted to help him. I don’t know what it was. Maybe I just felt bad for him and thought he was out of his element and was certain that everything at that party that night would end badly? Bishop stood up before I could reach him. He rubbed his head for a few seconds and pulled a few flakes of plaster out of his hair. Then I remember yelling. I think I started yelling and then the guy who pushed Bishop started yelling and our yelling made other people at the party start yelling too. But Bishop just stood there for a minute or two, staring back at the yelling crowd, collecting himself. And then he started to smile. I’ll never forget the sinister look in his eyes that night. The people around him yelled louder and the guy who pushed him the first time pushed him again, but this time Bishop didn’t go down. He clocked the guy hard in the face and then there was blood everywhere. Before anyone knew what was happening Bishop was on top of the guy. He hit him a few more times. I can still see all that blood splattered on the linoleum floor. A few seconds later, some guys pulled Bishop off. He tried to fight them too, but there were three or four of them and only one Bishop. They kicked him out of the apartment. Afterwards I remember someone saying they’d thrown the little prick down the stairs. Somebody took the guy Bishop beat up to the hospital. A little later I heard that he had a broken nose, but was otherwise okay. Everyone at the party was shocked, but I don’t think anyone bothered to call the police. After the fight was over the only thing anyone talked about was Bishop. A few people gave me a hard time for trying to help him and asked me what his problem was. But at that point I didn’t know Bishop any better than anyone else at the party so I didn’t have anything to say.
I don’t remember what I was thinking later on that night when I spotted Bishop sitting on a stoop a few blocks away from the party when I was heading home. Maybe I thought I knew at least part of his story and still felt compelled to help him. Maybe I just thought he was cute and I was feeling lonely or maybe horny and something about him just sitting there alone on the stoop like an abandoned orphan turned me on. I’m not sure what happened next. I think we started talking though it is just as possible that he started following me or that I started following him or that no following occurred and we just ended up speaking for a few minutes and our friendship really began a day or two later when I bumped into him again. But that’s not the picture I want to draw here tonight. In the picture I want to draw, the one I feel will present Bishop most clearly we ended up just talking right then and everything took off from there. I think this started on the stoop when I saw him and asked him how he was or maybe if he was okay to which he answered that he was fine but he was hungry and then me asking when the last time he had eaten was and him saying the day before but then again it may have been the day before that. And then before I knew what was happening there we were sitting side by side on a bench in some little bum park sharing a pizza I paid for, me not really eating more than a slice, and him devouring the food before us as if he hadn’t eaten for years, talking the entire time he ate about everything from the strange things that sometimes occurred when the moon was full, though it escapes me if the moon was in fact full that night, to discussing his problems with people who believed in astrology and his problems with the people who had been at the party that night and his problems with some of his friends and with people in general because he had read the right books and most people had read the wrong books and then he talked about what he liked and disliked about these books. He admired the way Dostoevsky portrayed insanity but he hated the fact that Dostoevsky was so wrapped up in himself and he liked and hated the same things about Salinger and Hemingway and Bernhard and Faulkner and Sartre and almost every writer he had ever read, and even though he thought he understood why these artists acted these ways, it was his intention to change all of this because he believed that it was important for there to be a certain symmetry between persona and product and had a hard time thinking of more than a few writers besides maybe Bolaño and Miller who had ever pulled this off. His point was that he was sick and tired of revering a bunch of dead writers he could never know and of meeting people claiming to be writers who in his opinion only wanted to be seen as writers but didn’t want to lead the sort of life that real writers wrote about or understand that life was always more important than recognition. But he believed that maybe if he could create this sort of life for himself then maybe others would follow his lead and then there would be a whole contingent of people obsessed with living who he could know and then he’d write even better and more honestly and less destructively and then maybe the world might change.
He spoke of all these things in a fast and incoherent manner, his mouth often full of food, because he seemed to have so many things to say and I was letting him say these things without trying to talk about myself. I just sat there and watched him eat and talk because I wanted to listen to him and maybe one day be able to draw him because besides drawing pictures of people I had pretty much given up on art, and though it doesn’t really make sense for me to say being around him made me more confident in my convictions to turn my back on art, maybe being around him did, because I found his refusal to just call himself a writer and think about his future as a writer similar to my own beliefs because both of our ideologies focused not on the past or future but on the present, and then before I knew what I wanted to happen there we were back at my place where we made love for the first and last time. It wasn’t necessarily either of our ideas but rather something that just sort of happened. We walked inside my place and then inside my bedroom where we started fooling around and slipping out of our clothes and then he was inside me and I was lying there suddenly romantically involved with this person who I had only just met a few hours before trying to figure out how I felt about everything that was happening or if I should feel anything at all when he leaned close to my ear and whispered that he was about to cum and when he told me this I burst out laughing and I didn’t know why I was laughing but once I started it became harder and harder for me to stop so I kept on laughing and laughing and laughing and his face went white and he didn’t know what to do so he pulled out and I kept laughing, though I tried to stop but I couldn’t. I tried to tell him I was sorry and that I didn’t mean to be insensitive but I was laughing when I tried to say these things, laughing so hard I started to cry, though not because I thought what had just occurred was funny, but because I didn’t know what was occurring so the only thing to do was laugh and cry at the absurdity of it all because I guess maybe I’ve always been a bit cynical and not one to just let things happen, but rather the sort of person who questions the fact that things are happening and reacts instantly to these things, though even now after so much time has passed I am uncertain why my reaction to everything that night was laughter because there was nothing funny about Bishop’s trying to channel all his uncertainty and aggression he felt toward the world into our act of love because that’s just what people do sometimes and it doesn’t matter why they do this or if it is sad or angry or neither. But what I do know is that first night my laughter drove him away from me for what would be the first of many times. He got up and dressed and walked away from me and I watched him walk away and for whatever reason at that moment the direction of things to come between us seemed clear. I don’t know why things suddenly seemed so clear to me then, but only that they did. At that moment things seemed clearer to me than they do now. And I knew meeting Bishop was the beginning of some great thing or time to come and it was the end. Meeting him was the end of time. The time had come for me to end.