You Are Where I Am Not
I am not a real person. I am only words on paper. A narrator. A narrator of the first person variety. An invention. A fake. Or, if you prefer, an illusion. And yet, if I tell you there is a city, you will see a city. And yet, if I tell you that I walk through a ruined city, you will see a ruined city and you will see me walking through it. You will see a ruined city and you will tell yourself that you’re there and you’re seeing it through my eyes. Through the eyes of the narrator. Through me. Though there is no me. I do not exist. I am only words. I am a narrator.
The city was destroyed some time ago. It was destroyed by an explosion. An explosion from above. It could have been a bomb, or a missile, or even an event like the Tunguska, the Cando, the Vitim, or the Eastern Mediterranean. From atop a ruined skyscraper I can see that the blast pattern is in the shape of a butterfly. I can see that the blast pattern is in the shape of a Comma butterfly from the family Nymphalidae. Although the shape is perfect, the coloring is not quite right being rust red and gray and black and brown. I can see that the trees in the park at the center of the city have been stripped but remain as superfluous telephone poles, whereas the trees in the wings of the Comma have been knocked over. The airburst object entered at thirty degrees. There was no warning. There was no escape.
But I was not here when the city was destroyed. I was not here when it was destroyed, though I was also not somewhere else, anywhere else; I was nowhere else, nowhere to be found, nowhere. I did not yet exist when the city was struck by the event, and I still do not exist in this city that has been in its post-event stage for some time. The weeds peek through the rubble, and the rats and cockroaches are everywhere. Roads here are made of detritus as if the building materials for all the past and future boulevards existed at the same time, ready for trans-dimensional beings to construct hyperspace thoroughfares through the multiverse, intersecting with other hyperspace thoroughfares, taking you wherever you want to go, showing you whatever you want to see.
As I walk through, as I ascend structures that may collapse under my negligible weight, as I sit on park benches now located in the middle of dry fountains, as I board streetcars bound for no destination, as I converse with ashen silhouettes of former shadows of the previous inhabitants of this municipality, as I take my seat in theaters that lack stages (unless the wreckage across the street can now be called a stage), and as I sleep in woefully overrated five star hotels I begin to think that this city could rise again. It could, in fact, follow the same pattern it followed during its original development, from an outpost, to a settlement, to a small manufacturing town, to a large industrial city, to an industrial and commercial metropolis, to a post-industrial megalopolis; it could be known for steel, glass, rubber, meat, textiles, investment banking, computers, social services, art, or any combination of these, including other such possibilities absent from this list. I cannot tell you. I would tell you more, but…
But I have never lived here. I do not live here now. I never knew this city when it was an actual city. I know it merely as a shell. It might’ve always been like this. The supposed former megalopolis I walk through could be a massive art installation. It could be a massive art installation called The Fallen Leaf or Polygonia c-album, the Latin name for the Comma butterfly. It’s possible that there never was a time when this city was anything but what it currently is: a ruin built to resemble an urban area affected by a Tunguska-like event. The ruin may have been constructed for some dubious reason, and now you believe me complicit in the ruse that’s been enacted, you believe that I am in the confidence racket, a charlatan who has pulled you in.
However, much as the city may be an art installation, it may be anything else; it might even not be that one thing you wish it wasn’t. I would tell you more about the city, yet not only have I never lived there, I have never been. To me it does not exist, since I do not exist. I do not exist because I am only words on paper. Yet as I stroll along the roads connecting one dimension to the next, I notice that whereas I am neither there nor elsewhere, in some dimensions you are there, perhaps not fully trusting me, secretly blaming me for your uncertainty, wondering what to do with me, wondering what to do with the hoard of airborne Comma butterflies, wondering what to do with the falling leaves, wondering what to make of this city, wondering what happened to it, if anything, wondering what will come of it, unsure, as if you could not trust your senses, as if you were looking through someone else’s eyes, as if you were looking through my eyes, the eyes of the first person variety narrator, though I am an invention, a fake, an illusion, though I am just not there.
Andrew Farkas is the author of Self-Titled Debut and is a frequent contributor to The Brooklyn Rail.