A Short Story
“It is all his fault. I am the way I am because of him. Things happen to me that are the result of his actions. I feel people staring at me as I walk the railroad tracks in Johnson City, looking at the hulks of old shoe factories.”
No sooner had I began with the above title and first paragraph of a new short story when someone clapped the front doorknocker; which was very large, brassy and pretentious. It had “TOMOSKY” engraved on it as if to announce something. I, absentmindedly, placed my writing tablet on the kitchen table. At the door was a relative, a talkative one, who consumed the remainder of my evening. I was tired and went immediately to bed after she departed.
That night I slept without rest. Rarely do I dream and even more rarely can I capture what I dreamt about. It was different that night.
A man appeared to me with a writing tablet very similar to mine. He had several friends with him, or rather, standing behind him. The friends were all in black silhouette most of the time. As they stood there, non-menacingly, one or two of them, taking turns, would change from silhouette to full three dimensional people; albeit, in black and white. I soon recognized a few of them.
There was Averoes, the Arab philosopher of Andalusia. There was Susana Soca, Ariosto, Delia Elana San Marco, Martin Fierro, and Avelino Arredondo. Twice that number stood in the background; still in silhouette, still in mystery.
The labyrinthine dream became clear. These were friends and characters of Jorge Luis Borges, that master of fantasy and confusion. The man holding the tablet had to be Jorge Luis Borges himself. What a thrill to actually see the man who had inspired me so many times.
It came as no surprise that Jorge Luis Borges was standing in front of me. I had been reading several of his books recently; looking for the usual mental excitement that only Borges could bestow. Don’t get me wrong. Borges never made my heart leap or my frame freeze; however, he sure could make my mind stumble, trip, do summersaults, triple-axles and other mistakes or feats; you never knew which one Borges had in mind.
I attempted to converse with him but nothing would exit my mouth. It was like one of those dreams I had as a child; those dreams where I could fly just high enough to stay out of the reach of the monster. It was that same monster that was always jumping up trying to grab me. It would take all of my energy just to stay out of reach; but never enough energy to fly higher or, better yet, to get away.
There I stood. An incredible opportunity to talk to a master story teller and I was able to ask nothing. The period of time that we faced each other was interminable. Borges kept on holding out the tablet to me but I could not reach it. During some periods, it was obvious to him that I was exhausted from trying to speak. Only then would he lower the writing tablet to his side. He would just stand there; expressionless but patient.
This offering by Borges and my inability to accept it went on all night. I promised myself I would write all this down as soon as I awoke. It was too priceless an experience to let fade away.
I had already squandered so many other dreams.
Upon awakening I went directly to the table. I required my writing tablet to record the “traum.” Opening it to where I had left off the previous evening I experienced an enigma. There was something on the page but it was not written. I could see it in my mind but there were no words on the page other than what I had written the previous evening. YET, there was something there that I could see with my mind if not with my eyes. I now tell my story (and record it for the first time) so that others may see (or feel) it. This is what was not written on that page.
Note from Luis: Wally. Too self serving. Try something like this:
“Borges and I
It’s the other one, it’s Borges, that things happen to. I stroll about Buenos Aires and stop, perhaps mechanically now, to look at the arch of an entrance or an iron gate. News of Borges reaches me through the mail and I see his name on an academic ballot or in a biographical dictionary.
It was brilliant. It was pure Borges. How could I have missed the point?
That evening I sat down with this new advice and continued the story of myself and I. The words came hard and I had to re-write and scratch some out. Other phrases were misplaced and I had to move them from one location to another. The goal of what I was creating had to be – – – “sometimes I am not me.”
I was dead tired from attempting something that I had no right to attempt. I went to bed.
It was not long after I drifted off when the dream re-occurred. There was Borges and his group of friends (once again behind him, once again in black silhouette). As we stood there one of the silhouettes took the position of feet together, ramrod straight and hands on his hips. In the silhouette he looked like a dagger stuck in the floor. His hands on his hips made his elbows stick out as if his arms were the hilt. His round head formed the ball at the end of the handle. The dagger then changed from black to bright red, as if he (or it) had just been removed from the blacksmith’s coals. Another color change; this time from that brilliant red to the straw color of tempered steel, then finally to the cold hard color of chrome. He, the image, then became human. There stood Juan Moreira; the knife fighter, in person.
Borges (once more) began offering me the writing tablet. Once more I could not take it or speak. The dream no longer had that frightening aspect; like my other repetitive dream of the monster. It was as if Borges and I were on the verge of familiarity (if not friendship).
Like the night before, there was his continual offering of the writing tablet and my continual inability to speak. Time after time the scene repeated itself; to disgrace me. I was the only one who simply stood there. Even the silhouettes moved around from time to time. I finally awoke to the cacophony of morning bird sounds singing through my window.
Running to the writing table I found my tablet in the same place that it had been left. “Thank God.” I thought to myself “I am not going mad.” I quickly opened the tablet to where I had left off the night before. Once again, nothing was written on the page other than what I had created. Once again, there was something on the page that I could not see with my eyes but could only perceive with my mind. Maybe I was going mad after all. This is what (again, for the second time) was not written on the page:
Note From Luis; Wally, it does not create the depth of feeling that you are looking for. Put some of ‘your self, –his being’ into it. May I suggest something in the vein of the following?
“I like hourglasses, maps, eighteenth-century typography, the taste of coffee, and Stevenson’s prose. The other one shares these preferences with me, but in a vain way that converts them into the attributes of an actor. It would be too much to say that our relations are hostile; I live, I allow myself to live, so that Borges may contrive his literature and that literature justifies my existence.”
Once again I missed the mark and Borges brought me back to where I needed to be.
That evening I made my third attempt at the story; however only the second one with Borges assistance.
I woke up as the mantle clock struck midnight; my face flat on he table. Knowing that I had only written part of what I had intended I was somewhat disappointed. I thought of how disappointed Borges would be if he were here. I closed my writing tablet and went to bed almost hoping that Borges would appear, yet, on the other hand, hoping that he would not be too critical of me.
Like clockwork the re-occurring dream commenced; Borges in front with the writing tablet, his friendly silhouettes in back moving to-and-fro ever so slightly. Like clockwork I could not speak, like clockwork I could not take his tablet.
Upon awakening I rushed for my writing tablet to see what Borges had left for me that morning. One again, nothing was written on the tablet but something appeared in my mind. I could see it clearly. Even if I covered it with the next page it remained clearly written there; for no one to read (as follows);
Note from Luis: Waldo (I hate to get formal with you but that appears to be the only way you will take my advice – – – literally). You need to write more firmly. Your prose is soft, not unlike the breasts of an old woman (interesting but unarousing). Make the reader believe what you are saying. I was quite pleased with myself when I used the following text;
“Little by little I am yielding him everything, although I am well aware of his perverse habit of falsifying and exaggerating. Spinosa held that all things long to preserve their own nature; the rock wants to be rock forever and the tiger, a tiger. But I must live on in Borges, not in myself — if indeed I am anyone—though I recognize myself less in his books than in many others, or than in the laborious strumming of a guitar.”
There it was, not written in my notebook, yet there for all (or possibly only I) to see. That day, at my employment, time moved very slowly. I could not wait to get back to my writing tablet and my re-occurring dream.
Skipping supper and taking the phone off the hook allowed me the piece and quiet that was required for such a heavy assignment. I hoped that I had at least one more meeting with Borges; yet, I felt that I had already been offered all the help I could possibly ask for. I wrote feverishly, long into the night, purposefully exhausting myself with two hopes; first, to re-enter the dream once more, and second, to receive Borges’ approval for the work I was doing. I yearned for that opportunity to find my voice and have a long conversation with the master.
Satisfied that I had reached my goal, I closed my writing tablet and went to bed. The following is my major work; what I had created regarding the two forms of my ‘self’; “Waldo and I.”
“Borges and I
It’s the other one, it’s Borges, that things happen to. I stroll about Buenos Aires and stop, perhaps mechanically now, to look at the arch of an entrance or an iron gate. News of Borges reaches me through the mail and I see his name on an academic ballot or in a biographical dictionary. I like hourglasses, maps, eighteenth-century typography, the taste of coffee, and Stevenson’s prose.[Well dear reader you get the gist of the story about myself and I and its mirror image], but those games are Borges’ now, and I will have to conceive something else. Thus my life is running away, and I lose everything and everything belongs to oblivion, or to the other one. I do not know which of us two is writing this page.
I had finally accomplished my life long goal. I had written a “word for word” sequel to “Borges and I.”
There was only one person in my dream that night; Pierre Mennard second original author of “Don Quixote.”
© Copyright – Waldo Tomosky