My throat is a casserole of mucus. There is no pizza left. I like to save some for breakfast usually, but Kaylee left it on the counter, then she ate it up and went to bed. We fell asleep watching The Departure, a documentary following Ittetsu Nemoto, a Buddhist priest who provides near-continuous counsel to the suicidal. Having just tolerated the dearth of cinematic nuance in The Big Sick, and too stoned to turn off the television and confront printed sentences, I sought a film with visual and emotional depth. It contained that depth and more. But my carbohydrate-filled belly sought only deep sleep.
Accompanying my mucus this morning is the twinge of emptiness I feel having one less friend. Logan flew back yesterday for the Twin Cities. We hadn’t spoken in perhaps six months, so he initially didn’t think to call me before departing. But when packing he came across a book I gave him, Beckett’s Stories and Texts for Nothing, and thought for some reason he needed to return it. So he phoned to say he was leaving tomorrow and come get your book. Tomorrow is now yesterday. He’s gone and the book presumably still unopened. He wouldn’t have cracked it on the plane. I assumed Beckett would be right up his alley, but I might not know his alley all that well. If nothing else, Stories gave me the opportunity for a farewell drink, or more.
We don’t know what’s beneath the water’s surface.
Logan snorted a few lines while packing, so he was keen to talk about anything once seated (tenuously) in The Tin Room. But we talked about what we always talk about: writing. The last time we met we talked about the same. This could be why we didn’t meet up for six months. Waking up recalling you spoke inebriated for hours about your writing (or what you’re reading) can be disarming. You want to believe you’re not that callow or fanatical, that you have serious, adult things to say. That you’re interested in others. But you only have summaries of sentences you’ve written or read. It all seems vanity, or at least futility.
Following a bump in the bathroom, Logan perhaps recognized this and set our conversation on a new course. Death. Why not? But I still had only thoughts from reading to contribute. I reported second- or third-hand a Saul Bellow metaphor I’d read in a Martin Amis article (about and to his friend Christopher Hitchens, for The Guardian). Something about birds speeding over the surface of water, and every now and then you see one dive beneath the surface and never come up. Where did it go? Is it coming back? And that’s life, that’s our general ignorance during life of what happens after the moment of death. We don’t know what’s beneath the water’s surface.
Logan took this and ran with it. He’s afraid I’m an atheist, so any time I lean toward the agnostic in conversation he grabs and yanks me further in that direction, with (in this case literal) coked-up enthusiasm. Logan’s latest theory is in a nutshell that “God is nothing.” We can’t comprehend nothing. We can’t comprehend God. Therefore God is nothing. I tried to remember which fallacy he was invoking but ordered another beer instead.
We said goodbye a few times on the street. My metaphor for goodbyes contains some of Bellow’s water. Life is the liquid in a glass half full, and your friends are bobbing in it, alongside you, displacing the water so your glass feels fuller. But every so often a hand reaches in and pulls a friend out. The first time this happens, your glass is already at less than half, and you must acknowledge it’s more empty than full the rest of your days. And continuously so. Because no one can re-displace what’s missing. You can’t make old friends, as the saying goes.
I’m a pessimist. I think that’s what Logan really fears, my pessimism, not my atheism.
God is nothing, nothing is God—that is to say, there is no God. But I’m as agnostic about that as I am about the usefulness of my glass metaphor, weakened significantly by cliche and alcohol. Saul Bellow had the better.