Infinite Chandeliers


They encouraged me to believe that others did not see colors exactly as I did. When I was very young I became obsessed with this notion. I became equally obsessed by infinity, which my parents insisted on discussing daily, often at the dinner table. I once asserted that I could count to infinity if given enough time—infinite years. But they laughed at my arrogance. And their laughter frightened me. It was mocking. I was only four. I had just learned to count, could make it to one thousand no problem. I knew that all numbers were simply different quantities of one—the only number. So I insisted that I could count endlessly, like some kind of machine. And they laughed even harder, drinking their Bordeaux, pouring me a little in my milk until it was a fleshy pink. “Drink,” my mother insisted. She was beautiful, dressed in black, and I recall her mauve lips form the word. Her lips and the glass seemed huge. But I was enraged and did not want the wine which stood before me, the wine in the milk glass: a perfect cylinder, and tall. “Why can’t I count to it?” I screamed, and my father turned his stony, mask-like face away, and excused himself from the table. “Why is he mad?” I demanded of my mother, who followed him out of the dining room with slow, prurient eyes. “Drink the wine and your milk,” she said softly, though it was a command. I gulped it down bravely. “Not so boorishly,” she warned, but too late. She sighed. The room rotated on its axis. I was its axis. My mother was smiling insidiously. It seemed so, at least. “Your father is unhappy with you,” she explained. “He is unhappy because your bold proclamation proved that you have not yet grasped the essence of infinity. You cannot count that which has no beginning—that which has no end.” I fell out of the chair. The chandelier was brilliant then, and I giggled. I lay on my back, watching the chandelier (as I had done as an infant for countless hours) and its luminous crystals issued rays of violet light. The walls and my mother faded into the distance. All was the distant past, except the enormous chandelier which spun slowly, engulfing my entire existence. A carousel of dazzling light. “How does one count a circle?” I mused. “It is a line that follows itself. It is complete. And I can’t count it! No one can! It begins nowhere! Momma, I understand it now! I understand everything!” I woke up. It was dark. I was still on the floor. I was alone.


A Rotten Place


1
You were damn good in the letter, damn good. What did you even say? No matter the precise details, you weren’t very honest. You made it seem you hadn’t suffered, that you hadn't wanted her and suffered as much as you did. If you betrayed that, though, she wouldn't be coming at all. Let’s see, how much time?

2
Not many people around. She’ll be here in a few minutes. Not many people today. It’s quite lonely. Some little sparrows hopping about in the rubbish. People are filthy pigs, they really are. I do hate people. I wonder how many she’s had since we stopped. Probably many. Then again, maybe not. You never know. Maybe she's started hating men. But that would mean that there have certainly been many. I can't ever ask, anyway. No. And she’ll never say one way or the other. She won't ever say. She used to get so self-righteous, and then she’d say, finally, and then resent me for it because she’d told herself she’d never say. I won't ever ask. No, don’t ask. If she loves you, she won’t say. If she doesn’t love you, well, she still won’t say anything. Either way, she won’t say. She’ll say it’s none of your business, even if you demand it.

3
The bus is late. I wish it could be over with, this waiting. I wonder how she’ll look. Good, probably. I wonder if she’ll be the same. If she isn’t the same, I'll feel insecure and convince myself she’s been with many. Then again, if she is the same as I remember, it might not make any difference. And then I’ll think she’s slept with more than if she had looked different. If she looks the same, I'll start to think the world is lying to me. What if I can’t take it? I’ll go mad. No use in thinking. You should be happy she’s coming at all. That means something, doesn’t it? That means a bloody lot. You lied for it and now she’s coming. Damn, she’s quite late. There are no traces left from a lover, no matter how many. It doesn’t show up on the flesh. They say it does, but really it doesn't. It always feels the same. Unless she’s got something, like a disease. But if she’s got a disease she wouldn’t be coming. No, she wouldn’t do that.

4
Oh God, she looks good. Too good. I knew it, she's been with many. Maybe some of them were very good. But that wouldn’t matter, even if many of them were very good. Women don’t care about that in the end. All that matters is that she’s back, and that says it all. It means she really loves you. But surely not all of them could have been bad. God, my heart is beating. Steady yourself. She'll sense if you’re nervous. She always has. Steady yourself now. If you don’t act natural, like in the letter, she’ll know it was a big lie. And then she’ll leave you again. She thinks you’ve changed. God, she looks good. The same, but different. That’s even worse. How many has it been? Damn, my heart. Come on. Steady now.