Mad Hatters' Review Issue 10, Fall 2008
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Fiction by
Rebecca Goodman
Music by Guthrie Lowe
Artwork: Sara Holt & Marty Ison Collaboration

Selection from Becomes Echo

I had the strange sense as I reread through my writings of the time that the story I had told was true.

You cannot say that there was once a before—that you once existed as another.

Why do you linger on this island?

Artwork Collaboration  2008 Sara Holt & Marty IsonThe rock drifts on the surface of the tide. Spongelike, volcanic. I swam towards the stern of the boat. Sea-wrecked, I thought. Soundless. Green black tufa. I collected it in my hand. The boat rocking, water lapping. I held onto the boat’s ladder.

That landscape is a part of you—that you understand the self through it—that you understand this event only in this place—where I am from, where I understand the mountains and the sea—particular to that place. Where I sit in the café overlooking the sea.

When he left behind his home, he left behind the identity of his landscape. When he stood on a hill looking out at that sea, he would remember the sea where he grew up. He replaced this sea now with the one from his childhood. He understood this image now, only in comparison to that past, so that when he spoke to me there seemed in him a hesitation.

But I didn’t know this at first. I didn’t know that when he described his childhood, he described something different from what I saw before us. I didn’t know yet that the landscape, itself, could translate his identity. The landscape was his first language.

The man lies face down on the bed; the woman stands at the door. For a brief moment he forgets that she is there.

It is a scene she believes she has read about—a scene she has experienced before.

He lies there as one who has forgotten.

The aspect of loneliness, she thinks, watching the man on the bed lying face down.

We spend six days crossing the sea. From the side of the ship we watch as we move across distance. Each day at noon we receive readings of our position, moving further away from and further to. We calculate time as repetition as movement displaces perspective.

Each day we come upon someone—a man whose history disguises itself as pain. We see only twenty miles—fog lies on the surface.

At breakfast he tells us about his wife. In that telling, he tells us only about himself. Later, in the quiet of our cabin, independent of each other, we imagine his life, what he did for a living, the son, the navigation, the circumference of the world. The way you hold a rubber band, let it go, and the shortest distance is the circle which you travel. The great circle of time.

Morning. The first thing that came to mind was my inability to write. Sitting here now, on the beach, in the café, surrounded by people whom I don’t know. You can’t escape it. You can disguise it.

We spent six days moving across the ocean. At night we hear the water as it washes across the ship. Six nights we hear that sound.

He slept next to me unaware. As the ship moved, it displaced the water. By the fifth night, we no longer spoke.

Once here we no longer care. We do this only as a way of abandoning ourselves. As a way of justifying our being here.

Without remembering, the man told me he had lived on this island before there were tourists. He lived in a house secluded on a promontory which looked out over the sea—separated by a cove on one side, and by a small dock of boats on the other. Small children played in the water among the rowboats.

We walked under a bridge then stopped before turning around. He told me he had lived here for years.

Bridging the worlds between the sea.

Occasionally, but mostly, your body fights the heat, moving as though you were moving through planes of shifting air.

He sees movement as a kind of lingering.

Wherever I am I long to remain. This is not a form of fear, but a form of wanting.

The winds arrive from the south. At night outside our window leaves break and fall.

I imagine him emerging from the water and climbing the rocks to the steps. At night, lying in bed I see this image. Falling.

The city washes away. From the side of the mountain I watch as it floats—whole buildings, streets, cars—moving together as if unified in motion.

Standing by the side of the road, I watch.

At breakfast I tell him of this image. There are methods of escape, I think. There are ways in which to elude even images.

 
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last update: October 14, 2008