Listen to author

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

The woman, who is Diane Williams or a Diane Williams wannabe – why pretend otherwise? – is talking to a person or being talked to by a person. The person the woman is talking to or being talked to by is not relevant in this story (or in the woman’s life). The woman is following a man or a man is following the woman. The woman is thinking about the man following her or of following the man. The woman is at a party or a museum or her mother’s house. The woman is in the midst of a throng of people or off to one corner or in a bathroom stall. The woman is alienated from a larger group – members of her family or partygoers or patrons of the museum; more accurately, the woman is alienated from the man. The man has said or done something or not said or done something to cause the alienation or the woman has said or done something or not said or done something, similarly. The woman can no longer remember who or what, the thing that was said or not said, done or not done. Who or what are no longer relevant to this story (or to the woman).

In the movie the woman was watching last night, an actress had quoted a famous American author. The movie was French and the actor was French and the actress was American. The quote had something to do with grief and nothingness and the woman was uncertain if what she felt were either. She felt incapable of distinguishing between the two and envied the actor and actress their abilities to recognize a clear distinction and to make a choice accordingly. She envied the famous American author also, but less so.

The woman has some memory now of gutting. The woman’s memory is vague; muddy at best. The woman cannot identify the gutting as being spiritual or emotional or physical, can remember only thinking the word “gutted” in relation to something she was doing or saying or something that was being done or said to her. The woman is incapable of assigning a name such as grief or nothingness to the gutting. The woman is calmed by the different tenses of the word and repeats them quietly to herself as she sits in the corner or bathroom stall or on a couch amongst a great many people. The woman fishes her hand deep in her pocket, feeling for a knife the man gave her before the thing that was said or not said, done or not done, and the alienation subsequently. The knife is a symbol – of grief or nothingness, it is unclear which – but the woman revels in the symbolism nonetheless. The woman feels capable of grief and nothingness equally. The woman wants similarly to gut and to be gutted. It is becoming increasingly hard for the woman to make any clear-cut distinctions.

The woman is holding the knife openly; watching as the crowd moves as one away, disburses to the other side of the room. It is hard to tell one face from another. She can no longer remember the man’s name, only a lingered feeling of forced detachment when she thinks the words: the man. A person says the woman’s name and steps forward. The person is unrecognizable. The woman is unsure if it is her own flesh or another’s that is torn or tearing. When she looks at the crowd they are in black and white and their voices echo a foreign language where previously they were speaking English. There is an air of impartiality to the whole commotion. The blackness of the blood seems vaguely non-cinematic.

The woman sits back on her heels. The crowd is watching and her urge is to throw back her head, open-mouthed. About everything else the woman is still unknowing. In the movie the actor had said grief was a compromise. The actor had laughed. In the movie the actor was always laughing. Sometimes the actress laughed too.