For a letter to be any good, it’s got to create the recipient for itself. Assam writes to Bri and must, to be more fully received, show her her vulnerabilities and her beauties: all the invisible report.
As he opens,
I’m so sleepy//// Shall we swim?
he invokes the moments before she steps into dreaming, briefly sifting through running shapes and colors. These moments are when she most fits herself, her face blurry,
but her nerves blurry too, and lacing her image, worming up into it,
Assam then lists recent episodes of pleasant acquaintance (excerpted):
I think of being led by you through the stacks in Memorial Library […] “the first to formulate the cult of tea as a sort of sacrament” […] is this truly the first time, right now? […] suicides at four Chinese factories […] thrumming against the wet skin of your thigh, mouth pulled into mine […] ‘cross— that disguise— […] the best time, again.
and places her image squarely in her chronology. This serves as his passport into the shining and endless swimming pool of her mind. His passport gets wet, and there are few survivors, but at this point he’s one of them, and the beasts remain unsteady shimmers.
The ultimate desire of the letter writer is to be orchestrator of a voluntary tyranny; the voice inviting a specific mouth to a kiss, and the city-dwellers welcoming in the men to murder the others. The author is invited to and does provide the perfect cosmetic surgeries, and so tailors the gland to swallow the message whole, or be cut to ribbons by it.
For instance, if Assam were now to write:
Dearest Bri, the air is twice as deep, and I yet suck it down, for you, though I know it drown me.
The thought of air would chime with the heft of “actors” previously in the letter, to produce in Bri the sensation of clouds taking human shape, framing a school of bombers glistening there like lures. As you can see, Assam has timed this perfectly. Somewhere still in Bri’s mind is the memory of Assam’s erection thrumming an inch or two inches away from her soaked pussy, and so Bri is reminded of being a long field through the center of a city: bombed-out, puddled, joyous.
Now, if Assam were to write:
Dearest Bri, our meaning game is making designs in the sediment, some deep, and some floral, and some as light as lace-work petals lifting briefly to the heat of a fire.
There’s something you should know.
I’m guilty of everything.
The systematic diminishment of another. Supporting a culture of sadistic and malicious violence. Being on video kicking a handcuffed inmate in the head. I claimed most of the injuries were “self-inflicted”—there were imprints of boot marks on the corpse, the testicles were badly bruising and swollen. Inmates bound in “restraint chairs.” I was a champion of excessive, unnecessary, and even purely malicious violence. Incapacitating, deterring, and punishing, with no intention of rehabilitation.
Race was one way of rationalizing my violent domination. Another tape shows me pushing his head forward on to his knees and pulling his arms back to strap his wrists to the restraint chair. I order him to get into the wheelchair. “I can’t, I can’t,” he shouts, “It hurts,” and he’s tasered on both hips, screams, still can’t get into the wheelchair.
I knew, on some level, they were all persons.
then he acknowledges every cell that divides within him is inside the scope of God. In writing a letter to God, one should keep the audience in mind. One is supposed to feel guilty. A good prayer is as a perfect vote. As gentle and deep as the breeze across April
in waves as constant as corrective
As if instead of my version of the story, it was my version of the story interspersed between episodes and commercials, and if my version of the story gained strength from them, from their bones. They were interviewed relentlessly throughout their childhoods. And if my version of the story shared gravity with the other stories, and with the audience. If it was a nexus, the neck from the brain on the body, between the sun and the sunrise:
Assam writes to Bri, and means to convey a very certain thing:
In my last letter, I was distracted
I imagined and implemented a particular grammar inside a system of meaning incommunicably specific. I matched the words to my skeleton and crucified them there, and was prophesied to die at a certain age, and knew nothing could mean more than that. And yet, here you are:
You are three sonnets fucking up
You are meat with Ash Wednesday skin
Next, you are learning unsolvable stations of the cross
Next, you are drinking blood and bone marrow
You are one little, two little, three little
You are a helpless item, and then you learn to crawl
first I boil meat in a pan
adding salt water every half hour
then I lose control and start
using my mind to control it and
make it cook
1: So why did you do it?
“2”: I couldn’t not. I had already been stretching out the phrases through misuse for, for maybe about eight years? And nobody knew. But I wanted my whole earth carnage, I wanted my book to smell like a girl. So this was the next step. I always thought of myself like the executed princess. Like I wanted it more perfect but worse.
“2”: All conservatives are self-hating, and have no real desire, not even in love. Rather than lament it, I wanted to give them something so wounded, something actively trusting them completely because without immediate help it’ll die.
So it dies. That’s what it was made to do.
But after one of them gets a whiff of it, he’ll chase it around his own head forever.
So it gets better.
1: Many people seem to think your actions were politically motivated, which you deny. Have you read or seen any of these opinions? Do you have a response?
“2”: Yes, all of them. Talk shows, tabloids, websites. I don’t care if it’s in newspapers inside the encyclopedia or carved onto the moon. Either you were there, or you were somewhere else.
As for my politics, they’re somewhere between cum vote and love vote.
As for the notion I am politically motivated, I have no idea what that means.
1: Do you notice any differences between doing something alone by yourself, or in front of a audience, or with a small group of like-minded individuals performing for each other in front of congress, versus being part of the legislative body?
“2”: Performing is the wrong word. I travel to the alien, hostile cities in search of lifeless pink souls. All I find is rats. There’s so many things in the world, but there’s no souls, only rats. I have to wear lipstick to do this. And as for the rats, they were sick and the two ate the one and became ravenous, and then they ate each other.
[A: Yes, eating each other.]
As a result, all I have for a sense of community is my all-purpose cup, a multi-tool, two donkeys, twelve feet of rope, and column after row after column of security monitors. All I have for “the audience” is the screen. That said, I still receive many letters, many from other elected representatives, letters from around the world.
Just yesterday I went with the mail to buy whatever sentiments stayed inside at the store. All the mail that arrived was raw meat, sometimes exponentially raw meat. The store was hot. The milk, I found out later, was rotten. But that was later. I left the store, holding the carton. I went home. I drank the milk. It was rotten.
The thing about the mail, by the time you get to the mirror the conversations you have with each of the more letters that arrive, that’s when I give you a real sugary look and follow you into the furnace.
In one version of the story, fire is a manifestation of pain: the victim, the life folded up in books. The story of fire is the consumption of itself: the book destroyed by the story, the story itself catching at the punctuation. In one story,
She says she wants to be killed that way. And
He’s a screwed-up messy fuck anyway, obsessed with feeling pain, talking about it online. In one version of the story, the fire travels unseen, as if burning backwards, as if predicting the change into ash and then forgetting it.
In another, it’s a burning bush, but not an eternal flame.
In another, it’s an eternal flame.
Whereas the vegetable is content to eat the sun if it has to.