—–Well so, the mailman on my street seems to come later and later in the day, these days, now he comes around 3:30 pm, this October, and he doesn’t have much. The furtive mailman comes lurching up to my house, and rattles the rusty mailbox. He put something in there I thought, but then he is knocking on the door. The cat wants to get out, so I open the door to speak to the mailman and let the cat out, which means I almost bang the mailman in the face with the screen. But he is already talking. It is like he wants to take a break. He says he has to apologise for having nothing, today. I seem to be getting to know this fellow by a process of mutual disparagement, as to our stations in life. He is apologetic, and I am by now . . . sanguine! But–the mailman is gushing with things to say. Well, sure!, I am all ears. He says he may have outlived his usefulness, there is nothing but flyers and stuff and a bunch of letters addressed to Resident of Such and Such Address. He is spinning his wheels, he is old fashioned, people don’t even write letters anymore, and he feels ridiculous half the time. He feels like a fool, and his mail truck looks like a toy, he is embarrassed to even get in and turn on the toy engine. Absurdly dressed in his mailman’s uniform, he is nevertheless exposed, and yet blank. He is beseeching, but such a grandiloquent fellow! So I invite him to partake of a cup of coffee, I am on no regular schedule, quite flexible and home all day myself. Come on in, I say, I am a writer, you know. Writers can be very free, or very busy, depends on when you catch them; they might seem totally idle, longing for human contact, lonely–or they might be sealed off, impossible to locate, haughty as hell and in the middle of some world-changing project. The mailman knows what I mean.
—–“People always wonder what you do,” I say apologetically, talking about myself. “I have found it’s better to get out ahead of it, and just tell them you are a writer, even if that gets doubting looks.” The mailman is sympathetic, and follows me into the kitchen.
—–“And/or frown at you,” I add, “people actually frown at you when you tell them that. Like you are telling them you think you are better than them.”
—–“Well, I knew you were a writer,” the suddenly jaunty mailman says, like he is cast into the role of listening to me, or understanding, intuitively, that this is his role now that he is in the house–to let me ramble. In fact, he seems to take on the role of a journalist. It is a sort of game, like he is interviewing me. “Well,” the mailman say, “can you remember the days when you were clicking along on a novel? The way you engineered those plots, foreshadowed those scenes, and clashed those characters, ‘till they drove each other into action?”
—–Yes! Yes! That was paradox, that was something! That was expectation. How many times did that happen? How this mailman knows my novel writing days are in the distant past, I don’t know. But it’s powerful invitation being made, to go looking back. I feel this new friend of mine is asking me to assess the situation, and like I should overturn some assumptions, ransack my memory, my unfinished stories, my dangerous theories!, see what I left in the breezeway, look for that most dire of suggestions–when suddenly I get it.
—–That’s it! My head is cleared. I now realise that my instinctively reserved, consolation prize, end-run fate for my writing, may be unrealistic. What I mean simply is that the future I was subconsciously counting on–the quietly assumed, rolled out historical terrain where my books, my notebooks and my lectures, editorials, et al, are delivered and read to an audience, say in the year 2088–the truth is I don’t have this future, and can’t begin to see it. This projected land in time is nothing but an extension of the miserably understood present. And there is nothing in the present that has the kernel, the expectation, the time-release, of my current threatening awareness–such as it is when most engaged, precisely, in this literary effort. I have no future, for pity sake, for the precise expressions of this carved out, fought for, awareness that is, also, the express grid upon which is played out still the drama, beauty, and ultimate meaning of my life.
—–So then! If this is no longer plausible, can there be some other place, or eternal value, to my writing? Could it exist elsewhere entirely, and this world itself be only the place where I set up my desk and go to work? Sailing up and apart, words transcending, aimed elsewhere than the mundane world, where people so blithely execute their lives. Outreaching, and out distancing the yawning past inactive memories and mere engulfing carbon copy futures that quash everything? What of my desperate diligent reportage?
—–I now realise, as I abandon this ridiculous idea that I am anything to a future generation, that precisely to project any person even a generation younger, involves putting them on a terrain where I myself am quite questionable, or missing. Absurd, but poignant somehow, that I the commentator, the one who frames reality and gives speech, gives words their meanings!, have nothing to say, anymore, in the year, say . . . 2088! This is such an elemental issue, it seems I ought to already have addressed it in my writing! Quite comical, fearful, unresolved, and unreasonably silent–I am in regards to my future, non-existent self. Though, in a sanguine mood anyway, I have no lack of confidence in these same children of the present hour, along with all the rest of their contemporaries, being able to make lives for themselves! In this same stretched out, hardly figured out, future where I will be . . . evaporated, somehow. There is a gloss! Maybe I mean . . . eviscerated. Smoked. Risen from the dead. But the point here is that there is no great necessity for my books being there, either, I now realise; there is no hint, actually, of the preparatory atmosphere for their reception, if you see what I mean.
—–“Oh, I quite see what you mean,” said the mailman.
—–Okay, then in fact I must go on with this line of revelation. My whole understanding of history has been such that my own writing occupies a special place in it; that is clearly an assumption I have had every time I have sat down to compose. That place I have positioned myself in is the last place, of course, as the one alive who is the assessor, the one who caps it, not to end it, but to secure and recreate it, so as to make it the conquering field of awareness. I have always been addressing an audience that includes those authors in the past whose writing has so challenged me to be conscious, vis-a-vis writing, of the mystery of this existence. I chose them, say, over some assemblage of historical figures in other fields of influence, like scientists or politicians, or emperors, or even philosophers. I chose the writers, the talkers, the little guys, to be in my pantheon.
—–But I see now that I have only assembled the crowd at the bar at The Afterlife Hotel, and not addressed any determined, or even reasonable future at all. I am like oriented totally towards this one selective past! Now I see how my temporary successes and my ability to charm in the moment are will-o’-the-wisp, now I see why nothing I do sticks with any force of necessity. For it is all an aggrandizement to please and get cheers from one group of intimates, the majority of whom are, shall we say . . . fully accomplished.
—– “I know that,” says the mailman, “that is why I have known that I would not be delivering notifications of your awards and publishing offers, but only and increasingly flyers and official communications from your creditors.” Well! I really appreciated this conversation, and I told him it was great to have him taking a break like this, we were kind of similar in many ways . . . both engaged in professions that were, you know, a little out of sync. “Out of sync,” he repeated, “that’s a good one!” Then, he said he better get back out to his mail truck, which was parked right out in front of our house. Over the years, it is where mailmen have traditionally paused on their route down our city street. So! A great talk. When I let the mailman out, the cat was waiting to get back in, and she ran right through to the kitchen, skidded to a halt in front of her food dish, and looked up at me.