Friday
Aug092013

The End of History

Evelyn Hampton


 

She has more content than she knows what to do with. It is a feeling of being full and unable to find comfort in any position, so she keeps shifting her body, moving it to different rooms in case she might discover in one something also within herself. In her sleep she is also always moving—in the morning she finds the sheets damp and twisted around themselves, as if she is now in a place other than where her body has been resting.

What she wants to discover is a framework for her content, where it will be contained and even put to a good use so that she does not feel she has more than she can manage. There are the lyrics of songs—usually only the chorus—that repeat when she is awake and when she is asleep, occurring in her dreams to different melodies, yet still filling her head with their words. There are actual objects that fill the place where she lives: tables, chairs, the rind of a grapefruit, many plastic bags, dishes with food congealed to their surfaces. There are surfaces, and there are memories of surfaces—the glittering one of the pond where she swam with a man she no longer sees.

She envisions walking into a room—it will be a room in a particular downtown building she has always wanted to enter (she likes the arched shape of its entranceway, which reminds her of a street in a very different city where one night she came across a man weeping beneath a window out of which fell one white sheet, then another white sheet, covering the man's body). Inside the room will be the framework she needs for her content. Yet when she tries to decide what the framework will be made of, she has trouble imagining something man-made that could possibly contain all she has accumulated.

Maybe it will be a hive, or a lattice of crystals. Maybe she will find a space that will be for her content what a greenhouse is for orchids. It will provide just the right conditions for her content to grow and flourish. Her content will send out new shoots, and she will only have to visit occasionally to make sure the correct levels of temperature, moisture, and light are maintaining. Her content will become unruly, and she will not mind. She will not feel overwhelmed by it the way she does now, with no place to put it except to keep carrying it with her all the time, the way a friend once wore a hooded sweatshirt backwards so a stray kitten tucked inside the hood could feel her warmth and hear her voice while she drove the long distances her job required.

She does not know how or why she has acquired so much content—it is just something that happens, it seems, as a result of having a body and senses. Near her apartment there is a fence trash blows against, the trash becoming trapped between the fence and the wind. She thinks of herself as the fence the content has become trapped against. She thinks she might also be the wind.

Reasoning is disastrous because it only seems to generate more content she doesn't know what to do with. Yet she sometimes thinks that if she were to proceed carefully from one point to the logical next, she could eventually reach a conclusion about her content that would also be a solution to the problem of having too much of it. As far as she can tell, a logical solution to the problem of having too much content would have to negate the content—it would have to be an empty place or an opening that could accommodate all the content she feels burdened by. Since the feeling of being burdened by content is also content, the logical solution will also have to accommodate her feelings, which she doubts a logical solution could ever do. And the solution, also being content, will have to accommodate itself...As soon as she begins to think like this, she realizes that she is creating more content, and she feels pain in the area of her stomach, as if she has eaten too much. Pain is also content she does not know what to do with.

If she could just find the opening at the end of reason, the small portal or chute she imagines will be there, then she will be able to dispose of her content. She will push it into the small portal or chute and watch it disappear. A breeze will be coming from the portal; she will push her content into the portal and then a breeze will lift the ends of her hair, and she will feel she's speeding along in a convertible, free of history.

She has read about the end of history. While she isn't sure exactly what it means, the end of history, she imagines that after it happens, everyone will walk around as if they've just woken up from a nap—hair will be disheveled, eyes puffy, clothing wrinkled. Everyone will be thirsty and wanting to talk about their dreams, which will already have become too vague to be narrated.

She does not want to believe in transcendence or happy endings since beliefs, too, are content, so she decides instead to try to shed her content moment by moment, in a manner she has heard some people are able to effect by never moving or opening their eyes for days and even months of their lives. In this way, closed off to new content, she might be able to shed what she has accumulated.

One night, after a day of sitting and trying not to open her eyes, she dreams she has become trapped in an image. The interior of the image looks like a dilapidated, empty factory building. She keeps moving from large empty room to large empty room, having to walk around wide pillars that keep the image from collapsing beneath the extent of its emptiness. Finally she encounters an old woman sitting at a desk in one of the rooms. She approaches the old woman and asks her how to get out of the image. The old woman nods kindly and points to an elevator shaft. She thanks the old woman, goes to the elevator shaft, steps in, begins falling. As she falls, she sees floor after floor flash by. When she looks in the direction she's falling, she sees a small, square opening stippled with many lights. As she gets closer to the opening, she can also see the spiral shapes of galaxies. She becomes anxious about the opening—she is falling into outer space, she realizes, and she is sure she will not survive. Yet the moment she passes out of the shaft, she is overcome by a feeling of great relief, which acts as a parachute for her falling body—now she is free to float for eternity. Suddenly frightened by the thought of eternity, she wakes herself from the dream.

Since even in dreams she cannot help but see and hear and have new experiences, she does not understand the point of going around with her eyes closed. As long as she has a mind, and senses connected to it, she will be unable to stop taking in the sights, sounds, feelings, odors, and flavors of her surroundings, and from these sensations her mind will be unable to stop inventing the stories and ideas that occur to her one after the next, often so quickly that she has not finished making sense of one before the next comes, then the next, until she is confused and wants to cover her life with a bandage.

You should come with me to aikido, one of her friends says. Immediately she does not want to go, yet she goes. During class, she feels like a ghost that has been given a body it does not yet know how to move. Bumping around inside of the body, wearing floppy white clothes, she adjusts the arms and legs in the ways a small, serious man tells her to, but the movements do not feel right. Later, when she is home and out of the floppy clothes, she sees in the mirror many small green bruises on the arms and legs, which are once again her own.

Learn to use your mind's energy against itself, and your mind will stop tormenting you, her friend has said, but in her friend's voice she hears the voice of the small, serious man, whom she does not think of as her friend.

Besides: to learn to use her mind's energy against itself, she would have to add new content. Even if it was content that might eventually ease the burden of having content, at this point, she is so overwhelmed with the content she already has, she thinks she cannot take on any new content even if it's promised that the new content will help her. It all just seems like more advertising.

Instead, she would like to build a factory for her content—a place where her content will be used as quickly as she accumulates it. She thinks of the memory of the pond, of how she and the man she no longer sees finally decided that they were unable, because of their different bodies and perspectives, to see the same glittering surface—this will all be fodder for the content factory, where the creations of an evanescent world will be discorporated. Everything she experiences will feed the content factory's machines, which will turn it all into a mist too vague to be held or remembered. Eventually the machines will have nothing but themselves to feed on, and they'll become mist, too.