01 June 2011

Differential Man

In serendipitous response to a terrific post here at An Emphatic Umph by rhetor and philosopher Daniel Coffeen (h/t to BDR for pointing me to his site), I post a brief quote from my favorite novel ever [if you regularly read this blog'o'mine, you'll know which one I mean {Check the Label}]:
Again, as so often these days, I was alone. Nina had decided not to come back with me. She felt Picaro needed a good grooming, and, I suspect, she had a few things to say about the future of Shadowstone Fields. This was not my battle—yet. Li would drive her back into the city later. I succumbed to the strain and rested my eyes, knowing more would be required of them this evening.

Alone? No. That wasn't quite the term for what I felt; there were others on the train, in my car, even across the aisle from me. What was it? Lonely? Not at all. Lonely implied I needed other people to be complete. No, I was not lonely, had never really felt that way. My mind didn't seem to want to work for me. Solitary? That wasn't right either, though it was closer; still, it made one think of being in prison. I sighed aloud. The woman across from me looked up from her paperback. I rolled my eyes and smiled. I wasn't even sure there was le mot juste in English for this sense I had of myself. Singular, unique? No, no: they didn't work either; too vaunted, smacking of hubris. Alienated? Too harsh, I thought, for it was a comfortable solitude, a safe one, in which I found myself. And besides, that had legal and political connotations. Oh, what was that word? It was on the tip of my tongue, yet just out of reach like the obvious solution to a tricky clue in the Sunday crossword. It wasn't a common term. It even had some technical implications; it seemed like it was a term used in mathematics and maybe in medicine and mechanics, as well. What was it? The train rounded a broad curve. I could see the engine out ahead from my side of the window. Work, brain, work. You've got work to do in the city. A moment passed and then, the aha! moment. Yes, I remembered: differential. That was the word I was looking for. My body shuddered involuntarily, and I shifted in my seat. Differential equation: motion, points in time. Differential diagnosis: ruling out everything that the symptoms did not support. Differential gear: the unequal distribution of power to the wheels of a turning vehicle. Differential: was that the word? Differential man: Was that what I was? Who I am? Did that somehow define my life? What I was becoming? I chased this thought, this word puzzle, this line of associations downward into an abyss of sleep. A body, an identity, forming, moving through time. An arc, a curve defining my life as I shucked off everything that was different, everything that was not me. Rejecting everything I could not use. Focusing my energies where I felt the strain. Until when? And going where?

The next thing I knew came a light tapping and then a firmer shaking of my arm: "End of the line, buddy." Which was not my name. My doze had been mercifully purged of dreams. I came to slowly, not quite sure where I was and how I had gotten here, trying to piece together what had brought me to this place. A trickle of saliva pooled at the corner of my lips.


Frances Madeson said...

Picaro needs a good grooming but your protag's okay to slobber himself. Droll stuff, Jim. So this is the game plan now--doling out Eulogy in dribs and drabs to your thirsty readers?

Jim H. said...

How about 'drooling' our Eulogy in dribs and drabs? Slightly sharper alliteration, no? No matter how hard I try, I can't hide the Beckett in me.

Maybe I should just bite the bullet and start putting a few chapters up...

Nice to hear from you. Hope all is well.

Stay cool.

Randal Graves said...

Gimme a bullet, you say? (i.e., yes, you should start putting up chapters)

Jim H. said...

I'm a sucker for that Aussie rock. Power chords pumping through stacks of Marshalls all the ding dong day. Chapter 1 coming soon to a blog near you. I'm awed by your requests.

I could go on.