of Your existence? There is nothing
but.” -Franz Wright
“All anyone ever wants, I thought–feeling wretched and invisible at once–is someone to verify you’re still here.” -Emily Fridlund, “Here, Still”
Do most of us sometimes feel “wretched and invisible,” or is that just me and Fridlund’s character? Somehow I’m guessing it’s most of us, but then again, I also keep guessing that everyone would rather be walking through a creek than a mall, and the proof doesn’t seem to be on my side. So I’m not sure.
In any case, I’ve been where Fridlund describes–I’ve felt unpinned from the world, not sure if I’m really here or where (what?) the here is that I’m supposed to be. It’s like slowly becoming an emotional, intellectual ghost and drifting, not through the floor, but into the infinite space between things. When that happens I’ve wanted someone–almost anyone, really–to come back and pin me to the moment, a moth to a card, with a smile or a yell or a “yes.” In the worst moments I’d settle for hurting someone. At least that would show I was there.
Proof of Your existence? There is nothing but. The first time I heard that, I heard it out loud, so I missed the capital Y. That meant it was about you, or me. About any of us. And I thought, huh. The rock, and the sky, and the ache of my sore leg; the summer heat and the sound of tires on the street outside. Maybe all that really is proof.
So why, with all of that, do I still sometimes feel like I need verification that I’m still here? Maybe there are two different kinds of proof. When I get really me insistent, when I get worried I’ve drifted off, I want verification that focuses on me. I want to touch something and see it move. I want to say something and know its heard. But when I’m quieter, when I’ve been listening to Wright’s poetry out on the porch for an hour or two, than it’s different. Everything is proof: a bottlecap, a conversation across the street, the ground beneath me. I suppose the first kind of proof works by you listening to me, and the second works by me listening. The first is me splashing the water until I know I have a hand. The second is knowing I’m here, not because I can feel where my body starts or ends, but because I can feel the water. The first is about being witnessed. The second is about being a witness. As far as I can tell, the second’s always closer to where I’m standing, because it’s a movement that happens entirely inside: it’s like being a child in the house where I live, and putting my hand against the window that leads outside. I might not be able to reach through the glass, but I can feel everything going by.