Sunday 29th of July 2006. The night was insufferably hot and the fan gave no real relief even though a bowl of ice sweated directly in front of the whirling metal blades. There was a sense of cholera in the air; a coating of dryness upon the walls. The room was empty and all the windows were wide open. He had crawled out onto the slanted roof and was lying naked upon the asbestos shingles. The fiberglass and minerals cut into his back and butt, but he didn’t mind since there was a breeze moving across the contour of the roof. Above him was a solid sky, a black glossy photo at arm’s length. He knew the names of some of the single points of light and also a few of the winding clusters of soft taffy; the constellations, the moons, the bright planets, the comet tails, and the passing mechanical satellites which announced the push of human technology against the teeming, oppressive universe. Like everyone else he was alone, but unlike many others, he was powered by desolation. The appalling emptiness was a religion for him, an ancient pulse repeated in the face of indiscretions, indignation, tyranny, bad luck, and the obvious, beneficial choices that others made, but not him. Courage was equal to wonder. As he lay upon the roof he plotted a way to either leave the planet on a human spaceship or be picked up by aliens. Either one would do. He wanted so much to touch star dust, to bury his face into something other than death.
1st of August 1890. I have decided that I will be unable to reach the stars. They are simply too far away. My flying dreams can take me to the tops of clouds, and although exhilarating and fantastical, they do not allow me beyond those soft points of altitude. Perhaps it would be better to explore a continent instead of the stars. Africa seems ideal.
22nd September 1947. This river is interminable. Our boat has broken down several times. We have stopped for the night on a little hill overlooking the muddy water. Everything is still and our mosquito nets are like sheets of flat iron. The maps of the region are woefully incomplete and we are making for Dr. Schroeder, the Austrian who is working on a cure for bilharzia. He somehow avoided the war and was able to hide in the tribal areas away from the sickening parties of Europe. Adventure no longer motivates me. It is rather a hollow companion and after a succession of collapsing countries and indiscriminate death and pillaging, I have begun to value small respites of peace, good health, and a book.
16th of October 1992. I am giving up on Africa. The ancient tree filled with white birds is no more. The place is simply too complex, too large to understand. Clouds scare me. They reach into the sky like fairy tales where kings keep children in dark castles in order to satisfy the appetites of giants. The infants are traded for kingly things like horses with pure gold manes or slippers made from bird feathers that can write upon the surface of a lake. One cannot escape African clouds. They follow wherever one may go. Of course, sometimes they are dust clouds due to desertification and the human raping of the land. Other times they have been brought forth by a witch doctor who needs the clouds to hide his cannibals. The clouds blot out the moon and sun and make it easier for the cannibals to overrun isolated farms. I passed several nights with Master Peter Elkind in Zambia. Master Elkind is a bit of an alchemist. He has a pack of Rottweilers and an arsenal of weapons to protect against the cannibals. They come to his house late at night and yell curses into the air and explain how they are going to rip out his heart and intestines and make sausage and stew. The recipes they recite are loud like the clanging of a machete bell. The spices are exotic, but the food can be prepared by anyone with a strong stomach. After all of these years in Africa, I have decided to focus my attention upon a single country. Perhaps that makes more sense.
Monday 8th of February 1921. If only the war would end. Mexicans know how to kill each other, that is for sure. We have lived through the terrible tidal rush, and now the water is receding, carrying bodies and debris out to sea with a horrid force. One needs to hang onto something heavy and solid or else a life lost at the end is surely the same as a life lost at the beginning: a single death is the end of the universe regardless of the timing. The Braniff Hacienda is my current home. It is just on the outskirts of Patzcuaro and I am up all night walking down the long hall with my lantern, peering into the lithotypes of family and political leaders. I am considering taking an offer made by Alberto Braniff, the first airplane pilot in Mexico. He wants me to rent his house in Guanajuato. The war has damaged part of it, but if I agree to the repairs I can live there rent free. I think I will do it, since Mexico is overwhelming me and the war has proven to be my undoing. This place is too complicated and even though I speak the language and have many Mexican friends, sadness follows me wherever I go. Yet my desolation continues to write new books; the dog brushing my stride with that strange language.
Wednesday 9th of January 2000. The Millennium! I have made it to my little house at the end of the road, up the mountain, above the city below, and like Eben Flood on the ring road; I drink to the two moons as the bird takes wing. A few days ago I discovered that my backyard was a universe in flux. I put my head down into the grass and looked upon the movement of insects and dust around the emptiness, five square inches of air and the vibrating husks of life. The death of a star is the same as the decay of an ant: the mad Blake, the pondering Captain Nemo, the slave rubbing a raised brand…all of it filling my lungs. This I know after a life time of trying to break down the walls of my captivity. Contentment is stained with pain and sorrow, my garden is a blessing upon the lens of a personal telescope. I have engineered what is possible and important to me. What else is there, if we are to keep going? Yes, we must go on…be it on a distant planet or at the fence hinge, without love or companion, with hands at our throat and in total darkness. We must go on…we must fight until we see as cold agate.
11th of December 2031, quoted in my old book of poetry before a dying fire.
” ‘For auld lang syne.’ The weary throat gave out,
The last word wavered; and the song being done,
He raised again the jug regretfully
And shook his head, and was again alone.
There was not much that was ahead of him,
And there was nothing in the town below —
Where strangers would have shut the many doors
That many friends had opened long ago.”