Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Taipei by Tao Lin

Around midnight, after everyone in the café had gone to a concert, Paul was alone in the Drawn & Quarterly bookstore’s manager’s apartment. He looked at Twitter for what felt like twenty minutes, alternating hands to hold his iPhone ten to fifteen inches above his face. He emailed Charles –

I’m lying in bed on a sofa

Fell strongly like I simply want to relate my feelings of
Bleakness in this email

My legs feel cold

- with “Feeling bleak” as the subject. He was looking at Twitter again, a few minutes later, when for the the fifth or sixth time since getting it in August he dropped his iPhone on his face, which did not register in its expression that anything had happened until after impact. He considered emailing Charles that his iPhone fell on his face. Then he tried to do what he couldn’t specifically remember having done since college – he chose one of his favorite songs and, with a meekly earnest sympathy towards himself, listen to it on repeat at high volume and tried to focus only on the drums, or bass guitar, until he was drowsy and decontextualized and memoryless, when he would half-unconsciously remove his earphones and turn off the music, careful not to be noticed and assimilated by the world, and disappear into the reachable mirage of sleep.

But he couldn’t focus on the music.  He couldn’t ignore a feeling that he wasn’t alone – that, in the brain of the universe, where everything that happened was concurrently recorded as public and indestructible data, he was already partially with everyone else that had died.  The information of his existence, the etching of which into space-time was the experience of his life, was being studied by millions of entities, billions of years from now, who knew him better than he would ever know himself. They knew everything about him, even his current thoughts, in their exact vagueness, as he moved distractedly towards sleep, studying him in their equivalent of middle school “maybe,” thought some fleeting aspect of Paul’s consciousness, unaware what it was referencing.

.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .

To Paul, who’d stayed mostly in his uncle’s sixteenth-floor apartment on previous visits, the vaguely tropical, consummating murmur of Taipei, from his parent’s fourteenth-floor apartment, had sounded immediately and distinctively familiar.  The muffled roar of traffic, hazily embellished with beeps and honks and motorcycles engines and the occasional, looping, Doppler-effected jingle from a commercial or political vehicle – had been mnemonic enough (reminding Paul of the 10 to 15 percent of his life on the opposite side of the Earth, with a recurring cast of characters and no school and a different language, almost fantastically unlike the other 85 to 90 percent, in suburban Florida) for him to believe, on some level, that if a place existed where he could go to scramble some initial momentum, to disable a setting implemented before birth, or disrupt the out of control formation of some incomprehensible worldview, and allow a kind of settling, over time, to occur – like a spaceship that has exhausted its fuel and begun falling towards the nearest star, approaching what it wants at a rate it’s wanted, then easing into the prolonged, perfectly requited appreciation of an orbit – it would be here.

1 comment:

  1. “I have lived, that is, I have been bored”, Flaubert famously wrote.

    Tao Lin explores both the existential (acedia, nausea and depression) and the situational: feelings of annoyance, indifference, weariness, laziness and immobility. The writing itself illustrates boredom. See “After Bovary” by Lucy Scholes, Times Literary Supplement no. 5757, August 2, 2013- page 8.