[A story. Also available as an issue of my newsletter, Leaflet]
I was walking through the library, naked as usual, and as always, of two minds, intention and sensibility. Plot and character. Dianoia and noos. But for some reason this time, as I was turning myself through the revolving door, and saw you coming toward me—coming in as I was going out—I wasn’t able to look away and pretend not to see that you saw me, and I knew that you saw me. And I thought, as I struggled to find my underwear, since that’s the piece of clothing to put on first—where had I put it?—I thought, Why do I do this? Why have I done this all my life, knowing, as I do, as a matter of intention and as a matter of sensibility, what I am doing, what will result from my intentions, what the impression on my sensibility will be. Knowing, that is, that I will shame myself, and apprehending, in anticipation, the flush and panic of shame. One is always both the person who decided to walk through the library unclothed (but when did I decide it?—it must have been so long ago) and also the person who is now naked, exposed.
If I find a book of mine in the library, on the open shelves, where the books are for general circulation, and I sign it, without telling anyone, how long will it take before my signature means something, means enough for someone to call it to the attention of a librarian, and enough for the librarian to remove the book from the open shelves to the archive—from general circulation to special collection? And do I want that? Isn’t it better for a book to have no value as a material object, and for my having written something in one copy of it, if I do decide to do that, to be an accident, a secret? A petty vandalism? An almost private defacement? More people might see the book, and the mark that I have made in the book, if I don’t tell, if I’m not caught, if the book isn’t removed. Even a book on the open shelves is so rarely opened by a reader nowadays. A book needs all the chances it can get.
The young people have a new magazine, and not long ago, I went and visited their office, which looks like a schoolroom. One of the young editors there was saying, in a pretending-to-be-annoyed way, that she had started receiving messages from a famous older editor who had been canceled, and I thought about telling her that I had kissed him once and that it hadn’t been so bad. But had I really kissed him, or did I just want to boast that I had? That’s the third kind of mind: pretending. An older writer arrived just then, to address the young editors of the new magazine, among whom I was camouflaging myself, and as we listened to her, I remembered how years ago, when I had been as young as the editors around me and she had been at the height of her powers, she had singled out one or two of my friends to sleep with but not me, and now she was a sage, with an editor at her right hand and a publicist at her left, and I was still in the audience, still hoping to be seen without being seen for what I am.