I wondered what it would be like to be swimming in the cold Pacific off the coast
of California just beyond the breakers like I usually do on a casual day at the
beach, when a ten-foot leather-skin shark erupts from the depths to rip an entire section of my abdomen away
while tossing my body into the air with flailing entrails and spurting blood
flying momentarily before I fell back splashing into the water.
I wondered if the sudden incredibly intense flash of pain pain might
so shock my body that then nothing would be felt,
leaving my mind in a sort of suspended state considering the consequences as if
in an out of body experience. There would be this grey consciousness of
disbelief, regret, and a distant awareness of being alive but in a pointless
I wondered because I felt that way now after reading a single page of my wife's
cursive handwriting, a love letter to a man I didn't know telling him how she
longed to be back in bed with him and how repulsed she was having sex with me.
After an initial intense flash of pain and nausea my mind froze in a sort of
suspended state considering the consequences as if in an out of body experience
It was a love letter; she was in love with him and regretted being with me.
Everything I thought we had between us had now been ripped away, leaving the
carcass of all of my dreams, feelings, memories and emotions flailing
disconnected from reality like entrails after a shark bite.
We were going out for dinner, a casual evening and while she made a quick trip to
the bathroom before leaving, I had accidentally knocked her purse off the table
onto the floor, spilling its contents. As I was putting the contents back, I
noticed she had addressed a letter to a strange man. I was curious and the
letter was unsealed.
Thoughts of going to dinner had no meaning now that my stomach was gone, replaced by
nausea, replaced by this grey consciousness of disbelief, regret, and a distant
awareness of being alive but in a pointless existence. It was pointless to be
angry, pointless to do anything since obviously everything had already been
She came out of the bathroom and saw me holding the white paper in my hand,
probably saw my face white, drained of blood, and knew immediately that I knew.
She ran to grab the paper from my hand.
“What are you doing reading my mail?” she said angrily.
“I read it.”
“You have no right to be in my purse,” she screamed at me, her body shaking, “I
can't believe you violated my privacy …” continuing to berate me with
Moments ago I was in love with her, now I stood in shock, looking at the shredded
entrails of my married life like it had been disemboweled by the jaws of
revealed truth. It felt worse than that, as if my entire life was over. The
fool I was died a horrible death.
When Shakespeare wrote “What's past is prologue” he meant that things which have
already happened create a momentum in events which comprise the future events
of our lives, in the way William Faulkner wrote “The past is never dead. It's
not even past.” We expect the future to be a continuation of the past. But it
seemed my future from this point had no past.
In my grey consciousness I watched her screaming at me that I was wrong because I
wasn't supposed to know that everything I thought I knew about the past was
wrong. All I felt was emptiness like I had been hollowed out. I had become a
superficial reality, a superfluous reality, flesh with no feeling, muscles with
no ability to tense, living a reality that wasn't real.
She started crying and ran into the bedroom, locking the door, leaving me isolated.
There was a finality to that isolation, a clarifying coldness. It was pointless
to try and talk with her, reason with her, over what no longer existed. She was
in love with, for how long, another man. She was gone and I realized that she
had been gone for a long time, only I hadn't known. I wondered how long I had
been a fool living in a world that really didn't exist.
I remained dazed while the remnants of my consciousness flailed among an endless
stream of options that were rejected as pointless until I felt my car keys in
my hand and stepped toward the front door to escape, but I stopped. I realized
I could escape, but I couldn't come back. When you escape from a place that
doesn't exist you can never go back. Never.
I rushed into the den gathering my laptop, its ac adapter, mouse, my booklet of
passwords, and then grabbed the backup drive on the bookcase. I went to my car
carrying my digital life with cables and wires hanging and swinging like
electronic entrails and drove toward the freeway in the dimming sunset's
blazing orange light. An oldies CD began playing “By the Time I Get to Phoenix”
when I started the car.
I accelerated down the freeway onramp, hurtling onto the freeway at 80 mph,
slowing then into the middle lane to cruise while I thought about some strategy
of becoming undead. The fundamental ambiguity of the superficial unreality
created by the betrayal of her adultery meant I might as well have been struck
by a Great White shark. That man was now dead.
The abrupt leaving released my mind from its suspended state of an out of body
experience. The nausea subsided, I began to feel again, cold at first but
slowly becoming body temperature. The smell of leather seats began a new
reality. My consciousness began enjoying the music.
I felt emboldened fleeing the horror of my predecessor's death in a newly
reconstituted body lacking the grey consciousness of disbelief, regret, and a
distant awareness of being alive but in a pointless existence. The pointless
carcass of my old life sank below the superficial surface of the nonexistent
past I abandoned. A past now truly gone, fuck William Faulkner.
The environment of my old life dimmed into darkness save for the sinuous separate
streams of white headlights and red taillights extending far into the distance
in front of me. I hummed about my new life in Phoenix, 300 miles away. Maybe
there aren't any sharks in the desert.