As she walked through the terminal, she looked over the passengers-in-waiting, the technicians, the clerks, and the vagrants, and was taken by the vacancy of it all, the single-mindedness of the entire enterprise, that in this place there was no identity to be had, which, she thought, is not a problem in and of itself, because everyone agrees that it ought to be this way, otherwise, it would be too overwhelming, but still, it was peculiar that everyone had agreed to this, that everyone had conceded that aberration was simply impossible, that the most minor lamentations would not merely be repulsed or absorbed into the crowds, but that they would never even erupt, instead being caught in the throat, swallowed down, just like the dry crackers she knew she would be served shortly.
So she made her way on, wondering how it would be, to make this place into a moment that she could inhabit, and the thought immediately repulsed her, just as much as the grey linoleum did, because she realized that her prior speculation was deceitful, since she did not want to be present here at all, the entire affair was disagreeable, she wanted the volumes of information that were silently yoked throughout the girders, countertops, and sliding doors to be just as much of the non-entity she felt was becoming as she stepped towards the service desk. She yearned for the time when she would transmute this experience into an anecdote. She wondered if she could do this pre-emptively, if she could live outside of herself, just for the time being. And then she understood that she could; after all, everyone else was doing it. She would become an anecdote to herself, just as she would be to the agent, who greeted her:
Sorting through her identification cards, it occurred to her that there was a myth at the heart of it, and that the anecdote she was making of herself would perpetuate that myth. She had seen those images, of the smiling clerks, their iconic headwear; the too-crisp folds, immaculate maroon swathes, golden trimming; superlative embroidery and crenellated cuffs; even the desk furniture; these monuments of another era. She wondered if they, too, the personnel and patrons of that epoch, had chosen to live in an anecdote at the time. No—it could not be the case. For them, they were embarking on a journey into an undiscovered country. The promise of total self-negation was a kind of apotheosis, wherein all boundaries between the self and other were dissolved in a blissful haze of cigar smoke, chroma and nylon. And, in virtue of the great experiment they had launched, every single article of matter elsewhere was preternaturally and in retrospect granted that same state of grace, for they, too, could be embarked; from the eyelet of a shoe to a treatise on extinct water birds, from the cutting of a stunted acacia tree to a set of collectible prostheses; every soul that ever lived, and all of their abstruse imaginings too; all of it, all of it had been vitalized, and henceforth would be eternally.
So, she thought, to try and become an anecdote was not just a way of momentarily ending herself, it was actually the most ethical thing to do, for it was the most effective way to ensure that all of the canary-coloured papers and hoarse tonsils and triple-glazed windows and itching ligaments, all of it would be saved into the greater journey that she was undertaking, which was not only her journey, but everyone’s.
“Have a wonderful trip, madam.”
A flash of white teeth indicated that their transaction was over, and she was pleasantly surprised to find herself in agreement with the agent’s suggestion, one that had been repeated many thousands of times before without discrimination as to its subject or their destination; for she now understood that she was to hold herself in suspension throughout this moment, that she had been blessed to exist entirely without personal scruple or subjective stance, she would abide continuously as she was within a period of time that had a determinate beginning and end, but within which she was not required to have any agency—not that she desired it any more.
She looked forward to the moment when she would enter into the waiting area, and she would sit down, and there would be nothing for her to do for hours; she would not read or eat or check the time, she certainly would not make conversation with strangers; she would instead luxuriate into a stillness and become hollow unto herself; she would be within time and yet without it. She would be as still as a statue, she would change as slowly as a mineral, and she relished it.
She lamented that, first, she had to walk to the designated area, as upon reaching it she would have to shift from movement into a lack thereof, which was already an insult to the prerogative she had now voluntarily taken upon herself; she yearned to stand right there, with enthusiasm, and be as immobile as the figures upon the posters nearby. But they had had to acclaim stillness through their own intrepid adventures; she was thankful that, for her, stillness could be had for only the cost of a ticket.
As she approached the spot that, she felt, had always been marked for her, she observed the number of banners, jingles, dispatches, reports, and bulletins increase in density all around her. She could not tell if they had just burst forth, or if she had only come to notice them in virtue of her newfound divinity; regardless, she welcomed every one of them as long-forgotten relatives. In a state without time, she now found, matter was immaterial, as were her carnal and dietary proclivities, indeed, the entire geopolitical realm.
Her gaze found purchase across all the beings that she now knew would be travelling with her. Whether or not she could physically hold everything herself was by-the-by, what was important was that she committed fully, there could be no abstention, and besides, she knew she could rely on her brethren to pick up the remainder; so, into her purse went ideologies both virulent and placid, vying for position with a liquor composed primarily of perfume, tinned mints, tinned meats, and a waterproof, folding map for the region she was about to depart. Of course, they were not for her; they were offerings for the version of herself that she was to project into perpetuity, relics to be brought together at the ceremonial pyre. She, along with the molecules from which her gatherings were constituted, would no longer decompose.
She began to wonder how she had ever found herself at loggerheads with the world in the first place, since it was now so abundantly clear that all she had had to do was limn her own immutability, and then it was so: everything had been folded, cleaned, and compressed. Earthquakes both real and imagined were as satiating as the memories of a past she had never lived.
Finally sat unassumingly in the waiting lounge, with her newly begotten comrades, she looked down into her lap and noticed herself looking down at herself; she had attained insight into a receding prism of perspectives. Looking up, she saw the same, as she did in every other direction, and she quickly realized that there was no particular self looking in any direction, but instead an infinitely cascading series of selves looking in all directions simultaneously, waiting to embark on an infinitude of voyages, to an infinitude of places. The self that they had been, they understood, was merely an atomization, one point resting upon a hyperobject composed of folded planes. The sensation was initially startling, but they soon felt it to be perfectly natural. In fact, the very premise of statehood now seemed absurd to them.
They wanted so dearly to leap up all at once and smile at all the other souls sat nearby, the others who waited, to celebrate and embrace, but they knew it would be a careless gesture, as to do so would cause them to lose the equanimity that they did not know they had so sorely yearned for until the present moment; they understood that any further activity now threatened a crack upon this crystalline prism; and at any rate, in their composite heart they understood it to be the case that everyone else was sharing in this sentiment; that behind the blank and pitiless gazes of the young and old, the creases that tore at the corners of their cracked lips, the pleurisy within and blisters without, there lay an unbounded exuberance which did not solicit acknowledgement or interpenetration, but abided instead without utterance. They reclined back into their plurality, their bags on their laps, and looked everywhere and nowhere.
For eons, or so it seemed, they reclined without interruption. In this epoch there remained nothing but the open possibility of the future, a future that they were neither obligated nor inclined to galvanize, rolling in the sheer decadence of it; they mused that a prison cell must be as luxurious as any resort, that in fact it was superior, for solitary confinement was the confirmation of an infinite anecdote, an open bracket without facet or texture, a simple plenitude, all impulses, motivations, and idiosyncrasies pared down into an irreparably enduring rest, a kind of deathless sleep, held light by the obviation of an oblivion itself, for it was the certainty that something would still arrive, there would indeed be an announcement, that ensured that the submersion was never final, there was always a stopgap, a brief heaving of the lungs; they were totally ensnared by their vision of an utterly nameless piety, a oneness that insisted on their being present for every emboldened microsecond, there in the designated area, there was a sense that what was totally essential was their recognition of the walls of this place, that it was not totally free or limitless, and that was precisely what endowed it with its powers, that the mythos was definitively curtailed—the truth of it was that in order for them to be able to repose they required the imposition of this place, that for them to be able to smile they needed to be unable to travel beyond—and now, the glimmers of a kind of fear emerged, for they realized that the necessity of the transfer which brought them such tremendous conviviality would at the same time inculcate the departure itself, which was not to be incorporated at all, and therein there would be a divide, an irreparable termination.
The vessel loomed from the darkness.
With its approach, they understood that the moment of embarkment was nigh. They wanted to abide in their pluralism for as long as eternity, but in their heart of hearts, they understood that it was impossible; that the promise of the myth required its destruction in the fact of the mundane. Even now, they began to feel it: atomization was once again encroaching upon them. They glanced around, with not a little desperation, to find that they were alone once more; the heavenly multitude had dissipated, leaving only the faintest of echoes, and the her that she was, sitting there.
The incommensurable length of the past she had lived through in the terminal was mirrored by the brevity of her passage through its barriers and onwards. Already, that time of infinity in which she had safeguarded herself was becoming a memory. She suffered the anguish of rebirth, having now to recompense the myopic limitations she had once carried with her upon her entry into this place with at least a kernel of the powers she had gained in the interim. There remained only the final task, which, as she took it upon herself, she now remembered she had done on so many occasions before: to distill as much of this eternally recurring present into a souvenir as she could. As she attempted to sew the threads back together in her mind, she knew, of course, that she would be left only with some scattered fragments, devoid of texture, yet lustrous and perfect in their diminution.
Concealing the golden seed in her heart, she would tell all of them how perfect the trip had been.
Rhys Edwards is a critic, artist, and curator based in Vancouver, Canada. His works employ classical and academic methods in the pursuit of anti-representation. He has written for Canadian Art, The Capilano Review and BC Studies, and in 2014 he was awarded the C Magazine New Critics prize. In 2015, he co-founded the Agent C Gallery with artist Debbie Tuepah.
Anna Zoria was born in Khabarovsk, Russia. Her family imigrated to Canada in 1999, where she later completed a degree in the history of religion, literature and the arts at the University of British Columbia. She studied russian, french and english and worked in journalism before turning her attention to art making. In 2013 she moved to Paris to attend the Beaux-Arts de Paris. She completed her degree in June 2018 with distinction from the jury and now lives and works in Paris.