Out Of Context


The table, which at first had seemed round, is now long and rectangular. A conference table.

I am alone, waiting. I have a folder filled with ideas to present. A man enters, I shake his hand.

We sit, the room bathed in uncomfortable silence. He is waiting for me to speak.

I reach for my folder but it is gone.

I cannot recall any of the concepts or even the nature of the project. My mind races from room to room, frantically searching for the words I’ve forfeited. I clear my throat, trying to maintain a look of competence.

The man’s face shows the merest flicker of reaction, an almost imperceptible twitch of undiscernable emotion — Disappointment? Confirmation? — and returns immediately to flat burnished marble. His eyes are sharp as awls.

“Are you sure you’re ready for this?”

“Of course,” I lie, unsure and without conviction. I feel a primordial shame; blinding, wincing humiliation. I am not prepared.

Molten lead pools in the center of my stomach; this is my one chance, I fear I won’t get another.

I bury my gaze in the burled grain of the bird’s eye maple conference table, stained glowing cigarette-cherry red. Searching for something, anything to say.

I stare deeply, desperately into the patterns of the polished wood; chestnut fire swirling with charred eyes and haunted faces and grotesque birds.

Moments morph into millennia. Time ceases to exist. I cease to exist, shrinking backwards into cramped and squalid quarters I was certain I had burned to the ground.

To my amazement, I unexpectedly find that I am beginning to speak automatically from somewhere outside myself. Words string together of their own accord and drip from my mouth, both of us hearing them for the first time.

“The concept is called ‘Enigmata.’ The thoughts and images are subterranean sigils whose meanings are revealed only upon close examination. The metaphysics of non-intellective communication allow the audience to assemble a message on their own and fill in the details based on their own specific memories and emotions.”

“How will this be executed?”

“The page will be blank.”

The man pushes back in his chair, inscrutable.

Clocks turn sideways as I wait for a response. I feel transparent, exposed. I cast my eyes down, open sores searing black as images embalmed in hand-rubbed lacquer and long dead maple begin to blend and shift, forming scenes from my childhood.

Climbing in bed between my grandparents, the feel of my grandmother’s polyester nightgown against my bare legs. Static sparks. The smell of tissues taken down from the shelf of a cedar closet. A tiny glass giraffe fragile as snowflakes in my hand, unpacked from penicillin blue Samsonite luggage by graceful manicured fingers, an appeasement for leaving me behind.

My voice emerges, unbidden. “The blankness is the medium for unconscious integration, a synesthesia that cements the potentialities of the paper to the texture of experience. The campaign does not promote the product. Rather, the product is manufactured directly in the mind where it propagates indefinitely.”

The man slowly nods.

Reaching into his breast pocket, he removes a fat white envelope, sliding it silently across the table.

I glance at it, then past it, and back into the kaleidoscoping woodgrain.

One Comment

  1. You had me at subterranean sigils. Enigmata. You are a word sorcerer.

    That paragraph on your visit with your grandparents… damn. I was right there with you, amazing imagery.


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