A Partial Catalog of Harold's Major and Minor Epiphanies | Visual Art | Hudson Valley | Chronogram Magazine

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A Partial Catalog of Harold's Major and Minor Epiphanies


Last Updated: 08/13/2013 4:27 pm

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“Just work,” was her stock phrase whenever Harold inquired, in his bewildered-becoming-bitter way, about her life. She would jump to defense: “Oh right, my friends are these losers who are, like, so desperate, they can’t keep their hands off the old mom with stretch marks.” Or, “Some people don’t think everything’s some sleazy soap opera, you know.” Her consummate skill with a sarcastic put-down never failed to shut him up in an instant, handing all the ugliness of suspicion back into his own upturned palms.

It was nearing six months now since she had lived at home. They never used words like “temporary separation.” She wanted to “find herself,” she had said. But he wondered, couldn’t they do it together?

Tonight was just like every other night. The TV was on, and Harold sat directly in front of it, with the sound low so as not to wake the kids. Staring glassy-eyed at the screen, he worked his way up half the joint, until everything slowed to a stop. The tip’s smoldering glow went dark in his relaxed fingers. He fantasized about being 20 again, about things that had never happened and would never happen, about living with his wife in her bohemian apartment, going to the university with her, being students together. Being wild, young, free, pursuing ideas and art, hanging out in cafés debating politics, walking the streets after midnight in passionate discourse, with never a thought for mortgages or school lunch.

He imagined making love in her little amber-lit bedroom, their bodies sweaty on summer nights, with the sounds of music and traffic from the street below. Young and in love; or, now, all these years later, not so young, and still in love. Every night he would take a journey, detail by detail, through his sweetest memories of her body, and surrendering to the pulse and fog of the smoke in his brain, he would masturbate. But the night before last, and last night, and again tonight, it wasn’t working. There was simply no response to his visions, no response to his fingers. He sat numbly, staring, feeling only emptiness.

There was no sound from the kids’ rooms. The TV murmured nonsense. He sat still for a long time. Then he took a deep breath, zipped up, struck a match with the big, showy gesture of a stage magician, and lit the joint again.

The Entire Contents of Harold’s First Journal

Oct. 5. Well, families come and families go. Or: Life is shit and then you die. Or: I’ve never lived alone before; might as well try to enjoy it.

I always believed so strongly in the big One, our ultimate indivisibility. What a putz.

Phone’s ringing, probably a lawyer.


Harold sits in his cubicle, typing. He is documenting the functionality of Release 2.3.1 of the Transaction Log Utility. A month ago, when he was still manager of Training and Documentation, his afternoon would have felt infinitely more vital.

The soft gray walls muffle the keystrokes of the programmers and analysts in their cubicles on all sides of him. There is a low susurrus under everything, the processed air circulating endlessly. The windows on the far wall cannot be opened.

Harold’s eyes are locked on the screen as black letters string out against white, under blue and gray bars. Earlier, they grouped sensibly into words and sentences, but now the digital characters have regressed into absurd hieroglyphics as his fingers continue to click in random repetitions of featureless sound on the beige keys. The string of senseless symbols just keeps on rolling out, rolling out. His eyes glaze. His fingers slow. His head nods.

His eyes pop open, his fingers pick up again, another string of gibberish, then a fading, a letting go…

Stars trail in slow motion across a vast night sky. Giant gargoyle silhouettes of gnarled stone wheel across the diamond field of stars. An owl hoots nearby, invisible. Coyotes yip on a distant ridge, the cries of aliens heralding the crescent moon just creeping over the ragged horizon. Sand grits against his skin, the flesh of his cheek. He lies on the ground, sweating, heart pounding like a fist. He knows that he has just been dancing, bare feet in the dirt, whirling madly to a savage drum, naked and shouting under the glittering stars, until, exhausted, he has fallen to the Earth.

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