An excerpt from the debut novel by John Trefry, PLATS
The apartment blocks cycle past. The sun, diffused stucco dust in taupe haze, cleaves the sky in a continuous track from the moment that dawn raced over this whole city, revealing unpainted crevices, reflected faces, evaporating damp reserves, and sinks quickly. She turns east on to Idaho, to tread back toward the dawn, through the entopic dusk while the sun slides between her shoulderblades and she dives beneath the asphalt to meet day where the city sleeps, to illuminate the space between her sleeping body and her disintegrating character. Her hands cradle her eyes, apartment blocks cycle past and rise away from the road when she bows her head and rests her elbows on her knees to stare at nude stockings through chinks in her fingers, and she sinks.
The seas set to the west, buffered by hints of earth in glimmering eddies, chrome sunlight, coasting inland, shimmering. A sense of the looming marine void weighs on her neck, distant, hidden, present in light playing across continuous clouds, in the incompleteness of a desire, distanced automatically from tangible objects and forms through the localization of her senses. The sea is not there because she had seen it, or was offered it, but because she wanted it to be, a vague enormity, where, afloat on her back, active tidal currents draw her ever outward from lines, walls, roads, lines converging to waterless eastern deserts. Beneath her back: apophenia; salty swirls from morning. She walked eastward, away from the sea, with high heat on her shoulders.
I need to take ahold of something. The sun is limp in the eastern window, between the blinds. It has been floating around my room for so long that my teeth can feel it swirling around them, liquid, milky, sending me back into sleep and rising me back through itself every so often to think about rolling over, readjusting the pillows, or counting the shades of paint bruises on the wall. I will lay here and the light won’t change. It will get dark then later again will get light. It won’t change color. When it is barely light and the brick wall outside my window is silver, I can almost see through it. It would continue the color of the sky, and my room is silver. It is damp for a moment at sunrise and then becomes desert dry. In those silver seconds I have my eyes open but nothing retains. Images wander.
To the bedim’d hall beneath the hulking midcity hotel, the Minnetonka Ballroom, woven furtively beneath the stacked and arranged furniture, chairs in columns, circular tables with legs folded into flat pinwheels, and accoutrements, linens folded and stacked, mugs on wrought iron trees, napkins fanfolded in glasses on carts, fields of legs rising up from the vast expanse of empty carpet toward whose center the condensate sprawl of the room in day is focused, when the bits of the day drew to a close, objects huddled close to await the dusk, to conceal shadows cast in the artificial blond light, the folded hands and the feet beneath tables, everything swirls under, subjugated, beneath the heap, peering out across the carpet, it was there that we will pass through the night.
Against a bare plaster wall a scripted tracery of milky green light undulates. Pressed against the opposite wall, your buttocks forced outward to the water stained plaster, your arms splayed outward with fists loosely curled, your feet stacked in gray canvas shoes, on your side, you are. In an alcove, low, above the high water line, far enough to only see dry between the outdoor walls and off to the low horizon of your alley eyes on concrete, you gaze awake into the palazzo courtyard from the alcove floor. The invaginated contortions of the Lido’s Arms pour strange sourceless light around corners, through chinks, off of reflections into a mess on your open eyes, dryly specular. There are twists and turns you do not see, from the edge of the ruin, it is there that you pass through the night.
When substances themselves recede so far from light, through time or drowning depth, themselves they become darkness and not things. Even in the anodyne duration of darkness the spots that have felt the sun and will again are blind lithified corpses. Movement, consequence, the pulse of life, the furtive eyelashed looks of disbelief, of forethought, the absence of breath and loss of resistance, the smoothness, the collection of mistaken objects born of each second who would swirl in blinding pandemonium, the physical pretense, the blood, the spittle, the end, the distinction that anything is separate, a beginning never will begin in the ink that renders all in the body of itself, of the geologic darkness where you had passed through the night.
The setting sun, warm over her left shoulder races westward across the flat southern sky. Now she glances upward. Her eyes diverge. Her hair frays, backlit, leaden. The louring day reflects upon diseases of apartment blocks, Saltair, Minnetonka, that she passes slowly and comes to a full stop before. The deceleration causes the sedimentary hair resting on her left shoulder to slide limply to her chest in faltering halted light reflected from an array of stucco faces upon her skin bearing a bouquet of jaundice, a floral, yet plastic and pock-marked hue that, in other approaching nights, might calculate out to warmth, the nights of people. Her received pallor is of the idleness practiced by arms, and arms, and arms preparing for sleep trapped behind stucco walls.
Freedom is the numbness to plunge through a wall. Parallel to the hills of apartments, roads run in furrowed ruts converging into late afternoons. Ahead a stumbling asphalt spectrum whitens to a point while she gains ground, and, while it creeps further away from her, claims her future with the invitation to pointless exploration of its compressed impressions and mysteries. She follows the horizon through serpentine high walled corridors that claim space not through distance and division but by coverage, claiming every spot in a surface by wrapping narrowing alleys into a continuous mess of fluid turns within whose solidity is a sky for each moment, air only for each breath. Getting lost here is an opportunity to start again from any spot.
My eyes may have been open for hours. When the light begins to trickle across them I know for certain that they now are. I faintly wonder whether I am waking up somewhere else, someone else, in a room filled with things made of dark wood, with oval mirrors and mirrored trays with glass phials and atomizers, picture frames with faces and a sky above the window that is waiting for the sun to change in the days changes, a dusty daylong sunset. I wonder whether it is all canceled out in the silver of each dawn, and begins again. The special things and idiosyncrasies that make me someone are canceled out against each other in reflections. The light waking up the city defers the moment of wanting to snap into myself and into a natural cadence with the revolving earth.
The bits of a body are wholes. Pass the tip of a limb between two adjacent perpendicular limbs, bend around one, then over and under the other. Rows of contortions are punctuated by crossing limbs that make smaller increments. More frequent punctuations sacrifice coherence to impenetrability. The composition cedes to disorder where limbs unable to weave completely fray in varying degrees of termination: completely extended and taut, entirely folded back upon themselves, fading into dew drops of exertion. The renitence of the rind unifies the heap which, although constructed, lacks pattern. In its fitful sleep pupil-dark chasms split parallel limbs, shadowy mechanisms are here revealed then quickly sealed.
The ruined surfaces of ruinous things swim in various shades and hues of night light bouncing pale green to deep opaque sea and dried grass to gaseous orange and back on the breezes you swim. Fingerprints, strands of hair, dried fluid stains remain when the lights disappear. Out of the dim emerge the edges of imperfections drawn in streetlamp shadow, darkening your cheek in the sand, flowing in from tidal canals to submerge you where you settle, until the buoyant objects you clutch wrestle you through the depths. Where you had struggled not to sink by holding them, you now cast away rising bits of the world allowing you to sit for a moment more in the dark, beneath yourself, yet you rise faster on the tide until in air you wake deposited on a bed of silt.
What you feel in the darkness isn’t consistent with any physical possibilities, if you knew the shape of your body or where it lay. Diffusion of potentially adrift territories burn where they shouldn’t, amidst you, all of it is you and you are filled with so much vague geography. In the rolling black shiver that fans through you its touch is consistent, viscous ice, or oil asymptotically kissing freezing. You don’t reach final states. You remain on the verge. The dark so still and so uniform that it touches you completely at once, with the same anesthetic pace across your unfolded perception, a perfect unreflective blackness from which your own extents, in the way that you want them, is not visible or present. You feel the coldness describing them, but they are gone.