Not Here (Excerpt)

The Changer stands directly in front of three padlocks, which hang on a chain chained to a chain-linked fence. A red and white sign hangs directly above the padlock: “NO LOITERING NEXT TO FENCE.” Beyond the fence is a man-made reservoir.

Disregarding the NO LOITERING sign, the Changer stands close to the fence for thirty minutes. He then turns to his friend the Oral Writer, who is standing a few feet behind him. “What do I smell like?” he asks. The Oral Writer takes a whiff of the Changer and says, “You smell like rust and pine.” Glaring up at the sign, the Changer then slips his wrists into the chains that chain the chain-linked fence.

The Oral Writer, who only speaks aloud what he has already written, has never written anything addressing a gesture of this magnitude; therefore, he has nothing to say. The Not-Here is over there, on the other side of the fence. He observes the Changer struggling within the confines of the chains. He ponders over whether his friendship with the Changer is of any use in this situation, given the fact that the Changer stakes little value in the value of friendship. From the Changer’s experience, friendship is as burdensome as the chains that chain him to the chain link fence, considering that the more friends he accumulates, the more projections he must suffer. For example, to his friend the Oral Writer, he smells like rust and pine because he loiters next to the padlocks, which smell of rust and pine. However, he wishes that for once, he could smell as nature has granted him, and not according to the whims of man.

The Oral Writer explores his toolbox of sayings and phrasings that would address the Changer’s plight, mainly because he feels guilty. He feels guilty for smelling the smell of rust and pine, against his friend’s wishes. He does not have the ability (or the sense) to discern the difference between the objectivity of an object and the subjectivity of his friend. His ability is with words; he can tame the words that formulate in his brain by writing them down and arranging them before he forgets. At last, he finds a saying that possibly relates to the Changer’s dilemma; therefore, he speaks it aloud: “Man mocks nature, and then sets up signs and prohibitions that mirror his own fears and judgments; whereas, nature welcomes man to roam, explore and discover its challenges for themselves.”

The Changer ruminates upon this saying as he wriggles in his chains. “This lake is manmade, and so a mock form of nature. But it’s been here so long and populated with geese, ducks, swans and so on, so that it functions just like a real lake. So is it artificial or now a part of nature?”

“You already know the answer to your own question,” the Oral Writer says. He instantly recognizes these words as a platitude, spoken an infinite number of times before.

The Changer – as usual – smells exactly like the objects he is in the vicinity of (or is it like the objects that are in his vicinity?) Not only does he smell like rust and pine to his friend the Oral Writer, he begins to smell like the padlocks to himself. The worst part is he begins to feel like the object that he smells like; he and they blend into one. As he loses any sense of himself he can hardly bear it and so casts a
pleading look at the Not-Here. The Not-Here cannot act in behalf of his friends until they make a first move, and he recognizes this look of distress as an emergency call for friendship. The Changer maintains a focus on the eyes of his friend the Not-Here, and instantly he removes his wrists from the chains, releasing himself. The chains chaining the chain-linked fence fall to the ground.

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