Things changed. I saw everyone trying to look away from death and darkness while I saw both everywhere: in the joyless cruelty of shopping malls and the freezing homeless bodies who curled up next to them on Montreal’s winter streets, in the whore at 6am leaving the club and hurried by her pimp saying, “hang on baby, my feet hurt, OK, hang on baby” worn out and without respite, surrounded by crazy and noise all the time. War all the time. Everyone kept looking away so I looked harder, because I saw how easily they looked away. Their eyes flicker away from mine on the street and have no answer. Only the poor ever answer, the only abject and most accurate answer of “Spare any change?” There’s many ways to say this; one man sings showtunes in a monotone, another girl sobs in the metro station. More polite than the asshole trying to sell you a phone, begging for a handout all the same.
I don’t even know why you come to me. All I offer is what you most do not want to see. This mirror shows only yourself, and never in a flattering image. I know you can’t love, but you believe you can, and know you don’t live, but you believe that you do. That’s ok. It doesn’t bother me much anymore, though I’m sad for us all. When I can’t stand the situation anymore I try to write, and write what I need to make it through evenings of solitude, or a walk down a street full of beggars (most nights everyone is a beggar, from the girls in tights and short dresses to the men with hats laid in front of them for change). This is what I need to write, the madness that sustains me, and I can do it because I don’t care whether you need it or not, whether you like it. I’m not worried about your taste in anything because I don’t trust you one bit, not with my mother or my wife or my friends.
The thing is, who cares about the dead? Her body washes up in a quiet part of the river missing most of its clothes, bloated and visibly battered. One guesses, the newspapers, those who read the newspapers, her friends and mother and daughter, that she was followed home. That she was hit over the head. That she was raped. That she was afraid. That she hurt, felt terror, eventually died. One guesses and imagines these things, but these are fictions and like most fictions only a narrative to fill the void of feeling and bodies. No one worries about truth because the fiction is knowledge enough. so who cares about the dead, when a fiction is good enough for her mother, good enough for the news? A detective is born like a poet is, from wanting to know and revolting against all illusion. The void is there, and so is the dark glimmer of light on rippling water. That is too beautiful a way to say it. The bloody wall, torn throat are there, justice and God are absent, and the detective realizes without him no one will know, no tiny drop of sun will fall into the void. Justice is the furthest thing from his mind, which knows justice is impossible. She is dead, and that’s the end. Justice doesn’t drive him, unless its the injustice of fiction, the passion to be sure of something.
Thrown into life and desperate that way. Mad, needing to know what no one wants to even think about. I work conscious of the walls of the world, conscious of the uselessness of death and the void underneath me. There’s nothing to it. Take your own weight or float around forever. I don’t have any to give you. At the first clue it is over for the detective; the first clue that destroys the fiction forever. Something crooked in the world, out of place in the imagined order of things, and the true world becomes nothing but a fable. The husband still wears the ring on his finger, but no one has checked it for a stain of blood. In Argentina they dropped prisoners from helicopters, but who cared to know of these killers were their sons, their brothers or lovers? I see myself the killer and don’t know if I have the courage to die rather than become a murderer. The detective knows this too, sees the darkness in the unsuspected place, in the fiction of innocence protecting the beloved who is close to us. All terrible possibility. Everything is possible, the father to kill his daughter, the daughter to long for death at his hands, sickness to manifest from all of us. No one accepts this willingly. We build our own crosses for our own crucifixions, and then some of us find the courage to rip our hands from the nails staring into the eyes of those who have hung us there, seeing only a mirror of ourselves.
He can’t turn away. I can’t look away, though sometimes my courage fails and I try to do so. From the moment a stray hair, an oddly broken finger, an out of place bruise, destroyed the fiction of the world he cannot turn away from knowing. I could name him a compulsive, and others do, writing stories in which the detective and the killer share so many affinities. True enough, they know each other if the killer knows himself, since the detective knows all possibilities, and even beyond those. But he has a choice, every day and every case he has a choice to walk away from all of this and knows it to be the case. One day he will, one day later maybe he will come back. One day Rimbaud left for Africa and never wrote again except letters of failure, eventually misery, but finally wanting to be anything but a poet. I imagine them both orphans, Rimbaud and the nameless detective. I have to, because no parents can believe their child has seen so much stupid cruelty, felt the uselessness, terror and beauty of the world so keenly. No more than a parent can believe their child a killer. Both reject the world as it appears, but parents must believe precisely in that world or else be terrified forever of losing their children.
Still there are more dead and endless fictions to go with each one. Thousands of unsolved murders, let alone wars filled with murder for which their are no detectives, as if the answer in itself was merely “war” and that is how things are. Every completed investigation followed by another one, every truth knocked down replaced easily with another fiction. Endless narratives, endlessly imagined truths for every murder and occasion forming the veiled fabric of the world, and the poet-detective with his insane task of piercing those veils knowing there is no glory, no eternity, nothing but a gathering together of what minor truths there are. Every murder an open wound of the world which exposes all we wish desperately to believe as false. Every freezing body next to a warm empty building, everyone who doesn’t have enough to eat, everyone who is daily abused and accepts it just to live.
The detective protests injustice and illusion simultaneously. The poet does the same, or she isn’t much of a poet. I do the same, or I fail my heart. “Protest! Protest! Protest!” Lorca says that’s all he does and Camus agrees when he says out first conscious act is always a rebellion. Protest because things are not the way they appear to be and we inherit a poverty of vision along with a learned avoiding glance. Being awake is simply not the same thing as being alive, and you will happily live the dream until the knives come out. A few weeks ago a car, going obscenely fast, plunged off a road into the river. Imagine the two men riding in it and their sudden realization that life is not a dream which came much too late to do anything at all about it. Life is not a dream! Beware!