Reorientation

A man, having lost the woman he loved to the grinding of time, walked around with the grave symptoms of withdrawal. His life — this was true — required an intense effort of reorientation. He spent the first weeks trying to recall the body of his lover, and the more time went by, the more he required clues, hints, firm reminders to reach his goal. His eyes, for many days cast to the ground, or closed when not absolutely needed for the business of locomotion — so as to bar all new images from entering the sanctum where her image resided — these eyes were now vigorously scouting for elements of shape he might be able to use to reconstruct her physique.

But in the process of seeking these pieces of the puzzle he stumbled upon incidences of complete substitution: a body, extrapolated from its clad version for the sole purpose of yielding clues to a receding image would start its own life and add its unavailability to the one he was trying to combat. Finally, many such ghostly figures overlapped and caused intense pain in his heart, guts, and groin. It now seemed he had lost more than one woman: he had lost them all.

One day he came upon a way to ease his distress. It happened when he bought a hot dog on the street, and noticed the snug fit between the sausage and its bun. He had a sudden vision of people on the street not as agents on their own but as contraptions designed to fill out, and move about, exquisite pieces of fabric that came in convoluted shapes: here is a blouse so wide it requires a nice amount of flesh underneath, and at the right places, to keep its shape; here are pants whose form will not be appreciated unless they are filled to tautness with a substance that is both malleable and flexible; a substance, moreover, that is prevented from collapsing by a stiff interior scaffold. Hence the bones. Furthermore, for the blouse and the pants to be united, their interior supports must be closely linked. Whatever contiguous mass one would arrive at must be inspired to move on its own; otherwise the subtleties in the accommodation of movement — the most delicate triumph of garment design — would be entirely lost.

Seeing the many bodies struggle, to bring their assigned garments to full glory, made him smile his first smile after months of apprehension. He imagined — no, he firmly saw his former lover slip into sweaters and fill out panties, brassieres and socks day after day with obliging sighs. Sometimes the fit was less than perfect, and then he’d see her, crouching in front of her critical unflinching masters — which were lying expectantly on the floor and on her bed — mumbling apologies.

Nothing less than this image would have restored his peace.