The Ledger

He fills it out. The old ledger. Out with the old, in with the new. It’s something he does with enthusiasm, lecherously almost, licking the end of the pencil — for it is always in pencil so that it may be altered at a moment’s notice. He licks the end of the pencil every time he thinks up a new entry for the ledger. There are fifty lines per page divided into six components; he does not remember to whom he commissioned the printing of the custom stationery, everything is direct debit now, automated so he does not have to remember. He does not, cannot conceive of a moment at which he will be required to remember details, that is why he keeps the ledgers, their fifty entries in six dimensional space on the page which he supposes must be a seventh dimension in itself. He does not know anything about mathematics but he likes mathematical analogies no matter how clumsy. He is done with this ledger now; it is old. He remembers the old old ledger, the one before this one that is old now; he remembers the time when the old old ledger was the new ledger, but he does not remember the ledger itself. The details of the old olds and further back into the domain of the uncountably recurring are lost to him, he cannot so much as look them up because he cannot remember where he has put them. He knows at least that they were filled, each of those sextuply divided lines (custom stationery — he is amused and impressed by this), in pencil. He cannot alter them because he does not know where they are, but if this barrier were removed somehow, through some chance and arcane synaptic fulmination or whatever, it would be possible. He takes the old ledger — for now he has filled it out entirely, and places it upon a desk opposite his desk that used to be occupied by someone. He doesn’t remember who it was that occupied the desk, only that the desk was occupied.

The room is a little room dominated by a window overlooking a disuse or collection of disuses. He keeps the blinds shut so he doesn’t have to see, but there is that inevitability of seeing when he walks out of the building and enters his car, as he starts up his car and drives away, or as he brings the car — with feet and hands spurred on by the beat of a song he likes, and maybe he’s singing along — to the parking space outside the building. He has to see it. It cramps his day, the thing of seeing, he does not care to see. There is an alternate route he can take to the building but it is on the other side of the space and he has to come at it from the opposite direction he would normally come at it, that’s a hassle, it bothers him. But the other side, it’s not so much better, there are the gulls that gather overhead in ominous circling, making that car alarm sound like a sad mutant dog, what it sounds like to him, and he doesn’t like that. He doesn’t like the building much either from the outside, it is cold and harsh, the way it looks, inside is okay, but to reach the door it’s an unpleasant walk from the parking spaces, you approach it slowly even if you run and it is that ineluctability of the engulfing of his view during the approach that kills him. He gets this feeling of absorption. He is about to be absorbed into the material body of the building. The building is a whale and he is hapless krill rabbidged (this is his own word, it came to him from nowhere one day when he was younger, he no longer remembers the moment) into its big ugly mouth. Once he is inside, in the room, blinds shut, the light — for it is on a dial that controls the current — at the optimal brightness and not a cent above or below, and the ledger, he is okay.

The old ledger is done. The new ledger is brought out. One of the pages, looks like, was dogeared during some stage in the process by which the ledgers are manufactured, transported, and stored. He does not like it. He can unbend that corner of the page, but it will forever bear the scar, the little channel of depth infinitesimal by the scale of the quotidian eyeball. He can remove the page. There does not seem to be a problem with that. It is a guilty expression that changes the way the light shapes his face, the way he would see himself looking if he allowed a mirror to be placed in the room. He does not like to look in one direction and see in another, it offends him somehow — the feeling he could not articulate if pressed, but it is there anyway. When he removes the page he is careful not to mess up the binding. He takes a magnifying glass and a small pair of scissors that look so thin they might break out of a drawer in his desk, the top drawer of the right hand side column, and gets a good look at the fibre of the paper and the way it attaches to the binding. There is no way he can make it perfect on this level, but anyone taking a cursory glance unaided would have no way of knowing. That’s the pleasure of a good magnifying glass for him, he can enter through the device a world that is secret, obscured from everyday inattentiveness, and find something happy or curious or interesting in wood or in paper or sometimes on them, as in the pleasingly contorted particle of dust, a tiny hair or maybe a carpet fiber or something from a piece of clothing, which he found yesterday and has already forgotten. He remembers at least that such things are there, and so he continues with his excursions into that space. Sometimes he writes notes in small spaces using a very finely sharpened pencil, he thinks of them politically almost, diplomatic outreach to the exotic, but he can’t say it isn’t in the main a thing he does to amuse himself when there’s nothing wants putting in the ledger. Such moments are seldom in the offing, however, ledger filling being a ritual seriousness he would not wish to catch himself mocking no matter how innocuously. But the notes are the product of trance, he can scarcely remember having picked up the magnifying glass and the finely sharpened pencil and marking the page, let alone where or with what letter or letters, if he tried to find them again he could not, so now he never does try.

He stands up. He catches himself. He can see himself for a moment in the body of the room as if a disembodied pair of eyes, but it is just for a moment and he forgets that he has seen himself. Yet now there is the doubt in his mind as to what he was doing, the intent behind the standing up, the ultimate goal that he was to achieve by assuming that stance. He thought of it for a moment, during the seeing, in chess terms, remove the defender of the defender. He does not play chess, he used to play it but he does not play it any more. The idea of being defeated scares him, he prefers this environment, there is no other, there used to be another but there is not one any more. He had caught himself standing up as if to move away from the ledger, then he thought about an opponent, a malevolent figure who would judge him for having stood up and move to attack him, some weakness that he had exposed by standing. But there was no one. Still, he questions himself on the subject: what was meant by standing up, the significance of the act? He concludes, almost as a reflex action, that there is no significance, there was no intent. He had not been thinking when he stood up. He had been drifting along on some current of thought, maybe when he was taken to the mouth he had stood up, some small, awkward, pathetic resistance to the notion of entering a wider body, and now he is here in the room, still standing, looking straight ahead, contending in a way that does not show upon his face with the possibility that he is a moron.

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