Untiled, The Mystery Spot, (2021)
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ everything’s blue ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
I sit down on a Thursday with Google. We’re in a long conversation. I’m asking the rectangle what different words mean. G tells me that the word “correspondence” clicks through from medieval Latin: correspondere, from cor-“together,” re-“again” + spondere “to pledge.”
An ongoing pledge together, a promise to continue attempting connection. Here, an acknowledgment of failure within connection: an epiphany in the power of a reiterated try. To pledge is not to succeed at what is being attempted, just to begin an undertaking. To move on faith again and again until a repetition of dots is disguised as a through-line.
Thank you, rectangle! That makes sense. The correlation between correspondence and faith.
But then I go “back.” There’s another entry with a different opinion. The second source says that correspondence comes from an assimilated form of com-“together,” with each other + respondere, “to answer.”
Dear G, I’m stuck on this question: does the root of correspondence emerge from an attempt to pledge together or an attempt to answer together? Because one is resolute, it has arrived at the end of solving something. The other is dispersed, it is ongoing, an always-not-quite-yet. But wait. Wait wait wait.
I’m looking right at you and you’re giving me, like, a hundred results. I’m just trying to get to the root of the etymology.
Because the word came from somewhere, right? And yet here I am at a university with linguists at the tips of my fingers, and I’d rather linger on this question just to see what it feels like for a sec to sit between these definitions. You are keeping me confused and just outside my window I can hardly see the Live Oak because this fog is really thick.
Earlier I’m on a walk, we’re going uphi// and there’s a sticker that flies by with that thing on it, MYSTERY SPOT. “When we get the car engine fixed let’s go there” I say. U say “but then it wouldn’t be a mystery,” so we walk into a spiral, because really, why are all those people going there? What is it about solving mysteries we’re so obsessed with? The little lens we put way up to our eye so that we can get down close?
The thing about MYSTERY SPOT that G told me is that it’s an illusion. So now I’m really trying to sort out why all those people have gone there. For the same eight American dollars you could get a bottle of wine and walk all the way out to the spot where the ocean comes up on the sand, each time a little further, never in the exact same shape, because the moon -- get this! -- the literal moon is demanding that all the water on earth bulge toward it. And meanwhile some wind blowing very far away is creating a ripple effect that deposits ocean at your toes. I don’t know anything about this except what I just told you. Which means the rest is a mystery. But unlike the MYSTERY SPOT which was built as an illusion, this earth shit just gets weirder the further you go down. Like, OK, right after I said that last sentence I sat on the beach and learned about the Coriolis effect. I’ll stop here,
unless it’s worth saying,
just to go back again to the first thing,
we can write to people even if we are not yet sure of what we are saying or what will come back. written correspondence is a process of thinking thru the gap between one brain and another. it’s not exactly a bridge, but it fills a similar requirement. like how sometimes you can catch your breath by going outside and smoking a cigarette, pretending it’s a small perfectly contained amount of oxygen even though you simultaneously understand it to be smoke. yesterday at the bar someone says, “the thing about letters though is that you know what you’re writing. that’s power. but do you know what’s being said, what i’m reading?” i take one of those long sips and wait to see if the beer will .zip download some new brain cells into me. then after a while when nothing happens i say, “maybe not? but maybe with time, with correspondence?” they say, “yeah, maybe, but you have to be patient with that work, that work takes a long time.”
I as in Ann(i)ka am learning about how long correspondence takes. The negotiation is baked into it. If you don’t want to continue correspondence, we in the 21st century have created this great new neologism for what you can do: ghost. Drop off. Even though there are satellites photographing our bald spots right now, we still have this ability to withhold, to disappear, if not from this earth, then at least from this text stream.
But OK. Here’s where I admit that I spent two months making paper and what came out of it all are dozens of thin, finely-crafted sheets. I take my hands out of the pulp and somehow I am surprised by this outcome.
“I don’t want these to be precious. I want people to wipe their counters with them and write their grocery lists on them,” I say. “Wait but they are delicate,” U say, “they are unique, individually hand-created sheets of barely-held-together fibers, I mean, they are precious. That’s just what they are.”
I remark at your brain. I am always accidentally seeking to make something into something else, as if words themselves could dig under the fence of what they are describing and get free.
But I suppose this is what brought me two hands into pulp in the first place: to see if there was something inside a material process that could create a tiny little door and whisper “join me,” and there, inside that place, maybe there’s a dancefloor, maybe there’s a disco ball, maybe there is some music that sounds like it is coming through the gills of a fish, and it’s enough. The inertia shakes out with the beat. Everyone is invited, in fact, everyone is already there.