My Vertical Interrogation

I believe I am the figment of a little boy’s imagination. He’s trying to imagine himself in the future. In a different future than the one he expects. I am ten years old imaging I am sixty-three.

image has been colored so intensely with all hues that it looks abstract
lightly edited photograph of stairs going down

In Which a Stranger Asks Me 12 Questions

I saw the 12 questions below posted to Twitter. I have long intended to interview myself. Maybe all writers do. Maybe all people do? All solipsists, at any rate. But what to ask? That would be the hard part, of course. If I could think of the perfect questions to ask the answering would be easy. Since Twitter did the hard part for me, here you go.

I understand ‘The Vertical Interrogation of Strangers’ is a book but I have avoided researching any further than to have confirmed its existence, and that it’s a collection of short stories. I don’t know in what way the questions have to do with the stories, nor what the stories may have to do with each other. I will investigate later.

The 12 questions in Bhanu Kapil’s, “The Vertical Interrogation of Strangers”

1. Who are you and whom do you love?
2. Where did you come from / how did you arrive?
3. How will you begin?
4. How will you live now?
5. What is the shape of your body?
6. Who was responsible for the suffering of your mother?
7. What do you remember about the earth?
8. What are the consequences of silence?
9. Tell me what you know about dismemberment.
10. Describe a morning you woke without fear.
11. How will you / have you prepare(d) for your death?
12. And what would you say if you could?

Who are you and whom do you love?

I am dying every minute of every day so I am never the same person. Perhaps I have been the same person more than once. I’m not sure I understand the question. What’s love got to do with it? Are you asking how many times have I died? These kinds of questions seem unfair to me. Are you trying to trick me? I will start again. I will try not to ask so many questions, since it is presumably answers that you seek.

I believe I am the figment of a little boy’s imagination. He’s trying to imagine himself in the future. In a different future than the one he expects. I am ten years old imaging I am sixty-three. I’ll imagine I know what love is when I see it. Yes, I’m certain that I will recognize it. I shall always remember its absence. When it comes, I hope that I will be able to embrace it. What’s the difference between ‘trying to imagine himself’ and ‘imagining himself’ in the future. Or the past. In the present. This is that moment. Cherish it.

I love my chosen family.

I love you for asking.

Where did you come from / how did you arrive?

How is this different from the first question? Both, the first, and the second, questions, are two questions. You have asked me four questions. Who are you?

I come from the questions themselves. I have always been there. Here. With you. Within you. Without you. We were talking about the space between us all. Weren’t we? I’m sorry.

I come from behind the wall of illusion. I am waiting to arrive at…

How will you begin?

I have begun.

How will you live now?

As a wandering hermit. It’s too easy to be a holy man at the top of the mountain. I shall reside with you. As always and forever. I shall abide in an abode. With me. Long live the e’en tide. Abide with me. Hear in my heart. Now. And then.

Forever, holding your peace. A separate peace. With a peace of you in my hear t.

What is the shape of your body?

Oh, this is a hard one. I’d like to think I’m fluid, like water. Not too cold, not too hot. Why do they call it luke warm? Is that some kind of biblical proposition? Preposition. I’m tempted to end it there, but…

Which of my bodies would you like me to describe? How many do you think there are? There I go with the questions again. I’ll stop. I’ll try to stop.

The shape of my body is a next, is a next, is a next, damnit! I’m trying to type the word, next. I did it again. I swear I didn’t do that on purpose.

T h e s h a p e o f m y b o d y i s a n e s t !

Who was responsible for the suffering of your mother?

Finally, an easy question. Thank you. The people responsible for the suffering of my mother are, in no particular order, her brothers, her mothers, her fathers, her children, her husband, her sisters, her grandmothers, her grandfathers, the guy who cemented Plymouth Rock back together when it broke in half, the priest who did not molest her, the priest who wanted to molest her but was able to control himself, the priest who took her confession while jerking off, the priest who mussed her hair affectionately, the police, always the police, the people in Ireland a long time ago, the Irish people in Chicago who did not even know her, the Irish people in Hyde Park which is in Boston, the doctor who didn’t drop her on her head, the Statue of Liberty, the New York State Empire Building if that’s what they call it, the magician who pulled a rabbit out of his hat, the ugly sweaters, Elmer Fudd with his shotgun, the guy who goes b-b-b-b-bye folks, the bad men they write about in True Crime, the lesbians, the poet Sappho, all the poetry ever written, the bible, Noah’s ark, no, not Noah, the ark, why isn’t it called an arc, the neanderthals who never should have left Africa, the shaman in the woods behind the house where she grew up, some strangers in Siberia, the orchard or the orchid I can never remember which, the Lesser Brush Man, the Fuller Thrush Person, the raccoon who knew how to lift the garbage lid, her brother who died on the golf course after raping her a long time before that, the burglar in the red suit, the bugle breaking bread, no, it was Lucky, no, it was that guy who never arrived, the two guys who were waiting for that guy, were they brothers? I already said her brothers, the subway riders, Stan Getz, the four horse persons of the nothing rhymes with apocalypse, the first, second, and third Cummings, the high castle, the sky pie, the riders of the new purple sage, the buffalo killers, Colonel Mustard, the coward Robert Ford, Mister! Patrick! Garret! the backwards walking chicken, with its head cut off, the sled that had no name, her dead sister-in-law, the Grange, whatever the fuck that is, the nail jar that fell on her head in the garage, me, it was me, the time she came home in the middle of the night with her clothes inside out, some bitch named Kelly who lived in a barn, her crippled hands, the kinds of clothes they wore back in those days, the ruler, the tsar, the Nuns, of course, the people who wear fur coats, the mad scientist, Dr Jeckyl and Mr Heckle, the robot computer, the color purple, the Nazis, that horrible nurse what’s-her-name, those stupid fucking books that they made her read, those hideous sweaters, not the aforementioned but the ones she knitted, the son who bounced the babysitter on his lap, the joke was that he didn’t have kids, the son who suicided himself, the feather, the lucky penny that wasn’t so lucky after all, the education of oversoul seven, Jane Roberts, Harry who left her and she never stopped pining for, the shrink who believed in UFOs, the ones who didn’t, her husband, of course, her mother-in-law, her cat, the german shepard who lived across the street, the entire neighborhood, that day when something happened at the zoo, Richard Nixon, her father who they say died of a heart attack when she was nine but I never believed it, her brothers, I already said her brothers, but mostly it was from the anticipation.

What do you remember about the earth?

I remember. I remember the day the earth stood still. I remember digging a hole in it. I remember being buried alive. I remember the musty smell of the inside of a tomb. I remember the old wood crumbling in our hands. I remember the poem I wrote. I remember my brother when he was alive but just barely. I remember being with him in a dream. I remember being with him in a nightmare. I remember the dark. I remember seeing stars. I remember the warmth of the sun and the smell of grass. I remember thinking I was in love when I didn’t know what it meant. I remember when my body was innocent. I remember the first. I remember caressing the soft, silky folds of the sheet in my bed with my fingers. I remember the smell of oregano growing on the golf course. I remember the blue dome, we all saw it. I remember the joke about the hippie and his dog. I remember the taste of the nasty chemicals they put on my thumbnail. I remember the feel of wood against the skin. I remember the sound of someone mowing the lawn. I remember the crows on the top of the telephone who spoke to me. I remember soaping skin in the shower. I remember carving her name in my arm with a broken pencil. I remember running across the gym floor to the beat of the music. I remember kissing. I remember being stunned into screaming my own name when he hit me. I remember seeing a UFO at the top of the next hill over. I remember skinny dipping. I remember the turtles. I remember being afraid to go to school. I remember the sweet dissonant sound of an electric shaver and a nose hair trimmer buzzing at the same time. I remember opening the waxy carton of milk. I remember the first time. I remember wet leaves. I remember skunk cabbage. I remember the spring and I remember the fall. I remember finding the old cow bones in the woods. I remember stone walls. I remember fire. I remember snakes. I remember frog eggs in my cupped hands. I remember staying very still in the reeds while they were looking for me. I remember they came within inches of me. I remember my tongue sticking to the metal at the bottom of the hill. I remember a covered bridge. I remember the large mouth bass. I remember sex. I remember standing naked on a stage in front of a hundred people and pouring water over my head. I remember freshly baked bread.

What are the consequences of silence?

Wow. You really know how to hurt a guy. I was not anticipating this question. I’m not sure I want to answer it. I’m not sure I can answer it. The consequences of silence are… everything everywhere all at once. The consequences of silence will always be with me. The best answer I can think of is that I would like to invoke my right not to incriminate myself. I believe I have a right to be silent.

I have spoken 31 invocations in my life. Every single one of them said the same thing. This answer is another one.

Tell me what you know about dismemberment.

Hans Meaning comes to mind.

This is a gruesome question.


Describe a morning you woke without fear.

They say that waking up is hard to do. I disagree. It is an admittedly awkward thing to have to go through but it’s necessary if we want another chance to get it right. The same is true of falling asleep. I’m not saying they’re flip coins of the same side but they are. The fear comes in the between.

How will you / have you prepare(d) for your death?

Isn’t that what this is? If not, I’m not sure why we’re bothering. I’d like some more time to think about it.

I have thought about it.

When you find yourself on the roof of a tall building, nearing the edge, can you stop yourself from having the compulsion to jump? Throwing yourself in front of the speeding train? Stab yourself in the eye with that ice pick. I heard someone say the other day that these thoughts are signs of a troubled mind. I was surprised by that. I assumed everybody thought them.

Every time I sing out loud, I am preparing for death. Every time I step into a cold shower.

Every time I say good bye. Even the times when I don’t.

Every time I close my eyes.

Every time I cry.

And what would you say if you could?

Ah, but you see, one can’t, can one?

One can only try.