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by Johannah Rodgers


What the Italian aristocrat could not forgive.  It was like her to take offense at just such things.  "He wouldn't even look at me after that." This then begged the question of whether she, too, were a member of the minor Italian aristocracy.  The palazzo had a garden, so you knew it was private. And all she could think about was "The Aspern Papers." Doesn't everyone daydream of living in Venice at least six times a week?  Her version of science fiction was not set in the future, but in the past. What is that called? An anachronism?


Were they rooms or ideas that she walked through?  And when was it that vectors became so prominent in her thinking?  Because, you know there is a difference between the two terms mind and brain and someone somewhere knows how and why they differ.  The lack of consensus regarding even the most basic linguistic units was troubling to her. It indicated the existence of the fact that no one really can ever understand another person.  


She is very rarely outside though she may be happiest there.  Usually it is the places she has never been that most intrigue her.  But one has to know something about the place for one to even imagine being there.  It is a large room, a sala, really, overlooking a canal. Is it always Italy? Often, she must admit, even if sometimes she is thinking she is not there.  Small cities, the countryside, these are the places she visits but when she imagines the room, it is always somehow Italian: the extra space, just a little too much, faded prosperity, the once privileged.  What she is talking about is probably she must sometimes admit most like those phony aristocrats that she's read about in novels. Erstwhile countesses, the kind her boss’s ex-wife used to collect and try not to have sex with on the QEII.  They were probably gay anyway, or at least asexual. There are very few descriptions in literature of people having sex on boats.


Did she know they had such specific qualities, these invented places where she aspired to live?  The rolodex replaced the cupboard as a metaphor for browsing. And before that? Undisciplined. Selfish. Completely unaware.  These were words she never thought she would associate with herself, but once articulated (or is it seen or heard, really?), they were difficult to displace.  Does she remember any words being spoken? Very rarely and usually only those said by those who were not members of her family.


She would make proclamations.  This is what ____ looks like. Now do you understand?  I am not communicating intentionally, I am intentionally not communicating.  So what are you doing? Good question.


Wishful thinking describes what, exactly?  Optimism or the propensity for self delusion.  Would it be possible to retire certain words and phrases once they have been determined to have dangerous consequences?  


It is difficult to put the pieces together. You see the cashmere wrap wasn't that expensive, though it might be and could be, but it wasn't.  Gray on one side, black on the other. "I don't sleep in it," she had said, meaning she had certainly considered doing so. She was on her way to the grocery store, liquor store, supermarché.  Don't pretend there isn't a difference in how the story ends depending on her destination. Always leave an unfinished sentence at the end of the day, said Hemingway, who actually said, at the end of the writing day, I always leave a sentence to be finished beginning the next day, which is certainly not exactly what he actually said when he said whatever he said.


Do the words really matter?  I should say so! Though for reasons she cannot tell you.  Nicorette past its expiration date, wool sweaters stained with grape juice.  The memory is always better than the real thing, or is that something else? The psyche is shaped like a ...  On second thought, the sieve is not the best object to decorate the driveway with. Are all #2 pencils 7 mm?

Johannah Rodgers is a writer, visual artist, and educator whose work explores issues related to representation and communication practices across media. She is the author of 52worddrawings (mimeograph, 2017), Technology: A Reader for Writers (Oxford University Press, 2014),  the digital fiction project, DNA (The Brooklyn Rail, 2014), and sentences (Red Dust, 2007).  Her visual works include the Excel Drawing Series and The How Much Project, which explores the intersection of aesthetics, civic literacy, and social action in relation to income inequality in the United States via digital and analog visualization tools. “She” is excerpted from her forthcoming collection of verbal and visual objects entitled Portraits and Conversations: Fictional Essays.  She teaches writing and literature courses at The City University of New York, where she is an associate professor in English at the New York City College of Technology. | @what_is_writing

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