Snoweyed Ilse finds me on our porch steps, a new story of W restive in her mouth. She spied him in a park, she explains. “He was standing at the edge of a hole, yelling into it. Stop moving, T! That’s what he was yelling. But, when I tried to—” “Wait,” I interrupt, “’Stop moving, T? He said ‘stop moving, T’?” “I guess T was down there.” “What was T doing down a hole?” “How should I know? I’m just reporting observations.”
I shake my head: T down a hole—who knows how far—and W at the top. I try to construct the image, but when I’m in front of holes I’m nervous.
Ilse says to me: “Dreamhead, here’s what I think: Actually, it didn’t take me long to figure out. They lost touch; and ever since then he’s been trying to reach her, except T keeps moving.” “But, what’s T doing down a hole? Is the thing.” Ilse sighs: “I told you: I don’t know. Well, maybe she’s digging, if she keeps moving when she’s down there. Maybe somebody else is down there digging for W—I don’t know. Anyway, W keeps calling to T to stop moving, but . . . well . . . you know how useless it is trying to reason with T.” “I know it,” I agree, “T is completely unreasonable.” “She’s not reasonable in the least,” Ilse agrees.
Truthfully, though, I can’t say I’m sure what is reasonable and unreasonable, or what’s useful and useless, regarding T—or, for that matter, regarding W. I can only speculate; but, doing so I come to at least one essential notion—one that might also be slowly dawning on W as he yells desperately down a hole to T: that a life lived as two friends is an unstable thing; and that, when W and T played together, each imagining their conjoint future, they were actually imagining something that had no natural ability to persist, unmodified. Unreasonable for the both of them would be their saying to one another, back then: Together, we’ll conquer language. Together, we’ll teach people how they should speak! All those other letters will cling to their safe compartments: they’re so blind, so unimaginative, it’s how it is . . . but not us!
However, the universes that were local and special to W and T conspired against the both of them, without either letter ever moving to provoke a universe to do so, without either of them caring to make the provocation.
I consider: If the society of the Alphabet reflects the society of the human being, then how tricky can cracking the Alphabet actually be? If the Alphabet is so closely tied to humanity, then it ought to be elementary for us to comprehend it. Why, therefore, does the Alphabet make such a frustratingly exaggerated show of resistance?
I imagine the two letters as they played together. I imagine them wearying toward evening, then W plodding home down a road and T wending into a shaw. In this shaw, perhaps she happened upon a little brook that fumbled down a ratty hill. I think: T sensed something peculiar about this brook, something she felt only she could see, though she was unsure how to describe it. Only momentarily did she consider sharing it with W; she was quick to decide, instead, that this was her brook, that she alone would ever possess the will to understand it. T spent many days, then, on the bank, straining to understand the clumsy waters. She thought: Perhaps the brook wanted to lead her someplace. She resolved to find out where it would lead her, and what these destinations would look and feel like. It excited her to imagine not only the experience of these new, strange, unimaginable places but also the secrets she would certainly find, eventually, within the water.
No, she thought, this was not something that could be shared with W. W would not demonstrate a will to understand the brook; moreover: he’d likely only ruin it for her. He’d drain the brook of its beauty and then try to lead her away.
Soon, she revised this: It was probably not true that this would happen. Once she found her new place, T told herself, she would fetch W immediately and lead him there, because when it came down to it: W was really the only letter worth sharing things with.
Yet, as we know: brook tends to lead to river and river tends to lead to foreign lands, so before T had gotten very far downstream, she found she couldn’t return. From where she was, she didn’t even know how to find W.
At first she was frightened. She wanted to find W! But how was W to be found? She didn’t even know where she was.
Even if she did know, it’d probably take a very long hole to reach him.
Later on, she became accustomed to the long flow of water, and its insistence.
At some point—her thoughts ever circling back to W—she began digging. The holes were timid, at first. When one proved ill-conceived—or the ground there became uncooperative—she began another. Ultimately she found the right place, but as she penetrated deeper into earth, she lost her sense of direction.
“Dreamhead,” Ilse calls, jabbing me with a finger, “are you listening?”
I widen my eyes and nod. “Of course I am. You were talking about the hole. The hole wasn’t straight.” “It must have been messy. I wish I could’ve gone up and looked at it.”
I nod again.
“So… what do you think?” Ilse asks me, “where do you think T is, now?” “I don’t know . . . Africa, maybe?” Ilse smiles: “Surrounded by thousands of miles of savannah? Maybe she lives on some rainy, hot island, someplace? The South Pacific? Oceania. Is that a good place for T?” “I don’t know. Oceania’s pretty far.” “Well, when you start off wandering,” Ilse says, “you can end up pretty far.”
Suddenly, a thing glows and bursts in my head. I gaze at Ilse narrowly: “Wait, we have T’s address written down, haven’t we? We know where T is. She’s in her house.” I’m ready to fetch my notes, for certainty. “Dreamhead,” Ilse sighs, “you don’t understand.” “And you do? Why does W need to follow a hole to T if W can just go visit her at her house?” “No,” Ilse answers, “he can’t. It’s the nature of things. You really don’t understand.”
I don’t, and this is the trouble: if I don’t understand, then that brings possibility to things that ought not be possible; it means that T’s home is not in fact where we’ve thought it was, but possibly somewhere else—can this be a reasonable conclusion? Perhaps instead of being as nearby as we’ve thought, T’s house is actually in a place very remote or even antipodal to here, an insecure place on the Earth’s underbelly, a place that could’ve been reached by us only by accident or by means of some special key. If a person or letter has neither of these fortunes at his or her disposal then a very deep hole would have to be necessary to reach T.
I want to find W and help lead him to T, but at the same time, given our assumptions, I must doubt the likelihood of my ever finding T’s home again. Can an accident ever repeat itself, assuming that our finding of her home should be deemed an accident? To complicate the problem: could it ever be possible for me to gift this accident to W, so that he can find T?
I ask Ilse: “Should we go find W and see if we can help him? We haven’t met him, yet.” “I don’t know,” she says, “do you think it’s worth it?” I shake my head: “No, probably not.” “We’ll drown in the Alphabet before we really figure out anything,” Ilse observes.
I nod, and close my eyes. Behind my eyelids there are no letters and there is no language.