I. Possible Worlds
On a distribution axiom, P is always to Q. In this scenario the west coast is P and I am perhaps Q. This is nomically possible: When I meet you it is fall in California and the hillsides burn Indian summer. Place is to location is to geography is to where we are not. I drive from Texas, 24 hours of desert, four thousand windmills at Palm Springs a homecoming. One day the sky is red and the cloud cover so heavy everything glows. My front door is covered in ash the next morning. This is the point: I didn’t know I would love you for years.
A portable metal building becomes our home of filing cabinets and orange paint, white paper scattered, a trashcan in the corner, spent plastic. When we can’t sleep we hum along to the copier, trace our hands and leave them on the walls. This truth is necessary to a possible world and sometimes I want to be angry, but you are a littoral thousand miles away—there is a span of sea between us.
Listen: I’ve been thinking lately about how we have to choose one life, just one. I will never be a dentist; that isn’t a possibility. I will never outlaw across the country, never climb every fourteen-thousand-foot peak. I will never live with you near a beach, we will never have long-haired and bare children, and you will never teach them to surf, watching them watch the break.
I think about Palm Springs, the Salton Sea on the fault, Imperial Valley a king. If I was to swim in the sea, the floodwaters of the Colorado, the runoff of a hundred farms, and I drowned, would you visit me at Bombay Beach? See me again in the crusted structures, the flees, the retreating water?
Please consider what is true: Off the coast of California, along the PCH near Morro Bay, we see a pod of orcas. One will breach, white belly to sky.
Wilderness puts us in touch with immediate things. We hike along Piru Creek. At the trailhead a father and his son walk ahead of us, each carrying a fishing pole. We lose them in the tall grass before we scramble along the cliff searching for flat boulders. I don’t know if there are fish in the creek, but I imagine a fly reel, the tap of fly on water, the steady wave of line in wind, spooling and unspooling.
If we were to consider that P is greater than Q and I am perhaps Q, or perhaps I am P. If we were to consider that going backward is not possible. If we were to think about looping, how K has no equivalents, how K is the complicating factor, how K is a measure of our physical state, the distance between P and Q. If we were to consider that D is serial. If we were to consider what occurs symmetrically: I leave, I leave. If we were to consider your future, the astrology of Pisces matched with Pisces, the man in New Orleans who read my palm, his hands dirty and broken nailed, his tarot cards a greasy stack. If we were to consider what he told me, that the life line only glances the love line.
I have two marks on the side of my hand: you are the shallow, the only now.
Everything happens again: You fall on the fifth step, head heavy from a half bottle of two-buck-Chuck drunk quickly on a flight of stairs. You leave water glasses filled with the heads of flowers, stray leaves, rooting succulents. You alphabetize the phone books by location beginning with “Sacramento” and ending with “Santa Clarita.” We are that night in October when three girls walk by us, naked, bodies painted gold, when it is not yet cold outside so the trees bloom one last time, pink and glowing, shimmer under streetlights.
[Necessarily True Propositions]
We exist linearly and temporally. At the point where mine parallels yours we meet, the production of salt flats and scrap papers, envelopes licked dry. A wind farm is but an excuse to play, the turbines only bird wings, the axis the intersection of a specific P and a specific Q.
If P then necessarily Q. To be fair, contingent propositions eliminate alternatives and imagine the possibility of defeat, the left turn instead of the right, your hair befriending your face. Everything hinges on the chance that children, though lost in the woods, are rescued; that the buffalo trumps the shotgun; that an inland sea, receding yearly, is filled by oceanic redistribution—a funnel of salt water, a rushing.
II. Predications on Modality
I pace inside a motel the night you stop to help your coworker change a flat tire off an exit from the 101, the lights outside all bursting and neon, the pool a reflection of cloud cover not starlight, ashy gray and stark blue. You have a ponytail and you shave your chest and you smell like soap and clean, but there is never any room in the back of your car, the seats laid flat and filled with bicycle parts: your derailleur, and fork, and clamps, and wheels all loose, unmoored as you drive stick-shift from Los Angeles north. I have forgotten my flat sandals, but I remember driving to Visalia one day to visit the Fox Theatre, a building my grandmother frequented when she was thirteen and lived alongside the freeway, a horse in her backyard, my grandmother named Joaquin for the valley in which she was born, her blood. Later I will be on a job interview and someone will mention Visalia, and the Fox, and the marquee out front all lights and the graveyard where my relatives are buried, and I will forget my sandals again, my feet in too tall heels. Here the room is filled with steam and I have already showered and am waiting, my feet propped on a chair, the curtains spilled open.
Anybody who says you are not good in bed is a liar.
I lean against the bumper of your car and I am wearing a short blue skirt, which is fine, it is seventy degrees outside and my boots are knee-high, but you always say I look nice anyway despite the weather, despite the cold air on my legs and how I am never prepared for the chill.
This denotes the speaker’s evaluation or judgment of the truth: I tell you once that singing along to lines like only love matters is sad in this context of space. You send me “God Only Knows” that night and then, on a different night when we are outside and it is getting late and one of us has to leave early the next morning you ask me to marry you because I like Jimmie Rodgers and sing for Texas in my sleep, a yodel and a yelp of blueness, a plea for my adopted home that’s much hotter than California. There is little difference between the truth in the world and the truth in one’s mind, but there are always light years, and after I am gone I check my mail for paper signals. I want to hold your paralinguistic cues inside of me.
Bouldering is permitted by the laws of physics, though abandonment seems likely in the moment of leaping, the seating of feet upon landing, the brevity between stones and the body aflight. There is a campsite near Sequoia National Monument called Koi Flats, a rocky place along a creek and it is cool and shady and my dog rushes to the creek’s edge and tries to bite the water, all water just slipping free from him. I wish you were here to see the ladybugs swarm the branches, to collect the smallest cones and seedlings of giants.
To visit with another lover is never the same, one given to obligation, tempered the way an anthill rises, spending evenings outside of my house to assure I never leave, you as fetch and doppelgänger, goodness not only in comparison, your slang of phrase slight and accented as only ocean can accent, as the place I am from and the flat non-regional dialect we share. Semantically we are the same, holding freeways in our mouths and the pronunciation of “both” on our tongues, a soft “L.”
Our hands are almost the same size, this physicality predicated on modality, yours not very separate from mine. I tallied the numbers of each of our mailing addresses and reached an exorbitant sum, a zip code signifying not space but rather the point in time and my ages: first born, then eleven, then seventeen, nineteen, twenty-one, twenty-three, and almost thirty. A tally of decades does no justice to mileage, an odometer of clicks.
These sentences are as certain as what is left behind: the milk from your cereal bowl, your cellphone charger in the wall, a receipt, a flat and soured bottle of wine, blankets shuffled, the sock beneath the bed, everything about bullfighters in Spanish, a calendar with pinup girls, and an empty condom, the tack you picked up in your shoe, stones collected from creekbeds, the paper towels beneath the sink, a released photograph, unrolled quarters.
My body is the passage of time and your body is a series of scars, all falls written upon you. Without your parents on Cindy Avenue and without mine on Meadow Creek Lane we would not be these people—we have been necessarily born into these zip codes, heirs of cul-de-sacs and even of foothill trails.
For awhile I have a crush on David Carradine and his Shala Vette, a sexy car toothed and green, because he says things like you want to make love to me because I drive the Monster and wear this costume. Because driving fast is the thing to do, I wish you had a convertible so we could top down the PCH and fill our ears with sound.
To this end, Henry Miller’s library is off Highway One in Big Sur and surrounded by tall pines and green grasses. My friends will marry there, she and him bared and dressed in stark white and green. A bearded man will sell records out front, everything ordered, wrapped precise, an alphabetization of sounds. I think we should fly each other to this place where Cancer meets Capricorn.
[Ontology of Possibility]
We meet again one May and I want to sneak away with you because you hold my hand while we listen to bands and I may have had a hurricane, though I have never lived through a hurricane, nor run along evacuation lanes as I will, later, southern to your northern, humidity to your heat. Instead we paint the walls of the basement. The lips strewn are lush and red and for a moment I think of pushing you against them, a roughness I am accustomed to, the idea of it as italics inside my head, the paint staining your back.
I will allow atoms to be atomically numbered 126, though these are not extant and to wish is logically impossible. We are modern science and a disruption of necessity, a mimosa tree fluted, philosophers disagreeing over the definition of the world, or something else entirely, or even adrift, a moment in a sailboat, a beaching against gray sand.
To be concerned with the state of extinction, the race toward a finish, is to consider this possibility, is the study of what there is, what we are committed to, how we relate to one another, the property of existence. This is to say, we will study something as unnatural as the flags outside Ernst & Young, the Wilshire Grand, the way a GPS loses signal inside Los Angeles, the four hours it takes to drive to Las Vegas, the plucked and conceptual orchard near Mount Baldy.
III. Counterfactual Disambiguation
There is a difference between indicative and counterfactual conditionals, one being actuality and the other being an untruth, or rather, when we were drinking and you thought I said I loved you, held it inside of you for months until I left for Texas, only later saying that the naked man who ran down the hallway of the apartment complex may have resembled your brother. He looked so prone and open.
Had I not left California, someone else would have. Had I not returned to California, someone else would have. Had I not found myself driving north just to drive north, someone else would have and they would have seen the green pepper fields, smelled them out of the windows, their nostrils burning, only to arrive at a trailhead with a waiting dog, only to read a sign and leave again, a mountain lion in the area. Had I not left someone would have seen it, this bigness, this stalky beast, this oiling cliffside’s screeching kitten.
In nearly five years you have modified the factual antecedent, mutating the consequences of actions, changing the outcome of a potential P and a potential Q. You do this as one replays an accident, as if in regret, an intangible unreality configured through memory.
Remember this: I was wearing a purple dress and you pushed it past my hips and you were living in Newbury Park and your family has a small white dog and The Wicker Man is pagan and rough, the women bare-breasted, and the pool outside has a light in it, the oak tree is heritage, you lived here when you were young, you did not make coffee that morning, nor fully awaken, though you walked with me in early light, the moment quiet before sunrise, the sky either dawn or clouds, you and I to the street side, always to the street side, reprobates in eagerness.