Our elders, in my experience, are no longer reliable fonts of wisdom. A week or so before my visit to the home of the Reverend Ron Rodgers, for instance, Rebecca's grandparents came to town. They are unnaturally active for their age, and take great piles of supplements at meal times. She brought them to my apartment, I don't know why. Perhaps to see that though we claim each other, we live apart. Perhaps to take pleasure in their sense of displacement.
Some time before we met, Rebecca lived for a month in a primitive shelter in the pine barrens of New Jersey, learning to attune to her surroundings, learning to become, she says, uncivilized. She is a great believer in people experiencing places and situations where they are not comfortable. Displacement, she calls it.
She has a theory, which she attempts to explain with a glass of water and some object retrieved from my table. Old cassettes. Stolen office supplies. Newly painted chessmen. A hand grenade. "See," she says with a splash, "the contained environment" —she means the water, a portion of which is now wrinkling the pages of various manuscripts and leaflets— "has by the flow of displacement gone beyond its confines. It has expanded, become more than it was. And through the glass we see stuff differently, enlarged and clarified."
"Yes," I say, knowing that she considers this a good and spiritual thing, "but part three of the Gorsky lectures" (on tape) "is now ruined." I say this every time, tirelessly, inserting whatever item of mine has been doused. Except the hand grenade, which is a merely a paperweight, and thus can’t be much affected. I concede this point. Regardless, Rebecca shakes her head dismissively and despite my reservations leads me away from her example and on to her next project of displacement—to clean, well-lit spaces where we do not belong...