Chapter Six


The Mailman, Centretown


            If he had known the patterns to look out for it would have been obvious. If he understood the code he would have picked up their messages in the newspaper. He would have seen his crossword giving orders and counter orders. If he knew about the coloured shoelaces and what specific action they meant, he would be wise to the game being played over his head. The patterns on top of other patterns; the prices of commodities, how the fruit is arranged on the sidewalk (apples, oranges, pears—pears-oranges-apples; today there are 3 different types of apples), where ads are placed in relation to each other, the stock market—how obvious those numbers are of a different language, interpreted in more than one way. He sees other things too. Brief hallucinations. Events that leave no traces; gun fights on Bank street and gigantic animals walking along the sidewalks. It’s as if it’s just him that sees them. Has he been crazy the whole time? Crazy. Crazy. Doesn’t suit me. There are people suffering truly. I am not Crazy. But yesterday he saw a deflated octopus the size of a car slumped on the curb before entering one of the buildings on Metz. When he came out it was a pile of garbage bags. If it means anything it must be awfully dumb.

            In another lifeis something that his brain repeats to himself. In another life they could be together. But for now, it’s this, and in this life, he wakes up alone and while he’s awake he remembers his dreams and they sometimes bleed into this life. He doesn’t remember if the conversation he had was in a dream or not. He works backwards; it must have been a dream, I haven’t spoken to that person in years. They told me something important. I haven’t been told anything important for sometime. No one has given me their secret, their confidences. Nobody but the old historians of Centretown speaking to him over centuries through the pages of dusty books that sit on his reading desk.

He dreams about waking up on the side of a volcano, cold and underneath a tree. It’s both day and night as he looks over the landscape to see a dozen other volcanoes, little villages on the side of them or at their base in their shadow, and a city far away shining white underneath an angry sun. In some villages people are naked, picking rare flowers and eating them, flowers that are white and orange and the colour indigo. People sleeping on the grass and planting beans and squash. On another volcano it’s the dead of night and there’s a column of people walking up the slope with torches in their hand, chanting a language he vaguely recognizes, wearing capes and masks, depicting an event from a forgotten book. A chain of people is following them, tied together by rope. He wakes up with a voice in his head saying lookit, he doesn’t even want to be here. He abandons sleep altogether after this and walks around like a victim of witchcraft. 

It was an Italian made Valmara, a deadly landmine, that had blown up on Sommerset. He knew this without knowing how from the remnants of the blast along the sidewalk. He picked up a piece of the device the police missed just beyond their tape. He puts it in his satchel. Another clue. Another piece to put together, a fragment of a puzzle. Overhead the clouds look higher than they ever have been before and he starts to memorize flight patterns that have always been there but have gone on never noticed. He walks endlessly through the day delivering envelopes to the people unaffected by whatever malady has crept into him, whatever sickness has buried into his brain to make him feel this way. No one has noticed, not even his friend Bret Erie  who has been driving him to his carrier route every morning for a decade. So I told him that yes I do go over the bridge to do my grocery shopping because that’s the only place I can get the bologna I like. Why don’t I just get the bologna over here? Well--smart ass--the only other grocery store on this side is just as far so I might as well. What an asshat.And so on until he drops him off in more or less the dead centre of town. 

             He thinks of unmeasurable dimensions. Of where thoughts go. What happens between a thought and speaking it?  He thinks about thinking and learning and how to learn, about how he speaks, how he thinks in what voice, where that voice came from, who’s it is? His thoughts drift on through him and he thinks about where they come from. He wants to rip them out of his head, and then he begins to worry about if thoughts actually come from the head and if he were to take his brain out and placed it in a jar if the thoughts would continue, if they would come from another part of his body, his groin maybe. If he was ripped to shreds would his thoughts go on, coming from somewhere far away? Does he believe in a soul? Are thoughts coming from the soul? Why won’t mine shut up—what have I done, in what past lives has this soul ventured through, what deeds did it commit to dream so restlessly. He continues delivering penny flyers and light brown envelopes. He doesn’t think about the route; his feet automatically go down the one-way streets and his hands move like machinery through his satchel for the people’s mail. 

            They are open secrets, as in they aren’t hidden, or if they are they are hidden in plain site. They are forgotten about. Stories that once drove the whole city, not forward, but in all directions like a spreading fire or aggressive disease. Stories about secret societies, French and Irish street gangs warring over the lumber trade, a forgotten geography of an Upper-town and Lower-town. The names of avenues are monuments for long dead logging barons who have buried their gold in the swampy banks of the rivers. The mailman feels doomed to know about these secrets.