Every so often (weekly at the moment), I’ll be writing a commentary about a story from EMPTY ROOMS LONELY COUNTRIES. I’ll tackle the stories in the order they appear in the book. Given the nature of this exercise, I cannot guarantee that I won’t spoil specific details from the story. So you may want to return to the commentaries here when you’ve finished reading the book. If I don’t address an aspect of the story you were interested in, by all means leave a question at the end of this post and I’ll do my best to answer it.
“Ocular Sinister” is a good story to finish the book with. Not only does it close out the central theme of Empty Rooms Lonely Countries, but it brings back all of the women mentioned throughout the book as a way of saying goodbye one last time.
The snowmen started appearing in the middle of January. It was a revolution that happened overnight; by morning, Poland was occupied. They were simply everywhere, standing in the middle of the road, walking on the sidewalks, threatening to jump off roofs, and sunbathing. I never saw so many snowmen in all of my life. Eyes made of buttons and bottles and coins, they watched me as I walked by. Some smiled, some frowned, some had noses, some didn’t; the more anatomically correct snowmen stood out like frozen gods.
Once again, it’s with dismay that I need to emphasize that all the details in the story are true. From the awkward ending of the date to the multiple universes, it’s as honest as I could get it.
I thought about my past and how it felt like a series of universes created one on top of another, shaping and altering the architecture of my life, removing little details here, adding new things here, until I couldn’t quite place what was new and what was old. One day sliding down a hill in New York, the next day I’m wandering in Florida with sand between my toes, the next day I’m lost in Pennsylvania drinking lager, the next day I’m back in Florida unable to find any shade…this goes on and on until I finally find myself in Poland teaching English, surrounded by snow and a new language that drowns out vowels in an violent ocean of consonants.
Each new universe was sparked by the singularity of a woman, expanding outward and spiraling around her until it finally folded in on itself, quietly ending and starting again just as it was, only in this newer universe, the previous woman was not in it; and I was the only one who knew the difference.
The first universe fits between “Pancakes, Wishes and Other Tales” and “Before Waking”. The second between “Remembering Drajra” and “Masks”. The third fits snugly between “Paris” and “Bookends”. The fourth around the time of “Father Groove”. And the last right about the time the book begins.
I’m really happy with how some of the details worked out for “Ocular Sinister”. It’s one of the few times where I think my words managed to properly convey what I really wanted to say. And that ending is a nice way of capping off the book, and more importantly, that particular part of my life.
And that’s it for the commentaries for Empty Rooms Lonely Countries. Thanks to those who cared enough to read these over the last year. It’s been a lot of fun writing these and reflecting on the stories. Now that the year is coming to a close, this is as good as any time to wrap up these commentaries.
#1 “Cowboys and Indians”
#2 “Little Conundrums”
#2.5 “Playing With the Dead”**
#3 “The Illusion of Swing”
#4 “Kicking Love’s Ass”
#5 “On Being Velma-less”
#6 “Muted Porn”
#7 “Defying Gravity”
#8 “The Fifth Ocean”
#9 “One Dead (Potted) Plant”
#10 “Remembering Drajra”
#11 “Pancakes, Wishes and Other Tales”
#13 “Before Waking”
#15 “This is Not for You”
#16 “The Mariachi”
#18 “Paying the Tab”
#19 “Father Groove”
#20 “Geneva Street”
#21 “A Lot Like the Ones Back in High School”
#25 “Before the Viking Funeral”
#26 “Mad Dogs”
#27 “Counting Nuns”