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Your Struggle

On several occasions I have seen Abramson walking on Elm Street with a woman, I assume his wife, and once even caught his eye, at which he smiled vaguely, clearly reasoning out, or trying to, whether we knew each other, and if so to what extent and within which context, opting immediately, as he would, for the safety of that subtle upturning of the lip that commits oneself to nothing. This is not a man who reasons as swiftly as he aims to, or could wish to project, meaning that his lumbering judgment is tantamount to a social affront for those of us who know when to look for it. I swung my eyes past him in that way that imparts I was merely scanning the street and lit upon him walking there with his woman, and rested my gaze on his own only momentarily, and at that owing entirely to the entrapment of his attention. Then, pushing my own attention toward the fore of my face, and to the very tips of my fingers, and into the softening muscles of my legs, I hurried onward and gave no backward glance. I think it must have hurt him to again see what he would naturally assume was a look of disappointment on the face of a stranger.


A week after his first appearance in Manchester, I happened to catch a glimpse of Abramson and the same woman walking into Hooked, a seafood restaurant on Hanover Street. I noticed immediately that he had permitted his hair to be cut very short, an affectation whose ridiculousness I can only assume he was aware of but nevertheless considered necessary to, as he would think it, his dignity. Abramson has clearly been battling his own head for many years, in this instance meaning only his hairline, which is weakening in the front and has long since, with verve, abandoned propriety in the back. To some little credit he has apparently never hid the condition, neither its severity nor its asymmetrical idiosyncrasies, though in failing to engage it he suggests, discernibly, that here is a man willing to avoid the hard decisions perpetually. With longer hair he appears more than usually unkempt, as his crown glistens unappealingly in the sun and one is put in mind of those pillowy men who sit appallingly alone on Elm Street in the many chain-ringed open-air dining cubbies between Granite and Bridge. One is induced to despise him to more than the usual degree in these times of long hair and longer, one presumes, nostalgia, finding in his abiding unwillingness to self-correct an affectation of which he is surely, in the nickel palace of his sensibility, smugly self-satisfied.

But on this particular day he was shorn, and savagely so, and it was no more appealing than the other. With a nearly shaved head he seems greatly reduced, like a fattened tween whose encumbered body is entirely out of proportion to its think-piece. One wishes then to snap his head off like a defective bottle cap, if only that it might save him the trouble of so pestering the rest of us with his indecisive grooming. This is not a city for men who can’t handle their heads. Remarkably, the woman seen entering Hooked with Abramson appears unperturbed by the preposterousness and categorical inferiority of her companion. They enter the restaurant slowly and with exaggerated deliberation, her first, then him, he holding the door, as he would, no doubt imagining himself quite the gallant. You can’t readily divine the smugness on his face, and yet there are sufficient indictments in his biography to render the fact of an internalized auto-erotic glamorization a near certainty.

Not two days ago I passed by Abramson’s office in the Pandora Mill on Commercial Street, at which time his door was slightly ajar, just enough that I needed only to slow myself slightly to determine his presence and posture within the room. The former, as usual, was only slight, and the latter, as ever, almost gymnastically hunched. I have said before, to others, that a man who combines poor attire and perpetually rolled shoulders is as a dark and abandoned doorstep upon which some prankster has placed a smoke machine, by which I mean we find both preternaturally obscured but deservedly so. That Abramson makes himself so small in his chair is, of course, merely a ruse, as at other times we have seen him speaking too loudly and excitedly in the hallways of Pandora, whether attending upon a student or a colleague, gesturing and gesticulating as though his surely waning energy and passions were in fact the springtime pep of a male a third his age. We are not so easily fooled, least of all by a man who so commonly spills water and condiments upon his person in the Pandora Mill’s second-floor dining room. I have seen it and, when not there myself to witness it, heard accounts.

We will see him knocked about, and soon, some way or another. Every cell of that soft body cries out for the privilege of correction.

I admit to have long held violence an object of fascination, particularly televised violence, and particularly televised violence of the accidental variety. If ever I am watching the news, which is almost daily, and should see there some story about a family whose SUV has lately plunged off a bridge, or, say, a camper whose head has been stove in by a tree whose roots were weakened by loggers, which events are common enough if what I read online is to be believed, I am struck immediately by the certainty that such fates are in the final accounting richly deserved. I narrate these events, quietly if in company, sometimes aloud if alone, loudly to the television where particularly exercised, in such a way that makes their terminus inevitable and, more germane to my own proclivities, risibly foreseeable. The family in the SUV struck the sidewall of the bridge only because the mother behind the wheel had long permitted her daughter, strapped into a car seat behind her, to whine without correction, and I mean had permitted this ever since the child’s birth, so it was owing to that extended and extensive license that ever greater and greater performances of shrill entitlement were encouraged, such that on the fateful day this mother should finally, in a breaking of the dam she herself constructed, feel compelled suddenly to reach behind her to grab the child, which action both caused the wheel of the vehicle to slip from her grip and, moreover, would have been wholly unnecessary had she been even distantly responsible in parenting. The camper flattened by slow-rotting timber had ignored that cardinal rule of the seasoned or even occasional outdoorsman: never set oneself down for the evening in anything but a clearing, except in an absolute emergency one with fifty feet between oneself and the nearest flora, be it shrub or pine or loosestrife bouquet. Similar stories I have told, clear-eyed in the stronghold of belief, on the topic of house fires, accidental ingestions of domestic chemicals, the landing of 747s on then-occupied homes, gun deaths at the hands of former lovers, electrocutions in the middle of Iowa cornfields, head wounds effected by flying debris at minor league baseball games, and terminal diaper rashes indirectly produced by foreign agents seeping into suburban water supplies. None of these could rightly be said to bear, in any calculable respect, attribution to a divinity, rather to the myriad betrayals of–not by–the Almighty to which all our flesh and perception is naturally heir. We die horribly only when and as we live abominably, and not because, as some of lesser stock surmise, there is an unknown whose finally harrowing power over our person we would not under any circumstances feel obliged, and can consider ourselves far removed from compelled, to name plainly and with authority.

Posted 09/11/15
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