It’s that time of the week again, and Syntax Sundays is bringing you a personal essay in prose-poem form by York U Philosophy major Kevin Pinkerton. Pinkerton wrote Mister Jarvis as an “associative ode to [his] friend’s antique collection and [his] cousin’s photography.” This piece complicates the understanding of time and memory, pointing out the malleability of these structures in which we live in. The starkness of the first line not only colours the character’s mood, but also suggests something static, framing the theme of exploring moments and purpose. The use of fragmented dashes allows the reader to attempt alongside the narrator to piece these fragmented bits into something meaningful through the distortion of the archiving. Give it a perusal below:
I slept beside his disarmed bomb.
We found an abandoned couch left on a roadside for anyone to take or to not — white, mostly unstained, enough so that we sat. It was comfortable. The houses spread around the neighbourhood all felt uninhabited, or if they were, by others, possibly undead, people we’d never encounter again or know — and were they then really people to us? In appearance only. I drank some of the coke I’d bought and we talked: wanting to know what our exact future would look like, not wanting to understand the consequences of that knowledge or of ignorance — we knew nothing, as distressing and terrifying as that was…so the intuition tells of all sorts of unpleasant future prospects, and there we sit, paralyzed, subject to cause and time. Our participation was mandatory. And so we walked back. To his father’s house with the jeep outfront and the deadly-deadly ether down in the basement. To return to that night of birthdays in Brampton: he tried to take a picture with the antique camera he happened to be carting around but there wasn’t nearly enough light — so we walked back around the time of the party’s end and over to another friend’s bedroom wherein we were set to sleep, Palmer on the floor and myself across the couch — the same one on which I’d dropped acid and his lights turned to fire years prior.
Light, that bastard necessity for chemical joy in dialectical synthesis with abstract beauty for film. Flames lit stones to cinder-silver over perverse waving-flags indicating sexually-aggressive intent in its most universal form as fairies flutter pinned to drywall over laundered children hiding from unknown dangers — these stones are stacked stonehenge style and their illuminating fire has transitioned again into just another streetlight — enough for a photograph, enough for represented memory — like those Palmer had shown me, depression-era pictures with colors so vivid the people climbed into our time and scrawled their racist screeds over every wall and in every vinyl groove on every recording he owned — and even then there was no guarantee of a definite photoreality we could use to preserve the incident. They don’t account for contextual prejudicial judgments. My assumption of their inherent racism, for example, has no empirical basis but a vague understanding of that era. Time stays true, our ability to archive introduces distortion. As does aesthetic intent like that of my cousin the photographer: mailboxes shot in high-contrast black & white at a dutch angle giving the illusion of speed over still motion — the conflict between ancient communities and expanding urbanity illustrating the increasing irrelevance of the postal service, of communication as technology develops and time speeds and civilization expands its security to match its paranoia. Illusions of communal or economic autonomy are at an end, only conserved in historical documents and photographs. A tree divides neighbours as light behind their houses impresses something too bright to comprehend and too quick to react. This next to another shot of a mental hospital interior, a symmetrical Kubrick shot of a radiator, windows and trees behind — haunting green light bleeding through into the room, their empty inanimate spaces created for an outdated task with uncivilized attitudes toward the mentally ill — this room about to be reclaimed before fuller decay. The radiator looks like a cradle and a casket — tunnels the both. In his photograph of his partner seated in the subway what we notice first is the yellow, a florid standard contrasting the depressing experience of commuting on a transit built to go nowhere. Nobody is facing anyone else, no subject is recognized in an alien gaze mirroring the discomfort of those tight spaces. The moving car looks like a mobile wall central to a picture without dimensions.
She is the only real person there and she’s looking elsewhere.