a semi-critique of beth v. beth singular by Thor Ruiz
Thesis: there are no characters except those drawn by hand
The story is a tale of two people and lays bare for us the tension between inflection and innuendo (as the poet says) and encourages us to posit on the absence of what makes each what they are.
For Beth, who one finds but is never there, the crowd is invisible. No matter how distracted or preoccupied or late we are in looking when at last we look our eyes fall immediately upon her and no one else. At the most obscure angles and bend of our neck we find her. In the most uneasy and unexpected circumstances we find her. She is never beside us before we find her and then we wait or meet her halfway and while we are waiting or meeting her halfway we feel the breeze on our face and we are overcome by a feeling of happiness.
For Beth Singular who is always there before we ever find her, the crowd is never small enough. If she were to walk hand in hand with just one other human being along a path framed by (let us say) pear trees on either side she would be obscured by the shade of a single leaf. We think we see her but—refocusing—we see that it is not her. It is the shadow of a passing sparrow or the single loose strand of someone’s tightly clasped hair (and we wonder if it is hers). We lament that we cannot find her like we find Beth. We endeavor and while we endeavor she is suddenly there beside us. We never see her before she is there. And when she is there we feel the breeze on our face and we are overcome by a feeling of happiness.
And so we ponder the very real possibility of not finding Beth or of Beth Singular not being there. We are filled with dread. We don’t understand the configurations of a life that brought us to this—the entanglement of the relationship we have with each. We cannot make sense of why this is so and we worry that to delve too far into either would be to shake loose the tightly woven but delicate threads that bring them to us in their own way. We think that one day we will understand. Not because we are thoughtful or inspired but because the reason will simply become clear to us. And we'll come to understand that this reason is not so important, after all.
“The Unknowed Things"
beth v. beth singular
Beth Susan has hyper-extended lymph nodes.
In the evenings she cooks or bakes. Never both. Sometimes she glazes a turkey before she puts it in the oven. There’s no need to tell the story of her life because it can be summed up in this way: she is an ordinary person of ordinary ability. If one were to search for any magic in her routine, one would curse her existence. We could say she had choices. Instead of going here she might have gone there. Instead of doing this she might have done that. But if we curse her let us remember that she is not entirely to blame. At a young age she was set on a certain path and she continued along that path knowing nothing more.
And yet let us suppose she did know more. Let us suppose that at the age of twelve she saw a picture of Mongolian horses and later that night dreamed of palm trees. Perhaps…but really, what good would it have done? The courage to take a false step was not in her.
We’ll say remember but it’s not always about memory. The first virgin of civilization swept the streets outside her hut. There were the Francophiles and the Anglophiles but none restored order to the universe. So memory doesn’t always hold sway. Doesn’t reach out. Doesn’t get Beth Susan wet. The most we can do for her is to glorify the ordinary. To say, for example, that the sun reaches her kitchen floor from a window through which she sees the grass and the overhanging branches of a nearby tree.
In time she became a precedent. A figure of imaginable awe. And then a subterranean falter of paprika and marmalade as she brought the curtain to the porch and spread it on the floor, searching for the circles and swelled-Friday in a singular expression of darker turning. Sensitive (sensitive) girl.
I knocked at a noble hour and upon being invited in said: "Good morning Beth Susan".
The day before, on a Sunday, pommes frijoles were served by the carpenter who designated the house and specifically the bedroom, the bed, and Beth Susan as things and person to think of while shuddering.
"Good morning", she said.
I sat for a coffee and remarked casually as to the paint peeling on the outside of her door. A sad summary for such a golden block or not quite, but close. She stared.
It is remarkable Beth Susan, your lumps are figuratively to die for and may I without regret continue my sympathy and curiosity for the sake of conversation. Laud me but make no mention of what is base as some poet might say for the sake (again) of sounding profound. But I have dreamed of you as if on a boat on a still, black sea. And the night. And the stars. How to make mention of them as they are? But may I, as I have always wanted, be the first to say that your sorrow is mine. It is mine and I come to take it from you.
Languid night. Three pence fold (comes the stolid).
The mollification of her stamina, free but not without its proclivities, proved a disaster to the carpenter, who hammered immorally throughout the house. Lest she forget the importance of shingles and their proper nailing I casually suggested an inspection of their aft and foreaft.
"Have you felt a--what shall I call it? A transition in your ear?"
She responded to the contrary but did confess, albeit reluctantly, of a colorless blur. The garments, the placards, the restive clink. I sensed her desire to keep them hidden. But what of the curtain Beth Susan? Is it not a child of the tropics? Relate this to me and in such a way as to approve of blood.
The Mongolian horses etc., etc… The palm trees, etc., etc…
So she’s not the girl sitting on the couch. Her walls aren’t blue. She doesn’t have a ponytail or wear old shoes that have become fashionable.
Beth Susan, let me take your sorrow. It belongs to me. We are but two creatures you and I, an irrelevant species, hard pressed to die without a feeling of relief. The last feeling. The truest feeling.