The Theory of Ruin Value

tinternDogpatch USA: an abandoned amusement park in Arkansas I once visited during childhood. First I was trying to figure out how to use the weather channel website–I check the weather less than once a year because it’s pretty much the one thing over which I feel I don’t have supernatural power. And while I still can’t figure out if I should expect my 6am meeting at the gym will be cancelled due to snow, I did find over a hundred photos of decaying amusement parks.

I spend far more time than I should searching for color photos from before the 1930s, abandoned buildings, ghost towns, any and all evidence that the past was not only real, but vivid and modern. I ask myself, why do I care?

Very early in this blog, which I began while I was sick, I spent a lot of time sitting on a beach chair in the garage staring out the open door. And one of the most profound moments of my life occurred during this time, when during a rainstorm I watched as a corridor of oaks’ limbs began bowing, and then I was within a gothic cathedral. That is, even during those rotten middle ages, plagues and pigs and shit in the streets, what led to transcendence could be found in a place that imitated the untamed forests beyond the city gates.

I came to a realization recently, when I was reading about how it feels to die (and come back to life)–panic is something your body does when it knows it’s probably about to die. This is why you should be nice to your friends who have panic attacks and phobias–they  understand that they’re being silly, but their bodies believe that they are truly going to die–and every single time, every single time–it’s a mock execution for them. Think about that.

Hardwick Old Hall, 1500s
Hardwick Old Hall, 1500s

Panic happens whether you’re drowning or have lost a certain quantity of blood. It’s what happens when Reilly was scared of thunderstorms and she’d scratch the paint off the walls and break her teeth on the metal bars of her crate. It’s what happens when you zap ants in the microwave and they run around real fast. You flail. And if you live long enough to run out of oxygen, you hit a moment of ecstasy similar to taking nitrous at the dentist’s office (nitrous blocks your oxygen), and then you die. No matter how civilized we feel, no matter how amazing our iPhones are, senescence and instincts are our poor lot in life, and we cling desperately to life if we possibly can, bodies contorted and faces grimaced.

And our architecture reflects this–if in a million years they find our cities, they will know how we lived and how we died.

Our buildings are horrors. Reflective of nothing natural, and then in their decay, we see the great effort nature must make to subsume it all, and the colors are all wrong, the textures harsh, the angles sharp enough to actually be harmful, our ruins dangerous to touch.

Romanticism always seems to move in waves from the Germans to the French to the British to the Americans, as Poe, by the time of Goethe’s death, is still traipsing about in style of Goethe’s youth. But it seems the Germans from whose hearts romanticism springs naturally, which is why it’s pained me so long, when we two Jews, her painting, my writing poetry, night after night, discussed the perverse and exciting romanticism of Byron that yet becomes bulky and one trudges to Wagner and then to the 1930s, a figure of those dark years, Albert Speer, had a theory I’ve agreed with…no matter how I try to get around doing so.


The theory of Ruin Value. That buildings should decay beautifully. That they should decay with dignity. Why is it that Tintern Abbey (top) strike me as calming and reassuring, while Chippewa Lake Park (right or above) fills me with horror and anxiety? It isn’t that one is meant as a holy place and the other as amusement–it’s that in the decay of our architecture we see a reflection of our own deaths. Will Durant’s “a nation is born stoic, and dies epicurean,” I think may be expanded to civilization as a whole, as the epicureanism that built the Parthenon is stoicism to that which built our Six Flags.

It’s all enough to give me bad dreams.



Will Durant: Political Elements of Civilization: “Law”

Routine“It is routine that keeps men sane; for if there were no grooves along which thought and action might move with unconscious ease, the mind would be perpetually hesitant, and would soon take refuge in lunacy. A law of economy works in instinct and habit, in custom and convention: the most convenient mode of response to repeated stimuli or traditional situations is automatic response. Thought and innovation are disturbances of regularity, and are tolerated only for indispensable readaptations, or promised gold.”

Why Dick Cheney will never do community service while there’s thousands rotting in prison for possession of marijuana: “The penalties assessed in cases of composition might vary with the sex, age and rank of the offender and the injured; among the Fijians, for example, petty theft by a common man was considered a more heinous crime than murder by a chief. Throughout the history of law the magnitude of the crime has been lessened by the magnitude of the criminal.”

The Ordeal: “In many cases [before the existence of law] disputes were settled by a public contest between the parties, varying in bloodiness from a harmless boxing-match . . . to a duel to the death. . . . From such early forms the ordeal passed through the laws of Moses and Hammurabi and down into the Middle Ages; the duel, which is one form of the ordeal, and which historians thought dead, is being revived in our own day. So brief and narrow, in some respects, is the span between primitive and modern man; so short is the history of civilization.”

America Thinks About Its Very Tiny Penis: “Laws carry with them the mark of their ancestry, and reek with the vengeance which they tried to replace. Primitive punishments are cruel, because primitive society feels insecure; as social organization becomes more stable, punishments become less severe.”

Will Durant: “The Political Elements of Civilization” (1935)

The State

‘This violent subjection is usually of a settled agricultural group by a tribe of hunters and herders. For agriculture teaches men pacific ways, inures them to a prosaic routine, and exhausts them with a long day’s toil; such men accumulate wealth, but they forget the arts and sentiments of war. The hunter and the herder, accustomed to danger and skilled in killing, look upon war as but another form of the chase, and hardly more perilous; when the woods cease to give them abundant game, or flocks decrease through a thinning pasture, they look with envy upon the ripe fields of the village, they invent with modern ease some plausible reason for attack, they invade, conquer, enslave and rule.

‘It is a law that holds only for the early societies, since under more complex conditions a variety of other factors–greater wealth, better weapons, higher intelligence–contribute to determine the issue. So Egypt was conquered not only by Hyksos, Ethiopian, Arab and Turkish nomads, but also by the settled civilizations of Assyria, Persia, Greece, Rome, and England–though not until these nations had become hunters and nomads on an imperialistic scale.’

. . . ‘In permanent conquest the principle of domination tends to become concealed and almost unconscious; the French who rebelled in 1789 hardly realized, until Camile Desmoulins reminded them, that the aristocracy that had ruled them for a thousand years had come from Germany and had subjugated them by force. Time sanctifies everything; even the most arrant theft, in the hands of the robber’s grandchildren, becomes sacred and inviolable property. Every state begins in compulsion; but the habits of obedience become the content of conscience, and soon every citizen thrills with loyalty to the flag.’

[Stephen speaking]
One of my colleagues has told me a story a couple times, which to some extent may be viewed as casuistry, but I’ve found a new answer. The story is something from television, I think perhaps Bill O’Reilly, in which he’s interviewing some “big time liberal” and asks him “if a man comes up to you and takes your money and gives it to someone else, what does that make him?”
“A thief.”
“If instead of one man, what if it’s ten who take your money?”
“Then that’s ten thieves.”
“And if instead of ten men, it’s the government, what does that make the government?”
And, see, the liberal sits there stewing because he knows he’s been caught in a trap of pure common sense! Hah!

Here’s the rebuttal though:

Better to pay tribute to one magnificent robber than to bribe them all.

Good fucking point!

Will Durant: “The Origins of Government” (1935)

‘Instead of democracy being a wilted feather in the cap of our own age, it appears at its best in several primitive groups where such government as exists is merely the rule of the family-heads of the clan, and no arbitrary authority is allowed. The Iroquois and Deleware Indians recognized no laws or restraints beyond the natural order of the family and the clan; their chiefs had modest powers which might at any time be ended by the elders of the tribe. The Omaha Indians were ruled by a Council of Seven, who deliberated until they came to a unanimous agreement; add to this the famous League of the Iroquois, by which many tribes bound themselves–and honored their pledge–to keep the peace, and one sees no great gap between these “savages” and the modern states that bind themselves revocably to peace in the League of Nations.’

Will Durant: “The Economic Elements of Civilization” (1935)

‘It is impossible to be scientific here; for in calling other human beings “savage” or “barbarous” we may be expressing no objective fact, but only our fierce fondness for ourselves, and our timid shyness in the presence of alien ways. Doubtless we underestimate these simple peoples, who have so much to teach us in hospitality and morals; if we list the bases and constituents of civilization we shall find that the naked nations invented or arrived at all but one of them, and left nothing for us to add except embellishments and writing. Perhaps they, too, were once civilized, and desisted from it as a nuisance. We must make sparing use of such terms…in referring to our “contemporaneous ancestry.” Preferably we shall call “primitive” all tribes that make little or no provision for unproductive days, and little or no use of writing. In contrast, the civilized may be defined as literate providers.’

Our Oriental Heritage, introduction to Ch II. (p5)

From Hunting to Tillage

‘”Of what are you thinking?” Peary asked one of his Eskimo guides. “I do not have to think,” was the answer; “I have plenty of meat.” Not to think unless we have to–there is much to be said for this as the summation of wisdom.

‘Nevertheless, there were difficulties in this care-lessness, and those organisms that outgrew it came to possess a serious advantage in the struggle for survival. The dog that buried the bone which even a canne appetite could not manage, the squirrel that gathered nuts for a later feast, the bees that filled the comb with honey, the ants that laid up stores for a rainy day–these were among the first creators of civilization. It was they, or other subtle creatures like them, who taught our ancestors the art of providing for tomorrow out of the surplus of today’ (6).

‘For hunting was not merely a quest for food, it was a war for security and mastery, a war beside which all the wars of recorded history are but a little noise’ (p7).

‘Hunting and fishing were not stages in economic development, they were modes of activity destined to survive into the highest forms of civilized society. Once the center of life, they are still its hidden foundations; behind our literature and philosophy, our ritual and art, stand the stout killers of Packingtown. … In the last analysis civilization is based upon the food supply. The cathedral and the capital, the museum and the concert chamber, the library and the university are the façade; in the rear are the shambles’ (7).

‘Doubtless the custom [of cannibalism] had certain social advantages. It anticipated Dean Swift’s plan for the utilization of superfluous children, and it gave the old an opportunity to die usefully. There is a point of view from which funerals seem an unnecessary extravagance. To Montaigne it appeared more barbarous to torture a man to death under the cover of piety, as was the mode of his time, than to roast and eat him after he was dead. We must respect one another’s delusions’ (11).

The Foundations of Industry

‘…most history is guessing, and the rest is prejudice’ (12).

Will Durant – “The Conditions of Civilization”

Civilization is social order promoting cultural creation.

Some seven years ago I began to see something I’d missed before, a connection in all things. The romantic era poets led me to this place, where all teachers before them had failed. The public school curricula had always encouraged teachers to connect one field of study to another, but the connections were forced and artificial and painfully uninteresting. But we live in an era of separation and speciality, in which even to know everything about a single subject is impossible without drilling down to some minute portion of disconnect, only to be rendered obsolete every eighteen months.

In 1800 this was not so. In 1800 one could expect to become an expert in all things before the age of 20, and realize this expertise by 25. The world was much smaller, and it was this world that had the breadth of knowledge to look beyond whatever finite scope in which we now classify this or that one’s finite existence.

And so, I found myself seeking out a copy of Spengler, deep in the bowels of the library, silent, the particular row I found myself in almost entirely dark, and something drew me toward this ten-or-so volume set on the history of the world. I miss libraries. I pulled the first volume, Our Oriental Heritage, from the shelf, and the first lines drew me in immediately, unlike anything else. And I knew that from that point forward, I would be something I’d never before been, or, rather, something I’d steadfastly avoided being: a student of history.

Civilization is social order promoting cultural creation.

I made it through the first 900 or so pages of volume 1. And then I lost the book. I began volume 2 and made it through about 200 pages. And then I lost that one and found the first one again. This is over a period of seven years. I still haven’t finished the first one.

Well, now that I’m determined to become intelligent again, at least to become as intelligent as I was at age 18, I’ve pulled out my bookmark and have started with page 1. Will Durant is one of my favorite authors ever. He has astounding foresight and a brilliant wisdom that lets him show, every page or so, when he (correctly) believes the reader to think, “those stupid savages” about his subject, that the reader is guilty of the same stupidity, or rather, that the savages are the more intelligent of the two.

What I loved bout that first lines was that they contained the meaning of life. Essentially, the “meaning of life” is to create. And that’s what so excited me to see, that when the moment we stop worrying about survival, we begin finding ourselves with excess time, and in that time we can either seek amusement, as our instincts prefer, much as a dog sleeps or barks all day, so we watch television and gossip, or we can hoard shit, or we can improve ourselves, improve others, improve everything. Creation takes a million forms, and mostly we don’t do it.

So, to begin again, the same page 1 that I first read in the library, the same lines that realigned my trajectory closer to the complete picture of life, the same lines that lit a passion in me that nearly two decades of formal schooling failed to produce:

Civilization is social order promoting cultural creation. Four elements constitute it: economic provision, political organization, moral traditions, and the pursuit of knowledge and the arts. It begins where chaos and insecurity ends. For when fear is overcome, curiosity and constructiveness are free, and man passes by natural impulse towards the understanding and embellishment of life.


Note: I don’t know anything about Communism, Socialism, China, or Russia. Seriously.

Certainly I fell in love at once with the poetry of Li Po and of Tu Fu, but aside from that very little has struck me in Chinese history as memorable, just the endless succession of names and dynasties, it struck me quite the same ten years ago as it does now. Durant expresses precisely this, at an ideal moment commenting that ‘it is part of the bathos of distance that our long removal from alien scenes obscures variety in places and men, and submerges the most diverse personalities in a dull uniformity of appearance and character’ (Our Oriental Heritage, 724).

I was once told that Russia fell into the hands of Communism so easily not because it was weak, but because it had been communist all along, that historically Russia was a communist land. I don’t know if this is true. So I’ve had my eye out for indications that something in the Chinese character is similar, that there’s some governing philosophy that’s held sway the Chinese mind for thousands of years. Confucianism seems to be the philosophy they continually fall into. And I don’t feel like looking into the parallels, if there are any, right now, because that’s not why I began writing this.

“Above all, Chinese architecture suffered from the absence of three institutions present in almost every other great nation of antiquity: an hereditary aristocracy, a powerful priesthood, and a strong and wealthy central government. These are the forces that in the past have paid for the larger works of art–for the temples and palaces, the masses and operas, the great frescoes and sculptured tombs. And China was fortunate and unique: she had none of these institutions” (741).

“The general impression left by Chinese architecture upon the foreign and untechnical observer is one of charming frailty. Color dominates form, and beauty here has to do without the aid of sublimity. The Chinese temple or palace seeks not to dominate nature, but to cooperate with it in that perfect harmony of the whole which depends upon the modesty of the parts. Those qualities that give a structure strength, security and permanence are absent here, as if the builders feared that earthquakes would stultify their pains. Those buildings hardly belong to the same art as that which raised its monuments at Karnak and Persepolis, and on the Acropolis; they are not architecture as we of the Occident have known it, but rather the carving of wood, the glazing of pottery and the sculpture of stone; they harmonize better with porcelain and jade than with the ponderous edifices that a mixture of engineering and architecture gave to India, Mesopotamia or Rome. If we do not ask of them the grandeur and the solidity which their makers may never have cared to give them, if we accept them willingly as architectural cameos expressing the most delicate of tastes in the most fragile of structural forms, then they take their place as a natural and appropriate variety of Chinese art, and among the most gracious shapes ever fashioned by men” (744).

This, of course, leads me to think of Spengler’s chapter on mathematics in early civilizations, of Kenneth Clark’s discussion of viking shipbuilding, and Will Durant’s own on prehistoric Greek dwellings–because I think a Western notion of confidence as an overarching thesis may fail here–however, Durant was writing before those banners of Chairman Mao were hung, before the tanks in my memory, of the stadiums and the smog and the mass-production (the slavery that shocks us now has yet always been a component of Chinese civilization), nothing about modern China, not the convents and epidemics of The Painted Veil, and not the drug dens and orgies of The Good Earth, is what I am trying to think of now…I won’t pretend to understand the Chinese character–as much time as I’ve spent trying to understand the British or the French, I still haven’t come to terms with either, they make absolutely no sense to me, I feel as if I’m rolling dice; so much more so, the Chinese.

Concerning its poetry: “we may tire, at times, of a certain sentimentality in [Chinese poetry], a vainly wistful mood of regret that time will not stop in its flight and let men and states be young forever” (713). And concerning its architecture: “drawings . . . show that  through its long history of over twenty-three centuries Chinese architecture has been content with the same designs, and the same modest proportions” (741). And, on poetry, again,

“what we do see is, above all, brevity. . . . But the Chinese believe that all poetry must be brief; that a long poem is a contradiction in terms–since poetry, to them, is a moment’s ecstasy, and dies when dragged out in epic reams. Its mission is to see and paint a picture with a stroke, and write a philosophy in a dozen lines; its ideal is infinite meaning in a little rhythm. Since pictures are of the essence of poetry, and the essence of Chinese writing is pictography, the written language of China is spontaneously poetic; it lends itself to writing in pictures, and shuns abstractions that cannot be phrased as things seen. Since abstractions multiply with civilization, the Chinese language, in its written form, has become a secret code of subtle suggestions; and in like manner, and perhaps for a like reason, Chinese poetry combines suggestion with concentration, and aims to reveal, through the picture it draws, some deeper thing invisible. It does not discuss, it intimates; it leaves out more than it says; and only an Oriental can fill it in. . . . Like Chinese manners and art, Chinese poetry is a matter of infinite grace concealed in a placid simplicity. It foregoes metaphor, comparison and allusion, but relies on showing the thing itself, with a hint of its implications. It avoids exaggeration and passion [I immediately recall that hotel orgy that lasted for days and involved hundreds upon hundreds of people in a major Chinese city a few years ago…], but appeals to the mature mind by understatement and restraint; it is seldom romantically excited in form, but knows how to express intense feeling in its own quietly classic way” (712).

Compare, then, to the poetry of Tagore, whose every word I think is so laden with poetic ambiguity that at times I think his work suffers–in the same way that Vedic architecture so discomforts and sometimes horrifies me.

Not that I live a simple life, not for one heartbeat. But, the whole point is that there is a thread I see running through Chinese history, through its art and philosophy, which is one of simplicity, but when attached to my opinions on Confidence, I think it does have a role, which is that until recently, confidence in China was related to restraint, restraint and nuance performed the role of grandeur and obtuseness we’ve so come to adore. And where is the necessity of living forever? Perhaps as in Judaism, placing the emphasis on living during life rather than on fame and posterity and eternity etc. is what has produced so little in terms of Western greatness. Hm, yes, I do believe in subtlety above all. So I live a life of subtlety when I can, this is true.

Jeanne d’Arc, part 1.


I’ve always been highly conscious of lingering energy, though part of it may be my imagination, I’ve been to where Martin Luther King was shot, and it made me shiver a little, even at age 8, not because of what had occurred there, but because I knew without a doubt that he had been there himself. When I walked up the Statue of Liberty, despite the terror at the way it swayed in the storm, with every step I thought of all the great footsteps that were beneath mine. At Versailles, it was not the princes I identified with anymore, it was the poor running through the palace seeking the king and queen. For ten years I dreamed of the Hall of Mirrors, I pictured the gardens outside, it was a feat of unmatched la gloire! and at this age when very little surprises me anymore, I found that the Hall had been greatly enhanced by my imagination, I almost vomited in a London bathroom that looked similar.
What caught my eye was something behind the mirrors: my face. Would it only take one change of clothes, perhaps a haircut, to let me see what these mirrors must still remember? I think of young men and ladies looking at themselves in these mirrors, and I think of the revolutionaries running, always running in my imagination, through that hall, did they stop and stare? Did they know what to expect? Did it infuriate them to see the excesses, or were they awed by its magnificence? When I step inside any cathedral I have the same argument with myself–how many people could this cathedral have fed if it had never been built? Will Durant suggests that over-control of the population, leaving the failures in charge of procreation, is the downfall of some civilizations. If they stalled, is that what gave Marie Antoinette enough time to escape? And when they found the rooms empty, did they walk or did they run back out? Did they touch
anything? They tore down weather-cocks from the houses of the wealthy. The chambers below the Hall of Mirrors are pathetic, whitewashed, dark, low-ceilinged, even depressing when the windows are open, the library of men destined to never be great, to be filled with knowledge but fail to outlive the king. The bed where the queen would insist the entire court watch her give birth, how does a queen spread her legs? how does she scream? does somebody consume the afterbirth of the sun-king’s descendants? I can’t even clip my fingernails without thinking of Sir James Fraiser’s list of peoples who consume fingernail clippings and earwax in the endless battle against bad magic. I take a particular pleasure when in large cities of clipping my nails out the window, here’s something that won’t kill anyone it lands on, isn’t as immediately disgusting as spit, and gives the recipient the opportunity to retaliate. I suppose the only thing better than that would be to just slit your wrists out the window. I’ve heard that defenestration isn’t nearly as funny as it sometimes seems.
When I stand at the windows, I don’t care for what I see, but I care for what has been seen, and by whom. I care that this view once meant something. I care about the ways that stone steps are so weathered by footsteps in the Louvre as I trot to the top floor with one hand prepared to cover my teeth if I fall. I send out little prayers to the dead, even the dead who don’t deserve it, for what we’ve taken from them. And that’s the point I’m trying to reach, which is that I feel like going someplace allows us to take a little bit of it away with us, we don’t need to take photographs because we’re taking something of the essence in our hearts.
But…can it run out? I think so. But isn’t there more to it that I feel? Yes–it’s that I only take away what I’m seeking, or what I feel or know is there. I never take away ghosts I do not know. Which is why I feel nothing of kings and queens–for Marie Antoinette’s toilet, I only wonder what that second little hole is for? Céline says tampons and smiles. I wonder about the revolutionaries, not as revolutionaries but as people, because I identify with them as people, I identify with standing in the houses of the wealthy and poking my head around and gasping. I take a little bit of the revolution away with me, god knows there’s none of it left at the place de la bastille. Between the revolution and napoleon, the messiah comes and history gives way to modernity somehow, it’s not the Champs-Élysées of Joni Mitchell (or David Geffin, if you’re going to get picky) I walk down, no, because on one hand I’m trying to figure out where I can possibly throw a clementine peel since there’s no goddamn trashcans, and on the other I’m trying to figure out how
long I have before that quiche and its burnt chevre explode from my ass and how many years I’ll be put away for manslaughter afterwards, sorry Paris, is this still Paris? no public toilets or trashcans? That’s just fine. Because I’m crying softly for the Champs-Élysées of Watteau, and if forced, of Degas, and all I can feel are the goose-steps of Nazis, I can’t even feel Napoleon. Modern, modern is when you order all your soldiers confirmed infected with plague to be shot in the name of mobility. Do you remember what happened to your car-phone? Some would call that cruel, and some would call it merciful. I’m not afraid of death, so I call it kind. I can’t bear to walk all the way to the Arc de Triomphe, mostly because of the diarrhea, but also, let’s be serious, why do I care to see a testament to ultimate failure? It breaks my heart that Napoleon broke up with Josephine, and that’s why I hate him. That’s the only reason I hate him. Because I’ve read his love letters to her. Monogamy, the one thing princes cannot overcome, even Leonard Bernstein had to marry against his sexuality to assure himself a job conducting the NY Philharmonic. Life is rough. I don’t have enough money to see Blake’s illuminated manuscripts at the
British Library, and I don’t have enough to see the uncensored copy of Nin’s Winter of Artifice at the Biblioteque Nationale. Life is rough. Four different people have told me in the past 24 hours that they’re the only person who truly understands me. Life is rough! I nod weakly. The whole family is worried that I’m drinking too much and not eating enough. My first reaction to returning to Ameriker was to lose fifteen pounds. My mother says my belt isn’t tight enough, and to think these pants made my package look huge just last November!
Unlikely as it may seem, Jeanne d’Arc has always been one of my heroes. I remember where I was sitting precisely when I first saw Bill and Ted’s something-something Adventure, and two characters jumped out at me: Billy the Kid and Joan of Arc. I was better situated to pursue Billy the Kid’s footsteps, so I’ve trekked through deserts, cemeteries, ghost towns, I’ve stood on cliffs, been in the dirt houses of those people we still called Indians, I’ve seen the bullet holes in the walls, my skin has cracked in the dry heat, I’ve been blinded by the dust, I’ve been thirsty, I’ve been tired, I’ve held guns, I’ve felt my skin burnt by trucks on fire, I’ve been cold at night. And always that one foggy image of Billy the Kid, the idea of him hiding in bedrooms, his youthfulness and sharpness, his inherent greatness. One night at a bar Scott and I decided a new rule was in effect: wedding rings meant nothing, we would chase married women if they dared to look us in the eyes. In a way, murder is okay when it comes to legends. Daedalus is an object of pity, but I become uncomfortable to think of him as the murderer of his nephew. But Jeanne d’Arc…what has she meant to me that has lasted for so long, what does she mean to me now? How is it that I continue to feel attached to her? It has something to
do with all three of the things that have obsessed my aching mind since first my eyes were opened and I was ashamed, many years before I could even spell my own name: death, sexuality, and god. Since then it’s been Dreyer’s portrayal of her, and Shakespeare’s, and it’s been the way she’s haunted my memories of my future, the way I’ve always felt like a sacrifice, the way I’ve presented myself as the goat destined for Azazel, the way they tested me for scoliosis twice every year until I was 16 because they couldn’t understand that every time a butterfly died the muscles in my back would grow a little bit weaker. I haven’t quite learned to lift with my legs yet, though I’ve seen the signs a thousand times, I just never paid attention.