Caroline Crew's Union
Union, by Caroline Crew (USA) 2018.
The page is roller-paper white, like the scrolls of printer paper you used to have to section off in advance, flimsy on the edges you had to fold twice in elementary school to break because your fingers were small and imprecise; you found yourself surprised, every time you broke the paper at its seams, by their toughness, their sly durability for serrated pieces of loose tree fibres stitched together, made more out of holes than whole fabric.
The font is courier new, size 12. Before those qualifiers meant what they mean now they meant standard typeface. The text is a perfect wrap: each new line contains precisely one word less of the recurrent phrase.
The territory you’re looking for has no map.
The lines are voluminous, in and of their fundamental symmetry. As if by instinct, I fumble to latch on to a single focal point in the maze of letters, to point to something essential, the find the most important thing. My eyes land somewhere middle-ish in the page. I hover. I spend time with a single line.
And here is the surprise: when my cursor stays too long on this line, the code starts. It is a clear conditional code: if hover, then light. The line comes alive, incandescent as it runs the full gamut of colours in the soft pallet spectrum. It is a disorienting task to follow its sequence, parse its passing hues. They fly in front of my eyes on the line of a nanosecond.
Oops! I bump another line, and another, until I have triangulated a carton of strobes inside the flat screen. The script contains no clear termination of this loop. Once ignited, each line burns, and burns, and burns, ad infinitum.
Infinitively dizzy, trackers fuzzed, I feel my breath wound up in knots. I am nothing. I stare at the screen blanking, reaching, I believe, into the vertiginous feeling of searching for something I have no way to name.
I go all in, try in vain to trace a letter from each line so I can watch the lights come on in the hidden house of the piece, to reach all of the script’s hidden passages. In haste I miss a step. I have to return to the forgotten line and I hover, waiting for the code to kick. I gather method about me, follow line by line, read braille with my cursor finger.
When the screen is nothing but independently flashing bulbs, the kaleidoscope of colours turning on, off--the territory you’re looking for has no map—I think I understand what Caroline Crew has meant to convey. I am dizzy, disoriented, full.
Hannah received her B.A.s in Philosophy and International Relations from Wichita State University, and her M.A. in Philosophy and Education from Columbia University’s Teachers College. She left New York City in December of 2017 to explore non-academic writing full-time. Her prose is forthcoming in Contrary. She currently lives in Zanzibar, Tanzania.
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