FALL 2013 (Issue 80)

Sarah Tourjee

Travel Paths Through the Lake

I am unseeable. I live in a body of water that is small enough to be viewed, and yet. Do you want to know what it is like to be a monster? Do you want to know what I eat and where I sleep and how many monstrous thoughts I think per day? And what about my monstrous actions? What atrocities am I committing under the shield of the lake? Admittedly I can’t defend myself, cannot say for sure that I would not commit atrocities were I in a position to commit them.

But I am in a lake, and not a very large lake, and I am looked for, pursued, and with all this pressure, all this defense, what time is there, what space? It occurs to me that reaching a calling requires certain luxuries that I have not been allowed. Simply, I should be seen for what I am, there should be an adequate reflection. My reflection is filled with hostility. I was born of the lake, but I am not accepted in it. My presence is a transgression, as though in pure spite I dragged myself from some other expectedly monstrous place, I pulled my heavy body across dry land and deposited myself unlawfully into the lake. To corrupt it, to interlope. Was this my goal?

My body is larger than most other bodies, or at least those bodies that would compare themselves to me here in the lake. I don’t know how to relate to it—my body—having never seen another like it. It is fairly awkward, my neck is long enough that I can reach my head around and rest it on my back, and from there I have a clear view of my rear fins, and my tail which stretches out into the water and brushes against things the rest of me has not touched as I swim. I therefore must plan for a large area of space wherever I go, I must always be aware that the space I interrupt is larger than the part of me that wishes to move through the space, and my body is a thing that I must control though my reflection of it is poor and my relation to it is unformed and problematic.

Do you know about my teeth? Rusty metal barbs spring from my gums like I asked for them, like I need them. I swallow vegetation using only my throat, and it’s only in my dreams that I learn what these teeth can do, how easily bone will crush, and the number of jaw-grinds required to slice through all the tendons in an arm. I’m not a killer but I’m equipped to dispense suffering. I’m equipped to suffer. The rust causes inflammation and stomach pain. I don’t know what it’s like not to ache.

Let me explain to you my beginning, how the lake spit me out. I am formed out of what’s been tossed in, what’s been submerged and then left in the lake. You who arrives with so much on your back, you who jumps into the water in the dark, in the early spring, in the cold. You jump in and it hurts, you can’t breathe, and you leave the mess there in the lake. Did you think it would dissolve, or blend neutrally into the water? This stuff that’s deposited forms a creature. That creature is me, I am born from the lake and am stuck here.

I am often called a hoax, an invention not of the lake but of the land outside the lake. Does the land invent me to indict the lake? The lake must therefore resent me, this figment which causes so much attention to the lake and in so doing disallows all focus on the lake itself. The lake wishes to be seen and would be were it not for me distorting it. The lake, unseen, ceases to exist. And so we both are figments—me the hoax, and the lake, the thing that contains it. A toy crane is attached to a tire, and is photographed in the lake. The lake is in the photo, and I am somewhere in the lake, and the film should make us viewable, but instead there is only the hoax.

Still, the question of monstrosity. What am I capable of? Were I to swim with you who looks for me, who created me, would I carry you peacefully on my back through the water or would I dive under, pull you down, forgetting or feigning to forget that you must breathe? How much could I take from a person? I cannot know, have no way of knowing. Perhaps this is one of those luxuries I mentioned earlier—the chance to enact one’s own level of monstrosity instead of being prematurely applied to it.

I am alone. Can I repeat that, can I say it again? I am alone. The lake is deep, the lake wraps me, protects me, but cannot form me again. You made me, you shed the worst parts of yourself for me and then you left. Return, return and face me, let me find out what it means to kill, or to not kill, or to love. I would like to know what sort of monster I am or am not. This might make it easier to plan my travel paths through the lake.