Me and Borges
This morning I'm thinking of Borges. Last night we saw "Holy Motors". The whole movie, all two hours of it, was better executed by Borges and his page-long prose piece, "Everything and Nothing", about Shakespeare's genius, but ultimately his emptiness in living solely through his characters. Borges' piece is genius in compression, half essay, half fiction. His entire oeuvre built on short forms, or at least the ones I most love. He never wrote a novel, or any long pieces. Substantial short stories, but even the ones I most admire ("Everything and Nothing" and "Borges and I") are even shorter than that. And essays and book reviews and poems. He was a Classics man, which I'm not, but he was also a minimalist, an elegant compressionist who belongs in the city center, walking in the cool spring sun on an abandoned boulevard on a Sunday morning. He's walking up a tree-lined sidewalk, headed for the library, the place where all good things come from, and eventually come to rest. Its cool shade permeates a delicious stale air. I am walking with him, together, we talk a little. We walk by the shut shops, their metal grates pulled down, all of them, to create a long run of sheet metal skin. Someone sweeps the sidewalk. A corner store is putting out its day's selection of flowers, more today than usual, as it's Sunday and soon many will walk by in a generous mood returning from church. Borges and I say so little to each other. He's an old man, shuffling steadily. I keep his pace, watching for places he might stumble. I take his elbow through crosswalks. White flaps of trash flutter before us. I used to want Borges to talk to me more, to tell me important things, some bits of that huge pool of knowledge he's acquired. But his intelligence isn't like that. He doesn't speak of it. I used to even want to provoke Borges, offend him with talk of sex and swearing. I knew he didn't approve. But I finally gave that up for these moments, these walks on clear Sundays where we don't speak. If the day's fine enough, Borges will sit on a bench outside the café in the sun, and I will run inside to buy us cappuccinos and the croissants we both love so much, the flakey butter and caffeine feeding our souls more than anything, more than this beautiful air. We continue on, the Library, our destination, now in sight. We cross the courtyard at a diagonal, scattering pigeons from their strutting. Borges pauses to watch them flutter up in the air like pots of clay. We climb the wide cements steps to the high doors. I open one for Borges, who nods and enters the Library. The air is so…so much like I remember it. Borges moves to his pedestal, equipped with a reading lamp, a chair and the selection of books he'd asked for. Soon the people will file through to smile and quietly gawk at him. He won't acknowledge them, only continue his reading. What will I do today, where will I go, now that I've found myself in the Library? I will go out for a while, then return for a few hours, go out again to meet some people, and then I'll return again, and again. Wherever I go, I always come back. I'm so happy to come back.
Jefferson Navicky's work has has been published in Quickfiction, Smokelong Quarterly, Horse Less Review, Birkensnake, Hobart, Tarpaulin Sky and many others. Tales of Wisdom: 100 Parables (Edited by Howard Schwartz), which he found in a Soho Bookstore in 1998, changed his life forever. His short stories, "Archive" and "Trains to the Provinces," appeared in Issue 29 of The Cafe Irreal.