Renee Gladman

from The Eleven

i began the day inside the world trying to look at it, but it was lying on my face, making it hard to see. The world was made up of layers, one encompassing the other, and it smelled like onion. I didn’t want to think that the world was an onion and that, in order to describe this world, I would have to describe the attributes of an onion, which had been done many times already. But, I couldn’t deny what I was smelling, nor could I deny that seeing myself inside an onion or belonging to an onion (perhaps not quite located within it, locatable) provided a useful way to observe how I was a part of something that formed a sphere of folds, where one fold lay organically next to another, each one thicker as you moved outward, away from the core, though onions have no true core, or, rather, no core that survives our trying to reach it. And that was why I thought it was difficult to understand this world. You dislodged the thing you were trying to find, and whenever you moved, it moved. It balanced your moving by moving. Who wouldn’t be happy to live in such a world? I was happy, but if I were going to think about this world in addition to simply moving about in its folds, then I’d have to find a position from which I could do this effectively. I tried out all the levels. I could never tell if I were in time. You needed perspective to study geography. You needed an “I” to understand “we.” It was impossible. I began to think there was no real evidence I was living. We all believed we were in this multiplex, though there was no way of proving it. The books said you were in a world: they told you how to accumulate worldly things; they said if you looked to your left there would be an object; they told you what you were sitting on. Suddenly, there were names that went for things that were and were not there. Sometimes, there was a chair or a train, but sometimes there was not. It depended on things bound by a logic that existed outside the onion or, if in the onion, always on a layer other than the one you were then on. I wanted the world I was part of to be the kind of entity I could verify, and to verify your world you needed to be able to bend down and pick anything up. It couldn’t sometimes be there and sometimes not be.