Welcome to Bookmarker!

This is a personal project by @dellsystem. I built this to help me retain information from the books I'm reading.

Source code on GitHub (MIT license).

As I worked my way through the archive, I kept thinking about what it means to be the generation that comes after, growing up with the knowledge that there are legions of missing persons, that one’s tribe is full of ghosts. What are our responsibilities? Are we witnesses or voyeurs to someone else’s incalculable losses? I don’t have answers to these questions, but I turn them over all the time.

Towards the end of my stay in the library, I ordered up David’s audio journals. Over the past few years I’d grown accustomed to picking through the most intimate papers of the dead, but nothing prepared me for the intensity of listening to those tapes. Many were recorded on waking, or in the middle stretches of the night. Often you could hear car horns and sirens, people talking on the street outside. Then David’s deep voice, struggling upward out of sleep. He talks about his work and his sexuality and sometimes he walks to the window, opens the curtains and reports on what he sees there. A man in the apartment opposite, combing his hair beneath a bare bulb. A dark-haired stranger standing outside the Chinese laundry, who meets his eyes and doesn’t break the gaze. He talks about what dying will feel like, about whether it will be frightening or painful. He says he hopes it will be like slipping into warm water, and then on the crackling tape he starts to sing: low plaintive notes, rising and falling over the surf of morning traffic.

One night, he wakes after a bad dream and switches on the machine to talk it out. He’s dreamt about a horse being caught in some train tracks, its spine broken, unable to escape. ‘It was very much alive,’ he says, ‘and it was just so fucking upsetting to see this thing.’ He describes how he tried to free it, and how instead it was dragged into a wall and skinned alive. ‘I haven’t the faintest idea what it means for me. And I feel horror and a very deep sadness about something. Whatever the tone of the dream carries it was just so sad and so shocking.’ He says goodbye then, and shuts the machine off.

Something alive, something alive and lovely caught and damaged in the mechanisms, the gears and rails of society. When I think about Aids, when I think about the people who have died, and the conditions they experienced, when I think about those who have survived and who carry inside themselves a decade of mourning, a decade of missing people, I think of David’s dream. When I cried while listening to the tapes, which I did periodically, surreptitiously wiping my eyes on my sleeve, it wasn’t just out of sadness, or pity. It was out of rage, that I lived in a world in which this kind of mass death had been permitted, in which nobody in a position of power had stopped the train and freed the horse in time.


—p.55 The Magic Box (45) by Olivia Laing 4 years, 5 months ago