Lady Luck: Fortuna

Words by Justin Wolfers

Published on November 6, 2013

He used to write about her all the time — moments in parks where he would locate his anguish not within the actual girl but through her archetype. Fortuna in the white dress, fluttering across the riverbank, holding the poor boy’s gaze. She would visit him in bed and he would shuffle away, curling into the wall, chastising himself for thinking about her. He would sink into the unspoken shrouds of things he would never actually say to anybody, declarations of love sent off in text messages. He leaked sweat into the sheets and ate the chips stashed in storage boxes under his bed.

Who is Fortuna to him now? Some idea. Some moment. He uses new words now — ego, Narcissus — though he does not rule himself so much with words or ideas anymore. He has a more complacent, efficient, self-determining drive.

But let’s not talk ideas, he thinks. Let’s not get grandiose. Let’s free up the sentence, insert a comma, a gap with which to tunnel and let in light, breathe and expand. He puts his thoughts into a spacious chamber where there is light and air and unconscious movement; an understanding of how to unclutter the writing, open it up, let the reader in. He learned this from Cixous at some point and then took with it some DeLillo.

Breathe.
Breathe.

He remembers how conscious and muddled his poems were then — still are, of
course — so impassioned, so righteous, straight into the valve of Rothko paintings and so unaware of how laughable they would all seem in hindsight. These poems now take on a comic dimension, are earnest beyond belief. It’s lucky that he can laugh, perhaps, but still, there was something there: something attractive in the brazenness, something he hopes he can still tap into, some sense of truth. Well not truth, perhaps – too grand a word – just something that can counteract all the vague stupid ego of writerliness; the way you start to write when you want something to be good without knowing what you are writing about.

He looks for her, the woman without the archetype. The way in which her eyes are both inviting and commanding of respect, the way in which he is learning to balance his urge toward her with his admiration; when you want to do it properly but at the same time not take yourself too seriously. The writing gets so serious.

Open the window.

She is as she is and beautiful, obviously. They have rapport. He dares not break the spell. Let her not notice the dislocation he feels between his ability to perceive something as it is, and the speed with which he fixates on it, giving the moment its own mythology.

He moves beyond that, eventually. Sucks himself out of his head and gets level, camera steady, sees her again, and the breath — such relief — to be where you actually are and not three steps into how it could go or how it once went. The breath. The space. Without thinking about the ending.