Jen Besemer: “The Sea of No Future”


Writers of “transgressive” fiction now have an outlet at Ignavia, a new online journal seeking submissions of stories that are “dark, edgy and queer.” (Maximum 4,000 words; submit by email only.) I found Jen Besemer’s story from the first issue especially compelling. An excerpt:


My mother is the sound of derisive laughter, my father is a gunshot. I am the crust of bread left on the table after the guests are gone, or perhaps—sometimes—I am the lost bicycle of autumn found at the bottom of spring’s ravine. In either case I am, how do you say it, flotsam or jetsam. That which is thrown overboard, that which is overbalanced, topheavy, that which is fallen.

No. And again, no. I reject this present tense because I am no longer a shipwreck nor a wreck of any kind. No bruises darken my jaw, no scars slender as night glove my wrists or decorate my throat, and my long strand of bright freshwater pills has been buried for months. Oh, loss. That I could have pined for even these things, imagine, pined for my own doom. But I did pine and now I turn away and disappear. The present tense is imprecise but it still shines in its hazy way.

Time has a luminous quality, haven’t you noticed? What we call the past, what has already happened to us and entered our notice, is illuminated with a clarity in which we can take no active part. That is to say that today is the land of cloud and shadow, but yesterday comes to us with sharp outlines and a follow-spot which makes certain that we recall even the most horrific experiences with clearer vision than what we bring to our morning mirror meetings with ourselves. I’m not talking about history, I’m talking about memory. How the mind makes memory into history is no puzzle, but that’s not my concern. It’s just that even I succumb sometimes to the temptation to shut myself off from the things I have done, and that which has been done to me, calling it the past. What is this “past” we talk about like a family plot in the cemetery? We point it out to others as though proud of it: “Well, there was a girl I knew once whose legs were as long and smooth as the sky before daybreak, but that was a long time ago.” Oh yes, we say, nodding at the well-kept grave. Why make that distinction? There still exists, undeniably, a girl whose legs are as long and smooth as the sky before daybreak. Does it matter whether we recognize her or not? She maintains herself quite well without our attempts to place her forever behind us.

Earlier I rejected the present as imprecise and I insisted that I am no longer a crust of bread or a broken bicycle. That may be true; the point is that I am not primarily a broken or a devoured thing, though I have spent a great deal of energy already in functioning (if you can call it that) in the manner of such things. That life does not suit me today and I allow it to remain ill-suited to me.

Read the whole story here.

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