Then somewhere later in the couple of hours before midnight's parking-switch symphony on Washington St. outside is an unpleasantly detailed dream where the ghostish figure that's been flickering in and out of sight around the room finally stays in one spot long enough for Gately to really check him out. In the dream it's the figure of a very tall sunken-chested man in black-frame glasses and a sweatshirt with old stained chinos, leaning back sort of casually or else morosely slumped, resting its tailbone against the window sill's ventilator's whispering grille, with its long arms hanging at its sides and its ankles casually crossed so that Gately can even see the detail that the ghostly chinos aren't long enough for its height, they're the kind kids used to call 'Highwaters' in Gately's childhood — a couple of Bimmy Gately's savager pals would corner some pencil-necked kid in those-type too-short trousers on the playground and go like 'Yo little brother where's the fucking flood?' and then lay the kid out with a head-slap or chest-shove so the inevitable violin went skittering ass-over-teakettle across the blacktop, in its case. ... Gately in the dream experienced a painful adrenal flash of remorse and entertained the possibility that the figure represented one of the North Shore violin-playing kids he'd never kept his savage pals from abusing, now come in an adult state when Gately was vulnerable and mute, to exact some kind of payback. The ghostly figure shrugged its thin shoulders and said But no, it was nothing of the sort, it was just a plain old wraith, one without any sort of grudge or agenda, just a generic garden-variety wraith. Gately sarcastically in the dream thought that Oh well then if it was just a garden-variety wraith, is all, geez what a fucking relief. The wraith-figure smiled apologetically and shrugged, shifting its tailbone on the whispering grille a bit. There was an odd quality to its movements in the dream: they were of regulation speed, the movements, but they seemed oddly segmented and deliberate, as if more effort than necessary were going into them somehow. Then Gately considered that who knew what was necessary or normal for a self-proclaimed generic wraith in a pain-and-fever dream. Then he considered that this was the only dream he could recall where even in the dream he knew that it was a dream, much less lay there considering the fact that he was considering the up-front dream quality of the dream he was dreaming. It quickly got so multilevelled and confusing that his eyes rolled back in his head. The wraith made a weary morose gesture as if not wanting to bother to get into any sort of confusing dream-v.-real controversies. The wraith said Gately might as well stop trying to figure it out and just capitalize on its presence, the wraith's presence in the room or dream, whatever, because Gately, if he'd bothered to notice and appreciate it, at least didn't have to speak out loud to be able to interface with the wraith-figure; and also the wraith-figure said it was by the way requiring incredible patience and fortitude for him (the wraith) to stay in one position long enough for Gately to really see him and interface with him, and the wraith was making no promises about how many more months he (the wraith) could keep it up, since fortitude had never seemed to have been his long suit. ... The wraith said Even a garden-variety wraith could move at the speed of quanta and be anywhere anytime and hear in symphonic toto the thoughts of animate men, but it couldn't ordinarily affect anybody or anything solid, and it could never speak right to anybody, a wraith had no out-loud voice of its own, and had to use somebody's like internal brain-voice if it wanted to try to communicate something, which was why thoughts and insights that were coming from some wraith always just sound like your own thoughts, from inside your own head, if a wraith's trying to interface with you. The wraith says By way of illustration consider phenomena like intuition or inspiration or hunches, or when someone for instance says 'a little voice inside' was telling them such-and-such on an intuitive basis.When the wraith puts unfamiliar words in Gately's mind (and into our minds as well), it becomes pretty clear that the wraith is JOI's ghost.
The wraith walks jerkily and overdeliberately across the floor and then up a wall, occasionally disappearing and then reappearing, sort of fluttering mistily, and ends up standing upside-down on the hospital room's drop ceiling, directly over Gately, and holds one knee to its sunken chest and starts doing what Gately would know were pirouettes if he'd ever once been exposed to ballet, pirouetting faster and faster and then so fast the wraith's nothing but a long stalk of sweatshirt-and-Coke-can-colored light that seems to extrude from the ceiling; and then, in a moment that rivals the Coke-can moment for unpleasantness, into Gately's personal mind, in Gately's own brain-voice but with roaring and unwilled force, comes the term PIROUETTE, in caps, which term Gately knows for a fact he doesn't have any idea what it means and no reason to be thinking it with roaring force, so the sensation is not only creepy but somehow violating, a sort of lexical rape. Gately begins to consider this hopefully nonrecurring dream even more unpleasant than the tiny-pocked-Oriental-woman dream, overall. Other terms and words Gately knows he doesn't know from a divot in the sod now come crashing through his head with the same ghastly intrusive force, e.g. ACCIACCATURA and ALEMBIC, LATRODECTUS MACTANS and NEUTRAL DENSITY POINT, CHIAROSCURO and PROPRIOCEPTION and TESTUDO and ANNULATE and BRICOLAGE and CATALEPT and GERRYMANDER and SCOPOPHILIA and LAERTES — and all of a sudden it occurs to Gately the aforethought EXTRUDING, STRIGIL and LEXICAL themselves — and LORDOSIS and IMPOST and SINISTRAL and MENISCUS and CHRONAXY and POOR YORICK and LUCULUS and CERISE MONTCLAIR and then DE SICA NEO-REAL CRANE DOLLY and CIRCUMAMBIENTFOUNDDRAMALEVIRATEMARRIAGE and then more lexical terms and words speeding up to chipmunkish and then HELIATED and then all the way up to a sound like a mosquito on speed, and Gately tries to clutch both his temples with one hand and scream, but nothing comes out. ... Gately begins to conclude it's not impossible that the garden-variety wraith on the heart monitor, though not conventionally real, could be a sort of epiphanyish visitation from Gately's personally confused understanding of God, a Higher Power or something, maybe sort of like the legendary Pulsing Blue Light that AA founder Bill W. historically saw during his last detox, that turned out to be God telling him how to stay sober via starting AA and Carrying The Message. The wraith smiles sadly and says something like Don't we both wish, young sir.The wraith talks about the films he made when he was among animate men and discusses "figurants", the background actors in a scene (i.e., the "nameless actors" at tables in a bar scene in Cheers!) that look like they are talking ("concessions to realism") but you cannot hear them. The wraith fears his youngest son (Hal) is becoming a figurant in real life.
Gately remembers them, the extras in all public scenes, especially like bar and restaurant scenes, or rather remembers how he doesn't quite remember them, how it never struck his addled mind as in fact surreal that their mouths moved but nothing emerged, and what a miserable fucking bottom-rung job that must be for an actor, to be sort of human furniture, figurants the wraith says they're called, these surreally mute background presences whose presence really revealed that the camera, like any eye, has a perceptual corner, a triage of who's important enough to be seen and heard v. just seen. A term from ballet, originally, figurant, the wraith explains. ... And either the wraith is saying or Gately is realizing that you can't appreciate the dramatic pathos of a figurant until you realize how completely trapped and encaged he is in his mute peripheral status ... [The wraith said he] had seen his own personal youngest offspring, a son, the one most like him, the one most marvelous and frightening to him, becoming a figurant, toward the end. His end, not the son's end, the wraith clarifies. Gately wonders if it offends the wraith when he sometimes refers to it mentally as it. The wraith opens and examines the used hankie just like an alive person can never help but do and says No horror on earth or elsewhere could equal watching your own offspring open his mouth and have nothing come out. The wraith says it mars the memory of the end of his animate life, this son's retreat to the periphery of life's frame.And so the wraith said he spent his last days of life working on a film to rescue the boy from becoming a figurant:
The wraith feels along his long jaw and says he spent the whole sober last ninety days of his animate life working tirelessly to contrive a medium via which he and the muted son could simply converse. To concoct something the gifted boy couldn't simply master and move on from to a new plateau. Something the boy would love enough to induce him to open his mouth and come out — even if it was only to ask for more. Games hadn't done it, professionals hadn't done it, impersonation of professionals hadn't done it. His last resort: entertainment. Make something so bloody compelling it would reverse thrust on a young self's fall into the womb of solipsism, anhedonia, death in life. A magically entertaining toy to dangle at the infant still somewhere alive in the boy, to make its eyes light and toothless mouth open unconsciously, to laugh. To bring him 'out of himself,' as they say. The womb could be used both ways. A way to say I AM SO VERY, VERY SORRY and have it heard. A life-long dream. The scholars and Foundations and disseminators never saw that his most serious wish was: to entertain.845-846: November 19. The AFR's attempts to locate the Entertainment's veiled performer have been a bust, so Fortier and Marathe decide to "acquire" members of the filmmaker's immediate family.
846-851: Gately in hospital. Mrs. Waite, an "older-type lady" all the neighbourhood kids were afraid of, but who was kind to young Don and once made him a birthday cake. Mrs. Waite later hung herself - and I am noticing a lot of suicides during this second full read. The book is full of them. Gately then has a "pain-and-fever dream" that ends with something similar to the fatally-entertaining Infinite Jest. Gately is back in Mrs. Waite's kitchen, but Mrs. Waite is played by Joelle
... except without her veil, and what's more without any clothes, as in starkers, gorgeous, with that same incredible body as in the other one ... a total female angel, not sexy so much as angelic, like all the world's light had gotten together and arranged itself into the shape of a face. Or something. It looks like somebody, Joelle's face, but Gately can't for the life of him place who, and it's not just the distraction of the inhumanly gorgeous naked bod below, because the dream is not like a sex-dream. Because in this dream, Mrs. Waite, who is Joelle, is Death. As in the figure of Death, Death incarnate. Nobody comes right out and says so; it's just understood: Gately's sitting here in this depressing kitchen interfacing with Death. Death is explaining that Death happens over and over, you have many lives, and at the end of each one (meaning life) is a woman who kills you and releases you into the next life. Gately can't quite make out if it's like a monologue or if he's asking questions and she's responding in a Q/A deal. Death says that this certain woman that kills you is always your next life's mother. This is how it works: didn't he know? In the dream everybody in the world seems to know this except Gately, like he'd missed that day in school when they covered it, and so Death's having to sit here naked and angelic and explain it to him, very patiently, more or less like Remedial Reading at Beverly H.S. Death says the woman who either knowingly or involuntarily kills you is always someone you love, and she's always your next life's mother. This is why Moms are so obsessively loving, why they try so hard no matter what private troubles or issues or addictions they have of their own, why they seem to value your welfare above their own, and why there's always a slight, like, twinge of selfishness about their obssessive mother-love: they're trying to make amends for a murder neither of you quite remember, except maybe in dreams. As Death's explanation of Death goes on Gately understands really important vague stuff more and more, but the more he understands the sadder he gets, and the sadder he gets the more unfocused and wobbly becomes his vision of the Death's Joelle sitting nude on the pink plastic ring, until near the end it's as if he's seeing her through a kind of cloud of light, a milky filter that's the same as the wobbly blur through which a baby sees a parental face bending over its crib, and he begins to cry in a way that hurts his chest, and asks Death to set him free and be his mother, and Joelle either shakes or nods her lovely unfocused head and says: Wait.851-854: November 20. Narrated by Hal. Snow is falling at ETA and Hal wonders if the exhibitions against the Quebec kids will be cancelled. "A kind of cold hope flared in me because I realized this could be cancellation-weather. The backlash of this hope was an even worse feeling than before: I couldn't remember ever actively hoping not to have to play before. I couldn't remember feeling strongly one way or the other about playing for quite a long time, in fact. ... I'd neither carried nor squeezed my ball for several days. No one seemed to have noticed."
854-864: Gately in hospital. Joelle visits, wearing what Gately thinks are Ken Eredy's sweatpants, which prompts a twinge of jealousy ("a flash of something unpleasant") in Gately. Joelle is showing Gately photos of her childhood from an album. She also talks about a recent meeting she went to where she had a breakthrough re staying straight. She had previously likened her days of staying straight as like a line of cars Evel Knievel had to jump with his motorcycle. And every day the line of cars gets longer and harder to jump.
'And I'd bunker up all white-knuckled and stay straight. And count the days. I was proud of each day I stayed off. Each day seemed evidence of something, and I counted them. I'd add them up. Line them up end to end. You know?' Gately knows very well but doesn't nod, lets her do this on just her own steam. She says 'And soon it would get. .. improbable. As if each day was a car Knievel had to clear. One car, two cars. By the time I'd get up to say like maybe about 14 cars, it would begin to seem like this staggering number. Jumping over 14 cars. And the rest of the year, looking ahead, hundreds and hundreds of cars, me in the air trying to clear them.' She left her head alone and cocked it. 'Who could do it? How did I ever think anyone could do it that way? ... And yet it wasn't til that poor new pipe-fellow from home pointed at me and hauled me up there and I said it that I realized,' Joelle said. 'I don't have to do it that way. I get to choose how to do it, and they'll help me stick to the choice. I don't think I'd realized before that I could — I can really do this. I can do this for one endless day. I can. Don.'864-876: Hal narrating. There is something happening to Hal that he does not realize, possibly related to pot withdrawal. Hal walks down a hallway at ETA and find Ortho Stice with his forehead frozen or stuck to a window. Stice hears Hal talking and asks if he is crying? Hal tries to get Stice's forehead unstuck but cannot. he also sees someone sitting in the Show Courts bleachers, out in the snowstorm, but Hal cannot make out the person's age or gender. Stice asks Hal if he believes in "parabnormal shit".
The look he was giving her was meant to like validate her breakthrough and say yes yes she could, she could as long as she continued to choose to. She was looking right at him, Gately could tell. But he'd also gotten a personal prickly chill all over from his own thinking. He could do the dextral pain the same way: Abiding. No one single instant of it was unendurable. Here was a second right here: he endured it. What was undealable-with was the thought of all the instants all lined up and stretching ahead, glittering. ... He could just hunker down in the space between each heartbeat and make each heartbeat a wall and live in there. Not let his head look over. What's unendurable is what his own head could make of it all. What his head could report to him, looking over and ahead and reporting. But he could choose not to listen ... He hadn't quite gotten this before now, how it wasn't just the matter of riding out the cravings for a Substance: everything unendurable was in the head, was the head not Abiding in the Present but hopping the wall and doing a recon and then returning with unendurable news you then somehow believed.
'And I'm not sure what you mean, paranormal. I believed in vampires when I was small. Himself allegedly used to see his father's ghost on stairways sometimes, but then again toward the end he used to see black-widow spiders in his hair, too, and claimed I wasn't speaking sometimes when I was sitting right there speaking to him. So we kind of wrote it all off. Orth, I guess I don't know what to think about paranormal shit. ... And good old Mario says he's seen paranormal figures, and he's not kidding, and Mario doesn't lie,' I said. 'So belief-wise I don't know what to think. Subhadronic particles behave ghostishly. I think I withhold all pre-judgment on the whole thing.'Hal goes off to find Kenkle and Brandt, ETA's janitors, to get some warm water and try to help Stice. When Hal talks to Kenkle, Kenkle asks, "Why the hilarity?" Again, Hal's impression to others is not what he believes he is showing.
I went forward into the really wet mopped area and tried to make out my face's expression in the east window. It was now too light, though, outside, off all the snow. I looked sketchy and faint to myself, tentative and ghostly against all that blazing white.