What is the point of movement when movement indicates life and life indicates hope? I have neither life nor hope. Better than to fall in with the crumbling wainscot, to settle with the dust and be drawn up into someone’s nostrils. Daily we breathe the dead” (108)
Perhaps the most obvious syntactical choice in this passage is the structure of the first sentence. The “x begets y begets z” form instantly implies unflagging forward motion. Word choices such as “fall” and “drawn up” conjure the idea of a cycle, and the narrator’s repetition of words such as “life” and “dead” lead me to believe that ze is referring to the circle of life. To live, we must breathe. However, the narrator makes the point that the air we breathe, the key to life as many would argue, consists of the dead. That image in and of itself it wonderfully poetic.
While my explication of the passage could end there, with that dark yet beautiful image, I think that it connects really well to Judith Halberstam’s piece called “Queer Temporality and Postmodern Geographies.” Halberstam introduces to us the idea of “queer time” (1). The heteronormative timeline is generally considered to play out as follows: birth, school, job, spouse, kids, retirement, and finally death. However, Halberstam poses the idea of “queer time” that breaks this timeline, as it focuses on “other logics of location, movement, and identification” rather than “reproduction” (1). The narrator actually addresses this idea in a passage soon after the one I chose to analyze, listing the “characteristics of living things” that she was taught in school. In fact, ze goes on to say, “I don’t want to reproduce, I want to make something entirely new” (108).
Halberstam’s idea of “queer time” allows us to eliminate reproduction from the list of “characteristics of living things” that exacerbate the narrator (108). In fact, of all the aspects of life that “queer time” allows us to move around or eliminate, birth and death are the only two constants. We will all be born, and our lives will all push forward until we die, our dust mixing into the atmosphere to sustain the new life to come. Beyond that, it is fair to say that nothing else is constant. We our slaves to our own desires, but our own desires are just that; our own. Just as desires vary from person to person, so should the characteristics and timelines of our lives. Perhaps if the narrator was able to read some of Halberstam’s work, ze would struggle less with how zir own wants and desires don’t fit into the supposed timeline we’re all supposed to follow.