i'm looking at a picture that was taken during my first semester at stanford, 20 years ago. it's a picture of a "typical graduate class" and it was published in the stanford newspaper, presumably alongside a story about "typical graduate classes" at stanford. i'm not sure how i got a copy; it must have been several years later, when i worked part-time for the stanford development office while trying to write my thesis.
the picture show regenia gagnier's nose and the back of marjorie perloff's head. facing them are my dead. eric shocket is sitting right up at the table with his arms crossed easily, fit and confident, laughing. back against the windows, looking skeptical and tough and a bit soft around the middle, is kim gillespie.
i'm sitting back along the wall, too, hiding from the camera as usual. at this moment, the moment the picture is taken, we know nothing. as i look at the picture now, i am struck by that particularly: how little we know. there are notebooks and pens on the table, but nobody is taking notes. since majorie perloff is there, the topic was undoubtedly modernism, maybe gertrude stein, maybe ezra pound. we know nothing about this. we don't know pound was a fascist. we don't know how hard graduate school is going to be. romy kozak is in this picture; she doesn't know she's a lesbian. rob latham is there, wearing his miami-drug-dealer freak. we don't know that he's going to turn out to be the star. we don't even, at this point, know each other's names.
which means that, even in such a pool of ignorance, i know less than nothing. i don't know that eric and i will take to meeting in the mission district, late at night after our work is done, at a bar called las palmas. i haven't touched his buttery lambskin yet, or the stucco wall behind it. i don't know that he will keep the photograph i took for him, keep it for years and years after our affair so that there it is on the wall, shocking me, as he forever takes a pie out of the oven in his obituary shot.
of kim i know one thing, knew it the second i heard him talk. but i don't yet know drinking newcastle or driving around LA or losing days or breaking into the neighbours' or teaching courses together or running on the beach or running into his wife or reading the first volume of capital or worrying about the heroin. i don't know what will happen at the british bankers' pub on the first night of the gulf war. i don't know about despair or the twisting weight of hope or how to be sardonic. or grief. i don't know grief, then.