Journal

Dying Letter by Rob Goyanes

Dying Letter by Rob Goyanes was published on the occasion of "This is the Time. And This is a Record of the Time PT3" a group exhibition curated by Carlos Rigau at Emerson Dorsch July 8th, 2022 - August 20th, 2022.

By Rob Goyanes

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Quiet, permanent night. Real crystalline vibes. Right before the big split happened, I remember being very cozy. It was winter 2017. In one corner, the penguins were huddled all cute and asleep on top. In another, a swarm of krill tickled my bottom as they grazed for algae. A light wind blew over my body and the moon rained light. Everything was frozen, the definition of peace. But still, I just knew something was very wrong. How can I put this in a way you’ll understand? A rift had formed in me. It wasn’t that I was in pain, it was more like, a structural problem. Like I was separating from myself. It wasn’t that I was ignoring it. I’d just decided to focus on my environment. So I got comfy and tried to soak up the dark calm. The slow fissuring went on and then, in July, it finally happened. A series of deafening cracking sounds, like the spine of the universe breaking at every vertebra. It was awful, one of the worst experiences ever, but then it was over, and my new life began.

Andy Van Dinh, Blackhole Ploy, 2019, Charcoal on paper, 22 x 22 inches, Courtesy of the artist

The unreal imagined is the real unimaginable. Developments in media and technology, fiction decades ago, have come to pass, and fake news, alienation and authoritarian governments are indeed ascendent.

For the first year, I was just sorta bobbing in the water, close to the rest of me. Or, the former me. In my new, broken state, I wasn’t all that small—the size of Delaware or Rhode Island. But still, comparatively speaking, I was a mini-me, looking out at the vast expanse of ice that I’d been before. It was pretty bizarre. I felt new eyes on me too. Satellites beaming down, planes flying over. Boats approached and the people on them looked at me with binoculars. Underwater robots puttered up and took samples of me. Whales breached the water, casting glances. The humans, they named me A-68A. There was also a smaller version of me that had broken off too. The humans named that one A-68B. I loved it the way most parents love their children. But by April the following year, we’d gone our separate ways. I floated north.

At first the freedom was exhilarating. I saw things I’d never seen before, felt things I’d never felt. The sky looked different, the water was warmer, and a chime of albatross took up residence on my eastern end. They shat guano in a neat little hill, away from where they chilled. I drifted in a blissed-out haze, the horizon always just as far even though I kept moving towards it. One day, as the sun crawled into its noon position, I realized that I was slowly shrinking. It was imperceptible, but the outer edges of me were sloughing off. It came to me like lightning. My time was limited.

Right as the thought took hold, my body started to turn. I was caught in a gyre. I spun around and around for what was maybe weeks, or months. What a rush! I’d been stuck in place for so long, just sitting there, and this was the ride of my life. Eventually, I got spit out of the carousel and kept floating north. The current was irresistible.

This is the time and this is a record of the time Pt3
Matt Taber, Up in Flames, 2022, Water color and ink on paper, 16 x 14 inches, Courtesy of the artist

For the first year, I was just sorta bobbing in the water, close to the rest of me. Or, the former me. In my new, broken state, I wasn’t all that small—the size of Delaware or Rhode Island. But still, comparatively speaking, I was a mini-me, looking out at the vast expanse of ice that I’d been before. It was pretty bizarre. I felt new eyes on me too. Satellites beaming down, planes flying over. Boats approached and the people on them looked at me with binoculars. Underwater robots puttered up and took samples of me. Whales breached the water, casting glances. The humans, they named me A-68A. There was also a smaller version of me that had broken off too. The humans named that one A-68B. I loved it the way most parents love their children. But by April the following year, we’d gone our separate ways. I floated north.

At first the freedom was exhilarating. I saw things I’d never seen before, felt things I’d never felt. The sky looked different, the water was warmer, and a chime of albatross took up residence on my eastern end. They shat guano in a neat little hill, away from where they chilled. I drifted in a blissed-out haze, the horizon always just as far even though I kept moving towards it. One day, as the sun crawled into its noon position, I realized that I was slowly shrinking. It was imperceptible, but the outer edges of me were sloughing off. It came to me like lightning. My time was limited.

Right as the thought took hold, my body started to turn. I was caught in a gyre. I spun around and around for what was maybe weeks, or months. What a rush! I’d been stuck in place for so long, just sitting there, and this was the ride of my life. Eventually, I got spit out of the carousel and kept floating north. The current was irresistible.

I became a social media star. People posted about me, they were always asking what I was up to, where I was. Of course, some of it was nasty, or just insipid. They would call me a monster, or even worse, the “white wanderer.” But most of the attention was lovely. I had lots of fans who were interested in my every move. A lot of them talked about global warming. The scientists didn’t seem to agree on what had caused my big break. Personally, I have no idea. Either way, I’m pretty sure a warmer world did not help my situation.

In the distance, I spied gray clouds over an island’s mountaintops. An icy fog crept in. As I came closer, I saw the others, the icebergs I knew from back home. They’d all been pulled there, into this cemetery of the sea. The icebergs steeped in place, in various states of liquescence. I paid my respects. I figured this would be the place where it would happen, the place where I’d live out the rest of my life, amongst the other dwindling bergs.

A small black craft appeared in the distance. I watched it for hours as it slowly came my way. The next morning, it bumped into me. It was a tiny, charred boat. Every surface of it was burned, but it remained intact. A flagpole contained a flag untouched by the flames—and drawn on the flag was a pair of human breasts. A Viking funeral? The days and nights passed in quick succession, but then suddenly the currents changed and I was sucked out of that place too.

After that was when the real damage started. A huge chunk of me got ripped off. Deep tunnels formed in me, and seawater rushed from one end of me to the other. I was a lot smaller by this point, about the size of a state park. I leached out the strata of all the history I contained: clouds of ancient pollen; skeletons of sea monsters, long extinct; thick layers of styrofoam and antidepressants and slick oil—all of it oozed from me. So did the accumulated bits of data that I’d soaked up over the years from the TV and internet signals.

It was a great forgetting. I was glad to be rid of it.

But one little tidbit of information stayed with me, and I’ve been thinking about it as I write this. Hemingway said he always tried to write “on the principle of the iceberg,” this idea that stories should only have one-eighth of the details and observations a writer accumulates. The tip of the iceberg, so to speak. As an iceberg myself, I take a little offense to this. Why not include everything in this, my dying letter? Twelve thousand years of experience, a priceless trove of knowledge and wisdom, and what, I should only include 1,500 of them? I don’t know, maybe I should try it actually. I guess I don’t even have a choice.

I broke off into a dozen versions of myself and they all went rushing away. As I write this, hundreds of tiny icebergs surround me, white specks reflecting the sun. Not much of me is left. The seals like to jump up on the tiny bergs, slick and chuckling. I’m settling in with my new friends, taking it one day at a time. I know what some of you might be thinking. You’re thinking this obviously wasn’t written by an iceberg. Some idiot must’ve typed this up, dropped it in a plastic bottle, and threw it in the ocean like an asshole. Well, I know it’s absurd. But I’m not here to convince you.

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