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Witness the man. Witness the facility. His name is Anatoli. It is 1978. It is the Soviet Union. The facility is the Institute for High Energy Research. The work being done there. The workers. There is not the sense of competition within this place. There is only work. The work. The machine, a particle accelerator, a long cycle through which the crude elements of matter can be made to collide. The elements are moving throughout it almost at the speed of light. The circuit’s magnetic lining guiding these elements until. It is July. July 13, 1978. 

The U-70 Synchotron is the largest of these accelerators on earth. There’s an issue. There’s a problem. A piece of equipment on the machine is malfunctioning. No. Anatoli will go to check the room to ascertain. No. It is a room. The machine itself it is a room. 

A failure that can make this an artistry.

What did Anatoli eat that morning. What did he talk about with his family. It is morning. This place is a post box. A mailbox. Named because it’s known by the box and nothing else. It is anonymous. Chernobyl has not happened yet. In the morning let’s say Anatoli ate some bread. Anatoli ate some bread. Some toasted bread, with oatmeal. It is morning in 1978, in the Soviet Union. Perhaps coffee, or tea. Anatoli ate his toast with oatmeal and had a cup of strong tea. In the morning he wakes up, the world is maybe gray. The work is a kind of monotony. There are worse things than a kind of monotony. Who is Anatoli’s family. Is there a happiness in his family, in the morning. Does he live alone. 

Protvino, the little world, the little window on the world. The machine is a spectacle in itself. The machine evokes a kind of wonderment. A wonder. The people working there experience a kind of daily awe, sure. There is this sense of a great mission, a great endeavor, an understanding being reached about the makeup of our universe. It is exhilarating to witness. Drink your tea, drink your coffee. Wake up. Wake up and off to work. The small facility within the world within the world. It is not small. That’s incorrect to say. It’s incorrect to call it small. 

The work being done by Anatoli is pleasant and fulfilling work. Curiosity over the machine. The machines. A life looking for error. A life looking for malfunction and trying to figure something out. That morning in July Anatoli could walk. Anatoli could walk to work and see those nearby who also walked to work. That was the summer when. The machine will someday be disassembled, leaving the tunnel within the ground. For now, the machine is thriving, if such a machine could be said to thrive. Anatoli is not a rich man, nor are any of those working with him rich men. This is a small orb. A little space wherein the engineers can be tossed, scientists can be tossed. Perhaps they are thinking of the war. The utility. But these workers are buried beneath the earth. These workers are underground, puttering away at these machines, this machine, and trying to make some sense of it. To share an understanding of it would be an impossibility. Anatoli works on particular elements. All of them work on particular elements, and the whole of the thing is rather like an idea. 

Born in 1942, in June. Born under the sign of Cancer. Born already under the bright sign of radiation, born under the radiating light. The room is not a room but a chamber. And did he have a happy childhood. Life was a repetitive thing. The fear of annihilation was there, remaining. The reaction to their bombing was there, lingering. He was born into this world. Born into the SFSR, Tarkovsky’s world. A world of warm but hazy light. A villager’s world, wherein the simple morning could require the whole of someone. Their entire presence. This was the nuclear era, wherein almost every thought could not be divorced from it. Black hair, and as a child could it have been blond. And his mother, would her demeanor have been affected by the bombing. And his father, surely, embroiled in the military. And too, the world of Solzhenitsyn. The world of the Gulag. And the Twenty Million, or Fifty. Sure, Fifty. 

His was a world drenched in death, and as a boy did he put his hands into the dirt, or mud, or jump into the river. The cold in every place. But there are developments. There is the university. There is a life beyond the life. Pursuit, going towards something, the red light outside of the room which was not lit. His morning like any morning ever in the world, and the cold. The fog hasn’t lifted on the small hills around Protvino. And are there hills. You put yourself into your clothing, and you exit, and you walk to work, and the work is a militaristic work for some. But for him, there is the nice light of failure. A failure that can make this an artistry. He is awake. He is walking in the morning dark to work. He is whole, and the day is normal, and it isn’t troublesome. 

We can see his person, then, the figure of Anatoli. A man in his late twenties, working in the career he would remain in for all of his life, but in the beginning of it. And thinking around the machine was not as engaged with by the public as it might go on to be, after disasters. After his disaster. After searches for the God particle swept up the public consciousness. So we can behold the man in his relative anonymity and the morning, the light. Every day this kind of work being done by this young man to assist in the explorations being done, and like his fellows he is compelled by this endeavor and sees it as a worthwhile thing to which to devote one’s time. One’s life. 

We can see, witness, behold the landscape in this part of the world. Buildings carved out of the surrounding forest. A community growing and then circling around this machine. There are massive buildings. Houses and apartment complexes. The forest is beautiful. The forest floor in winter takes on a magical quality, as of the fairytale, wherein the workers can walk and get lost on the days when they are not working. A city created in 1958, though initially it was no town. No city. Just a scattering of buildings wherefrom research into physics would be undertaken. Anatoli would’ve been nine years old, then. When the place was formed, and being formed into the machine which would then pierce his skull in a sharp violent light. Without pain. One year before Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker—“Man, when he enters life, is soft and weak. When he dies he is hard and strong”; and perhaps, in that searing of the flesh, in that great burrowing of light, the hardness of death was hid. 

I have said that I witnessed a light as magnified as a thousand suns. I did not say this as an actor, a dramatist, but as a scientist, because I do not have a referent for the thing which I am now trying to describe. I can remember, as a boy, my own mother yells to us to caution if we’re looking up into the sun for so long. I can hear her still, her memory rings in my head still. What I’m saying to you, even though it has become a kind of trite thing to say, any time there’s the multiple of suns, I don’t know why but to me it seems trite to say this, but even though it is trite, I say this as a person who studies scientific failure, who studies our world, that what I witnessed in the Synchotron was a light which undoes any of our human attempts at reckoning with light. One would need to think of all of the brightest days on earth, at their brightest moments atop their brightest snowy white mountains, and one would have to distill this for centuries, to get closer to what I’m talking about. A pure light, made of radiation extracted from the christening point of matter, its rudiments, and this would be what passed through me on that day, and this would be my memory of what I saw in that room. I remember no pain, no frustration or sense of disorder, but what I could see was an impossibility, a presence of light to require its own language to give over to human consciousness, an intensity I can only imagine those directly within the initial blast of Hiroshima could witness in their melting, as though the light were liquid, cooled to human capability, slowly poured out until it formed an icicle in Antarctica, excepting every day it grew still colder, until that raw pure energy got stuck through the center of my eyeball in a mystical warming light, entirely without malicious intent excepting the hands of every naive, bumbling scientist but even these were vaporized in that brightness. I remember this, and I remember feeling tired, worn out, with a strong desire to simply return home and sleep until the late afternoon, which as you know didn’t happen, though part of me now can think perhaps it did, perhaps my time got split, or ripped open through trepanation, and I was given the dumb, conscious life of man thereafter, and I was let to sleep upon the couch until the late afternoon, wherein my body felt a welling up, a wholeness, and I could go to the refrigerator and drink from a tall cup of milk, and as the evening wears on slowly I’m adding draughts of Stolichnaya to my cup, and I’m warming over, I’m watching the football, I’m watching women’s skiing on the television, or a film, something my father loved, or perhaps just reading, drinking, and reading into that first night. 

Again, we can see the light. The person. The room, the drudgery of the work and the futurism. The futuristic nature of the room. The sense of this being bigger than any one individual. This endeavor that seemed to extend beyond the reach of any one being, bound up in this track of miles and miles of coiled wires through which the molecules would be pushed. And pushed. And pushed and made to collide. Witness the man. Anatoli. Anatoli, an anguish. An errand. The small heart clipped or burned from his hair. The mapping of his brain and the path which ran through his skull. Phineas, oh Phineas Gage. Holding the rod that stuck through his skull and brain. Things change. They stay the same. A world to inherit. An American. A Russian. Both of them stuck through with the brunt of history. The particle a kind of subtly brutal item which could impale a human being.

I don’t know if he would’ve had a morning of peace that day. If afterward he would’ve had a kind of human sickness. There would’ve been a sickness. The treatment for cancer is not the treatment for cancer. Burning one’s body and removing something horrible with that burning is not a treatment. But it is real. It is a solution. A solution and a treatment are not necessarily the same thing.

In the room the door is wood. In the room the door is wood, and I am standing. I am stood. In the room the door is wood, and I am stood. That day was not an exciting or painful day. In the days following that day, my day, my thinking was swollen. No, in that day, my day, the day after following that day, my eyes rang out. No, no, I was on that day standing in the wood of the room. I am a person beginning, and my face is starting to swell. A bulbous eyeball, people everywhere. I don’t want to work here. Not anymore, no. A rhythm is playing in my head is ringing. I hear the music repeating to a swelter. No, I hear the music that day in my pain. My eye got bulbous bulged up like a rot. I’m so tired I remember. Walking from there and going home and sitting. The loud ringing going in my brain, the wonderful sound of a radio playing something. I can see now the fingers on the instrument pressing into me. The doctors needed to, they needed to put me under. They stuck a needle into my neck and made it open, and blood began to shoot out, and I winced in pain. They replaced it with an IV, and then all I remember is that sound like helicopters taking off, the separation of the sound into these loud pangs. I remember my father sitting with an instrument. A machine is above my head and is scanning me. An accident, a terrible accident, a bad dream. The house is burning up. I think of that house being burned, and the walking from one room into the room where it was raining outside, and things were what. I don’t know any longer. Any longer I didn’t feel any pain. My body was not in pain, but in the bulbousing of my head, my cheek, my eye, the throughline, the straight red line of light through my skull and out near the eye I was feeling just so rotten, to be rotting. The flesh didn’t smell even though it must’ve been disarrayed at a cellular level, made into say the surface of Jupiter, say, or the chemicals dumped on the ground outside of our facility. Still I can feel it, the moving, the body going about its day, the repeating ringing sound, and people wanting my attention and having no ability to offer it to anybody anywhere at all. I’m asleep, don’t you see that. I hear the minor variation. I sit at a piano, no. I listen for a sound in the hall outside of my apartment. I listen for a howl in the air. The grievous air, a big dog snarling outside the door. My head is dead, and I am dead. My head is not my head, and I am a Russian. I got a cup of tea, or water, I can’t remember but it looked brown. A folk song was playing. No, a woman with her children on the playground. The wood door in my apartment was painted white. The wood door was now brown and maybe not blue. My body was imploding or imposing itself upon itself on the ground. I see a small purple glow at the corner of my eye as I hear the old folk song playing. I see the woman at the park with her children. The sky could’ve been blue or white. The sky could’ve been gray. I can’t think. I can’t even speak. Doctor, doctor, something isn’t right. Doctor, boss, something is wrong. I am a good worker, no. I am a small man, no. I am tall. Here I am tall, and there is the woman in the park, and there is my wood door painted white. The door in the room was not white, and wouldn’t it have been wood. Metal, yes, or some composite, the door. Head stuck in, my head stuck in there in the room, and the door is no longer wood, and wasn’t wood, and I am not now, nor have I ever been, in any kind of pain.

Two days before I remember a little listlessness in my life. I’d seen a movie somewhere, I can’t remember what. I’d had this feeling of drifting from place to place, a desire to drift from place to place, all across Europe maybe, and moving east. There is no west. There is no east or west. I don’t know. I know the repetition. The music. Mahler, I think. It could’ve been Mahler. My mind is saying that it was Mahler. And now I am just here. And now you are there. And someday my picture will be someplace, and some woman will write about it. Or someone, I don’t know. I remember two days before a thing, a thought, a mindset I had of wanting to drift, to move. I don’t want to kill myself. I didn’t want to kill myself in the room. I didn’t want to kill myself in the doctor’s office. The offices. There were several offices. I was a man on the ground. I was living in the world. I don’t know why I’m telling you these things now. I feel only a compulsion to speak, to put these words down and to try and reckon with what’s happened to me. I don’t blame some other, outside thing, nothing abstract. I don’t feel as though I’m supposed to do something different with my life, which I guess makes me lucky. Many people live all their lives never feeling like they were doing the right thing. I stuck my head unwittingly into a path of radiation that obliterated and reassembled my consciousness in an instant just as every single other thing does this every single other moment. I don’t know about light, or lights. Two days before, I was sitting somewhere. On the toilet perhaps and reading. I don’t like to read as much except on the toilet. I like to read other places too, but I only like reading truly fundamentally when I’m sitting on the toilet. I was reading, and now I can’t remember what.

I am not now, nor have I ever been, in any kind of pain.

He has a problem now, the writer of this thing, because the writer of this thing was not alive when Anatoli stuck his head inside of the Synchotron 70, and the writer of this thing can’t do much of anything at all to share with the people any inside information, being a lazy person maybe, or maybe the information just doesn’t exist, which it does, but only in the experience of someone and in the meticulous record keeping both before and after the fall of the Berlin Wall, but this is of course a narrative problem, something that someone runs into when trying to write something, because why would you try to write anything at all, and why in particular would you write at all, when you could go into every other possibility, and you could question it, and you could have a bad day, you see, and you could take something and make something. The writer couldn’t make a Synchotron 70, nor could he explain Gilles Deleuze to a fish or to Gerald Donald. He wanted to talk to either of these two people and to shake their hands, or the fish, because he did love fish, and he did love animals, truly. He laid in bed thinking about Anatoli and his black hair, and he thought about thinking about this man, and he wanted to try and get inside of this man’s brain, his skull, his head, because of how his life had played out. He drove in the car thinking of Anatoli, Anatoli. This was the man, the person, the one thing he wanted to truly understand. To research the light, that undeniably beautiful thing. To have the Big Bang take place in a straight line through your mind. These were the things he found interesting. A worker, a person, a menial person on the job, no. A scientist, a man of science, who studies now the failures of science. And his right hand is on the doorknob, in the room, with the door which is painted white, and in that moment the Big Bang is taking place inside of his head, his actual head, and these things are not merely burning him, not merely severing him, but are becoming him, or becoming of him, and in this there is a kind of wondrous beauty, a shaking beauty, which is the pure beauty bestowed upon a thing, or a room, when the machine is drumming. His dreams in the night were punctured. The writer’s or Anatoli’s, it isn’t clear. His dreams were punctured, and he dreamt again the dream of his wife, of the girl, their fourth child, a daughter named Josephine. And he had been fixed. And she had been fixed. And there would be no more children, and this made them sorrowful. They were in this life, no. This was story, a dream, a rhapsody, in the afternoon of a jealous man who listened as his head was shot through with particles traveling impossibly fast. He wanders then through the night in his overcoat looking for his nose. The child with the horse that he rides to school. People are shaking their fists at the man. He is being cast out. They can tell he’s stuck his head inside of a particle accelerator unwittingly. They can always tell. He is taken into a room while his head is swollen, and he cannot see. A headache is insufficient phrasing for what Anatoli did experience. On an island far away, a note is written. Someone has stuck their head unwittingly inside of the Synchotron. Tell someone. Tell Ronald Reagan. He wants to know. He wakes up and he has diarrhea. Why I want to fuck Anatoli. Good riddance and—