- The Fifth Voyage—ConclusionA performance poem
Swift writes in Tale of a Tub:
’Tis manifest, what mighty Advantages Fiction has over Truth . . . Imagination can build nobler Scenes, and produce more wonderful
Than Fortune or Nature will be at Expence to furnish . . .
So the Question is only this; Whether Things that have Place in the Imagination,
May not as properly be said to Exist, as those that are seated in the Memory . . .
This is acknowledged to be the Womb of Things,
And the other allowed to be no more than the Grave . . .
How fading and insipid do all Objects accost us that are not convey’d in the Vehicle of Delusion?
Gulliver wakes up on the toilet. Sneakily, he opens the commode door a crack. From his perch on the toilet seat he can see the whole railroad car, with all its seats facing him like an audience. He tries to tell some jokes, but no one laughs. Actually, everyone in his audience starts to cry. Sadness hangs in the air like a dirge. Gulliver begins to rage.
Trapped in a train full of assholes!
He staggers up the aisle, very unsure where his feet are. His legs are like two snow cones melting on a stove. The aisle is strewn with shredded pages of the New York Times, one long Jackson Pollock carpet. There’s an empty seat.
Is this my seat? I thought Flo was sitting next to me. [End Page 89]
The seat’s number is 2312. He checks his ticket stub. Close enough. He starts to sit down.
Gulliver thinks he left the campus at about four o’clock. The train to San Francisco would get him to the airport by ten leaving just enough time to get a ticket on the red eye to LaGuardia, the plane would leave at 11:15. Backpack in hand he would wander into the back seats of the plane, find three free in the center, the red eyes were never sold out, and crash till it was 8 a.m. in New York. Then he would drag himself to the subway, get off at the theatre’s stage door, and go into rehearsal for An Epidog. If he had an extra minute he’d call his mother’s number. The third time he repeated this scenario he got Ruth on the phone who told him his mother was dead.
When I fall asleep it’s like pulling into a gas station. I get back on my way with a renewed tank of energy. I need to do it every few miles to keep this whole metaphor in motion. The train itself and everyone in it are running on my fuel. This whole trip to Heaven on Earth is my trip . . . I am responsible for every manifestation.
Suddenly taken with a craving for a chili dog, Gulliver gets up from his seat and lurches into the aisle. He tries to stand upright but keeps tilting, then pitching forward. Balance has become a major problem. He counts to ten then shifts his weight from left to right. When he regains vertical stability he starts up the aisle towards the bar car.
Every few steps he needs to grab the back of a seat. Passengers avoid his eyes.
They think I’m drunk.
As he moves toward the front of the train the cars lose their identity. At first, the riders appear to be napping. Then they lay curled up in blankets. It is no longer the train that he had imagined. He feels he is negotiating his way down the aisle of a hospital.
Those that remain all seem to be waiting for something. He sits next to a woman and asks her what’s going on. She says that, to the best of her knowledge, everyone is waiting for their diagnosis.
A woman in uniform enters the car and distributes what he believes is a menu. They are directed to mark their preferences.
“What’s this?” [End Page 90]
Gulliver points to number six under cancers. It is called Multiple Myeloma.
She duly notes the order on her pad. “Fried or...