With fraying certainty did Linda handle the folds of her origami original. Where before had been pristine squares of folding paper there was now a complete failure on the part of paper. The squares had had a gloss and that gloss had met its foil in Linda’s troubled folds. Linda tut-tutted herself and variously rattled at her desk. First, two hands to one of the four legs. Then, two good grips on either edge of the desktop, widthwise. Lastly, a pair of arms under the center drawer, and a kick at the side-cabinet, for good measure. The latest paper square, set squarely on the rubber mat, could hardly be expected to shrug its shoulders. These glossy paper squares battled a good deal of battle. Proper soldiers.

Paper could be as flint in the hands of the capable; Linda, neutralized, felt like a neophyte facing an ondes Martenot.

  Nature of fold, the first: Dirty your linens; they are no help to you.[Diagram 1]

It’s a question warrants contemplation—to consider, when the world is watching, whether spraying cleaning solution on sheets, your Windex, your Shout, indiscriminately, would serve to “dirty” them. Firing inky thumbtacks and dashing matchheads, freshly snuffed—as Linda enacted in her mind—would certainly perform. But shit-flinging is just slander. Linda, above all that. Nothing to earn from it.

Linda recalled the third grade. She recalled sixth grade. Ninth. Naturally, twelfth. Why this arithmetic felicity to her recollections of shit-flinging and fracas?

Regardless. Would be a mystery to anyone how a paper square could wind up resembling a shattered mirror. Here it lay for the skeptic to behold and to handle to her inquiring heart’s content. Linda’s fingers, which would have bled, skeptically handling literal shards, here bled profusely for how figuratively.

  Nature of fold, the second: Be a dear and carry the chairs backstage: we are at the conclusion of your fifth-grade spring recital. You’ll be on your way to middle school now.      [Diagram 2]

Linda read and paled. Linda dropped down to the floor from her swivel chair. On hitting the ground, she reached up with a shaky pair of hands to retrieve the paper square, bringing it down to ground level. The laminate pad under and around her desk was visible beaten. The laminate, dented this way, reminded Linda of those teeth marks, so prominent, on every pencil she’d owned since third-grade and onward, once losing teeth had given way to growing teeth (yet never in so orderly a progression.)

No, her fingers couldn’t fold for shit. Not to specifications, at least. But their tactile ability to feel indentation remained properly, well, intact. Over the years dwelled in this apartment, not all of them particular to Linda, swiveling wheeled office chairs had seemed to perform the work of titanic miniature chariots on the flooring—carving permanent ruts and grooves. Chariots not unlike the ones in the races in Ben-Hur, a movie that Linda felt proud feelings toward, whatever the cause.

Linda, here at ground level, found that much of the hair that had fallen off her head over the course of her tenancy had in fact never left her side. Rather than evaporating (as the naïf might conclude is just what happens), Linda’s strands of hair had remained by her workspace, keeping her company—keeping her warm?

Happily, Linda could amass these loose strands with the same fingers that couldn’t fold for shit. A task for after.

  Nature of fold, the third: What if one were to apply a contact lens on a moray eel, the largest of eels. The eel, what’s more, is made of eyes. We have appeared to up the ante considerably.      [Diagram 3]

There are terms such as gingerly which Linda is fond of—ecstatic to encounter, even—and then comes a term like apply which Linda considers confusing. Fussy. The author of these instructions, and many more, goes by the name Morgan Gillespie. The cover of the book said so, and who’s Linda to doubt it? According to a preface Linda skimmed (but which she’ll reconnoiter in due course, once things boil over), this Gillespie figure interprets the practice of origami. . . No, better stated, the practice of origami as Gillespie promulgates it is thus: the method by which one furnishes oneself with “a pathway to a meditative space only apparent through experiences with the elixir of life that paper is, and the qualitative category of paper-ness.”

The resulting origami figure is of little significance, and frankly, invariably unattractive. As Gillespie admits, the resulting figure is itself but “a hindrance to the latent pure cause of our practice: putting one’s very fingers on paper.” A soul’s energetic pulse, through paper; A mind’s existential lacerations, through paper. Is it working? Is it something that never fails to work? Is it confronting Being itself? These form Gillespie’s very exhortations to Linda.

  Nature of fold, the fourth: Beating and beating at an intractable metal. —Sylvia Plath, “Blackberrying”      [Diagram 4]

That the lamp light under the desk was weak, the emblem of dimness, should come as no surprise. Linda, outfitted as she was with a watch, sneaked a glance at the timepiece once she’d failed at yet another fold. The watch spoke openly with her. With the hands proper to a watch, Linda’s watch indicated that time it was to get back on the chair, be seated on the chair. Like a good, virtuous soul with true motivations. Linda was annoyed but couldn’t protest the watch’s telling her first to leave her last ill-fated attempt on the ground, and then to return to the fray, or to the fold, with a new square, with a new posture. After an hour, an hour not at all solely filled with folding, or with poring over the instructions, or with anything that could count as “activity” as such, but which certainly felt active to Linda—perspiration, adrenaline, and skin-flaking, the outcome—Linda reached again her previous checkpoint, Fold, the fourth, redux.

Morgan Gillespie had designs for Linda. Gillespie could know nothing of a Linda, but the two had come together, bound by a celestial, orchestrated strain of shared circumstance.

The paper would have gleamed or beamed if it knew a thing about anything, had access to its intellections. On this occasion, the paper relied on Linda’s and Linda’s alone—and Linda, sitting thus with the paper, was little more than an agent in the virtualization of a potential Gillespie.

  Nature of fold, the fifth: Bank note and white powder. Compute.     

It was one New Year’s Eve. Not too long ago. Linda had tried cocaine for the first time. A bump from the tip of an acquaintance’s housekey. Half of it may have missed her nostril entirely. The vodka Red Bulls didn’t once stop coming.


David Alejandro Hernandez is an undocumented writer, originally from Guadalajara, Mexico, but mainly from Northern California. He holds degrees from the University of California, Berkeley, and Washington University in Saint Louis, where he has served as the 2018-2019 Senior Fellow in Poetry. His work has appeared most recently in FenceOversoundTYPOThe Bare Life Review: A Journal of Immigrant and Refugee Literature, and Apartment Poetry. // @Antibarbarus


Banner image by Olivia Cronk