He was driving in his car to a farm in Pennsylvania with his friend Henry, hours from their homes in New York. They were making a film together and needed to shoot what is known as an “insert” for the film, a shot of some relevant entity that would be edited into the film, in this case away from the main action. The insert would be of a goat on some grass in a farm in Pennsylvania. This would be the only thing that they would be shooting on the farm and it would only be one insert, one shot. When he thought about the length of the ride versus the insert of the goat on the grass he felt nervous and sad so he stopped thinking about that. The insert was necessary and a good thing.
They pulled into the farm and parked and began unloading their equipment, two things, a tripod and a camera. He started to feel nervous and sad so he started saying loud, funny things at Henry and Henry would smile and sometimes repeat them. Henry held both things and he held nothing and he followed Henry up the hill to the goat with his head down. On the hill he stopped saying things and started looking at the grass and the goat. Henry started unpacking the camera and he started walking back and forth in a line with his hands on his hips. He felt his shirt on his body and started tasting his mouth and started thinking that it tasted sour. He thought that: “sour.” Then he started thinking about money, how it had cost money to drive to the farm and how it would cost more money to go back.
He wanted to buy coffee with some money, he thought.
He returned with coffee. Henry was pressing buttons on the camera and looking at it closely and frowning. He looked past Henry and started feeling nervous and sad; he was feeling the air in his lungs and it felt cold and slight. He started taking wheezy, deliberate breaths and continued in his line, walking and drinking the coffee. He thought about the coffee getting rid of the sour taste in his mouth, something about its hotness and intensity making his mouth taste not sour. His mouth would taste like coffee but that would be O.K. To have a mouth that tasted like coffee was common and O.K. To have “coffee breath” on a film shoot was a normal and O.K. common thing, he thought, and it made him feel good.
He stopped walking and drank more of the coffee. It was hot and bad but that was O.K. He looked at the grass and the tripod bag on the grass. He stopped feeling nervous and sad and the air he was breathing felt normal and consistent. The air was in his lungs. Life is a thing that is a continuing thing, he thought. He wanted to make more sentences in his head. “Life is things and this is a piece of a thing I am with, good.”
“There will also be more pieces of things to be with, good.”
Things started to change. He looked at the grass and the trees and how the sunlight was hitting the grass and the trees. It made him think of old films he liked and how he was making a film with Henry. He looked at Henry. Henry, he realized, was rather handsome. Henry had a lot of hairs on his head and he always appreciated that, hairs on heads when there was a lot of them. “Nice, Henry.”
He was smiling now. His sunglasses felt big on his face but he liked it, it was fun. He moved around on the grass and held his coffee close with two hands, joining them together like a monk. He thought that: “monk.” He had a lot of reference points with which to draw comparisons, he thought. He felt good about that. Monk, monkey. Money. Monkey (again). He said something loud and funny at Henry and Henry smiled, adjusting the legs of the tripod. Henry was so good. It was so good that he knew Henry and had Henry in his life.
He looked at the goat and thought about it. He imagined how it might look through the camera, with the grass and the sky in a rectangle shape, how the image would be confined to a rectangle shape with the grass and the sky. The goat was very still and its hairs seemed old. He thought about its stillness and its dry, thick hairs, how the hairs flapped over and stopped at its belly. Old goat, he thought. “Films.”
Henry was screwing the camera into the head of the tripod and he looked at Henry doing that. He looked around the farm. He was thinking about the farm and the farmer they talked to about shooting on the farm. Farmers are associated with farms, he thought. He thought about the farmer and tried to imagine him alone in his house. Farmer. He thought about how it was someone’s job to be a farmer. He thought about jobs. And money. It had cost money to come here and would cost more money to go back, he thought. He didn’t really have a job. Or “anyone in his life,” he thought.
He started feeling nervous and sad again.
He couldn’t remember if it was him or Henry who was supposed to frame the shot of the goat and he didn’t care and stopped thinking about that. Henry looked at him and said something flat and work- related but he didn’t hear him — he was looking at the grass and the trees. The trees, the way their leaves were not one thing but were divided up into many separate moving things, these flake-things — it seemed hostile. He looked at the goat —
He fucking hated that shitty goat more than anything in the world.
That fucking goat. He was swearing now. The goat was an animal and it had no thoughts or reference points and he hated it for that reason because it made him feel alienated, but if it did he would hate it, too, because then it would be a goat that resembled him in a way and that would also make him feel alienated. And threatened. He felt defensive — What did he ever do to that goat? He realized that he was now for unfounded reasons blaming the goat — a goat — for something undefined but he didn’t care — the goat, what one might think about it and what he had thought about it, it was somehow incongruous with his happiness.
Everything was overwhelming and painful.
He touched his hand to his head and started wincing. He took small, icy breaths and moved his gaze back slowly to the goat. He wagged a finger in front of his face and said, “You, you goat” in a mock-accusatory manner and then smiled and looked at Henry but Henry hadn’t heard him and he looked back at the goat. He wanted to outthink himself and make light of his feeling nervous and sad, he thought, so he did it again — “You, you goat” — and was aware of his doing it while doing it and even felt the sun on his arm and his back while doing it but it didn’t work. He didn’t understand what his rationale was for doing it in the first place, the “You, you goat,” he realized, but for whatever reason did it a third time, quieting his voice and turning away on the “goat.” He then turned back and with a hard breath tried to will it away all at once but that didn’t work either and the feeling came back in waves. He was feeling it all over his body and it was pushing his thoughts to an abstract fringe, to what felt like a distillation so abstract that he could barely move or breathe.
He while feeling this way could barely move or breathe, or think, but he looked at the grass and the trees, at the life that had been presented to him, all life, as he understood it, and with the air he had left in his lungs said, “No.”