the bugger. Oh how the phrase “Too late!” has haunted the length of my waking
days: Born too late; too late to change; too late in the day; it’s too late, baby, it’s always,
invariably, a bit too late. I never seem to get the drift until the drift is gone, the bandwagon
I’d jump is ever on the egress and I don’t appear capable of figuring out a situation before a
new one has come to take its place.
This is how I felt the first time I came across Lydia Davis’ short-short story “This
Condition.” A dear friend read it to me over the phone, and I was livid. “Damn! Damn!
Damn! That would have been perfect for Nerve! I can’t believe we didn’t get it,” I ranted.
“Jack,” she responded soothingly, “it was published in 1997, a few months before Nerve
launched.” Alas, too true. The same old condition: born too late.
So even though I’d argue that “This Condition” is Nerve fiction par* * *
excellence, it was not published here first. But I did get permission to reprint it in its
entirety and I’m glad. For here is one of the most beautiful, rhythmic, elegant, sexy, Freud
thumb-nosing bits of writing you’ll ever find. Read it out loud; read it to a friend, a lover, a
partner. Davis does more to demarcate desire in 60% choice words than most people do in
volumes. She’s got an itch; she’s got it bad, and we have it right along with her.
“This Condition” by Lydia Davis
In this condition: stirred not only by men but by women, fat and thin, naked and clothed,
by teenagers and children in latency; by animals such as horses and dogs; by certain
vegetables such as carrots, zucchinis and cucumbers; by certain fruits such as melons,
grapefruits and kiwis; by certain plant parts such as petals, sepals, stamens and pistils, by
the bare arm of a wooden chair, a round vase holding flowers, a little hot sunlight, a plate
of pudding, a person entering a tunnel in the distance, a puddle of water, a hand alighting
on a smooth stone, a hand alighting on a bare shoulder, a naked tree limb; by anything
curved, bare and shining, as the limb or bole of a tree; by any touch, as the touch of a
stranger handling money; by anything round and freely hanging, as tassels on a curtain,
chestnut burrs on a twig in spring, a wet tea bag on its string; by anything glowing, as a
hot coal; anything soft or slow, as a cat rising from a chair, anything smooth and dry, as a
stone, or warm and glistening; anything sliding, anything sliding back and forth; anything
sliding in and out with an oiled surface, as certain machine parts; anything of a certain
shape, like the state of Florida; anything pounding, anything stroking, anything bolt
upright, anything horizontal and gaping, as a certain sea anemone; anything warm,
anything wet, anything wet and red, anything turned red, as the sun at evening; anything
wet and pink; anything long and straight with a blunt end, as a pestle; anything coming out
of anything else, as a snail from its shell, as a snail’s horns from its head; anything
opening; any stream of water running, any stream running, any stream spurting, any
stream spouting, any cry, any soft cry, any grunt; anything going into anything else, as a
hand searching in a purse; anything clutching, anything grasping; anything rising, anything
tightening or filling, as a sail; anything dripping, anything hardening, anything softening.
©1997 Lydia Davis, from the collection Almost No Memory (Farrar, Straus, &
Giroux, 1997; Ecco Press, 1998)