Where's the Pisces Part?


The other night, after an exceptionally long workday, I was relaxing over sushi and green tea at a table-for-one while reading a short story by Dave Eggers… and I thought of you, my dear reader.

Eggers, for those of you unfamiliar with his work, is a San Francisco-based publisher and author whose work is written in no-nonsense, creatively-strung-together language that often has a tendency to meander and mosey into and out of variously relevant and not-as-relevant topics (gee, wonder why I like it?) in an altogether fresh and poignant way. Probably his most famous book is A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (2000), a fictionalized memoir about raising his younger brother after his parents' untimely deaths.

The story I was enjoying over dinner is part of Eggers's collection How We are Hungry (2004), and as I read about main character Pilar's emotionally non-committal ('There is almost no sadness in this story.') anglings to sexually merge with an old friend about whom she feels somewhat ambivalent ('This story is not about Pilar and Hand falling in love.'), all while horses and their shadows exchange puzzling dialogue ('The horses had no symbolic value.') and lots of time is spent in the ocean pondering life's little significances… I thought, 'This story just smacks of Pisces-ness.'

Then I re-noticed the story's title—'The Only Meaning of the Oil-Wet Water'—and I was utterly convinced I wanted to share Eggers's literary descriptions with you, as an evocative illustration of the Pisces archetype.

Ordinarily, at this point, the former literature student in me would've pulled out a pen and started marking up the text, underlining passages that exemplify my Piscean point…

(Would this have been one?

She closed her eyes. Opened them, closed them. She could end this world or allow it. This was a moment when a believer, a thoughtful believer, would think of God's work, and how good it was. The waves were perfect to the right and perfect to the left. Far away there were loud long hoots from the man in the cowboy hat, riding a long low slow breaker all the way in. Pilar thought of the man at her church group who taught everyone how to win at pinball. She thought of curved penises. For a while she was enchanted by those who proposed that God was in nature, was all around us, was the accumulated natural world. "God," they would suggest, "is in all living things. God is beauty, God is in the long grass and the foam finishing a waterfall." That sort of thing. She liked that idea, God being in things that she could see, because she liked seeing things and wanted to believe in these things that she loved looking at—loved the notion that it was all here and easily observable, with one's eyes being in some way the clergy, the connection between God and—

Is that one Pisces enough?)

… but the person who loaned me this copy of How We are Hungry is the type who wouldn't appreciate me writing in his book, particularly since he himself hadn't yet read it (and I know he's that type because I subsequently asked and he confirmed it), and so I figured it was enough to simply remind myself to return to the story later and pick out prime Piscean excerpts (there were so many!), I paid the sushi check and left.

Damn that elusive Pisces and everything related to it, terribly hard to grasp and encapsulate in such concrete form as book quotes, because, don't you know, when I went back to locate any one or two of those (oh so many!) passages, of course I couldn't find which pieces of the story had so moved my astrologer-soul only days earlier. I thought I could find 'em by skimming shallowly through the pages, since I'd already read the whole thing…

(How about this?

All the fish on the floor were being pushed and pulled by the tide. And though this was their home, it didn't look like they were the least bit accustomed to the underwater wind. They seemed baffled and cautious, like Californians driving cars through rain. Pilar's hands, propelling her forward, appeared in front of her mask, glowing in the sun, angelic. She was an angel, she thought. But what were these fish doing here, where they were pushed and pulled by this bastard tide? This was nowhere to live. But these bright fish, existing only to be looked at, or pushed around, or eaten. She thought of people she had known. She forced metaphors. The sun shot through the surface like God imagined it, in straight and fabulous rays. The water was full of fish she'd seen in pictures and pet stores.

Was this what I'd been so taken by over bites of spicy tuna roll?)

… but no, I was going to have to read the whole damn thing again. And still the Pisces-ness wouldn't fully re-coagulate in my consciousness. What had I been thinking? Where were the Pisces parts?

In punchy paean to Pisces's stereotypical escapism, I then reread 'The Only Meaning of the Oil-Wet Water' after having consumed a few glasses of wine—enough to hopefully resurrect its deep resonance with help from the vineyard-gods. No dice. I had fun, but a predictably difficult time focusing all the way through the thirty-five pages.

I did, however, much better appreciate the following Eggers-penned dialogue the third time (and the third glass) around:

GOD: I own you like I own the caves.
THE OCEAN: Not a chance. No comparison.
GOD: I made you. I could tame you.
THE OCEAN: At one time, maybe. But not now.
GOD: I will come to you, freeze you, break you.
THE OCEAN: I will spread myself like wings. I am a billion tiny feathers. You have no idea what's happened to me.

There it is. I must be God, trying to 'freeze' pea-soupy Pisces into a paradigm, while the twelfth and final zodiac sign atomizes into its billion tiny water-feathers, preventing all but a few to be captured at any one time.

All the story quotes I've presented are, to my blurried eyes at least, quintessentially Piscean—and not quite 'it' at all. My entire experience of losing myself in the story, losing the distinct thread I wanted to show you, dear reader… so Pisces. The romance, the yearning, the search for higher meaning in the mundane: Ditto. Not to mention, losing my attention and clarity after that third glass of wine. (Oh, yeah, that, too.)

And just so you know, Dave Eggers is a Pisces. His Mercury's in Pisces, too. And his writing is not only entertaining, but moving too, in a rather, um, hard-to-pinpoint way. Know what I mean? Good, neither do I.