In spite of his skepticism, Billy Bodega yesterday telephoned into his immediate past. He says it was an experience both comforting and disconcerting. Life, and lives, were going on very well without him, thank you. No, that’s not the way it was. There was a thank you, all right, but of another sort. It was as if before leaping off that past track onto his present one, Billy had managed to set in motion some sort of mental support procedures for his friends. He was still, he learned, very much part of their lives. At the same time his absence was accepted wholly. It was as if he had left behind an idea of himself—an undeniably clear idea of himself—as someone committed so thoroughly to his friends that his whereabouts at any given moment didn’t matter too much. Billy says that if this is so, he’s more than content, even if he hadn’t realized what he was accomplishing when he was accomplishing it. He is more disturbed by the idea that his whereabouts any given moment don’t matter. Is there any point then in being in any particular place at any particular time? Evidently not. The only necessary exception would be the moment of one’s birth: it’s advisable to be wherever you are right then. Otherwise the idea of you, which is a past-and-future existence, will do very nicely, thank you. Death provides no exception—on the contrary, that’s what death is: not being in that particular place at that particular time, and withdrawing into the absoluteness of an idea.

Harry Mathews, 20 Lines a Day